Shanghai is often referred to as the ‘Paris of the East’ and is renowned for its modern skyscrapers, bustling streets, and rich cultural heritage. Amidst the vibrant city life, there lies a serene heaven just a couple blocks away from some of the most popular tourist attractions in Shanghai: the Yuyuan Gardens, also known as Yu Garden.
These ancient gardens provide a glimpse into China's historical beauty and tranquility, making them one of the best places to visit in Shanghai. In this travel blog I will tell you everything you need to know before visiting the Yuyuan Gardens. Here are my 10 essential travel tips and insights to ensure a memorable visit and to convince you why you should visit this unique place in Shanghai.
1. Historical and Cultural Significance
Yuyuan Gardens, conceived during the Ming Dynasty in 1559 by government officer Pan Yunduan, were designed as a private haven for his aging parents. With a history spanning over four centuries, these gardens are a perfect example of Shanghai's rich cultural heritage and therefore one of the must see tourist attractions in Shanghai.
2. Architectural Elegance
These gardens illustrate classical Chinese garden design from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. With amazing attention to detail, they feature pavilions, halls, rockeries, ponds, and winding pathways, embodying the essence of Chinese garden aesthetics. Iconic structures like the Huxinting Teahouse and the Zigzag Bridge exhibit traditional Chinese architectural brilliance.
Unfortunately when I visited in the evening the Huxinting Teahouse was closed but I got a sneak peak inside and it was definitely a place where I would want to have a tea when visiting the Yuyuan Gardens.
3. What does Yuyuan mean
The name ‘Yuyuan' translates to ‘Garden of Happiness’ or ‘Garden of Peace and Comfort’. This reflects its purpose as a place of tranquility and harmony just like Pan Yunduan had in mind when he built the Yuyuan Gardens in 1559.
The garden's layout incorporates feng shui principles, with features like the Zigzag Bridge, believed to ward off evil spirits, and water elements to create a sense of balance.
Feng shui is an old Chinese idea that is all about arranging things so that they bring good vibes and a positive impact to the people living or working in that space and I think in the Yuyuan Gardens they did an excellent job.
When walking in I felt so in awe and was intrigued by all the details and stunning architecture. It felt very peaceful!
4. Fantastic Preservation
Amidst Shanghai's rapid development, Yuyuan Gardens have remained a testament to the city's transformation. Through dedicated preservation and restoration efforts, the gardens continue to celebrate their historical and cultural value. It does not compare in any way with the modern Shanghai outside the gates. So when looking for a slice of a traditional Chinese historical village in the middle of the city you should definitely visit Yuyuan Gardens.
5. A Must-Visit Tourist Attraction
Today, Yuyuan Gardens stand as a prominent tourist attraction in Shanghai. They offer an escape to a bygone era, allowing visitors to relish the serenity of classical Chinese gardens amid the city's vibrant energy.
There is no doubt that the Yuyuan Gardens are named in every list of the best things to do in Shanghai and for those looking for cool photo spots in Shanghai, the Yuyuan Gardens definitely live up to those expectations.
6. Shopping and Culinary Delights
Adjacent to the gardens lies Yuyuan Bazaar, where you can explore traditional Chinese handicrafts, find unique souvenirs, and savor local snacks. It's an ideal place to immerse yourself in the local culture and acquire memorable keepsakes.
For those looking for souvenirs and things to buy in Shanghai then look no further. Stay away from the standard souvenirs shops on Nanjing Road.
When you are looking to try some typical Chinese snacks or sweets then this is also an amazing place to visit, because you will pass by so many shops that display some mouthwatering treats.
7. Restaurants and coffee shops
If you want to combine your visit of the Yuyuan Gardens with a dining experience then you are also at the right place. There are a ton of amazing restaurants. But there are also several coffee shops and tea houses.
The Huxinting Teahouse is obviously the most famous one, but there are many more, as well as modern coffee shops with fancy coffees and cookies.
Recommended restaurants in Yuyuan Gardens are: Yu Garden Cafe, Yu Gourmet, Yu Sushi and there is also a Yu Garden Food Court.
8. Convenient Location and open all year
Situated in the heart of Shanghai's Old Town, Yuyuan Gardens are easily accessible from other popular tourist spots. The Bund and Nanjing Road are on walkable distance. The gardens' ever-changing beauty, from blossoming spring flowers to autumn foliage, ensures a worthwhile visit year-round.
Occasionally, the gardens host cultural events and performances for a deeper cultural experience.
The nearest subway station is Yuyuan Station on Line 10. Going around by taxi in Shanghai is also very convenient, but you will need cash or Alipay. Taxis in Shanghai are affordable.
9. Opening hours
The gardens are open from 8:30 am to 10:00 pm from March to October. In the winter months from 8:30 am to 9:00 pm. Please note that the Yuyuan Gardens are closed on Mondays (except for national holidays).
10. Entrance Fee
Ticket prices vary by season but are not more than 40 RMB which is about $6 USD per person.
11. Best time to visit
If you have flexibility in your Shanghai travel schedule, consider visiting Yuyuan Gardens on a weekday for a less crowded experience.
However, for those seeking a unique cultural spectacle and don't mind larger crowds, plan your visit during the Spring Festival when the garden dazzles with beautifully crafted lanterns featuring dragons and phoenixes.
I visited the Yuyuan Gardens at night to admire the light spectacle and it was totally worth it. But next time when visiting Shanghai I will also try to go during the day and see what it is like then.
It was not too busy when I visited in September. I was in the gardens between 7.00 pm to 9.00 pm and as you can see on the photos it was a very relaxed visit.
When it comes to time of the year then Spring is the perfect season to explore Yuyuan Gardens when the greenery comes to life with blossoming trees and vibrant flowers, enhancing the garden's enchantment.
Note that in winter it can get pretty cold in Shanghai and in summer is can get extremely hot and humid. Shanghai climate is not exactly ideal for tourists. Therefore Spring is the best time to visit Shanghai.
Yuyuan Gardens in Shanghai seamlessly blend history, culture, and natural beauty, making them a must-visit destination for tourists visiting Shanghai.
Armed with the above essential travel tips I am sure you're well-prepared to make the most of your visit, immersing yourself in the charm, history, and culture of Yuyuan Gardens while creating cherished memories of your Shanghai adventure.
For me the Yuyuan Gardens were one of the best places I visited on my trip to Shanghai and therefore I decided to write this blog post with my experiences to get you inspired as well.
It feels a bit like the Christmas markets in Europe, but then Chinese style. The lanterns at night and all the charming and well lit up souvenir shops and the friendly smiling people give this place such a vibe.
Enjoy your trip to the Yuyuan Gardens!