Shanghai City Guide
The city of Shanghai is situated at the mouth of the great Yangtze River where it flows into the East China Sea and is home to nearly 12 million people. It is China’s largest city. The moniker Shanghai actually translates as ‘city on the sea’ and much of Shanghai lies just above sea level.
This city located on both sides of the Huangpu River started life as a Chinese coastal port, which was opened to Western trade in 1843. This opening of Shanghai to the West brought in a flood of expats to the city’s shores and the city soon developed a thriving nightlife scene, which centered on nightclubs, restaurants and other forms of entertainment. However World War II and then the subsequent rise of the Communist party put an end to the good times in Shanghai until the early 1990s when economic reforms in Shanghai and the rest of China saw the glitz and glamour return to this city. And the city came to be known as the ‘Paris of the East’.
Today Shanghai is a vast, modern metropolis whose skyline is peppered with towering skyscrapers. The city is a busy port and the financial and banking hub of China that attracts both business travelers and visitors on vacation by the droves.
Where to stay in Shanghai
Huangpu is the downtown district of Shanghai that hosts its city center and prominent sights like the Bund, People’s Square, the Shanghai Museum, the Shanghai Grand Theater and Nanjing Lu, which is one of the most famous streets for shopping in Shanghai. This area plays host to several luxury hotel properties that represent the premier global hotel brands. Many visitors to Shanghai elect to stay at one of the many hotels located in Huangpu because of the convenience that they offer.
The Luwan District
The Luwan District, which is located southwest of the Bund, is the site of the former French Concession district. This primarily residential neighborhood offers wide, tree-lined streets, colonial and Art Deco abodes, upscale luxury hotels and excellent restaurants. The Luwan district also offers much nightlife and shopping along its Xin Tiandi and Hengshan Lu and Huaihai Lu and Maoming Lu streets respectively. If you your preference is for a hotel with a little character then an old-world hotel situated in the Luwan district should get your vote for where to stay in Shanghai.
Jing An District
This district lies north of the Luwan district and is also home to several colonial buildings, restaurants and many world-class luxury hotels.
Changning and the Hongqiao Development Zone
These areas of Shanghai lie in the western half of the city and host many international hotels even though they are not well connected by subway. The hotels located here are generally favored by business travelers who like to be based near their work places located within the Hongqiao Development Zone, which is a foreign investment zone.
The Pudong is Shanghai’s world famous business district that lies across the Huangpu River to the east of the city center. This skyscraper littered area is home to the Shanghai Stock Exchange, and prominent buildings like the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Jin Mao Building and the Shanghai World Financial Center. The Pudong is well served by Shanghai’s subway system and hosts some of the best hotels in the city.
Places to see in Shanghai
Shanghai’s star attraction is its world famous Bund, which is a mile long waterfront embankment that lines the bank of the Huangpu River. The Bund affords great views of Shanghai’s many Art Deco buildings like the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, which once functioned as the City’s Communist Party headquarters. The Bund is perennially busy as it is inundated with tourists and vendors at all times.
The Old Town
The Old Town of Shanghai offers a glimpse into the world of Old China before the stupendous economic reforms changed the character of the country completely. The Old Town of Shanghai features many old world shop houses, bazaars and the gorgeous Yu Yuan Gardens.
The Yu Yuan Gardens, which date back to 1577, have been restored to their former glory and are now classified as a national monument. The stunning gardens have many viewing pagodas, a dragon hall, ponds, trees, rock formations and halls that are definitely worth viewing on any vacation to Shanghai.
The Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum, which is shaped like a bronze urn and is located on People’s Square is primary cultural institution in Shanghai. The museum offers a permanent collection of 123,000 cultural artifacts, which are arranged in 21 categories. This permanent collection contains bronze ware, ceramics, calligraphy and art works and is definitely worth a viewing by any art lover.
The Jade Buddha Temple
The Jade Buddha Temple is an extremely popular tourist attraction in Shanghai and famous for its two gorgeous white Jade Buddha statues. These jade Buddha statues have been carved from an individual slab of Burmese jade which was brought to Shanghai in 1881 by the monk Huigeng. The temple also has several other Buddha images and statues which include a seated Buddha adorned with jewels and a sleeping Buddha.
The World Financial Center
Shanghai is now considered a leading financial capital of the world and the 492.0 meters (1,614.2 ft) World Financial Center designed by architect William Pedersen is an important symbol of the city’s growing financial clout. This sky-touching tower offers an all glass 100th floor observatory that is located at a height of 470m (1,542 ft.) and is the tallest observation deck in the world.
The Propaganda Poster Art Center
The Propaganda Poster Art Center is housed in a two room space located in then the basement of a building, which is a part of an apartment complex on Huashan Lu in the former French Concession District. There are no signs that lead to this Poster Art Center, a building which chronicles a turbulent period of Chinese history.
The Poster Art Center houses the private collection of Communist propaganda posters, which were issued during the Mao years from 1949-1979. The collection is made up of over 5000 prints, which depict various kinds of propaganda from the era including several posters that are anti-western life because the general idea during Mao's time was that west was a sad place to live and it needed to be overpowered. The poster art center constitutes a definite must-do for any history buff on a visit to Shanghai.
