Pictures of the floating world

Fascinating historical Shanghai: Old City

Would you love to visit the Nanshi, the historical Old city of Shanghai?

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Although today Shanghai is a bizzling modern megapolis, it is also a city with long history, ancient cities and important religious sites. And today I’m going to stroll with you along the most historically important part of it – the Old city, Nanshi District!

I continue to post about my trip to China to celebrate the Lunar New Year of Tiger in 2021. Don’t forget to check my previous articles about Modern Shanghai, Forbidden city, the heart of Imperial Beijing, Chengdu and the Panda Reserve, Chinese Venice near Shanghai, the Great Wall, and the Lunar New Year celebrations in London and New York City.

Old City 

The Old City of Shanghai, or Nanshi (aka southeastern) district, is the most authentic part of Shanghai. If you’re looking for the delicious street food, Chinese traditional arts and crafts, impressive architecture meant to scare evil spirits away, and historical landmarks, the old city is a must see! But bear in mind that this place is really popular with tourists and domestic visitors so be prepared for the crowds.

Sadly, over the time The Old city area gets smaller and smaller: part of it is getting remodelled and destroyed with larger modern roads to take place instead, moreover, it used to have a fortified wall all around, however today only two small parts of it survived. Famous stone gate houses built in shikumen style (traditional houses combining western and eastern elements that became popular in the mind-19th century, I’ll show more of those in my other blog about Shanghai) are disappearing too. Nevertheless there are still a lot of things to admire: both by day and by night.

City God temple

City God temple, the Taoist temple, is one of the unmissable attractions – the temple stood there for centuries but the current version is less than a century old. 

Yu Garden

400 years old Yuyuan, or Yu Garden, or the Garden of Joy/Happiness, is another gem and is said to be the main landmark of the Old City and of the most famous gardens of China. Unfortunately, it was under renovation during our visit so I could only have a gasp of it from the outside. 

Pavilion Teahouse and the pond

Although the famous garden was closed, we still had a lovely stroll around the pond with carps with Jiu Qu Qiao, a zigzagging bridge with 9 legs. It is made so to protect the visitors: it is believed that evil spirits can only move straight, so any bend makes them stop.

The bridge leads to another important landmark. Pavilion Teahouse dating back to the mid-19th century is another building to admire as it’s one of the most famous tea houses in the country. 

Old City Bazaar 

The buzzing bazaar dating mainly to the 19th century (but there are some 15th century buildings too) was super crowded with numerous sellers and kiosks around but you still can admire the architectural beauty of this place with the curved roofs and lanterns all around. We visited this place both by day and by night – what do you like the most?

Take a look at the bank and traditional old pharmacy with Chinese medical products: mainly those were herbs but as I understood there were some worms and animal parts on sale too.

Don’t miss the antique stores too and the chopsticks and jewellery are among other popular products to buy. To be honest, it felt like you could find there everything you’ve ever needed!

Take your time to browse the food shops at the bazaar too, especially the eateries that serve take away street food! One of the main things to try for us were soup Hairy crab dumplings (we were visiting in the high season of hairy crabs so it was a must) and various dim sums.

Among other delicious goodies I’d highlighted sugar coated hawthorn and other berries – those seem to be very traditional for China and you can meet them in many places. Also don’t miss this opportunity to try Nailao, traditional fermented dairy product that is something in-between yoghurt and kefir. And of course there are a lot of other things to try and fell in love with such as bubble teas, deep fried goodies, buns and various sweets!

Hope you enjoyed my blog!


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