The world’s most populous city and China’s largest, Shanghai started off life as an unassuming fishing village on the Yangtze River and continued to grow and develop throughout the centuries under the rule of successive imperial dynasties into the key economic power and centre for trade that it is today. The city’s coastal location was a big contributing factor to its prosperity and it didn’t take Europe long to realise Shanghai’s potential. The Opium War with Britain over trade relations marked the start of an era of colonisation in some areas of the city and some of their legacies can be explored during your visit. Today, the city has grown into a sprawling metropolis which is very much China’s modern face and though you’ll not want to miss any of its contemporary landmarks, there’s a wealth of historical attractions to discover too.
Perhaps the city’s most recognisable landmark is the Oriental Pearl Tower, which is a modern-era attraction very much influenced by the architectural styles of old, located in the Pudong District. At 1,500 feet it’s hard to miss and is home to an observation deck, restaurant and function room. Even higher, though perhaps not as architecturally elegant is the Shanghai World Financial Center, which offers no fewer than three observation decks on three of its most lofty floors. Transparent walkways ensure that a head for heights is needed but the incredible views are more than worth it. The Shanghai Museum is another contemporary attraction which is home to 11 different galleries which display everything from Jade and ceramics to paintings and sculptures.
In contrast, the Bund is a hugely popular waterfront area where you’ll find much the city’s older colonial heritage and buildings which date back to its first era of modernisation. There’s plenty of classic architecture here and building heights are restricted to preserve its historical significance. A stroll along the waterfront promenade to take it all in is a popular activity for many visitors and the area truly comes alive at night, when it’s illuminated by ingenious electronic lighting displays. The Old French Concession offers a fascinating look at one of the city’s key colonial areas, while Longhua Temple is the city’s largest place of worship, occupying an incredible five acres and boasting some incredible architecture and artefacts as well as a welcome calming atmosphere.
As a city with such a diverse past, it follows that Shanghai has plenty of history to investigate in more detail and indeed, the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum is one of its most popular attractions. It’s where you’ll find one of the city's only two synagogues as well as an informative and moving museum, which tells the story of how Shanghai was one of the most generous cities when it came to offering shelter to Jews escaping the genocide of the Second World War. Located in the Oriental Pearl Tower, The Shanghai History Museum is another popular attraction, offering a wider overview the city’s past.
If authentic crafts to take back home are on the to-do list, Yuyuan Bazaar in the Bund is the best place to look. Owing to its history and coastal location Shanghai offers a wealth of freshly-prepared oriental dishes to enjoy but you’ll find that many of the dishes are made with catch from the Yangtze rather than the sea.