Described as ‘world’s most happening city’ by Time Magazine in 2004, Shanghai, a port city on the Huangpu River, is the playground of China’s rich and famous. Originally known as a city of sin and decadence in the 1920′s Shanghai is where Chinese civilization first collided with Western culture. Ninety years later Western influence still linger in the American-style skyscrapers and in the people’s obsession with the latest fads, fashions and technologies.
The Pudong New Area, with its signature Orient Pearl Tower, magnificent modern art-deco JinMao Tower and the 101-floor World Financial Centre stands testimony to Shanghai’s rise with the times. Juxtaposed with the eye-popping sci-fi skyline, the colonial era finds reflection in the architecture of the former French Concession, as well as the grand old buildings along the riverfront Bund and People’s Square. And then there are the ancient temples, monasteries and classic Chinese gardens that offer a window to one of the world’s oldest civilizations.
Things To See
Shanghai’s rich but turbulent history is well-preserved in its historic sites and monuments. The government has not only taken steps to preserve the city’s colonial architectural heritage but has also implemented grandiose urban planning showcasing Shanghai as China’s most futuristic, cosmopolitan and eye-catching city.
Shanghai World Financial Centre observation deck: The world’s tallest observatory was inaugurated in August 2008. Three levels, the 94th, 97th and 100th of the 101-storey tower have transparent glass floors and full-length glass windows to allow visitors take in the enviable views of the city.
Yu Yuan Gardens and Old Town: Also known as Yu Gardens, Yuyuan, Yuyuan Bazaar, or Old Town, the area is the main tourist hub of Shanghai and is a great place to experience the cultural thrills of the city. Browse through the souvenir shops or dine in the various eating houses clustered together in brightly coloured alleys. Yu Gardens, founded by a family of Imperial officials in 1559, and even though they were later looted by the 19th century Western colonialists, still house some exquisite tunnels and grottos, a stone boat for staging river parties, quiet pools and a fine Chinese opera stage. Also worth seeing are the Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse and Nine Twists Bridge, all attractions in their own right.
Shanghai Museum: The museum is worth a visit as much for its collection as it is for its façade. Rebuilt in the shape of an ancient Chinese bronze ritual vessel in 1994, the Shanghai Museum contains more than 120,000 historical and artistic treasures including sculptures, ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, jades, coins, furniture and ethnic minority folk art.
Former French Concession: Wander through the streets lined with buildings reflecting French colonial-era architecture. You can see the Ruijin Guest House, art galleries, designer boutiques and cafes of Taikang Lu and Fuxing Xi Lu.
The Bund: Shanghai’s most popular tourist attraction, the Bund is home to numerous historic riverfront buildings, separated from the Huangpu River by a raised terrace embankment. Some of the remnants of the colonial power include the Customs House (with its famous bell ‘Big Ching’), the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) HQ (now Shanghai Pudong Development Bank); the Peace Hotel and the former Bank of China. The area is also home to high-end retail, arts and restaurant complexes.
Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party: This museum is a must visit for the history buffs. Shanghai is considered to be the nursery of Chinese Communism and no where is this more evident than in this site where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was formed, in a room belonging to one of the delegates, Li Hanjun, on 23 July 1921. The museum documents the formative years of the CCP and also has on display a life-size wax diorama of the first meeting, with Mao occupying center stage.
The Shanghai Grand Theatre: The theatre provides the perfect platform for performing arts ranging from opera, ballet, symphony, and drama.
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium: This walk through aquarium with a theme “Across Continents–Through Worlds of Water” covers a sheer area of 22,400 square meters. On display are more than 300 species of fish and other colourful marine life.
People’s Square: The crescent shape of the People’s Square betrays its former function as a racecourse. In the 1960s, the Square was the venue of massive Red Guard demonstrations and, in 1989, the city’s own civic unrest. Today it plays host to The Shanghai Grand Theatre and Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall and the Shanghai Museum.
Xintiandi: This showcase symbol of modern Shanghai is a complex housing smart restaurants, bars, galleries and a retail complex in the heart of the city. Here you will find the movers and shakers of the city enjoying their drinks in designer bars.
Jade Buddha Temple: The temple is one of the most famous Buddhist shrines in Shanghai. The two White Jade Buddha statues were bought from Burma in the 19th century. The temple was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty but fortunately the two statues remained unharmed. The temple was reconstructed in 1928.
St Ignatius Cathedral: St. Ignatius Cathedral or Xujiahui Cathedral is the largest Roman Catholic cathedral with a more than 90 years history to its credit. It was originally built in 1906 but was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.
Hongkou Park: The Park offers much needed respite from the city. Besides housing a boating lake, the park also contains the Tomb of Lu Xun and the museum of the Lu Xun Memorial Hall. Lu Xun, the novelist and essayist, is celebrated as the creator of modern Chinese literature.