Shanghai, China

Central Shanghai seen from the 100-floor World Financial Tower in Pudong, China

Central Shanghai seen from the 100-floor World Financial Tower in Pudong. The river is the Huangpu and the far riverbank’s promenade is Shanghai’s number one attraction, The Bund. Photo by Jim.

Visit Shanghai

Shanghai is China’s largest city, a busy, crowded (over 24 million citizens), commercial and dynamic place both today and in the colonial past. This is one of the main engines of the booming Chinese economy, along with Hong Kong. Shanghai’s worth a brief visit, though not if you’re short of time as the sights of the city are not really of world class.

Things to Do in Shanghai

• Strolling the Bund alongside the river or nearby Nanjing Road, day and night (tho’ Pudong seems to be switching off at 11pm these days! ).

• Taking an elevator to the viewing platform of the World Financial Tower in Pudong, an efficient if touristy panoramic viewing opportunity but stay away if the day is foggy!
Tourists can take the local red ferry across the river and return via the bund sight-seeing tunnel.

• Visiting one or more of the temples such as Jing’an (above), City God Temple or Jade Buddha Temple (below).

• Hanging out in ancient, expansive and tranquil Yu Yuan Gardens, strolling, taking tea, eating weird stuff, feeding carp.

• Head for the Shanghai Circus World to see mainly acrobats tho’ the surrounds are a bit dated, snacks are overpriced and the whole experience is lacking class. That being said plenty of the foreign audiences (especially the young) enjoy the shows, so it may depend on your experience in this area of circus performances. Booking way ahead is not necessary and buy the cheapest seats! There’s very little difference in where you’ll end up, you may be in the front row.

The Bund (Wai Tan)

Shanghai's Pudong district skyline seen across the Huangpu River, China

The north section of the 700m/one mile long raised embankment beside the Huangpu River, The Bund. Photo by Jim. The neon blue tower is Dongfang Mingzhuta or Pearl of the Orient Tower, a 468 meter high communications tower.

Walking the Bund at both night and day is one of Shanghai’s a must-dos. This promenade is on the west bank of the Huangpu river, centred on Zhongshan Road, and lined with many old colonial buildings, while across the river is the business district of Pudong where architects have let rip with ever-taller, madly-lit buildings in great contrast to the limited heights and classical styles along the Bund.
Make a note to avoid the Bund on New Year’s Eve and other important Chinese festivals as December 31 2014 saw a stampede there due to overcrowding panic that killed 36 people and injured many more.

Nanjing Road

Shanghai's main shopping street the 5km long Nanjing Road, China.

Shanghai’s main shopping street the 5km long Nanjing Road. Photo by Jim.

Jing’an Temple

Jing’an Temple, a Buddhist place of worship on West Nanjing Road. Photo by Jim.

Jing’an Temple was built in 247 AD but went through various changes including being physically moved to its current location in 1216 due to proximity to flooding and functioning as a plastics factory during the Cultural Revolution. The temple was restored in 1983.

Museums

Shanghai Museum plaza, China

Shanghai Museum. Photo by Pyzhou.

Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan, FREE! ), an outstanding modern museum of ancient Chinese artefacts with displays of ceramic, bronze, traditional furniture and costumes.
It’s in People’s Square, Huangpu, a large and central public area surrounded by major buildings such as Hong Kong New World Tower, several major hotels, Shanghai Grand Theatre, Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center (see the future of the city here! ), Shimao International Plaza and Tomorrow Square.

The China Art Museum in Shanghai, China

The China Art Museum in Shanghai. Photo by Shwangtianyuan.

Also known as the China Art Palace, this massive space – the largest museum in Asia – displays mainly modern Chinese art. It’s in Pudong.

• Dongtai Road Antique Street is the last flea market in Shanghai devoted to selling antiques.

• Xin Tian Di is a popular place to see historic Shanghai-style architecture with the help of various western bars and cafés.

• Jinjiang Action Park is a sizeable amusement park in the Xuhui District of Shanghai, easily reached via Metro Line 1 to Jinjiang Park station or one of many buses.

Jade Buddha Temple

A large, sensual, reclining buddha inside the Jade Buddha Temple, China

One of the most sensual buddhas we’ve ever seen,  inside the Jade Buddha Temple. Photo by Hermann Luyken. This is a marble buddha and larger than the original Jade buddha, which is is white jade, not green.

