Shanghai was not a planned city. This is immediately apparent as soon as you arrive. Getting to know the city isn’t an easy task as there is no large area, as in Beijing, where most things of interest to expats and tourists would be. No, everything in Shanghai is scattered. True there are a few ways to see multiple sights in one day by walking, but it isn’t nearly as logical as the planned city of Beijing or even Xi’an. For a complete neighborhood guide, click here. Otherwise keep reading to hear the highlights!
First, the Bund area is a must-see district. You’ll find the southern area to be residential with smaller bulk and wholesale businesses around the apartment complexes. The Bund, which is the boardwalk along the Huangpu River, is a beautiful place from which to see the river at night and enjoy the Shanghai cityscape. Try to visit at night (but before ten pm when lights across the river start to go out). From the Bund you can segway towards the center of town which is presumably Renmin Park.
Walk west along Nanjing Road and you’ll eventually arrive at Renmin Park, in Jing’an District. Here you’ll find the Shanghai Museum, some of the largest shopping malls and some fairly generic restaurants. You’ll also find tons of people, large crowds and several hotels. Unless you are on a shopping spree tour of the city than this is one ultra modern area you might as well skip, no offense shoppers! Further West on Nanjing Road you’ll find more shopping and western restaurants. Many expats live out in this area around the subway, and this is reflected in the bars and cafes that cater to them around the Buddhist Temple.
To see where China is headed, hop across the Huangpu River to Pudong and see the wide avenues and high-rises. Jin Mao tower is especially impressive and well worth a visit to the top for a panoramic view to better orient yourself to the city. Malls and high-end restaurants abound in Pudong, and as they are surrounded by steel and glass structures, this makes sense.
Luwan district offers something unique in Xintiandi, a refurbished hutong with modern restaurants, cafes and bars similar to the cultural streets in Beijing. Xintiandi may be high-end, but its a beautiful place to walk around even if you can’t afford the food and wine in the establishments there.
Learn about Beijing as well and see why a planned city is easier to navigate and explore than a growing mega city like Shanghai!