While the likes of Zhongshan Park still feel like they’re in the city, Shanghai does have large parks where you can (almost) feel like you’re in nature. We've done the leg work and ranked the ones worth a visit this summer.
Take Line 8 north to Shiguang Lu, the terminal stop. From there, it’s a 12RMB cab ride north.
What's it like Gongqing Forest Park, in northern Yangpu district, is still our favourite big park in Shanghai for its large green spaces, fir groves, verdant forests and pretty lakes. Though there are the usual hordes, it’s big enough that you can find a shady spot to yourself. You can do what you want on the grass, though there are designated kite-flying areas, and there are barbecue pits (from 60RMB/four people up to 150RMB/ten people for two hours) with a shop for supplies.
If you’re done with bucolic bliss, the park boasts too many activities to mention, from a loop-the-loop rollercoaster (20RMB) and other classic rides (log flumes, pirate ships, etc) to airgun rifle shooting (10RMB/five bullets), rock climbing (20RMB), paintball (20RMB/five bullets), go karting (15RMB/lap) and a fun electronic toboggan ride (20RMB). They've added more activities including horseback riding (30RMB/person), rowing boat (40RMB/hr), cable sliding (60RMB for two), football field (200RMB/hr for 15 people; 400RMB/hr for 23 people) and fishing for free.
If you can’t bring yourself to leave, you can stay the night in one of the cabins at the Hongsen Forest Park Hotel (Rooms from 280RMB. Cabins from 580RMB). Just remember to bring your passport and plenty of food. Also note that no dogs allowed in the park.
2000 Jungong Lu, near Yinhang Lu, Yangpu district
Gongqing Forest Park address details
Size 180 hectares
Getting there Take Line 7 to Gucun Park station. From there it’s a 10-minute walk to the entrance, with signposts along the way.
What's it like Gucun Forest Park is Shanghai’s newest forest park and the largest in the city itself. The maze of forests, pathways, lakes and canals is not completely finished, with the botanical gardens still under construction on our visit, meaning it doesn’t quite have the natural feel of Gongqing Forest Park. But it’s slightly easier to get to, and is big enough that you can find a rolling grassy meadow, daisy-spotted field or forest area to get lost in.
The highlight of the vast park is possibly the 40 tented waterside barbecue pits (including VIP area of bigger, better pits), which together look like a small medieval village. A pit costs 150RMB/two hours for five people to 300/two hours for 10-12 people, and there’s a shop nearby selling charcoal (18RMB/bag), meat (15RMB/three skewers), fish (12RMB/two skewers) and vegetables (6RMB/three aubergine or pepper skewers and 3RMB/three mushroom skewers), plus condiments, beer and ice creams.
Elsewhere, there’s the usual fun: inflatable hamster wheels on the water (30RMB/hour); three different types of tandem bikes (from 10RMB/hour); a fairground area with a rollercoaster; and the slightly rusty ‘children’s carnival’ zone, complete with giant toadstools, floating galleons, a ropey rollercoaster and a merry-go-round.
It’s a fun day out, but Gongqing Forest Park just edges it both on beauty and the range of activities. No dogs allowed.
1 Huandao Lu, near Zhenhutai Lu, Baoshan district
Gucun Forest Park address details
Regular buses run between the bus station on Jinxiu Lu beside Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and Chenjia on Chongming Island, taking 50 minutes and costing 12RMB one way –
look for Shenchong Line 2 (申崇二线
). From Chenjia bus station, it’s a 90RMB taxi journey to Dongping Forest Park. Grass skiing costs 30RMB/30 minutes, with all equipment provided.
What's it like We were excited about Dongping Forest Park on Chongming Island for one reason, apart from the fact that it’s the largest man-planted forest in eastern China – it’s the only place in town that offers grass skiing.
Sadly, it’s not quite worth the trip – you trundle gently down the bare slope wearing ski boots attached to a kind of rotating belt, forced into a kind of squatting position and looking very uncool in a helmet. It’s strictly novelty and comedy value. The rest of the park has activities like rockclimbing, paintballing, go-karting and horseriding – but it’s all a bit sorry looking, and a lot of it was shut on our visit. Though it has size on its side, it’s not really worth the lengthy trip to get there unless you’re desperate to tick grass skiing off your list.
Beiyan Gong Lu, Chongming Island
Dongping Forest Park address details
Charlotte Middlehurst and Charles Miller