Loved as the Paris of the East or reviled as the Whore of the Orient, Shanghai has had a chequered history. China’s eastern coastal megalopolis of Shanghai (Hu for short), situated on the estuary of Yangtze River, began as a fishing village in the 11th century, but by the mid-18th century it was an important area for growing cotton and by the 1800s it was becoming the largest city in China, a position that led to frequently unwelcome intervention from foreigners seeking to impose their exports on the Empire during the nineteenth century.
During the early 1900s, Shanghai attracted many entrepreneurs and established businesses. Around the same time, opium sales along with the gambling and prostitution that went with it brought in very big profits. Foreigners came into Shanghai due to foreign trade after the Opium Wars. Shanghai was the largest and most prosperous city in the Far East during the 1930s. During the first half the twentieth century, Shanghai was the only port in the world to accept Jews fleeing the Holocaust without an entry visa. The British, along with the Americans and French, were allowed to live in certain territorial zones without being under the Chinese laws. As a result of all the foreigners, Shanghai became greatly influenced by Western culture. After the end of Shanghai’s subjugation by the Japanese, the Nationalist Chinese government was given control of the city. The foreigners no longer had control and by 1949, Shanghai was transformed by the Communist Chinese government.
Things then changed dramatically after Communism took over. As the foreigners left, the businesses that were left behind were one by one taken over by the government. After losing ground during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, Deng Xiaopeng’s open door policy allowed for the advancement back to being an international force in business and finance. Now the good times are rolling again as China’s economic boom has lifted Shanghai from the doldrums and given this city of 27 million people a high-tech makeover of mammoth proportions. Shanghai hosted the World Expo in 2010. After the building boom, Shanghai is now relatively easy to navigate by taxi, metro and on your own feet. The face of the city constantly evolves weekly as roads are ripped up, subway lines added, and new skyscrapers built.
Many foreigners chose to live, give lectures or just experience the Chinese charm in Shanghai. They included Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Czar Nicholas II, Prince of Siam, Aga Khan, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Doris Duke, George Vanderbilt and Bernard Shaw to name but a few.
Shanghai’s cosmopolitan past has given the city an eclectic architectural heritage. The historic shikumen houses of the now-trendy Xintiandi area fuse Chinese style with European design flair, and the city also has one of the richest collections of art deco buildings in the world. As a result of the numerous Concessions (designated districts) granted to Western powers at the turn of he 20th century, Shanghai sometimes has the feel of Paris or London, while Tudor style buildings give a German flair, and the 1930’s buildings put you in New York or Chicago. Nowhere else in China is the contrast between old and new China so striking – sidestep from a glittering shopping parade into a narrow pedestrian alley and 15 seconds later you are in another world. Housewives dry their laundry outside, beat carpets and take more than a few breaks to gossip and laugh with neighbors.
Shanghai is bisected by the Huangpu River, with the older town (Puxi) on the west bank and most of the brash new development on the east side (Pudong). The space-age Pudong skyline is dominated by the bold (some might say hideous) skyscrapers of the Lujiazui Financial District
The Bund. Situated on the east bank of the Huangpu River, Shanghai’s Most Famous Mile of Riverfront, here, one can enjoy the bracing air and fine sunshine as well as seeing something of the many activities along the river. The new finance and commercial houses cluster together along the south of the Bund while along the west there is a wealth of grand buildings in the European architectural styles of the nineteen-twenties, thirties and early forties. It boasts some of Shanghai’s most impressive architecture and is home to some of its most prominent institutions. The 52 buildings that make up the Bund represent a number of architectural styles, but the strip is best known for the Art Deco elegance that graces many of the buildings. The scenery at night has to be seen and the Bund is a must. The ornate classical and modern buildings take on a new and exciting look as they are lit up by an abundance of colored lights. Looking across the Huangpu River to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and skyscrapers is a magical sight.
- Peace Hotel (Cathay) (20 Nanjing Rd E) The name is indicative of the ambiance within—this hotel is where you go to get away from it all. an art deco mansion that epitomizes the colonial romance of Shanghai. Built in 1929 by Victor Sassoon, a British descendant of Baghdad Jews who’d made their fortune in opium and real estate, the building was originally part office/residential complex known as the Sassoon House, and part hotel, the Cathay Hotel, one of the world’s finest international hotels in the 1930’s. The most notable feature of the residence is that it has 17 restaurants offering Shanghai, Cantonese, Sichuan and French cuisine. A country-style jazz bar adds to the eccentricity, with the help of 75 old timers of the local music scene.
