Sitting east of Shanghai’s Huang Pu river, the bustling Pudong area features a rich variety of attractions, from neoclassical splendours and bird’s-eye views to irresistible Disney fun.
Until 30 years ago, Shanghai’s Pudong district was nothing but flat marshland, punctuated by industrial architecture and rural fishing communities. Flash forward three decades and it has completely transformed. Teeming masses of skyscrapers puncture the skyline, while highways, enormous shopping malls and fancy apartment complexes light it up like a chandelier. It is the flashy, modern sister to the historic Puxi neighbourhood, over on the Huang Pu’s western bank. While Pudong might lack Puxi’s quaint leafy streets, it more than makes up for it with fascinating modern Chinese touches.
It’s no surprise that Pudong’s Lujiazui neighbourhood, Shanghai’s central business district, has been used in various films to depict cities of the future. With ultramodern architecture and high-rise towers dominating its skyline, Lujiazui is a potential glimpse into what’s to come. For a bird’s eye view of both the neighbourhood and the rest of the city, scale the Shanghai Tower – at 632 metres (2,073 feet) it is the tallest building in Asia (and current second-tallest in the world). It also has the world’s fastest elevators, whisking visitors up at 20.5 metres per second (67 ft/s) and flying up to the tower’s 119th floor in just 53 seconds. On a clear day, the views of this seemingly endless city are amazing.
If you don’t fancy paying the high ticket costs to scale Shanghai Tower, head to Bar Level 87. This is the bar and restaurant of the Park Hyatt Shanghai, located (naturally) on the 87th floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre. While you can get away with taking a quick look out of the windows without buying anything, treating yourself to a drink is much more rewarding. The cocktails taste better while gazing out at the vast metropolis below.
From Lujiazui’s Binjiang Park, right on the banks of the Huang Pu, there are excellent views of the historic neoclassical buildings that make up Shanghai’s waterfront Bund area. The views are particularly pretty at night when the grand European-style buildings are lit up with soft golden light. These edifices, which nowadays house high-end hotels, shops and restaurants, were built in the early 1900s, at the height of foreign influence in China. Back across the water, the glittering skyscrapers of the Lujiazui financial district are a testament to the rise of China, since it reopened to the world 30 years ago. The contrast between the two banks of the river is a visual lesson in the city’s history and how different powers have shaped its appearance.
Pudong is home to one of the largest aquariums on the planet: the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. It proudly boasts the world’s longest submarine viewing tunnel, measuring a whopping 155 metres (roughly 170 yards) in length. It is also the only aquarium in the world to have a China zone, dedicated to showcasing local and endangered Chinese aquatic animals, such as the Chinese sturgeon, the Yangtze alligator and the giant salamander.
The sixth Disney Park in the world and the first in mainland China, Shanghai Disneyland is the perfect place to become a kid again. What makes this park unique is how it reflects its location in Asia, combining classic Disney motifs with Chinese elements such as the Chinese zodiac murals in the Gardens of Imagination. It also has the tallest Disney castle in the world. Try to avoid visiting on a Chinese national holiday or at the weekend if you don’t want to spend most of the day standing in a queue – being the most populous country in the world means that China gets busy like nowhere else on the planet. To help you plan your day, and get fast passes to rides, make sure you download the official Shanghai Disneyland app ahead of time and take advantage of the park’s free WiFi.
The Shanghai Oriental Art Center is a landmark for concerts and classical performances in the Pudong district, attracting some of the best acts in the world. Its state-of-the-art facilities are housed in five interconnected halls, constructed from glass, wood and steel, all shaped to resemble a beautiful butterfly orchid from above. Each ‘petal’ marks a separate space: entrance hall, performance hall, concert hall, exhibition gallery and opera hall. It is one of Shanghai’s stand-out buildings and a must-see for fans of classical music or jazz. The programme also regularly features performances of traditional Chinese music.
China is crazy for KFC, with the fast-food chain constantly coming up with new ways to appeal to the local market. After launching a restaurant staffed by robots and selling traditional mooncakes for Mid-Autumn Festival, KFC has now gone healthy (or healthier). Pudong is home to Shanghai’s branch of KFC’s healthy-eating concept K PRO, launched in 2018 in the hope of appealing to the city’s growing number of health-conscious consumers. It offers alternatives to the calorific fried chicken that made the chain famous, including salads and paninis. Table service makes the store much more like a café than a fast-food joint. China is so often a testing ground for new concepts and ideas, it might not be long before this version of KFC is rolled out across the world.