Shanghai: The Paris of the East

Shanghai's pedestrian-only Nanjing Road

Shanghai (In Chinese, 上海) is the most populated city in China and one of the largest urban areas in the world. Located on China’s eastern coast at the mouth of the Yangtze River, the city is administered as a municipality with province-level status.

Shanghai is often regarded as the centre of finance and trade in mainland China. Modern development began during thea early ‘90s, a decade later than many of the Southern Chinese provinces.

The People’s Square is the most well known area of Shanghai. A spectacular space in the heart of the city, People’s Square is the second largest square in China. Today, amidst landscaped greenery, the square is framed by the Shanghai Municipal Government Building, the state-of-the-art Shanghai Grand Theatre, the Shanghai Museum and the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall.

In addition to having great shopping, Shanghai is also a fabulous place for dining.  Chinese food alone accounts for sixteen different styles ranging from Beijing to Fujian.

Shanghai’s people are open and welcoming to those visiting from around the world, which is necessary to continue making Shanghai into a successful international city.

Shanghai, with its incredible landmarks and rich history is a joy for travellers of all ages.

Did You Know?

  • In China there is a saying that ‘Xian has witnessed 2,000 of history, Beijing has witnessed 1,000 years of history while Shanghai bears witness to the last 100 years.
  • Shanghai has grown from a provincial city into an international metropolis on par with New York and Paris in just ten years. No other city in the world has done this – it is unique!
  • Skyscrapers such as Jinmao Tower and Shanghai Global Financial Center dominate the skyline, while landmark constructions like Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Pudong International Airport and Shanghai International Convention Center offer the finest and best of modern facilities.
  • Shanghai is spread over an area of 2,239 square miles.
  • The daily English newspaper in Shanghai is the Shanghai Daily.

How to Get Here

There are two international airports in Shanghai. Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) is adjacent to the coastline on the eastern edge of the Pudong district within the boundaries of the Shanghai Municipality, and is located about 30 kilometres from the city centre. Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) is in the western part of a still relatively urban area of Shanghai.

From Pudong International Airport, the fastest way into Shanghai would be The Maglev Train, a magnetic levitation train, which is the fastest in the world, connects the airport with metro line no.2 at Longyang station in 8 minutes. Trains run every 15 minutes between 0700-2100 The station is situated next to the airport and is connected to the terminal by a bridge.

Taxis are available just outside the Arrivals area. Passengers must join the correct queue for the desired destination; queues are determined by duration (Shanghai is 25-40 minutes). Make sure the driver uses the meter.

As well, there are several bus routes which serve different areas of Shanghai.

From Shanghai Honggiao public buses run regularly to city destinations and many hotels operate shuttle buses from / to the airport.

Taxis are available outside the Arrivals area. Travellers should make sure that they join the correct taxi queue, as which queue to join depends on the distance of the journey (Shanghai is approximately 25-40 minutes). A taxi trip into the centre includes a toll, upon exiting the airport, which is added to the fare. The driver should use the meter.

China Renminbi

The Chinese currency is called the Renminbi, which means ‘The Peoples Currency’ and the popular unit is a Yuan.

Travellers can exchange foreign currency cash or travellers checks at Bank of China offices or exchange bureaus at published exchange rates. To exchange money, you must have your passport on hand. Banks or bureaus will issue a foreign exchange certificates that will be valid for 6 months. There is no limit on the amount of foreign currency that can be brought into China by tourists, but it must be declared at customs. Yuan must be converted back into foreign currency with the valid foreign exchange certificates before leaving China.

It is recommended that you do not convert too much money at any one time.

For locations of ATMs you can visit these VISA and MasterCard Web sites.

What will the seasonal weather be like?

Spring and autumn are the best months to visit Shanghai. The peak summer months (July and August) can be searingly hot with temperatures above 35°C and 80 percent humidity. Most of Shanghai’s rain also falls during this time. September and October can be windy, with the odd typhoon. In winter, evening temperatures often drop below zero.

