The city’s newest district was, until 20 years ago, just marshy flatland. However, with the opening of the economy in the 1980s, Shanghai, long neglected by the party for its bourgeois past, suddenly sprang to life and began expanding. The result is nothing short of spectacular and Shanghai’s skyline has taken on a new silhouette, which rivals that of Hong Kong, New York or Sydney.
Pudong’s two most famous and dramatic structures, the Jinmao Tower and the space-rocket-like Pearl Oriental TV Tower manage to make various other impressive buildings fade into the background.
While ascending these towers is great for the ride and also gives 360-degree views, part of what makes Shanghai’s skyline so impressive are these two super-tall buildings. When looking out from them, I always feel something is missing from the panorama!
Next to the Jinmao, a new tower is rapidly climbing skywards and, when complete, the Shanghai World Financial Center, at 101 floors, will eclipse its neighbor (but not Taipei’s 101 Tower, the world’s highest).
To appreciate the Bund from Pudong, take a walk along the Riverside Promenade which is lined with cafés which, while expensive, offers great views, especially when the sun sets and gives way to the evening lightshows (from 7 pm). The sights below can be reached by subway line #2 to Lujiazui.
♥♥ Pearl Oriental TV Tower, 1 Shiji Dadao
(daily ; ¥35-100)
, Lujiazui subway, or the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel.
Shanghai’s signature building, completed in 1994 looks fresh from the set of a scifi movie. The three cylindrical concrete supports give the appearance that the space-rocket of a tower is poised for take-off, an apt metaphor for Shanghai’s explosive re-launch as China’s financial capital.
The tower contains 12 “pearls” or circular constructions, the three largest housing observation areas and restaurants.
To go to both the first and second pearls costs ¥85, or ¥70 to choose just one (obviously the second commands better views). To gain access to all three pearls, the highest of which is 875 feet, tickets cost ¥100, or ¥200/280 respectively, including lunch () or dinner ().
At the base of the tower, the Shanghai Municipal History Museum (daily ; ¥35 or entry with a tower ticket). This museum is definitely worth a visit. It contains over a thousand exhibits tracing Shanghai’s social history since the mid-19th century, including its “foreign paradise” past.
Shanghai Pearl Oriental TV Tower
♥♥ Jin Mao Tower, 88 Shiji Dadao
(daily, , ¥50).
No trip to Shanghai would be complete without a visit to this breathtaking structure. With 88 floors, it is the tallest building in China and the highest hotel (1,575 feet) in the world. Designed by an American team of architects, Skidmore, Owings & Merril, it has become a symbol of modern Shanghai, fusing tradition and modernity, East and West.
The building takes its shape from traditional Chinese pagodas, with 13 distinct tiers, and is made from steel and glass. The number of floors, 88, isn’t a matter of chance – eight implies wealth and prosperity. There is an observation deck (¥50) on the 88th floor offering 360-degree views of the city (choose a clear day since visibility can be poor).
For only a little more money you can enjoy the expansive vistas with a cocktail or cup of coffee at the café on the 54th floor of the Hyatt (next to reception), the numerous restaurants on the 56th floor or, better still, from Cloud 9, on the 87th floor.
Xujiahui & Longhua
These predominantly residential and shopping districts have a couple of treats in store – their Buddhist
and Christian religious sights, and the wonderfully lush retreat of the Botanical Gardens. It’s a long way from town though and, while the subway line is good for the cathedral, both the temple and the Botanical Gardens are a fairly long walk from the station, so you might be better off in a taxi (¥40-50)
♥ The Botanical Gardens, 111 Longwu Lu
(daily, , ¥10; Shanghai South Railway Station subway).
Although a fair trek from downtown Shanghai, the Botanical Gardens make for an excellent day-trip. With over 9,000 plants and a number of ponds, greenhouses and bonsai gardens, this is a great place for a picnic. Families often bring entire toy boxes to entertain the kids while they spend the afternoon eating and playing cards. The gardens also house a great collection of orchids that is sure to impress.
