It’s a Little Slice of Europe
Due to its history of foreign occupation, the city is the perfect mix of eastern charm and western flair. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Shanghai was divided into three foreign settlements: a French, a British and an American. Much of the architecture built during those years remains, most notably the European-style buildings of the Bund and the peaceful, tree-lined streets of the Former French Concession. Additionally, the city is host to several models of famous European cities, Thames Town being the most popular.
The Skyscrapers are Record-Breaking
The world’s tallest building award may still belong to Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, but Shanghai’s buildings are not far behind. Opened in 2016, the Shanghai Tower is officially the world’s second tallest building at 2074 feet (632 meters) and boasts the world’s fastest elevator, which travels at a staggering 67 feet per second (20.5 meters per second). Gaze out over the Bund from the world’s highest observation deck, or grab a drink from the Park Hyatt in neighboring Shanghai World Financial Center, and relax in what was, at the time of its construction, the tallest hotel in the world (now third tallest).
The Restaurants are World Famous
The Michelin Guide came to China in 2016 by way of Shanghai. Restaurants in the city collectively garnered 31 stars from the prestigious culinary compass. Even if fine dining isn’t your thing, the city still offers a wide array of flavors from around the country and world. Chances are you’ll have a great meal no matter which part of the city you’re in.
Its Architecture is Trendy
Shanghai is home to a unique style of lane house called shikumen, which combines western and Chinese elements. At one time, the style comprised 60% of all Shanghai housing. Today, many lanes are being preserved and turned into trendy shopping and dining areas. The most popular is Xintiandi, a fashion-forward, walking-only entertainment district in the heart of the city.
It’s Easy to Get Around
There is no shortage of ways to get around in Shanghai. There is the metro, the world’s largest rapid-transit system and the only inter-city subway in the world (it connects to nearby city Kunshan); the bus system; affordable taxicabs; a Maglev train that can travel at speeds of up to 268mph (431 km/h); omnipresent bike-sharing programs and a brand-new, cross-city trolleybus. On top of that, Shanghai’s streets are highly navigable and safe to walk.
There’s Always Something New
If there’s one word that can describe Shanghai, it’s “dynamic.” Old restaurants, shops, and buildings are constantly being overhauled for new and renovated models. Where a dumpling restaurant existed yesterday, today is a florist. What used to be a crumbling neighborhood is now a luxury shopping mall. All the change can be overwhelming at times, but it can also be thrilling to be in an environment that keeps you on your toes.
It’s Starting to Get Serious about the Environment
The biggest complaint people seem to have about Beijing is its pollution. Come down south to Shanghai, where the government has promised to promote green cars, use of cleaner oil for ships, and tighter controls over “volatile organic compounds” discharged from local factories. While the air quality still has a long way to go, Shanghai enjoys more blue-sky days than its capital counterpart.
There’s Art Even Non-Art Lovers can Appreciate
Shanghai is a museum-lover’s paradise, with its art museums alone being worth the trip. The Propaganda Poster Art Center gives visitors a unique look into China’s recent history. Yuz Museum is housed in an old airplane hangar and highlights contemporary pieces. Rockbund Art Museum is free and always has a unique exhibition going on. Shanghai Museum of Glass highlights glass as a functional artistic medium. The list goes on.
There are Numerous Water Towns around the City
Take a day trip to one of Shanghai’s many water towns that surround the city. These ancient areas built on canals offer a tranquil getaway from the fast-paced city center. Some are more commercialized than others, but all offer a beautiful look into traditional bridges and houses that once typified this area of the country. One town, Qibao, is even accessible by metro.
It’s Like Two Cities in One
Shanghai is oriented around the Huangpu River and is divided into two sections: Pudong (East of the Huangpu) and Puxi (West of the Huangpu). Each side has a unique flavor that makes the two feel like separate cities. Puxi is where most of Shanghai’s entertainment is located, but Pudong shouldn’t be ignored. It is full of wide open spaces, farms, and gems that are well worth the ferry ride.