Visiting Shanghai - What to See and Do
(Shanghai Pudong International Airport PVG, China)
China's (and the world's) most populous city, Shanghai
is a rising global force in fashion, media, commerce and tourism. It boasts one of China's most diverse urban landscapes, with remnants of Western influence around the Bund district standing arm in arm with the modern towers of the Pudong skyline.
Shanghai really does have an impressive cityscape, but there's plenty of history tucked into the glass and steel. The Yu Yuan Gardens and the City God Temple remind visitors that this teeming metropolis was once a modest Chinese town. There are excellent museums and cultural attractions on hand to share China's rich history, as well as a series of charming neighbourhoods, like the French Concession area, which offers hours of shopping, dining and meandering.
The scene after dark is another highlight of Shanghai, with everything from rooftop jazz bars overlooking the bay to traditional Chinese opera at the Kun Opera House. Rest up before you arrive, because Shanghai will demand all of your energy and more.
Ten things you must do in Shanghai
- The Bund is the social gem of the city's scenic waterfront. Colonial attractions line the promenade, offering tempting restaurants, bars and very upscale hotels. This is a superb place to wander during the day and a neon explosion at night, when the bars and restaurants come alive.
- Take a cruise along the Huangpu River to really understand the scale and direction of modern Shanghai. Not only is this city the world's largest port, but its skyline is absolutely gorgeous. A cruise puts it all into perspective.
- The Shanghai Museum is a treasure trove of Chinese history, covering its entire lengthy dynastic era right through modern times. Its 11 state-of-the-art galleries each feature a different theme, offering visitors everything from ancient bronzes to ornate jade treasures.
- Classic Chinese gardens are a genuine thing of beauty, and Yu Yuan is easily the prettiest in the city, if not all of China. Rooted right in the heart of the Old Town, it has roughly 5 acres / 2 hectares of Ming-era pavilions and fish ponds, as well as a maze of paths.
- Shanghai is quickly establishing itself as a global shopping heavyweight. Nanjing Lu is the nexus of Chinese consumerism and must be experienced even if shopping is not on your agenda. Huaihai Lu is another popular strip, while Taikang Lu is more relaxed and artisan-centred.
- There is a surprisingly vibrant jazz scene in Shanghai, with hot venues like the JZ Club, the Cotton Club, and the House of Blues and Jazz. If the famous house band of the Peace Hotel is still playing, be sure to drop by one night.
- The night views over the skyline are one of the highlights of this city. Save some cash for a pricey meal or drinks on one of the Bund's rooftop restaurant or bars.
- Spend a leisurely afternoon in the French Concession neighbourhood, where 1920s villas and colonial shophouses have been transformed into trendy cafés, bars and boutiques. The elegance of this district is tangible, and even if you don't drop into one of the irresistible bistros, its leafy avenues are ideal for a stroll.
- To see where the young hip Shanghai locals go to spend their leisure time, head to Xintiandi. This two-block retail complex tries to recreate a traditional pedestrianised Chinese neighbourhood, but that only extends to the architecture. Inside the charismatic houses are chic new bars, cafés and stores that lure hoards of Chinese visitors every day and night.
- Thankfully there are still some remnants of ancient Chinese spiritual heritage left in Shanghai. The city's most aesthetic and engaging Daoist temple is Longhua Si, a remarkable pagoda built around 247 AD. Its four main halls are filled with fascinating murals and frescos on its walls, and the atmosphere of this notable attraction remains alive and buzzing day in and day out.