Shanghai, the most populous city in China with in excess of 16 million residents, ranks as the country's number one industry and trade centre. Located at the centre of the mainland's coastline, Shanghai is China's biggest and most important economic centre. This attractive and trendy city, often dubbed the Paris of the Far East, has a history as rich as any other big city in China and offers its visitors a riveting mix of cultures, architectural temples of art, fabulous dining and contemporary urban living. Shanghai attracts both visitors from China and other parts of the globe and a large percentage of visitors to the city are from the corporate and business world.
Shanghai sits on the banks of the Yangtze River and is bordered by the East River and the Hangzhou Delta. The Bund area, a boulevard of old architecture, is the centre of the city and a symbol of both old and new Shanghai. At night, the Bund is a gem of urban beauty with the illuminated PuDong skyline across the river. Many different types of architecture, from Gothic and Baroque to Classicism and Renaissance styles ornament this waterfront area, including the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank building and the Oriental Pearl Tower, the highest tower in Asia.
Trendy Shanghai is known as a shopper's paradise, complete with China's number one pedestrian shopping street, Nanjing Road which is well on its way to become a world-famous commercial destination like the Champs Elysees in Paris and Fifth Avenue in New York. Colourful, fashionable and energetic, Shanghai is the best place to catch the pace and contradiction of modern China.
Top Things to do in Shanghai
Take a stroll along the Bund on the Riverside Promenade Walk, located around 1.5 miles from the centre of Shanghai. Daytime sees plenty of Chinese weddings, and many of the local celebrations begin here. Take a stroll at night and enjoy the lit-up Shanghai skyline.
Great for families with older kids, Happy Valley Shanghai is a theme park and amusement centre located just outside the city. Visitors who arrive off-season and mid-week are spared hours of queuing for rides. Happy Valley is open all year round.
Shanghai Circus World is an amazing indoor circus arena, specialising in showcasing new and innovative acts and performers, motorbike stunts and spectacular acrobatic displays. Shanghai Circus World is suitable for all the family.
Approximately two miles from the city centre lies the Shanghai World Financial Centre, where visitors can ascend the observation tower for stunning views across the city. The building itself is ultra-modern and children will love the whizzing lifts. Bars and shops are located throughout.
Only just over a mile from the city centre buzz, the Garden of Contentment (Yu Yuan) is a five acre garden setting consisting of six separately-walled, private gardens. Visitors are welcome to wander through each garden, all of which are authentically Chinese in style and are a haven of calm.
Other highlights are the Jade Buddha Temple, Lupu Bridge - the longest arch bridge in the world - and the wonderful Yu Garden, which is crafted in the classical style of the Ming Dynasty and attached to a fabulous market where you can bargain for the best handicrafts and antiques.
A traditional dish of Shanghai is Xiao Long Bao (little basket dumplings) which are served as either four or eight dumplings in a small bamboo steamer. Although this dish is popular throughout China, it is originally from Shanghai where, locals claim, no one makes Xiao Long Bao any better. Xiao Long Bao are tiny bite-sized pork balls spiced and marinated and wrapped in a skin of thin flour. Xiao Long Bao are served on every Shanghai menu from luxury hotel restaurants to street vendors, so opportunities abound for the visitor to experience this delicious, appetising snack.
Shanghai cuisine is big on pork and poultry dishes, although beef and a nice range of vegetarian options are readily available. There are also several Korean barbecue restaurants that are very popular with locals. Traditional teahouses are a must-see for any visitor, and are perfect for spending a few hours in an authentic and relaxing setting. Many of the Shanghai hostels feature an inexpensive menu of delicious local dishes.
Shanghai abounds with trendy and corporate city centre bars, many of which offer a popular range of cocktails and some even have their own in-house mix for guests to try. Many of the upmarket establishments do employ a dress code.
For something a little lively, you won't have to travel far to find a karaoke bar because the people of Shanghai love them. Everyone is welcome in these friendly establishments and visitors to the city are made to feel instantly welcome, especially if they want to sing.
Shanghai has its share of nightclubs too, and some of the larger clubs also serve food and feature a floor show - acrobatics is usually on the cards.
The Shanghai bar for ex-pats, located under the Bund and is called I Love Shanghai. This American-owned bar is a fun place to be and draws a large crowd, especially at weekends. The Monkey Lounge, unobtrusively situated down an alley, is the chosen bar for Shanghai's premier faces and worth a look if you are a visitor to the city.
Parks and the Great Outdoors
For a city renowned for industry and trade, Shanghai does have many wonderful parks and open, green spaces, which are ideal for children and pets to run or simply for taking a relaxing stroll. City parks are ideal places for people-watching, the busiest time of the day for a Shanghai park is at dawn when large numbers of local people gather together for their morning exercise routine. A Shanghai exercise routine can comprise anything from the traditional Tai Chi to yoga, aerobics and even ballroom dancing. Shanghai City has ensured that every public park has a children's section incorporated within it.
In addition to the large public parks, the city also supports a good number of smaller parks and walkways. Xujiahui Gongyuan Park is one of these. Built in 1999, this park of one of Shanghai's most modern parks. The park has an artificial lake with a lovely little sky bridge, making it a peaceful haven for busy city-dwellers.
St John's University, Shanghai's premier international educational establishment, has a stunning display of peony roses and garden roses, and also has a large well-maintained playground for children.
Beer and Wine
With typical Chinese innovation, the Shanghai Brewery is a fine dining restaurant, a sports bar with 15 big-screens broadcasting sporting events from all over the world, and is one of the best Chinese microbreweries in the country as well. A microbrewery, as opposed to a traditional western brewery, is one which produces a limited amount of beer and is recognised by the consumer as a producer of unique beers. The microbrewery can be likened to the western 'special edition' type of products. For families, the Shanghai Brewery offers a children's menu, X-Box and Wii games and a good selection of toys for the younger child.
In 2012, Shanghai will hold its 8th Wine and Spirits International Expo (3 - 5 May 2012) which features exhibitors from Europe, America, and the Far East, as well as China itself. Although not widely exported, Chinese wine is taken extremely seriously and the diverse climate allows for some wonderful grape and grain growing farms to flourish. Visitors to Shanghai are recommended to try a local wine during their stay in the city.
Although undoubtedly China's business and commercial hub, Shanghai also enjoys seven hectares of cultivated gardens in the heart of the consular district of the city, and it is within this area that many of the city's five and six-star corporate hotels exist. Shanghai also offers guests a range of three and four-star hotels which usually have integral spas. For the traveller on a budget, Shanghai delivers some inexpensive single rooms and self-catering apartments, both within the city centre and on the outskirts. Youth hostelling is also very well supported in China and the hostels regularly welcome young people and students from China and overseas.