1.) Renmin Park (People’s Square) -This park is the epicenter of Shanghai, and as such is an important meeting point for everyone in the city. It offers a bit of greenery and walking paths through green cut grass, but is not very inspiring as a park. What is more interesting about Renmin Park is the view. From the center of the park you’ll see the Shanghai Museum, as well as several of the city’s most noteworthy skyscrapers, and Nanjing Road. If you take a moment to look around, you’ll be able to orient yourself to Puxi from this park. If traveling in a group, this is the best spot in Shanghai as a meeting point if you get lost or need to regroup at a certain time.
2.) Zhongshan Park – Located in Puxi, this park offers a great retreat from the sky scrapers, as well as proof that nature still exists somewhere in Shanghai, if not only in patches. For many young men and women, Zhongshan is where they go for some romantic alone time. With winding paths through bushes and trees, it is a great place for a small picnic. Other parts of the park offer amusement rides, or wide open spaces for games or exercise. If you are feeling low on oxygen in this mega-city, a trip through Zhongshan would give your aching lungs a break.
3.) Dongping National Forest Park – While many Westerners hear the name of this park and imagine trees will be there, the locals know better. Dongping Park is a lovely are of old growth trees and bushes, but as with every bit of nature in the massive country of China, it is beholden to man and progress. Every winding path through the trees is fenced, and every bare spot of grass is organized for a specific activity, like racquetball or stretching exercises. There is a kite-flying area and a dancing area, a play area for babies and a meet-your-lover area for the elderly. Don’t expect an abundance of nature, and you’ll enjoy your time in one of the many ‘zones’ of Dongping Park.
4.) Fuxing Park (French Park) – This lovely green area inside the former French Concession is now a spot for tai chi, bird watching and general outdoor relaxation. Laid out in the traditional European style, it is an odd mix of East and West with traditional design and yet infused with Chinese characteristics. Because of the location, it is a great meeting point in the French Concession, as well as a great place to hang out if you live nearby.
5.) Hangzhou – While not technically a park, Hangzhou is a nearby city that has consecutively been hailed as China’s happiest city. In the heart of Hangzhou lies West Lake, one of China’s most beautiful and serene of lakeside locations. A stroll at early dawn around West Lake will make you fall in love with China, and allow you to glimpse centuries of Chinese tradition and history in every glimpse. Elderly gather at dawn for tai chi, sword practice, dancing, and small bands practice around every corner, often in traditional garb. While Hangzhou is a tourist location, West Lake is a place for the locals, and your early morning visit will leave you feeling like you saw something behind the curtain of modern China.