The Jade Buddha Temple began in 1882 with two jade Buddha statues brought from Burma to Shanghai by sea. These are a sitting Buddha and a small reclining Buddha. The large new reclining (marble) Buddha seen above was donated by Singapore relatively recently.

Yu Gardens/YuYuan

Yu Gardens with the Pavilion of Listening to Billows and Jade Water Corridor, Shanghai, China

Yu Gardens with the Jiyu Pond, the Pavilion of Listening to Billows on the left and Jade Water Corridor crossing the pond. Photo by Hans Rosbach.

Yu Garden’s development began under the Ming dynasty in 1559 and over the years suffered periods of war and neglect as well as investment and inspired creativity. Now this is Shanghai’s most beautifully arranged classical Chinese garden, no green lawns but 5 acres of of carp-filled lakes, rockeries duplicating iconic rockscapes and gorgeous old pavilions, halls, towers, and stone boats.
The famously ancient Huxinting Teahouse is the ideal spot to get some Chinese culture down your throat.

Yu Garden, also known as Yuyuan Garden – meaning Garden of Happiness in Chinese – is conveniently located beside the City God Temple in the northeast of Shanghai’s Old City, accessible by Metro Line 10 Yuyuan Garden Station.

Strange tea and eggs in the Huxinting Teahouse, Shanghai, China

Apart from the tea that any tourist should try at least once in the Huxinting Teahouse adjacent to Yu Gardens. And don’t forget to chow down (if I may use that expression) on a 1, 000 -year-old egg while you’re there. Photo by Jim.

Fuxing Park

Fuxing Park was created by the French in 1909 in classic French style naturally, with a lake, fountains, pavilions and formal flowerbeds. Every morning the park fills with locals practising tai chi, mahjong players, dog walkers and assorted seekers of calm green space so to get the flavour make sure to visit reasonably early. Fuxing is in the French Concession area.

art installation in Shanghai, China

Nicely ironic art installation in a Shanghai park. Photo by Jim.

Boating on the Huangpu River

Shanghai lights up brilliantly in the evenings and can be viewed cheaply by taking a simple ferry trip. No need to pay dinner cruise prices when you can jump on a ferry, buy a drink, stand at the rail and enjoy the lights.

If you want the full monty then cruises usually last an hour or 90 minutes. If you want to take one consider trying for 6: 30 p. m. so you see 30/40 minutes of Shanghai by day and 30/40 minutes by night as the lights come on about 7p. m.
The premier river sight is Pudong ‘scrapers at night but the west bank colonial buildings are also attractive.

Best season in Shanghai

The best time to visit Shanghai: October-December when rainfall is at its lowest, sunshine hours are pretty good and temperatures range from average highs of 23C/73F (October) to 11C/52F (December) and average lows of 17C/62F to 5C/41F.
OK: April-May (erratic conditions, maybe nice, maybe wet and chilly. Average highs around 20C/67F, lows around 12C/53F).

Time to avoid: January – March (cold and damp, though rarely much below freezing); July, August (very hot averaging 32C/90F, humid and even more crowded), 1st weeks of May and October (Chinese holidays so attractions are very crowded) and the Chinese New Year (sometime January/ February).

Note that blue skies are rare and a bleached haze – if not stinging grey pollution – will be the default view.

Getting There

By train

For traveling the 1, 318 kms/819 miles between Beijing and Shanghai, the train is the way to go.

Choose between a 300 km/h (186 mph) high-speed train over the high-speed line in as little as 4 hours 48 minutes or a time-effective 250 km/h (156 mph) express sleeper train, which also saves a hotel bill.

When you consider the time taken to get to & from remote airports, airport check-in & security plus the unreliability of domestic flights on the overcrowded Beijing-Shanghai corridor, the clean & punctual high-speed train is as quick as flying and much more fun.

Shanghai’s avante-garde Maglev Train from Pudong Airport to the city center is a sensational way to approach this extraordinary city.

Note that during peak travel periods such as holidays, train tickets may not be available unless booked a week or two in advance. Sleepers take up to 6 travelers and are much more comfortable than plain seats but of course costlier. More