Pudong & Lujiazui Financial District a conglomeration of shockingly massive skyscrapers creating the financial hub of China, viewable from just about anywhere in Shanghai, but very views are from the bund on the PuXi side. Major buildings include:
- Oriental Pearl TV Tower (东方明珠塔) [opened in 1994] – Most Recognizable Landmark (2 Lane 504 Jujiazui Rd, Pu Dong District) is the modern symbol of Shanghai. Standing beside the Huangpu River and the Bund with a height of 468 meters high, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower is was of the highest towers in Asia. Tourists may climb the tower for panoramic views of the city. There is a revolving restaurant at the 267 m level. The ground floor features a shopping area, cafe, and an international city exhibit. On clear days, the upper levels of this tower, measuring no less than 263 meters in height, offer spectacular views of the city.
- Jinmao Tower (金茂大厦) (88 Century Blvd, PuDong) [opened in 1999] The world’s fourth tallest building and the tallest building in China (at least it is at the time of writing), the Jinmao Tower soars over Shanghai in the Pudong district, overlooking the Bund and Huangpu River. The Tower, with its 88 floors (eight is a lucky number in China), can be seen from almost anywhere in Shanghai and was built by the same architecture firm that designed Chicago’s Sears Tower. It contains a shopping mall, offices and the Grand Hyatt Shanghai hotel, which at the time of completion was the highest hotel in the world. Take in the sweeping views of the city from either the observation deck on the 88th floor or from within the Hyatt hotel, which features a 33-story atrium starting on the 55th floor.
- Shanghai World Financial Center (上海环球金融中心) [opened in 2008], the tallest building with a hole, offers the full extent of Lujiazui and Puxi areas, attracting more and more visitors to appreciate the beautiful panorama of modern Shanghai. Designed by a Japanese firm, the original design called for a circular hole, only during construction did the Chinese government notice that it could be perceived as “the Japanese rising sun” over China, and demanded a change of shape. The top of the building was redesigned to make it look more like a bottle opener.
- Shanghai Tower (上海中心大厦) [opened in 2015], tallest building in China and 2nd tallest building in the world (behind Dubai’s Burj Khalifa). As of 2015, it has the world’s highest observation deck within a building or structure and the world’s fastest elevators at a top speed of 74 km/h). Owned by the Shanghai city government, designed for high energy efficiency, provides nine separate zones divided between office, retail and leisure use.
French Concession (上海法租界) was established on 6 April 1849, when the French Consul to Shanghai, Charles de Montigny, obtained a proclamation from Lin Kouei (麟桂, Lin Gui), the Circuit Intendant (Tao-tai/Daotai, effectively governor) of Shanghai, which conceded certain territory for a French settlement. The concession came to an end in 1943 when the Vichy French government signed it over to the pro-Japanese puppet government in Nanking. For much of the 20th century, the area covered by the former French Concession remained the premier residential and retail district of Shanghai. Despite re-development over the last few decades, the area retains a distinct character, and is a popular tourist destination. Explore the area between Julu Rd (巨鹿路) to the north and Huaihai Rd (淮海路) running through the center, plus Maoming Rd (茂名南路) and surrounding area to the south of Huaihai Rd. Pleasant tree-lined streets and local Shanghainese bustle, combined with a growing number of trendy boutiques and restaurants. Changle Rd (长乐路) and Xinle Rd (新乐路) are rapidly becoming the places to find small designer clothing shops. Some major points:
- Avenue Joffre, now Central Huaihai Road, is Shanghai’s most fashionable street. Built in 1901, the 6km long boulevard stretched across the French Concession in an east-west direction. The road was named after Joseph Joffre in 1916. Avenue Joffre was a tram route. Its eastern section featured Shikumen residences. Its western part featured high-end residential developments, including standalone houses and apartment blocks. The central section was – and is – a popular shopping area, with many shops opened by the Russian community. The former Avenue Joffre remains a high-end retail district under it’s new name, Huai Hai Road, which commemorates the Huai Hai Battle during Liberation. Today, this road has become synonymous with what is trendy and fashionable in Shanghai. While the stretch between Shan Xi Rd and Xi Zang Rd is the busiest section (and best for people-watching), this commercial street contains more than 400 shops, restaurants and businesses. The remnants of French architecture give the street its cosmopolitan charm.
