If Shanghai were a feeling, it would be the sensation of running downhill at high speed. You’re never really in control and the only thing for it is to race yourself to the bottom; to surrender to the chaos and let the beauty and vibrancy sweep you along.
In Shanghai, there’s a constant, underlying battle between chaos and control, fought out in the relentless push forward, the obsession with innovation, progress, commercialism and modernity.
Shanghai is the city that never stops, yet it’s also a city of contrast, with the thrusting skyscrapers of Pudong (testaments to China’s growing modernity and confidence) offset by the European elegance of the Bund, on the banks of the Huangpu River, which reminds visitors that Shanghai was once known as ‘the Paris of the East’.
There are also unexpected pockets of real grace, where glimpses of old-world tradition are tucked away behind quiet alleys mere metres from the heaving streets. People’s Square is an oasis of green in the centre of downtown Shanghai, where grateful tourists and locals alike take pause to feed the doves and pray for world peace (really). Shanghai Museum is designed with the principles of Feng Shui in mind and provides an unlikely port in the storm.
Whether you’re sipping tea in a traditional Shanghai teahouse or dancing until dawn in a pulsing nightclub, Shanghai will swallow you whole – and you’ll love every minute.
A Little Bit of Paris in Shanghai
For a time, it was the “Paris of the East”. One of many, in fact, since a host of capitals, from Beirut, Lebanon to Hanoi, Vietnam, have held the cachet sobriquet over the last century. The original motive was to flatter Shanghai, of course, but comparisons to Paris, or New York for that matter, feel awkward in hindsight and fall woefully short now. As a metropolis of 25 million people, Seoul or Tokyo may be more apropos in a 21st century context. Nevertheless, Shanghai is singular on the world stage, let alone in the People’s Republic of China.
The seeds of modern Shanghai, sci fi skyline and all, were sown in 1074 when a small village got a prestige bump up to market town status. Bar a few lulls, Shanghai has been a haven for the merchant class ever since. This is precisely where comparisons to global hubs like Paris make sense. Shanghai has been – and is ever more so now – the indubitable showpiece of China. Expats and upwardly mobile locals network and mix and help make the Yangtze River Delta city aberrantly cosmopolitan and international. Outré even. With that, discover where to find a little bit of Paris in Shanghai.
Shanghai’s Top 10
10. Great World Entertainment Center One of the oldest entertainment venues in Shanghai. Find karaoke, acrobats and a disco all in one place. It’s weird but it works.
5. Raffles City A popular mall for the young trend-setters of Shanghai, this place will transform any unfashionable duckling into a hot and trendy swan.
9. Jade Buddha Temple Chill out with some monks and talk spirituality.
4. Huangpu River Cruise Hey there, sailor! Jump aboard and experience Shanghai’s buzz from afar.
8. Shanghai Zoo One of the best zoos in the world is home to the cutest pandas you’ve ever seen. Altogether now: ‘Awww!’
3. Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre Go catch a snazzy opera or philharmonic performance that’ll turn you insta-snob.
7. Former Residence of Zhou Enlai This colonial-style house and mini-museum was once home to one of the greatest Chinese leaders.
2. Oriental Pearl Tower Get to the top of this kooky construction to scope the view.
6. She Shan Basilica This castle-like Catholic church, sitting atop a lush, green mountain, always brings reels in tourists because it’s nice to look at (pretty girls get all the attention).
1. Shanghai Wen Miao aka Shanghai Confucian Temple. This place was built to pay homage to that smart little bugger, Confucius. Visit now, brag later.
- Jade Buddha Temple - A traditional temple featuring a Jade Buddha Statue.
- Soong Ching Ling Memorial Residence - The former residence of Soong Ching-ling.
- Xu Guangqi Memorial Hall - A museum dedicated to the 17th-century Chinese scholar.
- City God Temple (Chenghuang Miao) - A temple located within the old walled city.
- Dajing Ga Pavillon - An ancient temple that incorporates portions of the walls of the Old City of Shanghai.
Shanghai Art & Culture
- Shanghai Museum - Discover the impressive ancient bronze museum.
- Shanghai Jazz Music Festival - Held in October, this international festival features well-known jazz musicians.
