Shanghai is widely seen as an international metropolis, but apart from its modernity, it is also home to many historical gems, including Jiangnan-style watertowns and ancient streets.
Here we will introduce 15 ancient towns and streets, each showcasing a unique facet of Shanghai's beauty.
As spring is approaching, let's step back in time and delve into the secrets of Shanghai, discovering the magic that lies within these enchanting watertowns.
Zhujiajiao ancient town is deemed as one of the "50 must-go places in China for foreigners." Strolling along Nanda Street, savoring the famous "Granny's zongzi," and taking photos around every corner are just some of the delightful experiences. A trip to this 1,000-year town will not disappoint.
Recommended food: Granny's zongzi (traditional glutinous rice dumpling with different fillings), mung beans, tangyuan (glutinous rice balls with sweet or salty fillings), traditional pastry
Tourist attractions: Kezhi Garden, Yuanjin Temple, Qing Dynasty Post Office
Address: Zhujiajiao Ancient Town, Qingpu District
Jinze ancient town is known as the first bridge town in Jiangnan, or regions south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, as it has 42 stone bridges with different styles. For the town's residents, bridges are incorporated into their daily life. If you want to know more about the town, just step onto any of the bridges.
Recommended food: Jinze pastry, sweetened beans, smoked edamame
Tourist attractions: Yihao Temple, Xu's Hall, Jinze Craft Club
Address: 235 Jinxi Rd, Qingpu District
Liantang ancient town has kept its original flavor of 1,000 years. With "eight scenes in Liantang" and the Sanlitang River, you can experience the ancient town step by step. You can also take the traditional Jiangnan boats and enjoy the scenes across more than 10 stone bridges.
Recommended food: braised jiaobai (wild rice shoots)
Tourist attractions: Jiaobai Leaf Experience Center, Tea Culture Museum
Address: Liantang Ancient Town (near Zhujiajiao), Qingpu District
The ancient town is the place for sketch painters as there are 52 unique stone bridges. Fengjing's No. 3 Bridge at the intersection of Zhongda Street and Shengchan Road is a big hit with tourists.
As the town is located at the border of Zhejiang Province and Shanghai, the culture, customs and language from the two places intermingle here, creating the "boundary river culture."
Recommended food: steamed clams, pork wrapped by tofu sheet, lotus with pork
Tourist attractions: No. 3 Bridge, former site of People's Commune, Fengxi Long Porch
Admission: Free when entering the ancient town, some tourist sites charge fees
Address: No. 28, Lane 8588, Tingfeng Highway, Jinshan District
Mingyue Shantang 明月山塘
Near the border of Shanghai and Zhejiang, there is an ancient town called Mingyue Shantang. The Shantang Old Street divides the town into two parts. North Shantang belongs to Shanghai and south Shantang to Zhejiang.
The town features the style and tradition from the early Republic of China period (1912-1949). You can feel the atmosphere by visiting those old tea houses and grocery stores.
Recommended food: Haitang cake
Tourist attractions: Shantang Old Street, Shantang Bridge
Address: Western side of the intersection of Langhua and Qingnian roads, Jinshan District
Qingxi Old Street 青溪老街
On May 1, 2021, the Qingxi Old Street reopened after a renovation of the former Qingxi Town. While maintaining the traditional charm, the town has new attractions like creative stores and B&Bs.
Although it is a watertown, it focuses on stylistic buildings such as the Qingxi Time Post Office and Qingxi Traditional Cloth Workshop.
Recommended food: Qiaolou dim sum, pancake, Chongyang cake
Tourist attractions: Wanghai Tower, Nanyuan Garden, Jifang Bridge
Address: Intersection of Nanfeng and Renmin roads, Fengxian District
With more than 600 years of history, Zhuanghang ancient town is a quiet place. It is said that a businessman surnamed Zhuang came here and then this place became a town. Zhuanghang Old Street is the busiest place in the town. This is also one of the most beautiful places in China to enjoy rape flowers.
Recommended food: qingtuan (green glutinous rice ball), zongzi (glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves with fillings)
Tourist attractions: Zhuanghang Old Street, Zhuanghang Park, Agriculture Park
Address: Intersection of Zhuangli and Hongshizi roads, Fengxian District
The town was once called "Gold Luodian" because of its prosperity. You can find the old handicrafts when going to Shihe Street and Tingqian Street. When you walk over the three traditional stone bridges, you can feel the unique atmosphere from a town with more than 600 years of history. You can also visit the nearby Baoshan Temple.