- Xujiahui (Zikawei: “Xu’s Confluence”), an area named after the family of Xu Guangqi and the confluence of two local rivers. While Xujiahui was technically not part of the French Concession (lying immediately west of the boundary of the concession), it was the centre of Catholic Shanghai, featuring St Ignatius Cathedral, the Observatory, the Library, and several colleges, all of which were French-dominated. Today, Xujiahui is a busy commercial district. If you’re looking for anything electronic, Xujiahui is the place to start. Pacific Digital Plaza is a huge electronics mall in two parts. Phase 2 is more oriented to the end-user market; for things like custom-built computers or parts for do-it-yourself, try the upper floors of Phase 1. Today’s Xuhui District is named after this locality.
- Avenue Pétain, now Hengshan Road, was a major boulevard linking Xujiahui with the centre of the French Concession. It represented the centre of the French Concession’s high-end residential district and featured a large number of mansions and expensive apartment buildings. Since the 1990s, some of the former houses have been converted into bars and nightclubs, making Hengshan Road one of Shanghai’s premier night entertainment districts.
- Fergusson Lane (首页) 376 WuKang Lu, a narrow alley of 1930s art deco buildings filled with 5-star restaurants and boutique shops.
- Dr. Sun Yat-sen Former Residence & Memorial Hall Immerse Yourself in Pre-Revolutionary History (7 Xian Shan Rd) Considered the forerunner of the revolution, the home of Doctor Sun Yat-sen and his wife, Soong Qing Ling, has been lovingly preserved. Open to the public, the beautiful, 1920s home is still furnished and decorated the way it used to be. Visitors enter through the kitchen, where they are required to wear slippers over their shoes to protect the old flooring. An extensive photo exhibition is set up in the first room with information available in English and Chinese. A little bookstall offers literature and postcards featuring the famous couple. A larger gift shop sells more souvenirs.
- Song QingLing House (上海宋庆龄故居), 1843 Huaihai Middle Rd, Xujiahui District. Madame Song Qing Ling, the spouse of the famous activist Sun Yatsen, lived here. Located in the Old French Concession area, this property stands tall amid all old buildings. One of the frequent tourist attractions, this place is an ideal example of ancient German architecture. Much state business took place at the residence. Today there’s a small museum with many artifacts, largely about the politics of China leading up to the official founding of the P.R.C, and as she was well-versed in English, the items describe some interesting stories to non-Chinese and Chinese alike. The nearby house is two levels and contains many original items and pictures. The grounds are very well maintained and there’s a garage with a few formerly state-used cars as well. Gift shop.
- Lyceum Theatre (57 Maoming Nan Lu) Located in the French Concession neighborhood of Shanghai, the Lyceum Theatre was once home to the British Amateur Drama Club. The art deco theater was founded in 1930 and now hosts Chinese opera performances, classical ballet and music, children’s theater, and a variety of other musical and theatrical events. Designers from Singapore gave the Theatre a new look in 2003, complete with a redesigned stage. Situated on Maoming Road, the Lyceum, with its classic European style, appeals to a wide audience of theater-goers and is a historic landmark as one of Shanghai’s oldest theaters.
People’s Square (Renmin Blvd, PuXi) People’s Square (Ren Min Guang Chang) is a vast public square surrounded by government buildings. Truly an urban park, it features manicured greenery and, at its heart, the architecturally impressive Shanghai Museum. Other features include a 320-square-meter water fountain, subway station and an underground shopping mall. Because the square attracts many people, it makes an ideal venue for people watching. Add a carefree afternoon of kite flying to your itinerary; great for the young and the young at heart. Major Sights:
- Shanghai Grand Theatre (上海大剧院) (300 Renmin Blvd, People’s Square) The Shanghai Grand Theatre opened in 1998 and is a magnificent addition to the city’s arts and culture scene. The Grand Theatre building is a landmark for the city Shanghai. With a total investment of 1.2 billion RMB, it’s home to 3 theatres inside: the Lyric Theatre with 1,800 seats, the drama theatre that can seat 600 and the studio theatre of 300 seats. On the northwest side of the busy People’s Square, this architecturally striking and modern theater hosts major international concerts and performances. It has played host to the Russian Kirov and the British Royal Philharmonic. Visitors can buy a ticket to tour the building, however, they would do better to purchase a ticket for a performance and have a look around for free.
