Designed by award-winning German landscape architects Valentien + Valentien, Chenshan Botanical Gardens covers a whopping 200 hectares (2 million square metres), with over 9,000 species of plants. It’s bigger than Pudong’s Century Park (140 hectares) and three times the size of the Shanghai Botanical Gardens, easily making it Shanghai’s largest green space. But it has more to offer people than a pleasant setting for a walk. Here, we pick six highlights that make a visit to Songjiang district well worth the trek.
Chenshan’s star attraction is undoubtedly the series of classical Chinese-style gardens and two lakes made from an abandoned quarry that was last functioning in the ’80s. The best part is the 72m high waterfall that cascades from the top of Chenshan Hill to the football-pitch sized lake below. The quarry is 20m below ground level, so to reach the tunnels and lakes you’ll walk down an open-air staircase that’s fixed to the cliff’s surface. Walk through a series of pitch-black tunnels and you’ll get to another lake on the other side of the hill.
Smelling of roses
It’s easy to see why the rose garden was the most popular spot on our visit: around 500 sweet-smelling rose varieties are packed into the 1.5-hectare garden, located on a pretty islet. Varieties include hyrbrid teas, floribundas, climbers, ramblers, oregolds and Chinese roses, which are less fragrant than European varieties but can bloom into late autumn.
Rent rowing boats on West Lake for 30RMB/hour and paddle past islands with plum trees, bamboo and willow trees. We recommend upgrading to a motor boat, which costs 40RMB/hour for a four-person boat, or 60RMB/hour for a six-person boat.
Blooming good view
Walk to the top of Chenshan Hill (be warned: it’s steep) and you’ll reach a faux pagoda, named Chenshan Tower, with painted windows and dreary grey facade. Your climb has not been wasted though, as here you’ll find a viewing deck which affords spectacular vistas across the entire park and over to the sprawling outskirts of Shanghai.
Bright pink, yellow and orange mushrooms line the entrance to the outdoor ‘Children’s Garden’ (although it’s actually more of a playground). There’s plenty here to keep the little ones amused, including sand-pits, climbing frames, and trampolines that even parents can bounce on.
Meat and no veg
The cafe in the main building sells basic snacks and drinks, including sandwiches (15RMB), mini-muffins (5RMB) and beer (11RMB). On the floor above, the canteen has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the park. Simple meat and rice dishes cost around 25RMB, but there were no vegetarian options on our visit. A further five outdoor cafes dotted throughout the park sell sandwiches, soft drinks and ice-creams.
Take the metro to Dongjing, which is on Line 9 toward Songjiang University Town. From Dongjing station, a short journey by taxi (20RMB), or the number 19 bus, will drop you at the Botanical Gardens’ main entrance gate.