Shanghai can easily be explored by foot power. Be prepared for crowds and the need for a comfortable pair of shoes. An alternate plan would be a Hop on Hop Off unreliable bus experience. The bus may get you initially from your first location to the next, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to catch the next bus within a reasonable period of time. Walking may become your plan B.
Regardless of your transportation, try to find time to walk along The Bund, window shop on Nanjing Road East, admire the daytime or nighttime skyline from the Shanghai World Financial Center, immerse yourself in culture and history at the Shanghai Museum, and relax in one of the gardens at the People’s Park.
The Bund has been Shanghai’s waterfront trademark for hundreds of years. The boardwalk is approximately a mile long and goes from the Waibaidu Bridge to the Nanpu Bridge. Architectural mavens will gawk at the buildings that line the west side of The Bund. These well maintained structures represent an eclectic mix of building styles—Baroque, Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance and Classicism. High-end hotels and a variety of restaurants are prominent features in this picturesque location. On the other side of the Huangpu River is the financial district with an assortment of modern buildings.
A visit to the financial area should include a stop at the Shanghai World Financial Center, a 101 story building completed in 2008. A ride up to the observatory will be swift. From this vantage point, one has a panoramic view of the city and a chance to look below through a glass floor. Be mindful that photo clarity will be compromised on smoggy days and as the sun is setting.
Back on the other side of the river, one can take a stroll along Nanjing Road East, one of the world’s busiest shopping areas. While there’s nothing particularly unique about this area that prohibits cars, it was designated in the 1930s as one of the World’s Seven Great Roads. Today, it is a people watching mecca and a place for pickpockets. It is located between The Bund and the People’s Square.
The People’s Square is located in the middle of the city. The Shanghai Museum is just one of several museums that are found here. If you enjoy going to museums, don’t pass on this one. It includes some of China’s national art treasures including bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, jade and ivory pieces, bamboo and lacquer wares, coins, seals, and artifacts from ethnic minorities. The display cases are well lit. Everything is labeled and each exhibition provides small handout with additional information. This modern air-conditioned museum is shaped with a square base and round top attached with arches. This design expresses the ancient Chinese philosophy of the universe- the earth is square while the sky is round.
To escape the heat or the rigors of a busy day of sightseeing, find time to relax at People’s Park. The landscaping is stunning and includes an isolated pond. The park is well maintained. If traveling with kids, be aware that a small amusement park is part of the experience. Be careful not to step on any of the people who are napping on the walkways.
While there are many more places to explore in Shanghai, these five places can be the beginning of your Chinese adventure.
Before You Go
Before traveling to China, secure the appropriate visa. Next, decide where you want to go and map out the best routes. Shanghai is very walkable, but a pair of comfortable walking shoes is a must. Be aware that pollution levels ebb and flow.
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