Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year

Li Qian
In the heart of Pudong's waterfront, it features verdant pathways, natural landscapes, classical gardens and Expo 2010 heritage.
Li Qian
Shot by Zhou Shengjie and Ma Xuefeng. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou and Shen Ke.

Sporadic virus breakouts of China in various regions hover darkly over our hopes to be able to get out and travel. The "staycation," therefore, becomes a viable solution.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Shanghai Expo Culture Park

And the newly opened Shanghai Expo Culture Park is a novel alternative at which to spend the three-day New Year holiday break.

The 2-square-kilometer park, in the heart of Pudong's waterfront, eclipses any other riverside greenery area in downtown Shanghai, almost equaling suburban Chenshan Botanical Garden in size.

What's more, it's a real "Shangri-La" in the midst of the city's urban sprawl, offering urban residents a close getaway with verdant pathways, natural landscapes and classical gardens.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Urban Balcony in the Culture Park.

Waterfront spaces are a precious resource. After the iconic Museum of Art Pudong, officials turned the much sought-after strip to communal facilities. It seemed a pity to let its commercial value, estimated to be at least 100 billion yuan (US$15.6 billion), go to waste. But officials believed it was worth it.

"The area had been planned as the second Lujiazui financial hub, but at last the government decided to return this best resource back to the people. And hence a world-class park comparable to Central Park in New York and Hyde Park in London is taking shape in Shanghai," said Xu Dongxin, director of the greenery department of Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau.

"Shanghai needs not only tower blocks and booming commerce, but also parks and lawns, blue skies and clear waters."

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Music Manor in the Culture Park.

As its name suggests, the park is located where World Expo was held in Shanghai in 2010, northwest to Huangpu River, east to Lupu Bridge and Changqing Road N., and south to Tongyao Road and Longbin Road.

It is designed to become a popular rendezvous, an ecological nature forest park incorporating new cultural landmarks, which, according to Xu, precisely echoes the 2010 Expo theme of "Better City, Better Life."

Under the blueprint, the park will feature a dazzling array of attractions, highlighted by two 48-meter artificial hills, former Expo pavilions, an opera house, a conservatory garden, a classical Chinese garden and an international equestrian center.

Construction began in September 2017. All work is set to finish by the end of 2023, and be fully open by 2024. To meet people's demands, authorities have decided to open the park's north section, nearly half of its size, to the public first.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

The site has been transformed from being dominated by ironworks many years ago.

Greenery areas were a luxury for urban dwellers in Shanghai about 70 years ago when they only enjoyed a per capita space of 0.132 square meters, barely enough for a pair of shoes. After years of efforts to get greener, today's Shanghai has become an ecological city.

By the end of 2025, Shanghai plans to have at least 1,000 parks around the city, more than twice the current number, with per capita greenery space up from the current level of 8.5 square meters to at least 9.5 square meters.

In an inspection tour in June, Shanghai Party Secretary Li Qiang called for more open, colorful and accessible ecological spaces. Believing green is "the warmest bright color," he said a city with parks lifts people's sense of belonging happiness and security.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Map of the park

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Shanghai Garden in the Culture Park

Check out highlights of the park's north section

1) Shanghai Garden

Shanghai Garden covers 50,000 square meters, nearly 2.5 times bigger than the iconic Yuyuan Garden, one of the best known Chinese gardens in Shanghai on the other side of Huangpu River. It creates a natural echo beside the river.

Winding corridors and overhanging eaves, pavilions and pagodas stand on rockeries along gurgling streams or within a thicket of trees, interspersed with a variety of blossoms such as rhododendrons, magnolias and lotus. Black swans on ponds and birds flying over trees inject some vitality into the tranquil garden.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Temporal Signet Avenue

2) Temporal Signet Avenue

The Temporal Signet Avenue, about 400 meters long, sheds light on the history of the site – from iron works to Expo site to riverside park.

From east to west stand rusty steel installations and statues of Shanghai Expo mascot Haibao – a plump sky blue cartoon figure – making people feel a bit like being in a time machine. Names of former Expo pavilions and slogans are carved on the ground or benches to preserve the Expo legacy.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year

World Expo Garden

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Former Russian Pavilion

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Former Italian Pavilion

3) World Expo Garden

World Expo Garden takes up nearly 72,000 square meters in the heart of the park's north section.

