When it comes to China, everyone is seduced by the romance and mysticism of Beijing, but there really are so many superb things to do in Shanghai that I know that I would have a very hard time choosing which one to visit. Where Beijing has 5,000 years of history to call on, Shanghai is a wonder of the modern age. Where Beijing has magnificent temples, Shanghai has uber-hi-tech skyscrapers. Where Beijing has politicians and poets, Shanghai has masters of commerce. If you want to experience one of the most amazing cities of our time, there are many things to do in Shanghai to more than satisfy an adventurous appetite.
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Visit the Jade Buddha Temple
Just because Shanghai is a city for the future doesn’t mean it hasn’t got a past. There are still plenty of historical sights in Shanghai, and this temple is one of them. The Jade Buddha Temple is the holiest of Shanghai’s Buddhist shrines and visitors can visit while monks are chanting, and they are encouraged to listen and reflect. Gifts are freely given to the deities, and each section is full of followers offering prayers and alms. The Jade Buddhas were brought from Burma back in 1882, although there are many more than the originals now around the temple. The gardens are festooned with magnolia trees and the saffron-colored temple is adorned with glowing red lanterns and ornaments.
Stroll along the Bund
Walking along the Bund you will see two sides to Shanghai. The Huangpu River that separates Shanghai from Pudong and its amazing modern buildings is to one side and to the other, the older buildings with a Victorian theme. There are kiosks along its length and all of Shanghai appears to be strolling along and taking in the view and of all the things to do in Shanghai this is one of the most enjoyable. When visiting the Bund the great way to get there is to travel through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel which is an experience in itself and one of the interesting attractions of Shanghai A morning stroll will afford you the spectacle of office workers rushing to their next appointment, hawkers setting up their stalls, and citizens doing their daily Tai Chi. Come evening, the view is no less busy, but the Pudong skyscrapers are awash with the colors of the twilight.
Stand in the People’s Square
Here you will find every flavour that makes up the tasty dish that is Shanghai. It gets as crowded as the Bund, and as there are metro stops here, most visitors seem to pass through it at some stage. Some of the best hotels can be found here, as well as many cultural buildings such as the Shanghai Grand Theatre, Shanghai Museum and Shanghai Art Museum. If you want to feel the beating heart of Shanghai, it’s in People’s Square.
Luijiazui is more of a business district than a tourist destination but it is still well worth visiting. There are some of the most outstanding buildings here and these include the Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Building and the Super Brand Mall. An absolute must here is a visit to the World’s Highest Observation Deck in the World Financial Center.
Understand the French Connection
There’s an awful lot going on the French Concession. Dating back to a treaty of 1849, this quarter of the city is distinctly French Colonial and there are marvellous examples of Gothic towers that contrast with the steel and glass high rises of the skyline. You’ll also find tree-lined avenues more usual to European capitals. Luwan's Huaihai Road is the place to go shopping and there’s a multitude of restaurants and bars. The Shanghai Stadium is here, as is the place where the first sitting of the First National Congress of the CPC was held. Visiting the museum with its reconstruction of the members is not to be missed. Sun Yat-sen's former residence is now a museum telling his life story and the history of Chinese revolution. The home of Zhou Enlai is also a museum and also tells of the revolution but especially the part Shanghai played.
Find Peace at the Yuyuan Gardens
Yuyuan Gardens is a sight to behold and is an oasis in this busy city. You can stroll past pools that are full of goldfish and listen to the rustle of the bamboo. To get the most of the peace and quiet is it best to visit early in the day as many visitors and locals enjoy coming here throughout the day. You will get the most out of the shaded alcoves and rocky recesses when there are fewer people around.
Marvel at Zhujiajiao Ancient Town
If you need total contrast to the modern side of Shanghai, you won’t find much more that’s completely different than Zhujiajiao. This suburb is one of the real sights and things to experience in Shanghai. For 1700 years people have love here on the water. Known as the Pearl Stream and shaped like a fan, this is very much the most interesting and well-preserved of the four ancient towns of Shanghai. Visitors should spend a day here criss-crossing the distinctive and old bridges that date back to the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Although Zhujiajaio only covers 47 acres, there are 36 bridges – all unique and built in everything from marble to wood to stone. It’s a charm!
I don’t like to use the old travel cliché, but if any one place in the world really sums up the juxtaposition of ancient and modern, it surely has to be Shanghai. It is an incredible place with an electric atmosphere where time stands still in the suburbs, but flashes by in a blur of activity in the modern squares. It’s a spectacle to behold and the things to do in Shanghai will not disappoint. Have you been?
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