Shanghai is China’s biggest city, and one of its most vibrant – life is fast-paced, confident and the city is still growing at an extraordinary rate. From the moment you step off the plane, the magnetic-levitation train ride from the airport to the city is a good metaphor for Shanghai. The train reaches speeds of 430 km an hour, and the trip takes less than eight minutes.
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Shanghai has a long history as a gateway to China and the Yangtze River delta. It is also the largest economic and trade centre in China, and one of China’s cultural centres, offering a blend of the east and western colonial legacy. For a century the Bund has been a highly recognised architectural symbol and pride of Shanghai. Every morning people come here to do exercises and every evening they come to appreciate the view with their loved ones. From here, gaze across the Huangpu River at the glossy ranks of mega-structures that now cluster the Pudong skyline – and a night cruise on the Huangpu River is highly recommended. Beyond the super modern city typified by Pudong, you can lift the lid to a treasure chest of architectural styles. The city’s period of greatest cosmopolitan excess – the 1920s and 1930s – left the city with art deco buildings.
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Shanghai is known as the ‘Oriental Paris’, and Nanjing Lu, often billed as one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, is a 3.5 mile strip of malls, department stores, hotels and restaurants. The Old City, where delicious street food, antique markets and period architecture creates an entirely different atmosphere, and is fascinating. Explore YuYuan Gardens, pop into a tea shop or visit the 400-year-old Dajing Temple, which incorporates part of the ancient city wall.
For culture vultures the Shanghai Museum showcases superb historical artworks, while the Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party gives interesting insight into the early days of the Party – theatre lovers can catch spectacular performances at Grand Theatre and Oriental Art Centre.