Shanghai’s Century Park Is Central Park On Steroids

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I arrived to Shanghai literally one day before the cold winds of winter swept in off the East China Sea. This period of dark misery would last almost six months. Specifically, until Monday the 5th of April 2010, or China’s “Tomb Sweeping Day,” a holiday when Chinese people honor the memories of their dead ancestors.

After learning that Tomb Sweeping Day would be sunny and mild, my English First student Qiang suggested we visit Shanghai’s Century Park together. He assured me it would be the best place to take in the city’s new-found warm weather, for which I had been longing since the day I landed in Shanghai. I was also in need of some serenity: living in Shanghai’s never-ending urban jungle was beginning to wear on my psyche.

Taking the Shanghai Metro to Century Park

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Century Park is vast and expansive, but is also frequently crowded.

Century Park is fairly deep in the Pudong New District of Shanghai, so the easiest way to get there is taking the Shanghai Metro. Although it’s possible to get a taxi — from the Lujiazui financial district, whether the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Shanghai’s tallest skyscrapers are located, it would cost you about 100 yuan — you will almost certainly encounter irritating traffic that protracts your journey time to something excessive.

Instead take Line 2 of the Shanghai Metro, easily reachable from popular areas of town like Jing’an Temple, People’s Square and Lujiazui, to the “Shanghai Science and Technology Museum” station. You’ll need to take Exit 5, which requires you to walk about 10 minutes through a long corridor of vendor stalls before emerging above ground.

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Rent a bike for as many as three people in Century Park.

I was actually afraid, about halfway through, that I had somehow missed the proper exit, although one of the stall owners who tried to hustle me was happy to guide me on in the direction of Shiji Gongyuan, where Qiang was waiting for me. Once you exit, the entrance to the park will be in your sights. The entry fee is 10 yuan or about $1.50 as of December 2011, although it may be higher on certain holidays.

Things to Do In Century Park

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Enjoy a cold iced tea or fresh grilled chicken wings.



The only item Qiang and I had on our agenda when we arrived to Century Park was basking in the copious sunshine we were lucky enough to encounter that day. Covering nearly 350 acres and with several miles of walkable footpaths, it’s easy to spend your day in Century Park just walking around enjoying the scenery.

If you’re hungry, of course, there are eateries near the park entrance where you can pick up fresh-cooked snack food like chicken wings or sausage or packaged delights like duck tongues and chicken feet. A full selection of soft drinks is also available such as my favorite, Wang Lao Ji (王老吉) sweet iced tea.

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Cool off in the shade of one of the park’s topiary musicians.

Like almost everywhere else in China, there are vendors selling almost any gadget you can think of. To me, the most fascinating are the “bubble guns” that allow you to make a soapy mess wherever you go. It’s also possible to rent bikes — including two- and three-person models — to ride through the park.

Century Park Landscape

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Frolic in the park’s flower fields.




Just as Shanghai’s more than 4,000 skyscrapers dwarf the Manhattan skyline, Century Park is something like Central Park on steroids. Although its minimalist landscaping not surprisingly leaves something to be desired — it’s only been there, after all, since the year 2000 — Century Park is undoubtedly the most peaceful, scenic place within the Shanghai city limits.

Although most of the trees there are far from saplings, enough of the Century Park’s landscaping and décor is in its early stages of growth that it still seems a bit unfinished. The same can be said for some of the manmade bodies of water in the park as well.

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Century Park is just a stone’s throw from the rest of Pudong.

My favorite landscape features of the park are its large variety of flowers. For me, the most beautiful of these were the vibrant yellow rapeseed flower fields near the park exit. These were also the most puzzling once Qiang told me what rapeseed flowers produce: Canola Oil of all things!

I’m also fond of the picturesque bridges and the streams they run over, as well as the strange “Topiary Musicians” that feature a pianist, bassist and other members of a seemingly jazz band made entirely of vegetation. Who said Shanghai wasn’t a green city?

Spending a Day in Pudong

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End your evening in futuristic Lujiazui.

Although Century Park is plenty big enough to occupy an entire day of your time, its location in Pudong makes it ideal as a beginning or an end to a full day on the east side of the river. Spend the morning in the park and watch sun set over the Bund while basking in the shade of the Lujiazui skyscrapers. Not an early riser? Go up in the Shanghai World Financial Center around lunchtime to enjoy a panoramic view of the city, then get to Century Park sometime in the afternoon.

Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can head back over to Puxi and explore some of the attractions over there.

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