08 January 2018
The Cosmopolitan Face of China
Over the past decade, China has become one of the world's fastest-growing economies. The showpiece of modern-day China is the booming city of Shanghai.
Located on the Yangtze River Delta, Shanghai is the commercial and financial center of China. The city serves as the most influential economic, financial, international trade, and cultural center in China and is also a popular travel destination for visitors who can get a sense of the pulsating development of the country there.
Shanghai began its existence as a humble fishing village but fast-forward a few centuries and the city has become an international metropolis and one of the most dynamic Chinese cities today. Shanghai shows off a blend of cultures; all around the city the modern can be seen mixing with the traditional, and western influence intersperses with the oriental.
Among the glimmering skyscrapers, there are a plethora of architectural treasures left over from the city's largest cosmopolitan period of the 1920s and 1930s. These buildings, with their art deco style, survive in the midst of modernity that has hit Shanghai. These buildings lend an insight into Shanghai’s evolution and provide a nostalgia of decades past.
In addition to experiencing the extreme modernization in Pudong district of the city - home to the second-tallest building in the world after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa - visitors can also enjoy the Old City which offers a very different atmosphere. Street food stalls and antique markets are peppered around the old architectural buildings but the attractions of this area are not just centered on the Bund and Oriental Pearl Tower cityscapes. Tourists can enjoy some of the city’s huge range of museums, colonial architecture, religious buildings, gardens, parks, and shopping areas.
There are few cities in the world which can evoke the same feelings of excess, history, and glamour alongside a feeling of exotic mystery. The city is developing itself into a “City of the Future” but what’s so fascinating is how much of its old-world character remains.
PLACES TO VISIT
The Bund of Shanghai
The Bund is the popular nickname of Zhongshan Lu, a broad promenade running along the western bank of the Huangpujiang River. The Bund offers a European atmosphere thanks to its many old English and French buildings which now are restaurants, boutique stores, galleries, and offices. The Bund is also a great place to embark upon a sightseeing tour aboard a boat around the port and the confluence of the Huangpujiang and Yangtze rivers.
Constructed in the second half of the 19th century, Nanjing Road runs from the Zhongshan Lu for several miles towards the West. As Shanghai's principal shopping street this area is not to be missed. The largely pedestrian-friendly street has every type of consumer goods from street vendors selling Chinese-themed souvenirs to expensive boutiques selling traditional arts and crafts, as well as a number of large shopping malls and department stores such as the iconic Yibai and Jiubai. There are also many restaurants and cinemas, as well as a hub for street performances.
Xintiandi is a pedestrianized area that offers some of the ambiance of the Old City and reflects Shanghai’s yesteryears alongside today and tomorrow. Cultural and historical sights are combined here in this leisure and entertainment neighborhood. An easy stroll around the area allows visitors to experience Shanghai in the 20’s and 30’s of the last century.
People’s Square is a garden-style square in downtown Shanghai. Known as the Green Lung of Shanghai, People’s Square has transformed into Shanghai's premier public space. With a total of 140,000 square meters, People’s Square can accommodate over 1.2 million people. It’s not just a place to socialize with others but also offers many types of entertainment in the vicinity including Shanghai City Hall, the Shanghai Museum, and the state-of-the-art Grand Theatre. It’s the perfect spot from which to begin touring the city.
Known as Shanghai's French Concession, Tianzifang is a tourist shopping and cafe area in Shanghai. Compared to Xintiandi, the area retains an organic and original feel. Tianzifang has become a popular tourist attraction thanks to the Chinese residential atmosphere here and the old-style buildings and narrow alleys.
The Sheshan Basilica (the National Shrine and Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan) is one of the city’s most important religious sites. An old Roman Catholic Church on the western peak of the hill was heavily damaged during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, but it has since undergone extensive renovations and remains an important pilgrimage site.
Founded in 1952, the Shanghai Museum presents classical Chinese art, such as bronzes and ceramics from prehistoric cultures through to the 19th Century, ink drawings, calligraphy, and seals, as well as large collections of art from ethnic minorities. The museum's four floors are also home to large collections of jade, coins, and furnishings from the Ming and Qing periods (1368-1912).
Shanghai Science and Technology Museum
The Shanghai Science and Technology Museum is one of the largest museums of sciences in China. Opened in 2001, the museum draws more than two million visitors each year. The museum presents numerous fun interactive multimedia exhibits, permanent exhibits, and state-of-the-art science theaters. Highlights include a large display of animals native to the region, scientific achievements, a fascinating exhibit on robotics, and exhibits focusing on space travel.
Located in the northern part of the Old City, Yu Garden is an ancient property that was owned by the Ming dynasty. Built in 1559, the two-hectare garden has been around for over four centuries and boasts over 40 ingeniously conceived, meticulously planned ancient buildings, which have interesting names like Iron Panther, Moon Tower, and Hearing-Waves Pavilion.