- Shanghai Natural History Museum - One of the largest natural science museums in China.
- Shanghai Science and Technology Museum - Ideal for science and technology enthusiasts.
- Shanghai Art Museum - On the edge of the People’s Square, once the Shanghai Horse Racing course.
- Nanjing Road – China’s premier shopping street with shops for every taste.
- Yuyuan Bazaar - The ideal venue for traditional Chinese crafts and jewellery.
- Plaza 66 - Large shopping mall housing boutique stores bearing the goods of famous designers.
- No. 3 on the Bund - A high-end shopping centre, home to Giorgio Armani’s flagship store.
- Qipu Lu – Clothing market with bargain-basement prices and huge crowds.
Gay & Lesbian Shanghai
- Eddy’s Bar - One of Shanghai's longest-running gay venues. A fun place to mix with locals.
- Transit Lounge - Featuring soft lighting, luxurious furnishings and trance music.
- G8 Bar - A comfortable venue with lounge-style seating and a separate "loft" section catering mostly to lesbians.
- D2 - Shanghai's hottest gay disco. Visit here to enjoy the latest tunes.
- 1221 - A fashionable restaurant and bar that draws a well-dressed, international gay following.
- Yuyuan Gardens - Discover the classical Chinese architecture at this stunning attraction in Old City.
- Shanghai Happy Valley - This popular theme park is a hit with kids and adults alike.
- Shanghai City Beach - This beautiful beach consists of 120,000 square metres of golden sands.
- Jinmao Tower - A striking tower, home to the world's tallest hotel.
- People's Square - A large public square in the Huangpu District.
- Catch the Shanghai Shenhua professional football team at the Hongkou Stadium.
- Check out one of Shanghai’s many cricket teams at the Shanghai Cricket Club.
- Watch the Shanghai Xiyang Sharks basketball team impress crowds at the Luwan Gymnasium.
- Pay a visit to the Shanghai Golden Eagles baseball team at the Shanghai Sports Palace in Putuo District.
- Support the participants of the Shanghai International Marathon, held annually in late autumn.
Shanghai LocalThe Bund
The colourful, illuminated skyline mixed with the buildings from eras gone by make The Shanghai Bund the perfect place for some romance. If the chi just isn’t right and you find yourself without a lover to be smug and sappy with, you’ll still get some great photo opportunities. Shoppers can head to the famous Nanjing Rd, where you’ll find lots of stores to send you into debt, and must-see destinations like the Museum of Contemporary Art and the trendy Xiang Yang Markets.Yu Yuan
If you want to escape the commercial craziness of the other areas of Shanghai, come here. It retains a lot of ye olde Chinese charm, and, most enticingly, the opportunity to walk the streets and breathe in some actual fresh air, as there’s a lot less smog here. Don’t miss out on the prettiness and tranquillity of Yu Gardens and the fun of their bazaar, serving all your tacky (and strange) souvenir needs in one place. Just make sure you don’t get conned into over-paying by the sometimes abrupt but well-meaning vendors.Jing’an
This busy, downtown district in the heart of Shanghai is home to great shopping spots, drawing big-spenders and hipsters alike. If shopping bores you to tears, you can channel your inner archaeologist and check out the bags of bones at the Shanghai Natural History Museum, or make funny faces at fish through the glass at the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. At night, you might like to head over to the Shanghai Grand Theatre, a modern structure with the air of a temple, and take in a concert or a play. If you don’t think your Mandarin is up to the challenge of an entire play, however, you can find plenty of alternate entertainment in one of the many pubs or nightclubs around the area. Make sure you indulge in a bottle of Tsingtao beer!Former French Concession
The FFC pulls major tourist numbers because of the pretty streets, charming, European-style buildings and cosmopolitan vibe. This area of Shanghai blends the Chinese and Euro ways of life into one happy little neighbourhood and is emblematic of the cocktail of influences at work in the city. Start your day with an intense round of Mahjong with a local oldie at Fuxing Park, or head straight into the shops to drop some serious Yuan.Xuhui
The heart of Xuhui and the place you’ll most likely make a beeline for is Xujiahui, a cluster of shopping spots. This place is known for boasting the most epic shopping in Shanghai, so don’t feel bad about giving the credit card a workout. Hit up iconic malls like the Grand Gateway, Oriental Department Store and Metro City (this place is particularly good for cut-price electronics). If you’re in Xuhui for more than a day, Jinjiang Action Park is an epic theme park that’s well worth a visit.
