See also: Things to Do in Shanghai
Shanghai, known as the 'Oriental Paris', is one of the People’s Republic of China’s greatest and richest municipal cities. Known as the ‘cradle of Chinese cinema', this city of towering skyscrapers, international fashion brands, famed Bone China ceramics and Xiaolongbao dumplings is one of the most extravagant adventures China has to offer.
Shanghai’s cultural axis is the Bund, known locally as Waitan. The Bund stretches across the Zhohgshan Street, and is acclaimed across the world for being the most vibrant waterfront promenade, housing grandiose Western style eighteenth and nineteenth century colonial era buildings along with an electrifying market.
This municipality is China’s formidable answer to New York or London, and blunges elements of traditional Eastern society with Western imports. Shanghai functioned as a centre of Russian and Jewish immigration during the two world wars, and it still holds remnants from the turbulent times. The former French Concession and the Jewish settlements are popular historical fulcrums of the city. Sometimes, all Shanghai seems to be is a modern rollercoaster, but it’s abundance of traditional Chinese gardens, like the Yu Garden, chronicled streets bearing ancient landmarks like the Old Shanghai Street, water towns and community karaokes makes it one of the greatest cities in the world, and an even better place to stay.
The financial capital of Shanghai, Lujiazui is for all the lovers of glitz and glamour. It’s shiny all glass skyline, accentuated by the Oriental Pearl Tower, houses all the business powerhouses of the country. The central business district of Shanghai, Lujiazui is the place to live for those who want to experience life on a high, quite literally. This neighbourhood is the most expensive area to live in Shanghai, and deservedly so. With luxurious apartments, penthouses and condos next to the bend of the Huangpu River, this peninsula is one of the main commercial arteries of the country.
While Lujiazui is the classic business city which never stops, there’s no dearth of options for those who want a little time off. The Aurora Museum at the heart of the locality is a hub of Chinese culture and art, with ancient jade and porcelain artefacts and Buddhist relics dating back to the Neolithic period. If it comes to preserving its heritage while standing on an escalator to modernity, Lujiazui holds few in competition.
With French cafés like La Parisienne and The Yangjiadu, quaint Chinese bookstores and American outlets, Lujiazui also houses Fumi Coffee, the East’s answer to Starbucks, and the new rage amongst China’s hippie generation. Shanghai celebrates the tradition of hospitality, and the best way to feel welcome in this neighbourhood is to head to the Biangshangshu Tea Bookstore, where you can sprawl on mats with a steaming cup of green tea and a musty book and forget about the world of glass outside.
For those in for a weekend of adventure, Lujiazui would never disappoint. You can choose a trip across China’s tallest building, the Shanghai Tower, or bungee jump to glory from the Jin Mao Tower, the choice is all yours if you live in Lujiazui.
Xujiahui is the heart of Shanghai. Rubbing shoulders with the Former French Concession, Xujiahui was the educational hub of China, when it first opened its doors for the West to peek in. It’s difficult to guide your way through the flashy labyrinths of this neighbourhood, filled from head to toe with hip nightclubs, high end fashion brands, fine dining options and more than 400 boutiques. Xujiahui is the ultimate fashionista's utopia in Shanghai, and if you live here you’ll learn to walk, talk and live chic.
The 300 metre long Shanghai Stadium stands leisurely across this neighbourhood, whose first brand ambassador was David Beckham. It you live in this locale, chances are you’ll enjoy either a classy evening at this multi-use venue, or bag tickets to watch an electric match of football.
Whether it is strolling through Xujiahui's boutique lined streets or watching a tasteful theatre performance at Metro City’s BBC award winning theatre above, Xujiahui will satiate your intellectual and sartorial endeavours equally.
The fusion of American architecture and Chinese tradition best meets at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, known as the MIT of the East. Whether it is marvelling at its beautiful structure or shuffling through the university’s library, you’ll learn a thing or two about China’s history simply by stepping out of your door in Xujiahui. With the Shanghai Film Museum, Shanghai Grand Stage, and the Xujiahui Park, this location is one of the most aesthetic addresses in all of Shanghai.
The Bund is by far one of the most visited places in Shanghai and is an excellent place to stay due it's proximity to a wide range of attractions. The bund offers the best view of the Shanghai Skyline. The bund is well known for it's architecture with many historical buildings built in European styles and was once a British settlement. There's plenty of bars and restaurants located around the Bund offering excellent views of the waterfront and Lujiazui. Nanjing Road, one of the most popular shopping streets in the world is easily within walking distance of the bund.
FFC(Former French Concession)
The time in the Former French Concession has stopped in 1930’s France. Life doesn’t seem to hurry, and to even think that Shanghai has this piece of a dream seems far fetched. This town of bicycles and pedestrians knowns few cars, because it’s parasol tree-lined streets aren’t wide enough for capitalism to pass.
Elegant bungalows and outhouses built with the traditional 'stone gate' stand majestically on either sides of the London plane trees. Built it honour the amalgamation of French and Chinese culture in 1848, the Former French Concession is now the rare neighbourhoods in Shanghai whose skylines aren’t lined with skyscrapers and billboards.
If you live in the FFC, even walking to get coffee everyday will seem like getting into a postcard, simply because of the Wukang Mansion. This architectural beauty stands on the main street of the FFC. Built by the Hungarian-Slovak architect Hudec. Once called the Normandie Apartments, this grand building was home to concession era film stars and intelligentsia. The Wukang Mansion is one of the most photographed buildings in world history, and a glimpse of the structure will leave no doubt as to why.
