Shanghai - Sightseeing
Shopping in Shanghai is every bit as thrilling as it is surprising - China may well be a Communist state, but, Shanghai has embraced commercialism with something approaching a fervour!
The principle thoroughfare, Nanjing Road, is the place to head for a colourful day’s bargain hunting - with electrical gadgets, clothing, cosmetics and gifts courtesy of Chinese and global brands’ flagship stores, especially at the pleasantly pedestrianised Nanjing Lu Mall. The Yuyuan Bazaar, at the Bund end of the Nanjing Road, is the best place to hunt for authentic Chinese crafts, art and silk screen paintings. The Bund itself is home to Giorgio Armani’s flagship store.
For more upscale shopping, the glitzy Huaihai Road and the west end of Nanjing Road West near Jing'an Temple are home to Prada, Hugo Boss, Gucci and Chanel amongst other must-have labels for China’s emerging middle classes.
Shanghai has several air-conditioned, super-sized shopping malls, bristling with stores such as H&M, Gap, Next and Body Shop. Plaza 66 aka Henglong Plaza, Meilongzhen Plaza, and Shanghai Plaza are amongst the most popular.
The French Concession Streets Xinle Lu, Changle Lu and Anfu Lu - in the area known as Little Paris - is bursting with frou-frou boutiques, gift shops, shoes, leather accessories and funky, upcoming Chinese brands.
The Old Town Bazaar Shanghai's Old Town Bazaar is a fine place to shop for local arts and crafts and for antiques. In Pudong, the shopping is concentrated mostly east of the riverfront and south of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the malls anchored by the massive Nextage department store on Zhangyang Lu and the Super Brand Mall (Zhengda Guangchang) in Lujiazui.
Antiques, jade and communist China memorabilia can be found in Dongtai Road Antiques Market, but make sure you haggle hard to get the opening price down by about a third to a half, and you’ll have yourself a bargain. Remember, though, that you can’t haggle in the government run department stores.
Other good buys - though not necessarily cheap - are furniture, which can be custom ordered at several antiques stores, silk (both off the bolt and in finished garments), and suits - all of which can be bought to create tailor made outfits at a fraction of the cost you’d pay at home.
Xujiahui Metro station is the place to go if you're after game consoles (the Wii, PS3 and XBox, and their new gadgets are available here, and the very latest games), computers, computer accessories, and Bu Ye Cheng Communications Market is the one of the best-known open-style market for mobile phones in Shanghai.
Jin Mao Tower
The second tallest building in China, the Jin Mao Tower represents the accord between the USA and the country. At 421m-high, the tower fuses Chinese and modern Western tower styles. With 88 floors (a lucky number in Chinese numerology) and 13 distinct tapering segments, and a super observation tower at the top, the Jin Mao is a must visit. The Grand Hyatt Hotel occupies the tower’s middle section.
Peace Hotel (Helping Fandian)
The art-deco brilliance of the Peace Hotel is the most elegant remnant of colonial rule in Shanghai. It was built in 1929, and is about to re-open following major refurbishment - with the aim of restoring the glorious old hotel to its former, stunning, self.
Shanghai's largest and most attractive temple, Longhua Si, is home to a fascinating pagoda, Longhua Ta - built around 2,000 years ago. Such is its fragile state, you can only appreciate it from afar, but this is still an impressive sight.
The extensive temple grounds, their air perfumed with hundreds of incense sticks, are home to four main halls. In the Daxiong Bao Dian (Grand Hall) sits a golden statue of Sakyamuni, beneath an intricately carved dome, flanked on each side by 18 disciples. The fourth hall, Sanshen Bao Dian, features three incarnations of the Buddha. Within the three-storied Zhong Lou (Bell Tower) is the 3.3-ton bronze bell. For a fee of RMB 50 you can strike it, three times, and release all your worries.
Shanghai Urban Planning Centre
Sounds dull. It’s not, honestly! This fascinating centre is housed in an eye-catching new, microlite glass structure over five floors. Within, an exciting glimpse at how China is shaping its future cities. There’s a huge scale model of Shanghai in 2020, a master-plan every bit as daring, and futuristic as any science fiction imaginings.
Shanghai’s best environmental attraction, the Aquaria 21 is a state-of-the-art underwater adventure, complete with touch pools, penguin enclosure, and a series of authentically realised aquatic environments, from the Amazon to Antarctica.
When the city starts to close in on you, head to this vast, sprawling (and British-landscaped) park created to mark the beginning of the new millennium. Within its 400 acres, you’ll uncover a mini golf course, a man made beach, fishing lake with rowing boats, and lovely tea houses.
For a true taste of 1920’s Shanghai, head to The Bund - the city’s art-deco inspired waterfront (with the Customs House buildings modelled on Liverpool’s Liver Building), a walk along here is like taking a walk along a list of the world’s best loved architectural styles. The Bund houses 52 buildings employing elements of Romanesque, Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassical, Gothic and Art Deco influences. You can take a guided tour, to ensure you don't miss a single pediment!
There is no doubt, Shanghai’s skyline is seriously impressive. Along the Huangpu River, in Pudong's Lujiazui District, the scene blazes into life at night, and is particularly worth visiting then. The Oriental Pearl Tower, one of the tallest structures in Asia, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shanghai World Financial Center, the third largest building in Asia and the world, and world's largest by roof height, with the world's highest observation deck, at 474 m (1555 ft), are all (literally) highlights! For a great vantage point, head to Binjiang Da Dao (Riverside Promenade), on the river’s opposite bank.
At the southern edge of the city, the enormous Lupu Bridge is the longest steel arch bridge in the world, spanning 550 metres. Climb it for a stunning view over the 2010 World Expo grounds, which flank both sides of the Huangpu River to the east of the bridge. The World Expo grounds themselves, although now closed, are said to be the site of a future World Expo Museum, to exhibit many of the Expo’s best-loved exhibits, and tell the story of this hugely successful event.
Science and Technology Museum
As thrilling as you’d imagine a Chinese science and technology museum to be, the Shanghai version comes complete with all manner of ‘wow!’ moments, interactive exhibits, displays on China’s space programme, and themed displays such as the fun Children's Technoland, with its walk in brain! The two IMAX 3D cinemas are great fun, too.
An ancient park, Yuyuan is almost like a spiritual retreat for many Shanghai residents. There are lotus ponds, rock carvings, zigzagging bridges, and a lovely Chinese-style tea-house within its trim and delightful borders.