Shanghai and Pudong across the Huangpu River

Shanghai China Landmarks and Attractions

On a warm, fall afternoon, couples and families stroll along the quay, gazing at the enormous towering buildings across the Huangpu River in the Pudong district. Teenagers are grinning into cameras, while toddlers lick sticky fingers from ice cream cones and aunties chat on stone steps; it is the perfect day to relax and explore Shanghai, and China's famous Bund.

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Shanghai, China is referred to as the "Paris of the East." And, the city is China's dynamic financial and artistic center with shopping, museums, parks, theaters, the Bund, cuisine and fantastic hotels. Whether you want to explore a whirlwind of activity or find a quiet pedestrian street to roam and window shop in the evening, Shanghai presents a destination rife with possibilities.

In 1842, Shanghai opened to foreign trade and the city started to grow from commerce as an accessible port town and trade route between the east and west. With the success of commerce, the city developed into China's financial center in the 1930s and by the '90s, the city saw widespread redevelopment. It's rapid growth would render the once muddy rice fields into an unrecognizable sea of high rises and a culture of fashion, global financial center and even the site of the World Expo in 2010.

Take in the View

Today, Shanghai continues its dizzying expansion, yet it preserves the international concessionaries and architecture from the mid 1800s along the Bund (riverfront embankment) in the Puxi district. The Bund was the first public park in the city and due to its historical prominence and location along the Huangpu River, it continues to draw visitors from around the globe. On the Puxi side, prominent historical British and international architecture reside; across the river in Pudong, ultra modern skyscrapers dominate the view. Take a walk along the bund to see Shanghai's past and present. Make sure to bring your camera for fantastic photo ops.

For a bird's eye view of Shanghai, visit the financial Pudong district and the 88-story (420-meters tall) Jin Mao Tower built in 2001. The ride up the elevator is an adventure in itself and when you arrive at the top, you'll find breath-taking panoramic views of the city and several interesting shops, cafes, and delicious ice creameries. In addition, an unusual glass window overlooks the proceeding floors in an artistic yet dizzying view down the building's center. Take a photo if can dare to look. And, located within this magnificent tower, resides the Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel; imagine spending the night and gazing at the electric light displays blazing in this amazing city from your own cloud-level nest.

Although the Jin Mao building no longer resides as the tallest building in Shanghai, and new skyscrapers pop up frequently, it was the tallest until 2007 and set height and weight records across the world.

Shanghai Museum

To appreciate China's modern culture that leads the way in fashion and finance, you need to explore its past. The renowned Shanghai Museum, located across from Nanjing Road on Ren Min Da Dao, exceeds your expectations in artifacts, history and presentation. The museum possesses over 120,000 precious works of art located throughout four floors, as well as a modernized library of more than 200,000 volumes of books.

Plan at least half a day to see the majority of the collections and start with the first floor that houses the magnificent ancient Chinese bronze gallery, sculpture gallery, exhibition hall, restaurant and fabulous museum shop. After your tour, return to the museum shop where you'll find items that represent the museum's collections and you won't find elsewhere.

The second floor is replete with ancient Chinese ceramics. Several of the most fascinating pieces date from the Ming and Qing dynasty with exquisite design and color, such as the richly hued celadon vases that appear to glow. And, the depicted scenes of everyday Chinese life are from a period that can only be experienced through detailed painted memory.

The third and fourth floors of the museum are clearly visitor favorites with superb calligraphy, seal, (sometimes-called chops) jade, furniture, coin and art galleries. The Jade Gallery is filled with lovely pieces of white and varying hues of green jade ornaments and intricately carved jewelry. This collection is so intriguing, it is easy to lose time gazing at a dynasty that created works for an emperor. Moreover, the Furniture Gallery is fascinating with gorgeous, deeply colored mahogany furniture, such as an impressive large, wood, six-post canopy bed from the Ming dynasty.

Exploring More of Shanghai's Present

The artifacts are easy to view in modern and brightly lit cases that are quite accessible to visitors. Make sure to visit in the mornings, as the museum is a popular destination and becomes a bit crowed in the afternoons.

After visiting the museum, take a relaxing stroll through the adjacent People's Square. Garden paths lead visitors through numerous flowerbeds alive with color and exercise equipment that to the western eye, are curious until one sees a resident make use of them. The park also provides a peaceful environment for residents to play cards or mahjong as well.

When you have rested and wish to explore some shopping, cross the street (very carefully and use designated walkways) to the famous Nanjing Road. This mostly pedestrian thoroughfare is lined with every designer and electronic shop in Shanghai. You won't find shopping bargains on Nanjing, but you will enjoy the busy and energetic pace and lively shops that feature anything you wish to buy.

Be aware however that foreign visitors are often barraged by street hawkers trying to sell everything from watches to the latest fad in electronic gadgets. Just hold out your hand in front of you and say a firm no or ignore them and they will move on.

If you want to shop and bargain on price, visit the Cheng Huang Miao or Chinese flea market or City God Temple that resides adjacent to the shops. This is the place for a bargain shopper's paradise but be sure you are aware of the items you wish to purchase. You can find just about anything in these shops and it is easy to get ripped off if you don't know what you are buying. Those jade bracelets for 20 to 50 dollars are not jade! For big ticket items, such as jade or pearls make sure you go with your tour guide and make sure you do some research on the items you wish to buy beforehand. However, the flea market is a great place to get souvenirs that include chopsticks, fans, tea sets, chops or seals and most important, inexpensive luggage to haul your loot home.

For evening entertainment, it is fun just to walk around town and check out the buildings that feature electronic light displays that change with shifting patterns and colors to mesmerize you. Alternatively, take in a show at the Mongolian Theater to see the amazing Shanghai Acrobats. The acrobats display awesome grace and agility, performing on silks (long stands of cloth that hang from great heights), telling an emotional story with their fluid movements. Perhaps you just wish to sit, have a cup of tea and people watch, which in Shanghai can be residents walking their purebred dogs dressed in fashionable boots or gorgeously dressed fashionistas strutting their stuff. For a low key but wonderful tea shop, visit the Tea Scene, located on Long Hua E Road, a few blocks down and across from the marvelous Pullman Hotel. Simply purchase the tea you would like to drink and you will be served on the second floor with great views of the shop and street below. Try China's famous Dragon Well Longjing tea or the house oolong for a savory cup. The shop's atmosphere is relaxing, comfortable and definitely a place to recommend.

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Patrice RapleePatrice Raplee is an experienced travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in numerous international publications, as well as NW newspapers such as the Seattle Times, the Stranger and Seattle Weekly. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure. Travel-Excursion

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Updated: August 23, 2016

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