Travel to Shanghai - China's prosperous modern city

  • The world's biggest port, a mini-cruise will open your eyes to just how big Shanghai is.
    © Best View Stock / age fotostock

    The world's biggest port, a mini-cruise will open your eyes to just how big Shanghai is.

Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination China

Shanghai is a megalopolis with almost 20 million inhabitants! This is the flagship city, going from 300 skyscrapers in 1996 to 3,000 today, and must definitely be visited to have a good idea of the Chinese urban crowd, traffic jams on the multiple intersections, dozens of high-rise buildings under construction, and in short, China's leap forward into the 21st century. As the presence of ancient China (which is very interesting for the western traveller) is rapidly disappearing, two days there should be enough. You should not therefore miss the last alleys of the Chinese city and its Gardens of Joy (Yuyuan) on the south-west bank of the Huangpu, the river crossing Shanghai before plunging into the Yangtze, the Blue River. A mini-cruise allows you to realise the importance of Shanghai as an international port. Unmissable: the Bund, an immense avenue-quay-promenade along the Yangtze River, covered with strings of barges alongside banks and old foreign concessions from the 30s. Visit preferably in the early morning, at the time of the tai-chi-chuan, the gymnastics practiced before going to the office. In the heart of the city, it is also where the great festivities are held. You should also go into the monumental entrance halls of the banks to look at the "art deco" decoration and the Lalique chandeliers in the Peace Hotel (previously the Cathay), then cross the river to discover the other bank, the Pudong. This immense ultra modern mushrooming district, dedicated to business and served by a second underground line and two massive bridges, is not very attractive. However, going to the top of the Oriental Pearl tower (paying CNY 100 and having a long wait), is to have a splendid view over the city and the river. Also see the old "French town", or at least what remains of it, beside Huahailu street, the old Joffre avenue, with its refined 19th century architecture, for the "nostalgia" sequence. The Shanghai Museum, built in 1994, is definitely more interesting, with its shape of an old Chinese vessel. Bronzes, sculptures, ceramics, calligraphies, furniture from the Ming and Qing times evoke all the great reigning dynasties (Renmin underground station, entrance CNY 20). The new opera house, designed by the French architect Jean-Marc Charpentier, is the pride of Shanghai. Nanjing Road, the "Shanghai Champs Elysées" is today an international luxury showcase. The streets and ultra modern shopping centres are filled with the prettiest girls in China, who are mad about fashion, cosmetic surgery, and are very into their image. With regard to shows, the Shanghai Acrobatic Theatre offers amazing traditional spectacles every evening. You can choose from a karaoke bar, the Real Love techno and an evening at the Peace Hotel, where each evening a Chinese orchestra plays jazz from the 30s.

Shanghai: what to do?

A mini-cruise gives you the opportunity to realise Shanghai's importance as an international port. Go to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower (in exchange for £10 and a long wait) to have a fantastic view of the city and the river. Shopping on Nanjing Road, the 'Champs Elysées' of Shanghai, a showcase of international luxury. In the streets and ultra-modern shopping centres you will see the prettiest girls in China, in love with fashion, plastic surgery and the latest looks. With regards to shows, the Shanghai Acrobatic Theatre puts on amazing traditional shows every evening. You can also choose from a karaoke bar, the Real Love techno club, and an evening at the Peace Hotel, where a Chinese orchestra plays jazz every night, 1930s style.

The Bund, an avenue-promenade-quay that runs along the Yangtze River, is lined with banks and former foreign concessions from the 1930's. The business district of Pudong and its forest of skyscrapers. The old 'French town' close to Huahailu street, the former Avenue Joffre, with its late 19th century architecture. The Shanghai Museum, the new opera.

  • Beautiful colonial architecture.
  • Lively atmosphere with bars open all night for those who like to party.
  • Great for shopping.
  • The exciting nightlife.
  • The most beautiful museums in China.
  • The Bund and the nostalgia of the 1930s.
  • The food may not always seem very appetising.
  • Lack of historical and cultural sites.
  • Pollution in China means there is often a thick layer of smog over large cities such as Shanghai.
  • The city is very much an international one with a large expat community. As such, you may not experience the 'real China' if you spend your whole trip in Shanghai.

Shanghai: what to visit?


Shanghai is a futuristic megalopolis that can be stressful and oppressive.

To avoid

If you suffer from vertigo, do not go to the top of the skyscrapers.

Shanghai: what to eat?

Noodles, soup, beer?

Shanghai: what to buy?

Silk clothes, rolls of silk paintings, objects and stamps carved out of soft stone, cloisonnés, porcelain, real and fake antiques, calligraphy materials, kites, sweets, and much more.

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