Recommended food: Luodian rice cake, fish balls
Tourist attractions: Baoshan Temple, Huashentang
Address: 199 Shiyi Rd, Baoshan District
The town is famous not only for its xiaolongbao (little steamed buns) but also for its Jiangnan gardens.
Guyi Garden is the most famous in the town. It has four different scenic areas, which present cultural relics and historical sites from different dynasties. There's also Tanyuan Garden, which consists of several small Jiangnan-style courtyards.
Recommended food: Nanxiang xiaolongbao, mutton noodles, Luohan cuisine
Tourist attractions: Nanxiang Twin Tower, Guyi Garden, Tanyuan Garden, Yunxiang Temple
Admission: Free when entering the ancient town, some tourist sites charge fees
Address: 206 Jiefang St, Jiading District
Zhouqiao Old Street 州桥老街
The street is the root of Jiading. It is an important place of local culture and history. Although it is small, the old street has ancient buildings from the Song (960-1279), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
Fahua Tower, also called Jinsha Tower, is a signature structure built in the Song Dynasty. Sixteen different bridges also help shape the unique Jiading charm.
Recommended food: fried dough twists with yogurt, beef brisket rice noodles, Haitang cake
Tourist attractions: Confucius Temple, Huilongtan, Yingkui Hill, Qiuxia Garden
Address: 68 Shaxia Rd, Jiading District
Anting Old Street 安亭老街
On Anting Old Street, the Yong'an Tower is the signature building. When you step on the top of the tower, you will find that the old street is a combination of towers, temples, bridges and rivers. You can also spend time at the tea houses on the road near the embankment.
Recommended food: tangyuan, shengjian (pan-fried pork buns)
Tourist attractions: Yong'an Tower, Puti Temple
Address: Anting Street (near Xinyuan Rd), Jiading District
Qibao ancient town is closer to the city center than the other towns. Rivers, stone bridges and ancient buildings are everywhere here.
Nanda Street is famous for local snacks, and the Beida Street sells antique scripts and paintings. You can visit the Qibao Drum Tower or Qibao Shadow Play Museum. Also don't forget to eat Qibao tangyuan, lamb and chicken.
Recommended food: Qibao square cake, Old Street tangyuan, Haitang cake
Tourist attractions: Qibao Drum Tower, Qibao Colored Glaze Workshop
Address: 208 Qingnian Rd, Minhang District
Ang Lee's movie "Lust, Caution" has made the ancient town of Xinchang in the Pudong New Area famous. The town is known as "little Suzhou" because it provides the traditional Jiangnan watertown elements similar to Suzhou in neighboring Jiangsu Province.
The town was once a trading hub, and you can still find the glory today. Bridges, rivers, tea houses, temples … all the traditional elements are here. Tea houses don't just serve tea, you can even experience modern elements like coffee and dim sum.
Recommended food: lamb noodles, Haitang cake, Xiasha shaomai with bamboo and pork fillings
Tourist attractions: Xinchang's Ten Scenes, No. 1 Tower, Nanshan Temple
Address: 128 Haiquan St, Pudong New Area
It isn't easy to find quiet places in Shanghai, but Chuansha ancient town is one. This is where Pudong's history and culture originated. The town has multiple cultural sites like Neishidi, the Soong Ching Ling Culture Exhibition Center and the Chuansha Theater Art Exhibition Center.
Chuansha Park has been there for more than 38 years. Step on the Heming Tower, you can have an overview of the whole town as well as Shanghai Disney Resort.
Recommended food: Laowei tea, Old Street vegetable rice
Tourist attractions: Chuansha Park, Ancient Wall Park
Address: Xinchuan Rd, Pudong New Area
Sanlintang Old Street 三林塘老街
This street, only 500 meters long, provides you with more interesting Pudong culture. Every April, the Shanghai Folk Culture Festival takes place there. With special activities like dragon boat race, this street becomes one of the liveliest places in Shanghai.
Recommended food: salt meat with bamboo, braised bream, egg roll
Tourist attractions: Sanlintang Archway, Sanlintang Celebrity Walkway
Address: 137 Zhonglin St, Pudong New Area