Yuyuan Garden: A Glimpse into Shanghai’s Ancient Past in the Heart of the City

Located in the Huangpu District of Shanghai, next to the City of God Temple, Yuyuan Garden, or Yu Garden, has been around for more than 400 years. Since time immemorial, wandering through Yuyuan Garden has been a must for travellers to Shanghai

The garden was designed and laid out in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty by the wealthy Pan family designed. It was the largest garden of its kind at the time.

What to expect at the Yuyuan Garden

The five-acre Yuyuan Garden is spectacular in its scale and artistry. It features classical gardens containing towering rockeries, elegant pagodas, a zigzag bridge, graceful arches, glimmering pools and impressive carvings.

Pavilion in Yuyuan Garden

Intricate etchings and sculptures lay scattered throughout the garden. A leisurely walk through the garden will reveal these little treasures. Besides the carvings, you’ll also find calligraphic art and several interesting paintings by famous artists.

The Great Rockery

The Great Rockery is fourteen metres high and was built from thousands of tons of rock. It is the oldest and highest rockery south of the Yangtze River.

From the top, you get a beautiful bird’s eye view of the garden. At its base, you’ll find curio shops and Cuixiu Hall, a quiet and elegant example of Chinese architecture surrounded by trees and colourful flowers.

Close by, the towering Sansui Hall, was built in 1760 to entertain guests features five great halls. Subsequently, it became a place of government ceremonies and a meeting place for scholars and gentlemen.  

The Exquisite Jade Rock

The Exquisite Jade Rock is the true treasure of the garden. It’s nearly 3.3 meters in height, porous and spiky. It features 72 holes throughout. When smoke is blown from the bottom it mysteriously filters its way through all of the holes.

Throw water from the top and the same happens. Yuhua Hall faces the Rock and was built expressly for visitors to enjoy the views of the rock.

The Yuyuan Bazaar

Right next to the gardens, Yuyuan Bazaar beckons visitors with souvenirs, food, crafts and jewellery all up for sale in the maze of narrow streets and lanes.

Yuyuan Bazaar in Shanghai

Here you can savour some of the tastiest Shanghai foods including traditional steamed or fried filled buns, rice cakes and aromatic noodles. You can also buy traditional souvenirs like Chinese lanterns, antiques and crafts.

The Nine-Bend Bridge

The Nine Bend Bridge is just outside the entrance to the garden. The Chinese believe that the number nine brings good fortune and walking along the bridge is believed to bring people luck.

The bridge is constructed from jade stones and granite. It’s flanked by pavilions each equipped with stone benches. Decked with colourful lights, an evening stroll across the bridge is a romantic experience. (If you can ignore the crowds of Shanghainese couples with the same idea!)

The bridge leads to the beautiful Huxinting Teahouse at the Yu Garden pond. It was built in 1855 and is the oldest teahouse in Shanghai. It remains in use today.

Things to know before you visit Yuyuan Garden

  • All kinds of cultural activities and exhibits take place at the Yuyuan Garden. If you time your visit, you could get to see some of them.
  • Plan about two hours to wander around the garden and take in all its sights.
  • The best time to visit the gardens is in spring and autumn when the garden is resplendent with colour.
  • If you have a choice, avoid the weekends when the gardens can become very busy. (Trust us on this one.)
  • The gardens are open between 8:45am and 4:15pm.
  • By public transportation, there are several buses that will take you to the Yuyuan Station. Even easier for tourists is to take Metro Line 10, which stops at Yuyuan Station.

Ryan O'Rourke is a seasoned traveler and the founder & editor of Treksplorer, a fiercely independent guide to mid-range luxury travel for busy people. With over 20 years of extensive travel experience, Ryan has journeyed through over 50 countries, uncovering hidden gems and sharing firsthand, unsponsored insights on what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay. Backed by his travel experience and in-depth research, Ryan’s travel advice and writing has been featured in publications like the Huffington Post and Matador Network. You can connect with Ryan on Twitter/X at @rtorourke.

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