Getting Around

Generally, transportation inside Shanghai city is considered both convenient and satisfactory. As an international metropolis with the largest population in China, Shanghai will inevitably face the problem of overpopulation and traffic congestion. However the situation is currently somewhat better than in Beijing. To relieve the transportation pressure, the government has done a lot of work including constructing a large number of roads, subways, and opening more new bus routes. Now, the city has the world’s largest public transportation system handling the largest daily volume of passengers.

Public buses in Shanghai are a particularly convenient means of transport, with some 1,100 bus lines covering the length and breadth of the city. Shanghai Railway Station, People’s Square, Xujiahui, Zhongshan Park Wujiaochang, Shanghai Indoor Stadium and Dongchang Road serve as the main bus transfer stations in downtown Shanghai.

Shanghai’s five subway lines have connections all over the city, with stops at or nearby the main attractions and commercial areas. The subway will provide fast and comfortable service.

Shanghai has approximately 45,000 taxis, operated by some 150 taxi companies. Several companies have taxis in their own colors. Always carry your hotel card with you, and ask the hotel concierge to write down the address of your destination in Chinese characters. Although in larger cities like Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou English is widely spoken among the taxi drivers, many drivers in other cities may not understand English well. Some phrases that are handy to know are “Qing da baio” (Run the meter, please), to make sure you are not overcharged, and you can get a receipt for complaining or reimbursement purposes by saying “Fa Piao”.

Ferries offer convenient shuttle service across the Huangpu River, allowing you to avoid the crowded bridges and tunnels while appreciating the river scenery. Additionally ferryboats are available between the mainland of Shanghai and its three islands of Chongming, Changqing and Hengsha.

What not to miss …

World Heritage Site(s)

Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritages are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world. There are currently thirty-seven World Heritage Sites in China.

As the most westernized city in China (after Hong Kong), Shanghai is on the leading edge of China’s race for modernization. Almost a quarter of the world’s construction cranes stand in this city of 15 million (Some figures quote 20 million people). On the other hand, architectural remnants of a strong colonial past survive along the charming, winding, bustling streets that make this city undeniably and intimately Chinese. Some highlights and sites to see in Shanghai include …

The Oriental Pearl Tower, which stands along the banks of Huangpu River, is in the centre of Lujiazui, opposite to the Bund which is famous for its grand buildings of various architectural styles. The designers magically set the eleven beautiful spheres of various sizes up from the green grassland to the blue sky with two giant spheres shining like two rubies. The design is rich in poetic and pictorial splendor, which gives you an impression that pearls of various sizes are dropping onto an emerald plate.

Being the tallest building in China, Jin Mao Tower is located in the centre of the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Districts in Pudong. Jin Mao Tower can be conveniently accessed from either Puxi by taking the tunnel or the Hongqiao and Pudong International Airports by car. The 88-story Jin Mao Tower was completed in 1999. The architect, Adrian D. Smith, ingeniously combined the elements of traditional Chinese culture with the newest architectural styles of the time, which makes Jin Mao Tower one of the best-constructed buildings in China.

The Bund is a beautiful and special place. The area centres on a section of Zhongshan Road within the former Shanghai International Settlement, which runs along the western bank of the Huangpu River. The word Bund means an embankment or an embanked quay. In the Bund, you will discover 52 buildings of various architectural styles such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco (Shanghai has one of the richest collections of Art Deco architectures in the world). The Bund was famously featured in novel Empire of the Sun by British author J.G. Ballard, based on his experiences as a boy during World War II, which was later made into a film by Steven Spielberg.

The Yuyuan Garden is located in the centre of Shanghai’s Old City, not far from the Bund. With a total area of less than 5 acres, it has more than 40 attractions in the inner and outer gardens, both built in the Ming Dynasty classical style. The garden offers an atmosphere of peace and beauty amid the clamour of the city, with rocks, trees and walls curved to resemble dragons, bridges and pavilions.