The 1,000 meter Sakura Ring Road, planted with cherry trees in various blossom breeds such as Yoshino and Kawazu-zakura, connects the former World Expo pavilions of Italy, France, Russia and Luxembourg.

The design of the Italy Pavilion was inspired by a traditional Shanghai kids' activity called "game stick" and comprises 20 irregular modules representing Italy's 20 regions. The France Pavilion, "wrapped" in concrete trellis and surrounded by water, appears to be a white palace floating on water. The Russia Pavilion is a fairytale-like castle in the shape of flowers. And the Luxembourg Pavilion is made of recycled materials such as glass and wood.

Also, there is a garden made up of nine Europe-themed flowerbeds in a bid to echo the four pavilions. There is also a sea of Chinese crabapple flowers, a wisteria corridor and a magnolia forest.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year

Former French Pavilion

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Former Luxembourg Pavilion

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year

Tranquil Forest

4) Tranquil Forest and Central Lake

Tranquil Forest is the largest ecological forest in the park at 160,000 square meters. It represents a very natural forest landscape, seething and teeming with life, and allows people to escape the bustle of downtown while they amble on plank pathways.

A 2,000-square-meter river winds its sinuous way across the forest and leads to the park's 110,000-square-meter Central Lake that takes water from Huangpu River and fulfills ecological purification. In the middle of the lake, is a 75-meter-long bridge with 11 arches.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Bridge above Central Lake

5) Pet Garden

Good news for pet owners! Tucked away in the Houtan riverside area, there is a 10,000-square-meter dog playground. Supporting facilities such as canine toilets are installed. It allows owners to have good time with their dogs as well as befriend others.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Pet Garden

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Houtan Riverside

Events held to celebrate the park's opening:

1) Potted landscape and stone exhibition

Site: Shanghai Garden

Date: Opening date – February 6

Highlight: It will display 280 precious exhibits, especially stones collected during the country's Arctic expedition research.

2) Palace lantern exhibition

Site: Shanghai Garden

Date: Opening date – February 15

Highlight: It will display more than 50 heritage-listed palace lanterns from Suzhou, Beijing, Henan, Guangzhou and other cities and regions, including those from Suzhou's renowned Zhuozheng Garden. They will be carefully arranged to fit into the surroundings of a classical Chinese garden, taking visitors back to olden times.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

3) Wine and Flower Fair

Site: Former French Pavilion

Date: 10am-6pm, Fridays to Sundays, January 1–February 15

Highlight: It will offer more than 100 wines produced in seven regions of the world and a varied selection of flowers. Popular cafes will put up pop-up stores, and Bilibili will create a magic wonderland featuring Tarot readings.

4) Tulip exhibition

Site: Temporal Signet Avenue

Date: Now on show

Highlight: A total of 300,000 tulips will decorate the Temporal Signet Avenue, and bloom all the way to the Central Lake, forming three colorful flower belts. Also, flowers are arranged in styles of dancing ballet girl and swaying dress.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Dong Jun / SHINE

Tips about the park:

How to get there:

Set "P2 parking lot of Shanghai Expo Culture Park" as the destination on navigation apps, and it will lead you to the park's east entrance on Jikun Road. The parking lot requires online reservations in advance, and there are only about 300 parking spots. Therefore, it is advisable to take Metro Line 13 to Shibo Avenue Station.

Where to eat:

There are two temporary dining sites – one dining car offering beverages like coffee north to the West Visitors' Service Center, and two dining cars outside the former Russian Pavilion offering drinks and quick meals.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year
Ti Gong

Reservation information

Visitors need reservations in advance to use the parking spots, as well as to enter Shanghai Garden and the dog playground. Reservation links are provided on the park's official website (http://www.expoculturepark.cn), WeChat account and other online channels.

It is worth noting that Shanghai Garden will be open from 8am to 5pm, free of charge. The dog playground charges 30 yuan (US$4.7) for each dog. It will be open from 8am to 5:30pm. The parking lot charges 40 yuan for parking under seven hours.

For more information, please call 021-58839818

Pandemic control and prevention:

Visitors are required to show their health code and have their temperatures checked at the entrance. Only those with body temperatures below 37.3 degree Celsius will be allowed to enter. They are also required to wear masks at all times.

Expo Culture Park a "Shangri-La" getaway for New Year

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