Exploring the City: Shanghai's Subway System

Jul 6 2013

(Photo Via: ChinaScott.com)

Clean, punctual, and inexpensive, the Shanghai subway system is the ideal way to see and explore this expansive city. Due to Shanghai's enormous size, it is often too difficult to explore the city by foot. However, because of the—I’ll say it again—clean and punctual (it tells you when the next train will arrive down to the second) underground transport system, there is no better way to get to know Shanghai than through its subway. And the number two line, bisecting the city as it crosses from west to east, is the perfect line to begin this exploration.

The Shanghai subway system operates in a similar manner to the Washington D.C. subway with a tap-in, tap-out payment method. At the entrance to each stop is a turnstile to swipe in. A re-usable card registers when you also leave the subway and deducts the appropriate amount of money from your card depending on the distance of the ride. Most fares range from three to four kuai, which translate to USD 0.47-0.63. (I did say inexpensive, did I not?)

A great starting point for the journey down Line 2 begins at Zhongshan Gongyuan (中山公园, Zhōngshān Gōngyuán). This park has a local feel with salsa dancers gliding their way through it every afternoon, children flying kites, and athletes jogging along the path that follows the outer edge of the large park. Shoppers have found their mecca in Cloud Nine, a massive blue building filled with a two story Carrefour and nine floors of shops, ranging from the Lego Store to an enormous Uniqlo.

Hop on the subway through the Cloud Nine entrance, and make your way East, heading to Jing'An Temple (静安寺, Jìng'ānsì), which translates in English to the Temple of Peace and Tranquility. The Buddhist Temple has a RMB 30 entrance fee and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day for tourists. Inside the temple sits a 3.8 meter jade Buddha, the largest sitting jade Buddha statue in China. The temple is beautifully ornate with a notable architectural fixture in the Western side of Shanghai.

After exploring this temple and getting a glimpse into the Buddhism, hop back on the subway to People's Square (人民广场, Rénmín Guǎngchǎng.) The park used to be a race course but is now the home of many museums and theatres, including the Shanghai MuseumShanghai Urban Planning Exhibition HallShanghai Art Museum and Shanghai Grand Theatre. The Shanghai Museum is uniquely shaped after an ancient Chinese cooking bowl, called a ding, and it features over 120 thousand pieces of ancient Chinese art. The Urban Planning Exhibition hall provides the fascinating history of how the urban metropolis came to be and has an interactive 3D map of Shanghai that fills an entire floor. 

Continuing east through People's Park, you will make your way to the central hub of activity on Nanjing Road. From souvenir shops to famous hotels, this stretch of pedestrian road is filled with excitement. Rivaling Times Square at night with its bright lights and big-city feel, Nanjing Road (南京路, Nánjīng Lù) is a fun place to begin your evening adventures as many clubs and bars are in the nearby area. 

Your journey continues by foot as the distance between subway stops approaching the river becomes substantially shorter and does not merit the three kuai expense. The Bund (外滩, Wàitān) is a lively place filled with European-style buildings, luxury stores, and fantastic views of the futuristic skyline. 

Hop back on the subway to cross the river from The Bund to Lujiazui (陆家嘴, Lùjiāzuǐ), the rapidly growing business hub of Shanghai that has grown immensely over the past ten years. The Oriental Pearl Tower (东方明珠塔, Dōngfāng Míngzhūtǎ) pierces the sky at 1,535 feet while the Shanghai World Financial Center appears to be a massive bottle opener towering in the sky. While prices to go to the top of these buildings can be expensive with the Oriental Pearl Tower fee at 180 kuai and the SWFC entrance fee at 300 kuai, it is well worth it for the spectacular views.

Your journey ends at Lujiazui, and upon returning to Puxi, the NYU Shanghai campus is easily within walking distance. The subway is a great resource in Shanghai, so be sure to take advantage of all that it has to offer. The city is at your fingertips, and with a down payment of only 50 cents, it is possible to explore and experience the unique hub of Chinese culture that is Shanghai.

Charlotte Evans is a senior at NYU with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and East Asian Studies.  She loves to travel in her free time and wishes Floo Powder existed to cut down on the flight costs!