Located in the center of Shanghai in People’s Square, the Shanghai Museum is a large museum of ancient Chinese art. The museum style and presentation surround visitors with artefacts demonstrating ancient wisdom and philosophy. The exterior design of the round dome and the square base symbolizes the ancient idea of a round heaven and a square land. The museum is divided into eleven galleries and three exhibition halls. The galleries exhibit most of the major categories of Chinese art: Ancient Bronze, Ceramics, Sculpture, Jade and Paintings, Calligraphy, Coins, Ming and Qing Furniture, Seals and Minority Nationalities.

The St. Ignatius Cathedral was originally built in 1906 but was destroyed in the Cultural Revolution but has been restored in recent years. As a missionary centre, the cathedral grounds once included a library, an orphanage, a college, a publishing house and its own weather station. Today only the church, part of the school, and the recently reopened library remain. Its vast interior of altars, stone columns, Gothic ceilings, stained glass windows and paintings of the Last Supper and Stations of the Cross is yet another chapter in Shanghai’s living history of European architecture. Services are available every Sunday morning.

The Performing Arts

Acrobatics Chinese acrobats are world famous, in no small part due to the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe, which was formed in 1951. While the troupe, one of the world’s best, frequently tours internationally, they also perform in Shanghai. And where best to say you saw the troupe, but in Shanghai.

Opera Shanghai has its own troupe that performs Beijing opera (Beijing opera is derived from centuries of song and dance troupes) at the Yifu Theatre. Songs are performed on a five-note scale (not the eight-note scale familiar in the West), and gongs, cymbals, and string and wind instruments accompany the performance on the stage. Faces are painted with colors symbolizing qualities such as valour or villainy, and masks and costumes announce the performer’s role in society, from emperor to peasant. These performances can be a delight even to the unaccustomed, untrained eye.

The Shanghai Symphony was founded in 1879 to entertain the colonialists, taipans and other Westerners in the city’s International Settlement and French Concession. Known then as the Shanghai Municipal Band, it was the first such music group in China. Shanghai has produced many world-class classical musicians. The Shanghai Symphony is often judged to be the best in China.

Shanghai is the site of major national and international music, drama, and dance performances nearly every day of the year. You can check with your hotel concierge for a schedule of performance disciplines and locations.


Catholicism has a long history in Shanghai, dating back as early as the Ming Dynasty (1595 AD). Among Catholic churches built here is the Dongjiadu Church, which was the first Catholic Church in China. The church built in 1940 in Xujiahui district was one of the largest Catholic churches in Shanghai. Protestant churches were also built in Shanghai, the largest being the International Church. Shanghai also has Buddhist temples, including the Longhua Temple in the south, the Jade Buddha Temple in the north, and the Jing’an Temple in between. They are active throughout the year and ceremonies are held during Spring Festival and other holidays.

For the kids …

Shanghai’s Jin Jiang Amusement Park has a loop-the-loop roller coaster, merry-go-rounds, and bumper cars, as well as a haunted house. There’s also a special playground for preschoolers. The “Gorge Drifting Waterland” is a water-sports area open during summer.

Shanghai’s newest, biggest, and best aquarium, and Asia’s largest, opened in 2002 next to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is a state-of-the-art facility that boasts 28 exhibit areas where you can view some 10,000 sea creatures from all continents. Underwater creatures include sharks, jellyfish, turtles, lionfish, sea otters, Yangzi sturgeon, and many, many others …

Aquarium 21 is an excellent underwater world aquarium that features a touch pool so that kids can mingle with sea life that includes crabs, starfish and urchins. The main tank is stocked with seahorses, tuna, turtles, rays and patrolling sharks fed by keepers in diving suits. Scuba gear is also provided for those who want diving lessons.

Shanghai can boast of having one of the largest zoos in Asia. The Shanghai Zoological Park, which was originally a British horseracing track, was renamed Shanghai Zoological Park in 1980. There are a number of well maintained animal exhibits such as Swan Lake.

The Dino Beach Water Park features Asia’s largest wave pool. As well, there are eight water slides, three swimming pools for kids, a mile-long river with rapids, and organized beach volleyball and water polo games.