Shanghai Eat & Drink
Shanghai will get you salivating, satiate you and then proceed to get you pretty damn hammered. Here’s where to grab a meal and then get rowdy…
Spicy Joint Cheap and very popular, this place is famous for mouth-watering Sichuan cuisine and chilli dishes that’ll burn your face off.
JW’s California Grill Float over the Shanghai skyline while you nibble on your lobster.
JW’s Lounge Has a sultry, sexy attitude and bevy of babes behind the bar. Leave the jeans at home and spruce yourself up for this place.
Jade on 36 This place is pricey but spending those Yuans is worth it. It’s got a bunch of awards under its belt and is a famous celeb-haunt.
Thai Gallery One of the best Thai places in Shanghai, it churns out classic curries on a regular basis.
Meilongzhen Fact of the day: This was once a Communist HQ but is now one of Shanghai’s classic eateries. Cool, no?
Jimi:Seve Authentic Italian in the heart of Shanghai. The pizzas are surprisingly good.
Hunan House The same peeps behind Cotton’s bring you a cold duck dish that’ll leave you quacking speechless.
Cotton’s One of the city’s big-time bars. Come and hang with the pretty people and down a few cocktails. An Ting Road
Vue Bar This renowned, futuristic-looking beauty lives in the Hyatt. Bring a date and we guarantee you’ll get lucky.
Stacks of people gather at the Longhua Temple in Xuhui to celebrate the Western New Year with a sacred tradition called the New Year Bell Striking. The bell strikes over 100 times and is said to not only welcome the new year, but also bring good luck to the people who attend.
Chinese New Year (January or February, depending on the Chinese calendar) is a pretty big deal in Shanghai – no surprises there. The parade and celebrations thrill the city and amaze tourists every year without fail. Kung Hei Fat Choi!
The Lantern Festival is the highlight/last event of the Spring Festival. Pretty lanterns illuminate every nook and cranny bringing good fortune to all. Most of the festivities are based at Yu Yuan Gardens.
The awarding of ‘Golden Goblets’ during the Shanghai International Film Festival always attracts a lot of attention (and the opinions of annoyingly smug film snobs) every June.
Nanjing Road sees the Shanghai Tourism Festival, a massive party that not only celebrates tourists (woo! Go us!), but also the city’s culture and lifestyle every September/October.
When To Visit
- Once upon a time, Shanghai enjoyed pretty mild weather all year round but that pesky global warming (a pollution-caused hold in the ozone layer above Shanghai hasn’t helped) has changed things somewhat. Shanghai now deals with frosty winters and major heatwaves during summer.
- If you’re looking for warm and pleasant weather, early March to May will satisfy.
- Spring temp range: 18-22°C (64-72°F); summer temp range: 27-35°C (81-95°F); autumn temp range: 12-16°C (54-61°F); and winter temp range: 4-6°C (39-43°F).
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What To Miss
The tap water equates to almost instant diarrhoea in this city, so stock up on the bottled stuff. Food poisoning is also really common, so avoid it by going to eateries that are busy! While you’ll naturally be more cautious around meat, fish and eggs, it’s often the innocent-looking salads, washed in tap water, that can do the most damage.
Security is, er, interesting in China. We suggest deleting the porn and anything else incriminating and/or embarrassing from your hard drive (it’s up to you whether that includes those episodes of Glee you secretly love) if you’re travelling with a laptop. If security officials find you a little suss, they’ll have no problems putting you under surveillance and then checking out your personal possessions without telling you. Hotel rooms, offices, cars, phones and Internet usage (yep, porn again) may also be monitored and searched. Freaky.
In addition to the hardcore security, Shanghai has some intense laws against spitting, jay-walking, swearing, littering, smoking in public and walking on grass (whaaaa?). Read the signs and follow the crowd and you should be alright!
