With shaded alcoves, glistening fish ponds, pavilions, pine trees sprouting from rock gardens and throngs of Japanese tourists, Yu Garden is one of Shanghai’s top attractions, but it gets overwhelmingly crowded on weekends. Spring and summer flowers bring a fragrant floral aspect to the garden, especially the lush petals of the Shanghai flower Magnolia grandiflora. Other trees include thick needle-studded Arhat pine, willows, ginkgo biloba, cherry blossoms and majestic sequoias.
A wealthy Ming dynasty official, the Pan family, established these gardens and took him 18 years (1559–77) to tend them until they were bombed during the Opium Wars of 1842. The garden was again destroyed during French retaliation for attacks on nearby French concessions during the Taiping Rebellion. These restored gardens are fine examples of Ming garden design.
Next to the garden entrance is the Zhonghuting Tea House, which was once part of the garden and is now one of the most famous tea houses in China.
The adjacent bazaar may be kitschy, but it’s fine to browse if you can handle the onslaught of crowds.The nearby Taoist Temple of the City God is also worth a visit. Just outside the bazaar is Old Street, better known as Middle Phanbang Road. It is a busy street lined with souvenir shops and coffee shops.