About Shopping

Shanghai is hailed as the “Shopping Paradise” and “Oriental Paris”. Providing the very best of shopping has become an indispensable segment of Shanghai’s tourism industry. Here are some ideas to plan for …

The Nanjing Lu Shopping Street was the earliest commercial street built in Shanghai since the city opened, and has enjoyed a reputation as “China’s First Commercial Street”. This street stretches for 5.5 kilometres next to the Huangpu River, and consists of more than 360 stores. Huaihai Zhonglu Shopping Street is famous for elegant goods and it’s ‘shopping-friendly’ environment. Printemps Department Store and Parkson Shopping Center have become the stores on this golden street. A popular phrase known to all Shanghai residents is “Go window-shopping along other roads, but go shopping in Sichuan Lu.” This street is most well known for famous brands of China, as well as providing the ultimate experience in catering. Sichuan Lu is arguably one of the busiest areas in Shanghai.

With a reputation for being “a capital of petty commodities”, the Yuyuan Tourist Mart is a must-see for all visitors. Featuring more than 56 stores, it is the location to spend the day looking for items on your ‘souvenir’ list.

As with many cities in China, bargaining is a way of life in Shanghai.

Shanghai after dark

Shanghai transforms itself after dark into a sparkling seductress. Yesterday’s opium halls and Somerset Maughams are today’s underground clubs and Giorgio Armanis. Shanghai has returned to its rightful place as one of the world’s great sin cities …

Bars in Shanghai, like other metropolises, are clustered in streets and usually a night out entails going to a specific street and stopping in for a few drinks at two or three different locales. This practice is fading somewhat, however, as larger mega-clubs are entering Shanghai and the bar scene is much more event based. Nowadays, partiers are planning their nights around a single specific event and tacking on an after-hours party rather than just bar hopping. Shanghai’s more popular dancing venues usually try to book international DJs to attract the clubbing crowd.

With the locals, KTV bars are the choice form of nightlife recreation, but the club scene in Shanghai is where the expats really come out of the woodworks. With a few exceptions, the bars in Shanghai are organized after Western models.

Shanghai’s after dark activities are, to say the least, fast p[aced …

Sports / Outdoor Adventure

The ancient “shadow art” of Tai Chi is a series of linked movements performed in a slow relaxed manner using the entire body whilst focusing the mind. This popular sport is traditionally practiced in parks throughout Shanghai, especially in the early hours.

Local Customs and Etiquette

As you travel in and around Beijing, you may want to be aware of local etiquette and behaviours
Both men and women should dress in a sober manner. High heels and short-sleeved blouses are to be avoided as the Chinese frown on women who display too much.

It is highly inappropriate to touch a woman in public.

In China people normally greet each other by bowing or nodding. For a handshake, always wait for the other person to offer his/her hand first. Formal introductions are common in China.

Never point while speaking to anyone.

There are some items and colors that are associated with death in China. They are clocks, straw sandals, a stork or crane, handkerchiefs and anything in white, blue or black. Avoid them.
Chinese take their decisions after much deliberation. Never show impatience.

Punctuality is very important. Make it a point to arrive on time or early if you are the guest.
First time visitors get a tour of the host’s home.

When gift giving, expect to offer it a few times before the person accepts.

If you are the guest, wait to be seated as hierarchy is involved.

Also remember not to start eating or drinking before the host initiates the proceedings.

You should taste all the dishes offered as a cultural courtesy.

Never drop the chopsticks during the meal as it is considered to a bad omen in China.

Make sure to pour tea for others before filling your own cup.

In a restaurant, Chinese have a habit of ordering much more than they can finish. This is the way to show warmth and sincerity.

Do not insist too much on taking the bill if someone offers to pay as it is polite to accept.

It is not necessary to leave tips in Beijing as it could be seen as a sign of disrespect. Waiters may be confused as to why you are leaving them a small amount of money, and could take it as a message that you are looking down on them.

Remember that it is illegal to give gifts to government officials in China.

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