Shanghai is now China’s largest and most prosperous city, and it bubbles furiously with energy, efficiency, excellent food, and attractions of all kinds. My favorite aspect of Shanghai is the bustle and the contrast between the old and the new in terms of architecture, food, and customs.
My most recent visit to Shanghai was during March 2015. In this post, I provide some of my photos of Shanghai, along with a bit of history, interesting statistics, and brief explanations of the greatest areas of interest for visitors to Shanghai – always of most interest to me are the Bund, Old Shanghai (Yuyuan), Pudong, Peoples Square, and Nanjing pedestrian street. I have been to Shanghai on four separate occasions and I never tire of visiting Shanghai. Note: Also see my separate post for Shanghai at Night.
Shanghai is oozing with things to do. The big challenge when visiting Shanghai is to prioritize the attractions and manage your time given what you would like to see, how long it takes to see it, and the length of your stay. I recommend a minimum stay of one week. Overall, I recommend choosing from the following attractions after doing research on each and determining your priorities given your length of stay:
The Bund — Oriental Pearl Tower — Pudong skyscraper observation decks — strolling a longtang — Peace Hotel — Shanghai Museum — Shanghai Urban Planning Museum — Old Shanghai — Yuyuan Gardens — People’s Park — People’s Square — Propaganda Poster Art Center — Taikang Street — East Nanjing pedestrian street — Jade Buddha Temple — riding the subway — Longhua Temple — eat xiao long bao soup dumplings — Fuxing Park.
At the end of this post is a gallery of my photos that will give you an excellent overall visual feel for Shanghai.
A Brief Bit of Background. Shanghai first began booming during the 1920s when it became a nexus of international business and banking. The city’s “international concessions” allowed foreign investment, and with the investment the Europeans brought along the architecture of the West, which dominates areas such as the city’s Bund district and French Concession district. Then, after the 1949 communist takeover, Shanghai languished as it was punished for capitalist excesses. And, today, in the wake of the Chinese economic reforms (i.e., capitalism is okay to a defined extent) that began in the 1980s, Shanghai has sprung back as a global financial, banking, and trade center.
In line with Shanghai’s re-emergence over the past 30 years as a global financial center, it now is undergoing a construction boom unmatched anywhere in the world. It is estimated that 75% of all the construction cranes in the world are now located in Shanghai. According to Wikipedia, there are now more than 20,000 buildings in Shanghai that have 11 or more stories, and more than 1,000 buildings with 30 or more stories. Presently, there are more than 150 high-rise buildings under construction.
As I mention in my Shanghai at Night post, the Huangpu River divides Shanghai into the districts of Puxi and Pudong. Puxi is the oldest part of Shanghai and contains the many longtangs (older residential neighborhoods that take up entire city blocks) mixed in with more modern development. Like the rest of China, the old and new are intermingled everywhere within Puxi. On the other hand, Pudong is predominantly a newer and much more modern district of Shanghai, and it contains three of the highest buildings in the world – the Shanghai Tower, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shanghai World Financial Center.
Relative to Pudong, Puxi is built more on a human scale with self-contained and walk-able neighborhoods where every service, food stuff, or other good you could possibly want is within easy walking distance of your home. On the other hand, Pudong with its expanse of super high-rises, wide streets, and stand-alone commercial areas (as opposed to being mixed into the neighborhoods), is not walk-able in nature. There is a saying about this in Shanghai: “Better only a bed in Puxi, than a penthouse in Pudong.”
The below four areas attract the most tourist, and for very good reasons:
As I mention in my Shanghai at Night post, along the banks of the Puxi side of the river is the Bund promenade. Bund is a German word meaning muddy river bank, a name given during the European colonial era of the mid 1800s. The buildings along the Bund riverside are very European in nature and were constructed during the early 1900s when European influences and people were prevalent in Shanghai due to the concessions. The Bund buildings remind me of those along Fifth Avenue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan along Central Park.
People’s Square is the heart of Shanghai. People’s Park is located within People’s Square and has many walkways lined with plane trees (a variety of sycamore) and many garden areas. In addition to People’s Park, located within People’s Square is an amusement park, the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, the Shanghai Museum, beautiful old hotels, a very large shopping center, and the only Hershey’s chocolate store in China, where you can buy a small bag of kisses for the pretty price of about $14.oo.
Old Shanghai is the original part of Shanghai. Much of the original architecture here has been preserved or re-furbished. In my opinion, this area is a must see. And, while in Old Shanghai, be sure to eat the delicious Shanghai speciality, xia long bao (soup dumplings). Located within Old Shanghai are the beautiful Yuyuan Gardens.
East Nanjing Lu (Street) is a mile-long and very wide pedestrian street with many international hotels and high-end international brand stores such as Gucci and Tiffany, located alongside street food vendors and Mom and Pop restaurants and stores. One of Shanghai’s Apple computer stores is located on East Nanjing Lu, and is always packed elbow to elbow (literally), along with Shanghai’s largest department store.
Click on any image in the image gallery below to trigger a “lightbox” presentation — doing so really brings the photos to life.