Shanghai is a main artery of China, a pulsating business hub that sees the world’s second tallest building and Michelin-starred restaurants co-exist harmoniously with classical Chinese architecture and street-food vendors. Yes, Shanghai is a great representation of the history, industry, and modernity that encompasses China as a whole. It’s also a very large city, so when you’re there, you’ll be wondering how to see it all and get an understanding of its true vibe. Well, this guide should help you explore 4 of the most important neighborhoods that can give you the real deal of what the city is all about.
No other neighborhood is a better example of Shanghai’s blend of the ancient and the modern than the Bund. This famous promenade on the Huangpu River showcases the wharf and old international trading buildings – in a variety of classical European architectural styles — from the days when the city was shared among the English, French, and Americans and other European powers. Look across the river and you’ll see the more modern and glitzier part of town – the Lujiazui financial district with its shiny skyscrapers, which includes the iconic Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower, the towering Shanghai Tower, and bottle-opener-shaped Shanghai World Financial Center.
The Old City
A busy neighborhood with pagoda-style buildings, street food vendors (you shouldn’t miss out on trying some xiaolongbao — steamed buns filled with pork), and stores selling all sorts of gadgets, the Old City is basically the original city of Shanghai that was a walled community dating back to the 11th century. Over the years of colonialism, this section of the city was left to the locals, and thus has a very authentic Chinese feel. While you could spend hours haggling with street vendors for souvenirs and electrical goods, don’t forget to also make a point to visit the Yu Yuan Garden, a pristine traditional Chinese garden from the Ming Dynasty era, and the adjacent City God Temple complex.
50 Moganshan Road
To dip your toes in the artsy side of town, head over to 50 Moganshan Road district. Popularly known as M50, this former industrial zone has now become the home to some of China’s most trailblazing artists. The galleries and artist studios are abundant and there’s some very cool graffiti everywhere. Plus, you might just find yourself leaving with a piece of art and making some very hip new friends.
If shopping is definitely a part of your Shanghai agenda, then you need to find your way to Tianzifang. This former residential section of the French Concession is now a labyrinth of alleyways and narrow streets that houses artists studios, novelty shops, trendy restaurants, and cozy bars. It’s become a major draw for tourists, and you’re sure to find some unique gifts to take home with you.
Have you been to Shanghai lately? What are some of your favorite neighborhoods? Tell us in the comments.