- Shanghai Museum (201 Renmin Da Dao, People’s Square) This museum boasts 120,000 Chinese art pieces and archaeological findings. Permanent exhibits of bronzes, pottery, paintings and calligraphies are distinctive features of the Museum’s collection. Other facilities include a library with 20,000 books, a conservation laboratory and a lecture room. There is a gift shop on the first floor, a non-smoking teahouse and several antique and curio stalls. The building itself is an architectural showpiece, resembling an ancient tripod when viewed sideways. The rooftop with glassed dome is modeled on a Han Dynasty mirror.
- Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall (100 Renmin Ave, People’s Square) This museum has five floors that detail the ambitious plans of Shanghai’s urban planners. Visitors are provided with a glimpse of how Shanghai will look like in a couple of decades. The centerpiece on the third floor is a huge model of the city as it is now. Check out the map on the first half floor, where the districts scheduled to be cleared for new constructions and green areas are marked. In the basement, old Shanghai is rebuilt with house entrances, cobble stone ways and operating shops and teahouses.
Fuxing Park (2A Gao Lan Lu) formerly the French Park, Historical Fuxing Park is laid out in European style and is one of the few green patches in the city. Visitors come to take in the fresh air, practise tai-chi, or read books under the shady trees. There’s a statue of Marx-Engels in the centre of the park, which was unveiled on Engels’ death anniversary.
Jade Buddha Temple (170 Anyuan Rd) This temple, was constructed in 1918. The interior is heavy in the wow-factor with its classic Chinese architecture and is highlighted by a massive jade statue of Buddha. But what makes this so wildly popular is the ability to witness the temple’s resident monks perform their daily ceremonies throughout its four halls. These daily “events” provide amazing first-hand insight to China’s ancient religious culture. The White Jade Buddhas were brought here from Burma in the nineteenth century.
Jing’an Park (Hua Shan Entry, Nan Jing Rd W, opposite Peace Temple) Jinan Park is ideally located next to all the major attractions, such as Jinan Plaza and Jingan Temple. You can come for walks and admire the raw, natural beauty of the park, or simply sit by the artificial lake and relax. If you happen to come as soon as dawn breaks, you will see aged people meditating and doing Tai Chi. If you are lucky, you might just catch a birthday party or a wedding ceremony here.
Jing’an Temple (1686 Nanjing Rd W ) After several face lifts, this Buddhist temple is as good as new now. Erected in 247 AD, this temple was renovated several times. The name implies tranquility and that is exactly the reason why tourists come here. Due to its prime location, the area is always lively and bustling. But it is very spacious and peaceful, so you can easily find a corner to meditate.
Majestic Theatre (66 Jiang Ning Rd) One of the oldest theaters in Shanghai, the Majestic offers a diverse range of regular performances such as opera, ballet, song and dance, and local/regional dance performances. The theater also occasionally screens movies. Given the eclectic mix of its performances, visitors are recommended to call ahead to check for details about the upcoming week’s schedule.
50 Moganshan Road (莫干山路50号) or “M50” is a contemporary art district, that houses a thriving community of more than a hundred artists whose studios are open to the public. It is often compared with New York’s SoHo and Beijing’s 798 Art Zone. The art quarter has become a popular cultural attraction for local and international visitors alike. The name refers to its actual address in Shanghai, and is often shortened to M50 or Moganshan Road. It is tucked away in an old industrial area along the Suzhou Creek. The art quarter is located in industrial and residential Putuo District, but conveniently close to downtown Jing’an District. 50 Moganshan Road was once the Chunming Slub Mill. The art scene was started in 2000 by local artist Xue Song who was initially attracted by the cheap rent of the disused industrial space. Other artists including Ding Yi, Qu Fengguo, and Wang Xingwei, soon followed. Today the quarter’s former factories and warehouses have been converted into art galleries, artists’ studios, design agencies and other visual art and cultural businesses of various sizes. The land and buildings are still owned by Shangtex, the state-owned textile group that operated the now defunct factory. M50 hosts over 120 galleries and art studios. Some of Shanghai’s best known artists work here.
