Shanghai is China's largest city and it is a thrilling blend of ancient and modern buildings and unique districts filled with surprising sights and attractions. Often referred to as the "Paris of the Orient", **Shanghai ** rivals Paris, New York and London in terms of architecture, entertainment and fine dining. And, that's before you add the glamorous nightlife and the great shopping in areas like Xujiahui shopping district and the East Nanjing Road pedestrian mall.
Ancient Shikumen houses and one of the best collections of Art Deco buildings to be found anywhere, prestigious museums, galleries and friendly locals ensure that visitors never have a dull moment. Not only has the city been compared to some of the world's most stylish places, it is also the showcase of modern Chinese economy and prosperity.
Shanghai thrived during the 19th century and became one of the most important ports and commercial centres in the East. Today, it's one of the country's four direct-controlled municipalities and it's still a booming centre of trade, commerce and finance thanks to its exceptional coastal location on the Yangtze River Delta. Downtown is divided by the man-made Huangpu River, and although there are dozens of districts, the easiest to remember for tourists are Puxi, west of the river, and Pudong, east of the river.
The city is known for beautiful parks like People's Square Park and Lu Xun as well as for appealing beaches like Jinshan City Beach. A diverse programme of annual events ranges from traditional favourites like the Peach Blossom Festival to cutting-edge music events like Strawberry Festival and Midi. It's a great destination for families, and it's home to China's first and biggest Disneyland, yet the city also lends itself perfectly to romantic getaways and upscale spa breaks.
Things to Do
Impressive architectural treasures
Head to the Bund Riverside for great views of the futuristic Pudong skyscrapers on the opposite bank. Highlights include the Shanghai World Financial Centre (1,614 feet) -- which is the third tallest building in mainland China and tenth tallest in the world -- and its neighbour the Jin Mao Tower. The Oriental Pearl Tower is one of the most distinctive and China's second-tallest TV tower is open to the public. Visit the Municipal History Museum in the pedestal or see as far as the Yangtze River on clear days from the sightseeing hall next to the space city in the larger sphere.
Tourists can also explore beautifully renovated historic Shikumen houses in the Xintiandi Lanes area or see amazing 1920s and 30s Art Deco landmarks in the Bund district. Some of the most notable include the Park Hotel and the Grand Theatre, which were designed by Hungarian-Slovak architect László Hudec, the Metropole Hotel and the Peace Hotel by Parker & Palmer. You'll also find Austrian designer GH Gonda's Capital Theatre.
A shopping mecca
Visitors can explore no fewer than five malls in Xujiahui shopping district or enjoy impressive views of the Pudong skyscrapers as they look for bargains in Nanjing Road. Try Huaihai Road for famous international brands, find luxury designer brands at Bund Riverside or pick up local arts and crafts at the outdoor bazaar in Yuyuan Gardens.
The city is close to Suzhou and some of the finest silk in the world can be found here. Visitors can have a suit or cheongsam custom-made by gifted tailors at South Bund Fabric Market.
Lots of beautiful parks and gardens
Shanghai has over 135 parks that are open to the public free of charge. Some of the best include People's Square Park, which is in the city centre and close to lots of other landmarks such as the square itself, Shanghai City Museum and Nanjing Road. The former French Concession is home to Fuxing Park, where you can wander past elegant French gardens or stop for coffee in one of the trendy cafes and bars nearby.
Zhongshan Park is famous for having the world's tallest monument dedicated to the composer Frederic Chopin. Adults can admire magnificent rose and peony gardens while children explore the huge play area. Or, visit the Shanghai Botanical Garden for spectacular floral exhibits, a man-made lake and a beautiful sky bridge that spans the park.
Shanghai Disney Resort
An essential outing for families and kids of any age. The theme park has the biggest castle of any Disney resort in the world. Meet Mickey and Minnie or watch the sensational closing parade each evening.
So many attractions, so little time
Travellers really are spoiled for choice in Shanghai. Its historic attractions are second to none and sights like the Jing'an Temple and the Jade Buddha Temple should be on every history and culture fan's list along with the Yuyuan Garden which was founded during the Ming Dynasty. For those who don't mind heading out of town, the ancient water village of Zhujiajiao, sometimes called the Venice of Shanghai, is well worth the effort.
Jinshan City Beach is an escape from the bustle of the city and it's the setting for events like Fengxia Music Festival. Kids will love seeing the many marine species at Shanghai Ocean Aquarium and walking through the world's longest underwater tunnel before dining at one of Shanghai's thousands of great restaurants.
Calendar of Events
Visitors to Shanghai can expect fun and exciting year-round festivals, celebrations and fairs.
Peach Blossom Festival. Held each March at Chengbei Folk Peach Orchard. See the beautiful blossom and enjoy traditional Chinese folk music performed by local musicians.
Strawberry Festival. Top international bands and musicians head to the banks of the Huangpu for this cutting-edge festival over the May Bank Holiday weekend.
Midi. For those who prefer metal and hard rock, this festival is held on the first weekend in May at the lakeside park in Suzhou.
International Music and Fireworks Festival. This takes place at Shanghai Century Park each 1st October (National Day). Expect spectacular firework displays set to music.
Longhua Temple Fair. Longhua is the city's largest Buddhist temple and its annual fair takes place in the third week of the third lunar month. Plan a holiday in April to be part of this colourful event.
There are so many things to do in this exciting city. Why not choose Shanghai for your next holiday? You're guaranteed to have a memorable and fun-filled stay.