Another fingerprint of beauty is the Fuxing Park at the centre of the FFC, and an afternoon stroll along its peonies and carefully curated rose collections will leave you feeling like a modern day Wordsworth. For the lovers of politics, the Propaganda Poster Art Centre offers a sneak peek into the history of propaganda in Chinese politics over decades. Haranguing for dumplings at the Guangyuang wet market or watching the century old history of cameras unfold at the Shanghai Camera History Museum, at the Shanghai home of comic artist Leping or simply walking through the small alleys of the Tianzifang, history and culture is yours to keep if you stay in the Former French Concession.
Sitting next to the FFC, Jing’an is the centre of Buddhist influence in Shanghai. Named after the ancient Buddhist Jing’an Temple which now peeps from amongst the city’s skyscrapers, the neighbourhood is a peaceful mix of trendy and retro. Another expat hub in Shanghai, Jing’an isn’t the quiet town it’s name suggests. With nightclubs, bars and restaurants as well as alluring shopping plazas, this neighbourhood is one of the most developed parts of global Shanghai.
The rare spot of history in this ultra modern adventure is the Jing’an Temple, built in 247A.D. , the temple has undergone many reconstruction phases, and its golden shikharas still stand strong amidst the glass facade of new Jing’an.
For a little time off from work, heading to the Jing’an Park for a walk amongst it’s lake and stone sculptures, grottoes, fields and Feng Shui is the best way to unwind, away from the city clamour.
If you are living in Shanghai, it’s hard to ignore and not appreciate the works of Hudec, often casually strewn across the urban landscape. Another structure to his credit is the Green House, a private residence turned erstwhile Red Army Headquarters in Jing’an, which can be appreciated sitting under its leafy covers on a typical hot Shanghai afternoon.
A city with the glamour of modernity and the grandeur of neoclassicism, Pudong captures the best of Shanghai. It’s eclectic in its approach to growth, and bordered by the Bund and the Huangpu River, this neighbourhood is a low density paradise.
China’s fast paced urban development has transformed this largely rural marshland into a flashy city in just three decades. With five story malls, shopping complexes, luxurious apartment buildings and highways, Pudong has moved forward fast, and while it has left it’s green hues behind in the process, trademark Chinese infrastructure makes it one of the most fascinating neighbourhoods to live in Shanghai. With the Shanghai Oriental Art Centre, Pudong brings to its people the art history of China on a platter, in a butterfly shaped glass state of the art centre.
Pudong houses one of the greatest aquariums in the world, the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, with a flabbergasting 155 metre long submarine viewing underwater tunnel. If you wish to know more about China’s aquatic wildlife, head to the Aquarium's exclusive China section, where endangered aquatic species like the Chinese sturgeon and the Yangtze alligator are kept in their natural habitats.
Pudong delivers dreams at your doorstep, including the Disneyland, Shanghai. Combining Disney characters with traditional Chinese motifs, the sixth Disneyland of the world is essentially unique. Living in Pudong means cancelling that six year old improbable overseas Disneyland trip, and heading to one on a weekend.
This upcoming locality is the love of China’s Gen Z. A modern town with touches of shikumen architecture, Xintiandi is the abode of international galleries, bars and art themed cafés. This neighbourhood is divided into two parts, the North Block and the South Block. The South Block is the main axis of modern activities in the town, and is bordered by stone gate houses and dim sum shops. The awestriking facade of this Block is built with glass, and inside live and breathe the culinary accomplishments of the world. Everything from Italian restaurants to Mexican delicacies, fashion brands, traditional ornaments, cinemas, high quality spas and gyms are piled up next to each other in Xintiandi.
The North Block's shikumen buildings are highly deceptive. They look like old structures built and forgotten long ago, but the real beauty of Xintiandi is in its surprises, one of which is it’s North Block. These buildings hold inside them the aromas of bone china cups holding green tea topped with melting butter, freshly ground coffee, and pizzas and patisseries right out of the oven.
This neighbourhood is connected with Shanghai’s efficient bus and train system, easily accessible at cheap prices, making it one of the go to destinations for those just coming into the country. Xintiandi welcomes you with everything around the globe, but holds a Chinese spirit in its welcome.
Informally referred to as Little Tokyo, Gubei is the expat town of Shanghai, and a global cultural centre. Expatriates from Europe, North America and East Asian nations populate this neighbourhood, making it one of the safest and diverse localities of Shanghai.
Gubei is the most well connected neighbourhood of Shanghai, will train lines stretching across its width, linking it to Pudong, People’s Square and Xujiahui. The Gubei-Hongqiao-Minhang network in Shanghai revolves around the Pearl Market, the city’s own souk. A trip across the Pearl City Market is guaranteed to acquaint one with Chinese delicacies, customs, clothes and utilitarian goods.
Being a centre of foreign diplomats, Gubei is greatly influenced by Christian architecture, and medieval structures and buildings are often spotted in its streets. Another foreign influence that Gubei has gladly accepted is that of Japan. For a taste of Japanese cuisine, restaurants like the Chez Sibata are famous all over Shanghai, serving beautiful Japanese style cakes and pastries.
Gubei has a modest and unassuming first impression, but that broken soon for those who live here. With a blustery nightlife propelled by bars and nightclubs like the V House, DADA and the western Lollipop, Gubei also attracts young international students and immigrants alike.