♥♥ Longhua Temple, 2583 Longhua Lu
(daily , ¥10; Longlao Lu subway or buses #41, #44, #73 & #87).
With a history dating back nearly 2,000 years, the Longhua Temple is Shanghai’s oldest and one of its most active temples. It’s popular with both locals and tourists and can get very busy, especially during Chinese New Year and the annual Longhua Temple Festival in early April.
As with most temples, the original structure has been re-built a number of times and is in excellent condition today. Along with a 1,700-year-old seven-story octagonal pagoda standing 145 feet high, there is a large bell tower containing a 14,000-lb bronze bell, rung only once a year to welcome in the Chinese New Year.
Xujiahui Cathedral, 158 Puxi Lu
(Xujiahui subway or bus #42 & #43).
This imposing cathedral reflects Xujiahui’s history as the earliest Western community in Shanghai, established by a Chinese Catholic, Pau Xu Guangqi, who invited Jesuits to settle here in the 17th century.
The cathedral was built in 1846 and was closed during the Cultural Revolution, but the large congregations at mass (Mon-Sat , Sun ) are evidence of today’s greater religious freedom. Xu was a dedicated meteorologist and he established a survey center here which is still used as Shanghai’s weather observatory.
North of Suzhou Creek
♥ Jewish Refugee Museum, 63 Changyang Lu, Hongkou
(daily ; ¥50; Hongkou Stadium subway)
North of the center and housed inside the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue, this small museum offers a glimpse into the development of the Jewish community in Shanghai. Although the first Jewish settlers came with the British in the 19th century, during the Holocaust Shanghai was one of the only places in the world accepting Jewish refugees without the need for even a passport.
Between 1937 and 1939, 30,000 Jewish refugees arrived and the Chinese are fondly remembered for their tolerant attitude, but when the Japanese seized control, Jews were rounded up and forced to live in Hongkou’s ghettoes. The museum has photos and a historical video that detail day-to-day life within the ghetto community.
♥ Lu Xun Park, 146 Dongjiangwang Lu
(daily ; ¥5; Hongkou Stadium subway).
This pleasant park is dedicated to China’s most famous 20th-century novelist, Lu Xun; inside, you’ll find
his tomb, a statue and a museum (daily ; ¥8) with an extensive collection of his works, photos and personal effects.
♥♥♥ The Water Towns
To really take a break from the city it’s worth heading to one of the region’s famed water towns, where you’ll find quaint old houses lining tranquil canals spanned by impossibly steep arched stone bridges. Suzhou is the most famous of the water towns but, for a more intimate look at the watery world of this part of the country, seek out one of the smaller settlements that can be easily reached from Shanghai or Suzhou.
However, the serene beauty of these towns has not escaped the notice of the rest of the
country. Many of these once peaceful havens now charge entrance fees and have become real tourist traps to be avoided on weekends.
Zhujiajiao is the closest to Shanghai and, along with stunning ♥♥ Zhouzhuang (www.zhouzhuang.net) and its canal mansions, sees the most visitors, with ♥♥ Wuzhen (www.wuzhen.com.cn) and its cottage industries coming in a close third. ♥♥ Xitang (www.xitang.com.cn) is a little farther afield and consequently draws fewer crowds, while ♥♥ Tongli (www.china-tongli.com) and its famed Tuisi Garden is best visited by bus or taxi from Suzhou.
You can quite easily head out to any of the towns by yourself, and there is simple accommodation found in many of them, but if you want to visit on a day-trip several agencies in Shanghai run tours, notably Gray Line and the Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center . The latter has several buses daily out to the towns and trips cost from as little as ¥70 for nearby Zhujiajiao, to ¥150 for those farther afield.
Getting to Shanghai, Getting around
The Bund, Renmin square, Jade Buddha Temple
The French Concession, Xintiandi, The Old city
Shopping, Nightlife and Festivals
Travel guide to Suzhou
Shanghai Travel guide homepage
Cities and regions of China homepage
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