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Shanghai: Our insider’s guide to running the city

Shanghai. Pearl of the Orient. Financial hub. Third largest city in the world. Plenty comes to mind when thinking about this enormous Chinese city. But did you know that it’s fast becoming a destination for runners of all levels too?

 

The world’s third most populous city is one of a kind. It’s a bustling business district, a fascinating example of East Meets West Haipaiculture, a hotspot for tourists searching for vibrant neon lights and Chinese cuisine – plus much more. One of a kind but multi-faceted, Shanghai flourishes thanks to its diverse culture and aesthetic.

 

As well as traces of the city’s western influences, you’ll discover the local culture reflects both China’s past and present. The city itself is huge, covering around 6,340 km² and playing home to over 25 million inhabitants. Needless to say, there’s so much to see and enjoy – whether it’s modern skyscrapers, eclectic architecture or unique cultural attractions. 

  

While the fast pace and diversity of Shanghai might make you want to slow down and take it all in, we know you can’t resist the urge to explore the city. And we also know that this is best done on the foot. So what better way to explore than on a run?

 

Meet your guides

 

Finding the right place to run can seem like an intimidating task in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities. Luckily, we can help you cut right to the chase. As our own On team members Vivian and Anco, who work in our Shanghai office, are here to guide you on your journey through the city’s running scene.

 

Vivian

   

   

Born and raised in Shanghai, Vivian keeps close ties to her origins. However, running wasn’t something she grew up with. She reflects on times when a five minute run on the treadmill pushed her to the limit. But these days, she doesn’t know how to stop.

 

“After joining On, I decided to give running a go,” she says.

 

“This year, I finished my first half marathon and running has become an integral part of my life. Nowadays, I go for two or three runs a week, usually 10K or at least 5K.”

 

She’s always on the move, making Vivian is the perfect guide when it comes to the daunting task of navigating Shanghai’s back alleys and crowded main roads. But just to make sure, she joins forces with another spirited runner…

   

Anco

   

   

Introducing Anco. Unlike Vivian, Anco didn’t grow up in Shanghai. But, like Vivian, he also struggled to connect with running at first. Over a decade ago, he decided to change his lifestyle and become a healthier version of himself. His journey was a challenge but through perseverance and dedication he’s able to look back on his progress with pride.

 

“I still remember the first time I ran a 4K, it was hard and painful for me”, Anco recalls. “But I tried to push myself and kept running. I kept going and it became easier, then one day, I don’t know when it happened but I realized I had fallen in love with it. It’s become an important part of my life since.”

 

“In 2012, I finished my first half marathon, but this was just the beginning. Today, I have completed 20 marathons and over 10 trail races.”

     

 

5K: Bridging Cultures

 

The starting point of this route is where it all began for Vivian. Born and raised in the Jing’An district, she loves the local culture and never misses a chance to enjoy a brew at her favorite coffee shop whenever she gets the chance. Along the way, we witness how the shortest of our three routes bridges the Shanghainese culture with western influences. And after the 5K run, your efforts will be rewarded with a view on the famous Wukang Mansion. 

 

“On this route, you can witness the city how I experienced it growing up: an exciting contrast of modern and traditional Shanghai. In summer, the sun peeks through the plane trees, while running on their fallen leaves in autumn makes for a soothing experience,” says Vivian. 

 

“I like to explore the neighborhood while running. I also enjoy a good night run as there are fewer cars around and the streets aren’t as busy. There’s even a chance you meet some local running clubs.”

      

5K: Bridging Cultures
See the route

 

10K: Velocity of light

   

On the 10K route you’ll feel the speed of China’s largest city as Anco shows us just how quickly calm can become busy in Shanghai. One moment you’re running through a cozy park with locals engaging in a traditional match of Go. The next you’re pacing through more of the stereotypical Shanghai imagery: skyscrapers, shopping malls and a plethora of boats chugging along the Huangpu river. 

   

Running along the riverfront is when Anco feels most connected to the city: “The Huangpu River is right next to you for most of the run, and the views along the route are truly breathtaking. Plus, you can hear the sound of the waves lapping the shore and ships sailing on the river. It’s an experience for all of your senses.”

 

“On a clear day you can also catch a stunning sunset here. Watching the sun disappear behind the city skyline at the riverfront is the perfect way to end any day.”

  

10K: Velocity of light
See the route

 

15K: Old town road 

   

So far, we joined Vivian and Anco on each of their favourite routes through Shanghai. But it’s together that they take on our longest route. Commencing at Lu Xun Park, our 15K route is full of cultural highlights. From breezing past dancing couples to taking in the colourful displays of wall art on Moganshan Road, you get a healthy balance of the old and modern Shanghai before reaching your destination at Zhongshan Park.

    

“On weekends, elderly locals will gather at Lu Xun park to sing and play their instruments. Sometimes I’ll even join them and we sing together.”, Anco adds jokingly.

 

Even on the 15K route, he keeps looking to go the extra mile: “Running back to the Suzhou River, there’s quite a few bridges crossing the river. I like to run back and forth on the bridges and use the inclines as an extra challenge.”

     

15K: Old town road
See the route

 

Running tips

 

  • If you prefer a quiet run, I would recommend the 5K route for early mornings or evenings. Around noon and on weekends it will be packed with tourists.

 

  • None of the three routes loop back to the starting point, but you can ride a shared bike or grab a train home after the run. Transportation options are quite convenient in Shanghai.

 

  • On the 10K route, the running track is right next to cycling trails, so be mindful of bikes coming through.

          

 

Anco’s and Vivian’s top food & drink spots

 

5K route

  • Drunk Baker. “After finishing the run, I always come here to get fresh bagels for breakfast.”
  • The Cottage Café. “Located close to the famous Wukang Mansion, its run by a former bank executive. The cafe is covered with old vintage collectibles he’s collected from all over the world – definitely worth a visit.”
  • Sichuan Citizen. “While it’s primarily a restaurant, they have the most amazing cocktails in town, as well. My go-to choice: ‘Drip basil leaves’.”
  • Suzu Bar. “A cozy, japanese-inspired bar. Their signature Mori Martini is a must-try!”
  • YIMIAN CHUNFENG. “A popular restaurant located near the end of the 5K route. I just love the name (Chinese for ‘spring breeze’), and they have the best lard rice.”

 

10K route

  • Bunny Drop. “A boutique cafe on the Huangpu river, where you can enjoy a coffee and the lovely riverfront view at the same time.”

 

15K route

  • % Arabica Coffee. “Every time I pass by here on Yuanmingyuan Road, I’ll grab a Spanish latte. It’s a great place for a calming cup of coffee as it’s less crowded than usual if you go there early on weekends.”
  • Xiao Tao Yuan. “Situated right at Lu Xun Park, this local breakfast place serves authentic and hearty meals. In Shanghai the traditional breakfast includes Youtiao, salted soy milk, Chinese pancakes or sticky rice balls.”
  • Guangtou Shengjian. “This traditional snack shop lies close to Sweet Love Road, where you can get some typical Shanghainese specialties like Shengjian Bao and Wontons. When eating those, carefully bite off the top of the dumpling and drink the liquid inside first. This will keep you from spilling the filling on your clothes.”

 

What they're wearing

    

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