Nanjing Road – a mecca for shoppers, one of the two major commercial streets in Shanghai (in addition to Huai Hai Road), NanJing Road spans 5.5 kilometres east to west. On both sides of the road are more than 600 shops and shopping centres carrying high quality, brand goods. The eastern part of the road is pedestrian-only with various attractions as well as its shops. Once the premier shopping street, it has been recently eclipsed by Huai Hai Road. Nevertheless, it attracts many people. Nanjing Lu is often packed with people on weekends and holidays. The shops are often targeted at domestic tourists, so the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Transportation is convenient as visitors can catch the metro at various points along the road.
People’s Park (231 Nanjing Rd W, Huangpu) What was once a racetrack is now the beautiful Renmin Park. Renovated in keeping with Chinese design traditions, visitors can jog or work-out in the mornings, and stroll through in the evenings. A small pond with lotuses, rental boats, and a children’s play area are some of the other reasons to venture here
Shanghai Museum of Public Security (2-4F, 518 Rui Jin Nan Lu) With three floors of over 70,000 exhibits, the Public Security Museum covers the time from Shanghai’s first policemen in 1854 to the latest technology in crime detection. On the second floor, old Shanghai is rebuilt with actual cobble stone floors and street lamps. The third floor is dedicated to real murder cases. No details are spared—one frightening example is a skull with a pair of scissors sticking into it! The fire control exhibition on the fourth floor is fun for kids with many things to discover.
Shanghai Stadium (666 Tian Yao Qiao Rd) The Shanghai Stadium, seating 80,000 spectators, helps to make Shanghai a first-class sporting city. The multi-functional stadium was built in 1997 and appointed as the major venue for the 8th National Sports Meeting held that year. Besides sporting events, the stadium also hosts occasional concerts. This 190-square-meter building is configured like a saddle and is outfitted with three rows of circular all-weather bleachers and 100 deluxe booths. A gigantic color display screen, a video monitoring & display system, security, a medical center and a media center are among its world-class facilities. The upscale Regal Shanghai East Asia Hotel is uniquely situated inside, as well as a modern aquatic center.
Xin Tian Di (新天地) (181 Taicang Lu) “New Heaven and Earth,” is not for the traveler short on spare change, although it wasn’t always so. This gentrified neighborhood was once a sprawl of mid-century Shikuman (stone-frame) residential buildings. In 1997, the Shui On Group proposed a complete renovation of the area; the residential district would be transformed into a business district, while the historic, architectural integrity of the Shikuman heritage was preserved. The first stage of the project, Xin Tian Di Plaza, was completed in 2001. Xin Tian Di is the first part of the Taiping Qiao Plan, a 52-hectare urban renewal project that resulted in the relocation of 3,500 families. Today the two block area is ground zero for hippest lifestyle, well-heeled shoppers and diners, featuring upscale stores, and menu stands from some of Shanghai’s best restaurants. Nestled among all the white-collar commerce, however, you’ll also find the Shikuman Open House Museum, where traditional life is depicted in a 10-room Shikuman house, and the Central Academy of Fine Arts Gallery. Xin Tian Di is divided into two parts:
- The South Block mainly consists of modern architecture with Shikumen architecture as an accompaniment. It covers an area of 25,000 square meters and was opened to public in mid-2002. The complex of block is built with glass walls; it delivers modern atmosphere and style. Inside the block, there are a lot of restaurants from all over the world, boutiques, fashionable ornament shops, food courts, cinemas and one-stop fitness centers providing places of leisure and entertainment for customers and tourists from home and abroad.
- The North Block is composed of antique Shikumen buildings with inner modern designs, decoration and equipment. It features upscale stores and restaurants with cuisine from different countries such as France, Brazil, America, Japan, Germany and Italy, fully revealing the international level of Shanghai Xin Tian Di.
- The First Congress Hall of the Communist Party was made into a Shikumen Museum, and is the dividing line of the north and south parts of Xintiandi.
