The biggest city in the world, Shanghai is the country’s economic centre, having emerged over the past few decades as a major player. In addition to its economic and trading prestige, the city has emerged as an increasingly important cultural centre. One of China’s most picturesque cities, Shanghai’s views compliment its rich culture and history.
The modern-day hub of the city, the Bund has increasingly emerged as one of Shanghai’s major tourist attractions. One of the few areas in the city to escape rapid modernisation, there are height restrictions on buildings on this waterfront neighbourhood. The area is known for its eclectic architectural range, with a notable number of Art Deco buildings in addition to Neo-Classical and Beaux-Arts buidlings. The Bund is a great place to immerse oneself in the city’s culture and recent history.
One of Shanghai’s most serene destinations, the You Garden is adjacent to the City God Temple and is an extensive area of greenery. Arguably the most pictaresque garden in the city, the You Garden is a standout tourist destination in Shanghai, perhaps best known for its centre-piece-the Exquisite Jade Rock, a 5-ton boulder. Built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty, the gardens have survived damage sustained in a number of conflicts, most notably in the First Opium War and in the Second World War, but remain intact as one of Shanghai’s most beautiful sites.
Oriental Pearl Tower
In the increasingly crowded Shanghai skyline, the Oriental Pearl Tower remains the standout building. A TV tower constructed in the mid-90’s, the Oriental Pearl Tower is a major international symbol of increasing Chinese dominance on the world stage and incorporates Chinese symbolism into its design. An unusual towering behemoth containing 11 spheres, the building is arguably the most recognisable in the city and for good reason.
One of China’s first contemporary art galleries, ShanghART Gallery was established in 1996 and has remained a focal point of the city’s art scene ever since. Having expanded into Beijing and Singapore, ShanghART is one of the dominant forces in contemporary Chinese art, and is particularly well-known for its Videotheque. If one wants to get an insight into the contemporary Chinese art world, this is the best place to begin.
Propaganda Poster Art Centre
One of Shanghai’s smaller museums, the Propaganda Poster Art Centre is a hidden gem in the sprawling city. Consisting of two rooms, the museum exhibits a vast collection of Maoist propaganda posters. The posters are mainly sourced from the Cultural Revolution years of 1966-76. A niche attraction, it is certainly worth a visit, as one of the most insightful museums about a particularly notable period of modern Chinese history.
Jade Buddha Temple
One of Shanghai’s most recognisable temples and a key relic of the Qing Dynasty, the Jade Buddha Temple was built in 1882. The temple’s namesake stems from the two Burmese Jade Buddha statues inside. Despite being a relatively new temple, the Jade Buddha Temple is one of the most distinct in the city, its contents and neo-classical look making it stand out from many others in the city.
One of the most unique and interesting areas in the city, Shanghai’s French Concession is a vast, beautiful part of town. Known for its tree-lined avenues, cafes and bars, the Former French Concession was an area controlled by the French during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The area retains its distinct character in the present day and is rightfully popular for its picturesque setting. Fuxing Park, formerly the city’s largest park and a popular. Tourist destination is located in the area. A true oddity in Shanghai, the French Concession is well worth getting lost in.
One of China’s oldest and definitive museums, the Shanghai Museum was established in 1952 and since then has been a major centre for ancient Chinese art. The museum has an estimated collection of 120,000 works over a variety of different artistic forms and disciplines. It is divided into eleven smaller galleries, specialising in, amongst other things, Bronze, Ceramics, Calligraphy, Paintings and Sculpture. There are few collections of Chinese cultural works that come close to that in the museum.
Shanghai Marriage Market
One of the city’s more bizarre destinations, the Shanghai Marriage Market sees parents of unmarried adults flock in droves to find suitable spouses for their spouses. While this concept seems borderline alien to Western visitors, it is far more commonplace in China than one would think. There is a rigorous criteria of matchmaking, which includes physical attributes and religious beliefs. While the success rate is dubious, it remains an intact cultural institution and one that is well worth a visit.
Shanghai Circus World
Acrobatic shows have become increasingly popular in China, and the country’s pre-eminent show is in Shanghai. Shanghai Circus World is entertainment at its purest and most visceral. There is no better place to witness an acrobatic show.