Strolling the Bund
The most widely known street in Asia, with its gorgeous colonial buildings that were the banks, hotels, trading firms, and private clubs of foreign taipans (bosses of old Shanghai's trading firms) and adventurers past, deserves to be walked over and over again, especially now that it has been given a US$700-million face-lift. See up close the exquisite architectural details of the Peace Hotel, the Customs House, the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and scores of other buildings, some lavishly restored, others closed and awaiting development. Then head across the street to the Bund Promenade, which has been widened and gussied up with new trees and park benches. Here you can mingle with the masses while admiring the splendor and grandeur of old Shanghai on the one side, and the gleaming promise of new Shanghai on the other side of the river. After you've seen it by day, come back again at night for a different perspective.
Admiring the Collections in the Shanghai Museum
China's finest, most modern, and most memorable museum of historic relics has disappointed almost no visitor since it opened in the heart of People's Square. Make it a top priority, and allow a few hours more than you planned on.
Surveying Shanghai from Up High
After crossing the Huangpu River from old Shanghai to the new Shanghai, enjoy the ultimate panorama from either the sphere atop the Oriental Pearl TV Tower; the 88th-floor observatory of the Jin Mao Tower; or the 100th-floor all-glass observation deck of the new Shanghai World Financial Center. All three rank as some of Asia's tallest structures. On a clear day, you can see forever. Alternatively, if you don't want to be glassed in, climb the Lupu Bridge in the southern part of the French Concession for a spectacular view of the 2010 World Expo grounds.
Cruising the Huangpu River
A 27km (17-mile) pleasure cruise from the Bund to the mouth of the mighty Yangzi River, past endless wharves, factories, and tankers at anchor, gives substance to Shanghai's claim as China's largest port and the fact that nearly half of China's trade with the outside world travels these same waters. A shorter 1-hour cruise, and an abbreviated 30-minute cruise from the Pudong side, do not convey the full importance of the river, but they will suffice if you're pressed for time.
Shopping 'til You Drop
To paraphrase a local saying, if you haven't shopped, you haven't been to Shanghai. Savvy locals know if you want greater choice and better deals, Huaihai Lu, with its slew of international boutiques and large department stores, is the place to shop. Branching off and parallel to Huaihai Lu, Maoming Lu, Xingle Lu, and Changle Lu are also home to a number of delightful small shops. Even if you're the kind of person who only shops once a year, a visit to Nanjing Lu, the "Number One Shopping Street in China" is practically required, if only for a chance to marvel (or shudder) at the sheer numbers of people, people, people everywhere! A pedestrian mall makes strolling and browsing that much easier and that much more crowded. Finally, Taikang Lu, with its ever-growing block of small shops, artists' studios, and outdoor cafes, makes for a delightful afternoon of shopping.
Bargaining for Antiques & Fakes
Shanghai has any number of antiques markets where you can hone your bargaining skills. Two of the top choices are the more touristy Dongtai Lu Antique Market and the slightly more ragtag but colorful Fuyou Market in the old Chinese city (at the western end of Shanghai's restored old street, Shanghai Lao Jie). Half the fun is in rifling through all the personal collections of memorabilia and antiques that the vendors seem to have scavenged; the other half is in dramatically protesting the high prices quoted, walking away, then being called back by a vendor newly willing to deal. The same process and joys of bargaining apply when trying to purchase knockoff designer goods, but caveat emptor.
Rediscovering Shanghai's Jewish Past
In the mid-19th century, Sephardic Jews from the Middle East helped make Shanghai a great city. In the mid-20th century, thousands of Jewish refugees flooded the International Settlement north of the Bund. Today, this history can be encountered at the former Ohel Moshe Synagogue, today renamed the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum, with an exhibit documenting life in this little-known but important Jewish ghetto. The Ohel Rachel Synagogue has also been restored and is open for Shabbat prayers and meals.
Soaking in Shanghai's Night Views
The night views of the Bund and Pudong are simply not to be missed. Viewing options include dining at one of the Bund restaurants, such as M on the Bund or Laris, and then crossing the river to Jade on 36 in Pudong for a nightcap (you can also reverse the order). Better yet, savor the best of both worlds by finishing off the evening at Vue bar at Hyatt on the Bund where you can behold the nightlights on both shores of the Huangpu River, while soaking in an outdoor Jacuzzi!
Watching the Acrobats
This has "TOURIST" stamped all over it, but it's nevertheless a totally worthwhile pleasure, especially since Shanghai's dazzling troupes are rightly considered China's very finest at this ancient craft.
Sampling Shanghai's Jazz Scene
The famous Peace Hotel Jazz Band, decamped elsewhere for the past 2 years, has at long last returned to its original stomping grounds in the now-restored Peace Hotel. If the band's nightly performances of New Orleans-style jazz, with some members who have been playing here since before the Revolution in 1949, are too tame or nostalgic for you, modern and more improvisational jazz can be heard at a number of true-blue joints: the Cotton Club, JZ Club, and the House of Blues and Jazz.
Drifting in a Gondola Through a Water Village
There are any number of picturesque "water villages" near Shanghai where you can be paddled in a gondola along streams and canals as you pass traditional arched bridges, quaint stone houses, and classical Chinese gardens. Two villages stand out: Tongli and Nanxun. Also, both have additional sights worth seeing and considerably smaller crowds than at tourist traps like Zhou Zhuang, but see them soon.
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