Best time to visit Shanghai
If you are planning to book a vacation to Shanghai then it is useful to know the year round climatic conditions that prevail over the city. Summers in Shanghai are typically hot and humid where temperatures often soar to above 35 °C (95 °F). Thunderstorms and typhoons are yet another feature of Shanghai summers while winters in this business center of China are often bitterly cold. January is usually the coldest month in Shanghai, which is characterized by average temperatures of 4.2 °C (39.6 °F). Spring and autumn are the ideal months to visit Shanghai as the weather is usually cool and crisp and thus ideal for walking around to see the sights of the city. Fare Buzz periodically offers attractive flight deals for Shanghai. If you are planning a vacation in this glitzy, glamorous financial capital of China, it would be wise to explore the many cheap air tickets that Fare Buzz has to offer.
Getting around in Shanghai
Shanghai is served by two international airports namely the Hong Qiao International Airport, which is located 8 miles (13km) southwest of central Shanghai and the Pudong International airport, which is located on the east edge of the Pudong at a distance of (25 miles) 40 km from the city. Both these international airports welcome a whole host of carriers from around the world that make getting to Shanghai extremely easy from any part of the world. Additionally both these airports are well connected by public buses and taxis to the city center though several big hotels in Shanghai also offer airport shuttle bus services to their guests.
The big bustling city of Shanghai is served by an extensive public transport system that is made up of buses, taxis and a subway system. Many taxi drivers in Shanghai don’t speak English so it is useful to have the name of your destination or directions to your destination written in Chinese to enable you to engage a cab easily in Shanghai.
Unlike in other cities in the world, tourists who book a vacation to Shanghai don’t usually opt to rent a car as it is difficult to drive in the tangle of streets that make up Shanghai city. Tourists who wish to rent a car for the duration of their stay in Shanghai usually opt to rent a car with a chauffeur.
Rental cars supplied with chauffeurs are quite popular in Shanghai and if you feel that you need to rent a car for the duration of your stay in Shanghai, then Fare Buzz can be of assistance as it offers affordable car rentals for Shanghai as a part of its travel booking portfolio. These rental car reservations can be made at the same time that you make your other bookings for your trip to Shanghai.
Where to shop in Shanghai
The exciting city of Shanghai offers a wealth of shopping options at its many shopping destinations which include eclectic stores and animated markets. Much patronized shopping haunts in Shanghai include areas like Dong Tai Road Antique market, a large flea market that offers many kitschy ‘antique’ finds like Mao memorabilia and various other knick-knacks like lanterns, porcelain, chopsticks and old records.
Shanghai is a well-known destination for pearl shopping and the city is equipped with a number of wholesale pearl outlets like the Pearls Circle wholesale pearl and stone market and the Hongqiao Pearl City. The last mentioned spot is situated out of the city’s boundaries but is well worth the trip for it offers pearls at highly competitive prices. Both markets host various fresh water cultured pearl vendors and at both markets you can buy pearls off the rack and even create pearl jewelry of your own designs.
Other Shanghai markets worth a visit include locales like the Yatai Xingyang Fashion and Gift market, popularly referred to as ‘the fake market’ which consists of an subterranean maze of vendors who sell toys, apparel, jewelry and various counterfeit products, hence the market’s nickname. A similar experience can be had at the Shanghai Longhua Fashion and Gift market.
If you are looking for silks and tailor-made clothes on your trip to Shanghai then a visit to markets like the Shanghai South Bund Fabric Market and Shanghai Shiliu Puhong Qixiang are highly recommended. Both these markets offer a multitude of tailors and reams of fabrics like silk, cashmere, wool, cotton, linen for sale. The tailors at these markets specialize in bespoke tailoring can rustle up a garment for you within a couple of days. However it is advisable to provide your chosen tailor with a sample to copy. Showing the tailor a picture or providing a description is less likely to work as most tailors speak little or no English.
Where to eat in Shanghai
The dining options in Shanghai are plentiful and varied. The city offers a plethora of global and local cuisines which are additionally available at every price point. A recent survey of the hundred best restaurants in Shanghai listed several must-try eateries like Kota’s Kitchen(Japanese),81/2 Otto Mezzo e Bombana (Michelin-starred Italian) Awana (South-east Asian), El Affante (Spanish), Mr and Mrs Bund( French), Saffron(Indian), Yuan Yuan Nanjing Xi Lu (Shanghainese) , Hang Yuen Hin (excellent dimsum) and Fu Chun (renowned for the Xiaolongbao, a soup-filled dumpling).
Nightlife in Shanghai
As a burgeoning international city, Shanghai offers a vibrant nightlife scene which features stylish cocktail bars, pubs, sleek lounges, cabaret clubs, karaoke joints, nightclubs and more. Some of the best nightlife haunts in the city include establishments like Yuan (a cocktail bar), Dr Beer (a microbrewery), Yuyingtang (a live-music bar), Le Café de Stagiares (a lounge), Amber Lounge, Muse on the Bund, Lola and The Shelter (all night clubs).