Tianzi Fang (田子坊) is an arts and crafts enclave that has developed from a renovated traditional residential area in the French Concession, and is now home to boutique shops, bars and restaurants. The district comprises a neighborhood of labyrinthine alleyways off Taikang Road (泰康路), a short street which is today mostly known only for Tianzi Fang. Tianzi Fang is an example of preservation of local Shikumen architecture, with some similarities to Xintiandi. Tianzi Fang is largely hidden from the neighbouring streets, as it grew from the inside of the block outward, although there are now shops on Taikang Road itself. Historically Lane #248 was a key entrance that, in order to gain access to the commercially developed area, required walking about 50m through whilst be surrounded by local residents’ life, including bicycles, hanging laundry, etc. until finally emerging in the ‘new’ area. Despite all the businesses selling trendy craft and some foreign goods, the area does not have the look of having been overly beautified – electricity cables are still strung overhead, and air conditioning units are obvious on the outside of the buildings. The district is distinctly different from Xintiandi, another Shikumen redevelopment in central Shanghai further to the northeast, in that it has managed to preserve its residential feel, adding to its appeal.
Yuyuan (豫園) was inaugurated in the Ming dynasty and has a total area of 20,000 square meters. Although the Garden occupies less than five acres, it demonstrates perfectly the sophisticated art of combining several different elements to create a world in miniature – mingling pavilions and corridors, small hills and carefully selected and well-placed rocks, lotus ponds, bridges, winding paths, and trees and shrubs. The neighboring Yuyuan Bazaar, known among old-timers as “Old City God’s Temple Market“, is a rising tourist and shopping center where visitors loitering among a cluster of shops, restaurants and recreation facilities invariably find themselves making a tour of discovery of local folklore and Ming and Qing architecture. There are more than 40 scenic spots scattered throughout the garden, which is divided into six parts by five boundary walls. The six scenic areas include the Grand Rockery, the Ten Thousand-Flower Pavilion, the Hall of Heralding Spring, the Hall of Jade Magnificence, the Inner Garden, and the Lotus Pool.
- Yu Yuan Garden (132 An Ren Rd) The 400-year-old Yu Gardens were built in the Ming Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Jia Jin and is the largest of Shanghai’s ancient gardens with architectural styles of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The garden has six areas, each with its own style. The Grand Rockery, in the center of the Garden, is the most renowned sight here. Recognized as a significant national heritage site, the Gardens are a remarkable representation of a southern Chinese-style garden. Visitor highlights include the Jade Exquisite—one of the three most famous jade stones in East China. Best Time to Visit: One of the prettiest times to visit Yu Yuan is during the Lantern Festival. Thousands of Chinese lanterns adorn the premises (as well as thousands of visitors!).
- Yu Yuan Bazaar (19 Wenchan Rd, Nanshi District) Originally Old Shanghai City, this place is known for its Ming and Qing dynasty buildings. But also a shoppers’ paradise, the place houses small stores. Antique and souvenir shops, stores selling traditional clothes, books, and Chinese novelty items rule the streets. A visit to Shanghai is incomplete without a peep here. Loud, bustling and full of character, tourists can brush up on their bargaining skills as they shop for souvenirs and gifts.
Shanghai Zoo (2381 Hong Qiao Rd) Be ready for lots of walking and bring strollers for toddlers. There are paid rides available on gaily painted vehicles; however, you might have to wait a while until the driver is ready to leave. It is best to walk at your own pace, resting under shady willow trees with sweet popcorn and drinks. The directional signs are not always helpful, so take the childlike attitude of enjoying whichever animals you come across. There is plenty to see—monkeys, felines, giraffes, zebras, hippos, birds and, not to be missed, the giant pandas.
Shanghai Disney Resort is the first Disney Resort in mainland China, and opened in 2016. Located in Chuanshan, Pudong, about a 45 minute drive from downtown. It is built to host as many as 100,000 visitors each day. The park has six themed lands including Adventure Isle, Gardens of Imagination, Tomorrowland, Mickey Avenue, Fantasyland and Treasure Cove (based on the Pirates of the Caribbeanfilms). The park rings around the Castle. The resort also has a neighboring Disneytown for shopping and dining and Wishing Star Park, and a 99-acre recreational area with gardens, lakes and parkland. There is a theatre with Chinese-language Broadway-style productions (separate ticket) inside Disneytown.
