Shanghai's relatively small city centre makes it easy to navigate. It consists of two basic districts, Pu Xi (western town) and Pu Dong (eastern town), facing one another across the Huang Pu River. As a general rule, Pu Xi embodies "Old Shanghai" and Pu Dong represents "New Shanghai." Excellent examples of this dichotomy are characterized within the architecture, with the early 20th century architecture of the Bund on the Pu Xi side and the conspicuously modern architecture of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Grand Hyatt Shanghai
on the Pu Dong side.
Pu Dong District
Fifteen years ago, Pu Dong consisted of nothing but farmland, but in an attempt to elevate Shanghai to the level of a major Asian commercial centre, the Chinese government pumped in loads of money and devoted much effort encouraging foreign investors to build up Pu Dong to what it is today. Because of its rapid growth, many speculate that more than half of the office buildings in Pu Dong remain empty. However, anticipating an explosion of domestic and international commercial influx, Pu Dong's growth seems unceasing and construction continues round-the-clock.
Chiefly a financial district, Pu Dong offers little to see or do, but you can admire the sleek modern high-rises in the area—as well as the frenetic rate of construction. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, supposedly the largest structure of its kind in Asia, and a symbol of Shanghai's prosperity, looms high over the city. The tower welcomes visitors and lets them ascend for a bird's-eye view of Shanghai.
Pu Xi District
The majority of the city centre lies in Pu Xi. The grid-like city plan makes it easy to find your way around Shanghai. The city is broken up into areas that range from the traditionally Chinese Yu Gardens
to the modern urban bustle of Huai Hai Road
. The following areas of Pu Xi and should not be missed.
Definitely one of Shanghai's major highlights, the Bund offers an impressive showcase of Shanghai's colonial past. Beautifully preserved art deco and neoclassical buildings face the waterfront, and Pu Dong, on the other side, now houses headquarters of major banks and corporations. When lit up at night, the buildings create a romantic view drawing young lovers all year round. For a taste of nostalgia, visit the The Peace Hotel, once Shanghai's premier hotel, it was THE place to stay during Shanghai's colonial heyday.
Jing An District People's Square (Ren Min Guang Chang)
, a large park, affords a peaceful oasis in the middle of hectic downtown. Also a cultural stopover, it is the site of the impressively designed Shanghai Museum
and the Shanghai Grand theatre
. Underground, beneath the park, lies a shopping mall that proves popular with the young and trendy. For those who crave more gaudy fun, check the Great World Entertainment centre
with karaoke, Beijing Opera, acrobatics and more.
Nan Jing Road
stretches east to west through Shanghai's commercial section. On the western side stands the massive Shanghai centre, a multi-complex that houses the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel
, commercial businesses, consulates and a shopping mall. On the eastern side, a stretch of Nan Jing Road has been converted into a pedestrian-only area and has held the commercial centre since the 1930s. Once Shanghai's major shopping street, Nan Jing's glory faded somewhat with the advent of Huai Hai Road, but it still proves worth visiting—especially at night in its full, neon-lit glory.
Old French Concession Area
displays a charming section of the city characterized by leafy, tree-lined streets, beautiful, old crumbling European architecture and crowned by the chic shopping street, Huai Hai Middle Road. Flanked with upscale boutiques and shopping centres, this is the place to burn serious cash. On the low end sits the market on Xiang Yang Road, a bustling place where shoppers bargain hard for fake designer goods with the vendors. You can feel the nostalgia of old Shanghai even more strongly by visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Former Residence & Memorial Hall. Beautifully preserved, his home furnishes a place for visitors to walk the grounds.
A part of the Old City that belonged to Chinese rule in colonial Shanghai, Yu Yuan still retains traditional Chinese charm. Popular with tourists, it presents one of the few areas in modern Shanghai that feels "Chinese." Be sure to visit the shopping bazaar at Yu Gardens