"Paris of the East" Shanghai by Ramonq

Shanghai Travel Guide: 3,200 reviews and 8,337 photos

The City to Watch

I have great admiration for this city. As soon as I got into the Metro arriving at the Shanghai Railway Station, I immediately sensed the get-up and go spirit of the Shanghainese. It's worldly, cosmopolitan and very much money-driven. Shanghai likes to see itself as the futuristic city of China. Magnetic levitation (Maglev) trains whisk you from Pudong airport to the city centre that boasts some of the most awesome or awful skyscrapers this side of the Pacific. The pace of construction is dizzying. Huge cranes sprout from vast chunks of land that used to be entire blocks of old neighbourhoods, only to be replaced by cloned high-rises with little architectural value. Some buildings are quite arresting though, with fancy rooftops and odd shapes (one reminded of Mordor). But the one that stands out amongst the crowd is the Pearl Tower, which has become Shanghai's most photographed landmark. Pearl Tower is kitschy but it's fun. One can visit it by crossing Huangpu River via an equally touristy psychedelic train (complete with colourful lights and commentaries) that runs underwater. Shanghai is unashamedly bold and brash.

China's New York, London and Paris combined!

But there are echoes of China's elegant pasts too. The Bund is one of Shanghai most recognisable streetscape. Straddling along the Huangpu River, here is one of the finest examples of Victorian and Edwardian stately buildings. The promenade along the Bund allows you marvel at the majestic skyline of the Bund and the fanciful Pudong area across the river. This has to be Shanghai's best tourist sight and it's free!

The French Concession to the west of the river also has lots of charming villas which give the city a soul. I strolled around this area a lot and I am amazed how Shanghai can be a pedestrian-friendly city unlike Beijing whose street patterns are made of monumental blocks. The Xintiandi area of Shanghai exemplifies the sophistication of Shanghai urban planners. They retained old Shikumen houses (only seen in Shanghai) and transformed them into a stylish centre of bars and restaurants.

Shanghai also has the famous shopping street called Nanjing Lu, the city's answer to Time Square. It's much more spectacular at night because you will be flooded by flashing neon lights of different colours and design. Las Vegas eat your heart out!

Old and New

But Shanghai also has its old sections centred around the Yu Garden. The old Chinese hutongs are being spruced up but sadly most of them have been torn down to be replaced by the ubiquitous high-rises.

Shanghai's history is quite short as compared to some of the other major Chinese cities. It was a backwater village when Xi'an was the most populated city in the world during the Tang Dynasty. Shanghai's prominence grew during the Qing Dynasty when Europeans managed to wrangle this coastal town from the Chinese as part of a concession that allows Western powers to set up colonies.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Lots of nightlife
  • Cons:Crowded
  • In a nutshell:See China's future here
  • Intro Updated May 7, 2006
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