Shanghai Oriental Arts Center (425 Dingxing Rd, Pudong) Designed by famed French architect, Paul Andreu, the Shanghai Oriental Art Center occupies 40,000 square meters in the Pudong New Area. The futuristic building was designed to look like five petals of a blossoming butterfly orchid, each petal belonging in turn to the entrance hall, the Performance Hall, the Concert Hall, the Exhibition Hall, and the Opera Hall. Enhancing the effect, roof is inlaid with hundreds of high-tech lights whose colors change with the music being played inside. Inside, the dark granite floors and richly hued furnishings offer the feeling of being inside a forest, while the metal-layered glass screen walls filter the sunshine for a softly diffused forest floor effect. In operation since July 2005, the center is now home to the Shanghai Symphonic Orchestra.
- Cang Bao Antiques Market / Sunday Antique Market (457 Fangbang Zhonglu, West of Yu Garden) Also nicknamed as the “Ghost Market,” the Cang Bao Antiques Market finds a crowd of antique lovers the whole week through. You can find various types of articles from different provinces, within the four floored building. Antiques, as well as fakes are available, so be careful what you are paying for — and don’t forget to bargain hard! On Sundays, the market opens just before sunrise when you’ll find more unique items and willing sellers on Sunday mornings when the folks from the countryside roll in to sell their family heirlooms for a quick buck.
- Dong Tai Road Antique Market (87 Dong Tai Rd) Although located on another street, it is still considered a part of Antique Alley, a shopping oasis for Chinese antiques situated near the Hong Qiao Airport. Dong Tai is spread over two blocks and has many shops and vendors selling vintage goodies, furniture and bric-a-brac as well as forgeries. Items vary from international gems such as chairs imported from New York City in the 1930s, to local pieces such as furniture from old Shanghai theaters. Experienced antique collectors will be able to pick up some excellent buys.
Local Specialty Shopping:
- Shanghai Textile and Embroidery
Shanghai has long specialized in silk, textiles and embroidery. The different categories include traditional drawn thread work, machine embroidery, traditional Chinese clothing, painting products, carpet and rug making and beautiful tapestries. These all have unique features; for example, Gu embroidery has a long (over 500 years) history, and Shanghai carpets, woolen or silk, are famous for their exquisite technique and elegant patterns. The tapestries reproduce traditional Chinese scenery or beautiful paintings, in exquisite detail, often reproduced on screens or other artifacts.
- Shanghai Silk
Shanghai is a major center for manufacturing and exporting Chinese silk, which is one of the best silks in the world. The silk products are popular with customers at home and abroad, mainly due to the various categories and quality, like silk, satin, damask, brocade, velvet and muslin, and particularly the household word “Jing san Cup” (flowery print silk), which focusses on traditional Chinese paintings, and enjoys a worldwide reputation because of its wonderful colors, typical features and use of the latest technique.
- Tailored Clothing
Shanghai is a GREAT place to get tailored clothing. My strong recommendation for a great tailor is Dean Ding, whom I have been using since 2006.
- Off the Rack Clothing
Nanjing Road is lined with shops and international brand stores. Some real, some fake. But likely the best place to find western styles and sizes.
Shanghai food, also known as Hu Cai, includes two styles – Benbang Cuisine and Haipai Cuisine.
Benbang Cuisine, literally meaning ‘local cuisine’, is the traditional family style cuisine that appeared in Shanghai over 100 years ago. Using fresh fish, chicken, pork and various vegetables as the main ingredients, Benbang always has a great flavor and a bright color from the oil and soybean sauce. Like the dishes of Suzhou and Wuxi cuisines, Shanghai Benbang dishes taste fresh, mellow and sweet.
Haipai Cuisine, literally meaning ‘all-embracing cuisine’ is derived from the cosmopolitan culture formed in Shanghai in the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It absorbs the advantages of many cuisines from other regions of China and even western cuisines, and then adapts them to suit local tastes. Fresh fish, shrimps and crabs are the main ingredients of Haipai Cuisine. The appearance, flavors and cooking techniques of the Haipai dishes have many variations.
Shanghai’s local snacks include the famous Nanxiang steamed stuffed buns, crab-yellow pastry, fried stuffed buns, chop rice cake, vegetable stuffed buns, Leisha dumplings and wontons.
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