The Shanghai Metro! One of the fastest and most reliable rail transit systems will see you get to wherever you need to go in this city. Prices vary according to the length of the trip, but you can be certain that they’re cheap!
Not into trains? Buses are plentiful, with over 1000 local bus lines. When you’re ferrying around a population of 23 million, you don’t leave things to chance…
Taxis are very cheap, but don’t expect an English-speaking driver. To avoid confusion, make sure you carry your destination written down on a piece of paper. Or learn Shanghaianese, the local dialect.
Shanghai is one of China's most travelled cities, as it offers a complete different cultural experience for keen holiday seekers. Shanghai will definitely surprise you with its glitz and glamour, achingly different from other cities in the Mainland.
European influences abound in Shanghai, more evident in The Bund where old-world style buildings face the Huangpu River. A casual stroll along the tree-lined avenues would lead to funky neighborhoods that remind you more of Europe. Home to 15 million, Shanghai center is relatively new but the cultural highlights still impart a good old sense of old-world charm.
This year, Shanghai will play host to the famed World Expo - a spectacular showcase of the world's biggest international communities. The Shanghai World Expo, officially "Expo 2010 Shanghai China", is expected to be the largest and most exciting world exposition to date. Scheduled to run from May 1st through October 30th, 2010, the Shanghai World Expo is also expected to be one of the most expensive ever, as well. Are you looking for Shanghai accommodation close to the Shanghai World Expo? HotelClub has a great selection of cheap Shanghai Expo hotels for you to choose from!
It's a beautiful city that is divided between Puxi (east) and Pudong (west) of Huangpu River. When one walks the Bund, a perfect epitome of the Shanghai experience can be had. Colonial buildings such as Customs House, Peace Hotel and large financial institutions face the futuristic Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the flashy neon lights at night on the other side. Some of these heritage buildings house the city's hottest dining spots. With a breathtaking view, who can't resist?
See a part of Shanghai that's close to its Imperial past by visiting Yu Yuan Gardens. Within this historical section of the city, there are ancient pavillions, little bridges and waterways inside the gardens. It certainly is a contrasting sight compared the more touristy Bazaar beside it. It's a cluster of commercial establishments including McDonalds and Starbucks holding fort at the former army offices.
The French left its imprints in Shanghai in highly affluent areas which form the former French Concession. The streets of Sinan Lu, Taikang Lu, Xianshan Lu and Gaolan Lu are chockfull of fancy restaurants, upmarket shopping and elegant architecture throughout.
Other sights that are part of Shanghai's roster of attractions include People's Square, site of the Shanghai Museum, City Hall and Grand Theatre. Nanjing Lu is the famed pedestrian street always seeing jampacked crowds most especially during weekends. Shopping is key activity here with malls lining up the street. Entertainment on the other hand, is concentrated in Xintiandi, a pair of blocks of street containing restored stone houses which now are filled with food and wine establishments.
For something that's off the main drag, take a taxi ride to Old Town or Qi Bao. You will find yourself transported to kung fu movies when you see the buildings in this favorite haunt for local foods like xiao long bao, sticky rice cakes and roasted duck.
Chinese New Year comes around with a big bang in Shanghai, as is the case in any Chinese city. Lion dances and fireworks greet the new year which falls anytime between last week of January or first week of February. Much of the city closes down so visitors are advised to just enjoy the revelry outside their hotels. Dragon boat races create a frenzy in the river in June or July. Whilst the Shanghai Beer Festival allows everyone to drink and be merry! Formula One fever hits the city when Chinese Grand Prix roars its way on September.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is perhaps the loveliest festival of the year. It is the time for family reunions among the Chinese. If you get invited, prepare your appetite for great feasts ahead! The celebration also includes exchanging moon cakes and red envelopes with money tokens inside.
- Spring (April - May) 10 to 24 oC Temperate
- Summer (June - August) 20 to 31oC Sunny, wet and humid
- Autumn (September — November) 6 to 18oC Pleasantly warm with very little rainfall, best time to visit
- Winter (December — March) -7 to -5oC Less humid with little rainfall, the weather is quite cool
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