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  • Overview

    Home to around 24 million people, Shanghai is situated on the coast where the Yangtze River flows into the East China Sea. The country's largest city, Shanghai is criss-crossed by a maze of picturesque natural waterways and sits only a few metres above sea level.

    The city is China's industrial and commercial capital, is a busy seaport and is home to vibrant science-, technology- and business communities. While visitors don't normally travel to Shanghai for intriguing history or scenic beauty, there are still plenty of opportunities for entertainment and relaxation. Indeed, the city is drawing increasing numbers of tourists with its neon cityscape, exotic nightlife and booming shopping scene. Just walking the busy streets and soaking up the vibrant atmosphere is worthwhile, with museums, temples and gardens to visit along the way.

    This great cosmopolitan metro has a colourful colonial background, which has had the edge rubbed off of it during half a century of Communist rule. It was the first Chinese coastal port to be opened to Western trade in 1843, resulting in an influx of British, French and American diplomats and business interests, each of which established their own independent enclaves.

    In the 1920s and '30s, Shanghai was regarded as a glamorous, decadent and fashionable place to visit. It all ended with World War II and the coming to power of the Communist Party of China. But since the early 1990s, a dramatic rebuilding programme has been underway to put Shanghai back on the map as a major international finance and trade centre. The Shanghai Tower stands as the second-tallest building in the world and, along with the supertall skyscraper World Financial Centre, is symbolic of this glitzy rejuvenation.

    The Bund

    No trip to Shanghai would be complete without a walk along the famous Bund. Shanghai's picturesque waterfront promenade stretches for a mile (2km) along the bank of the Huangpu River. Once the most famous street in Asia, it's still renowned for its strip of Art Deco buildings. One of the grandest of these buildings is the home of the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. From the Bund, visitors can take a river trip down to the mouth of the Yangtse. Boats leave regularly from the Shiliupu Pier south of the Bund and the trip takes about three hours. Those preferring aerial vistas with a drink in hand could visit rooftop Char Bar in the Indigo Hotel.

    Address: Zhongshan East 1st Rd, Huangpu
    The Bund The Bund Ruazn2
    Shanghai Museum

    The Shanghai Museum is found at the People's Square, the political and cultural centre of Shanghai. Shaped like a giant bronze urn, it contains a collection of some 123,000 artefacts in 21 categories. Permanent galleries cover anything from ancient jade assemblages and Chinese minority art, to intriguing calligraphy and furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Foreigners should look out for the museum's advanced audio tour, which is offered in eight languages, and be sure to get there early to avoid long queues. As well as the impressive exhibits, there's a restaurant, gift shop and green space, surrounded by the Grand Shanghai Theatre and City Hall.

    Address: 201 Renmin Avenue
    Shanghai Museum Shanghai Museum David Veksler
    Yuyuan Gardens

    The Yuyuan Gardens, or the Gardens of Contentment, date back to 1559 and are the best example of classical Chinese gardens in Shanghai. A peaceful refuge with koi ponds amid trees and pagodas, the gardens have been divided into six sections. The gardens' intricate designs are replete with pavilions, rockeries, ponds and a traditional theatre arranged in an ornate maze.

    The gardens are on Yuyuan Street in downtown Shanghai and can be reached via the Town God Temple Market, a warren of shops and stalls that is becoming increasingly popular as a tourist bazaar. It is best to visit the gardens during the week because they become crowded over weekends and the crowds can detract from the spirit of the place.

    Address: 218 Anren St, Huangpu, Shanghai
    Yuyuan Gardens Yuyuan Gardens Jakub Halun

    Phrase Book

    English Pronounciation

    Shanghai has a humid, subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. The range in temperature between the hottest part of summer (June to August) and the depths of winter (December to February) is extreme. In summer, temperatures can reach 95ºF (35ºC) and the hottest months are July and August, with about 80 percent humidity. Most of Shanghai's rainfall occurs during this period but Shanghai is a rainy city year round, due to its location on an estuary, and it rains for about a third of the year. Despite the heat, and the high chance of rain, summer is still a popular time for tourists to visit Shanghai. In winter, temperatures can drop below zero and conditions tend to be grey and dull, though snowfall rarely occurs. Springtime (March to May) is perhaps the best time to travel to Shanghai, with more moderate conditions than summer, although weather can be variable at this time of year. Autumn (September to November) also tends to be moderate, with sunny, dry weather, though the odd typhoon can occur between September and October; typhoons and cyclones can cause considerable damage in the city and it is worth checking for storm warnings before travelling. All in all, spring and autumn are the best seasons to visit Shanghai.

    While Shanghai doesn't really have a celebrated cuisine of its own, local chefs and restaurants have taken the opportunity to combine the best China has to offer with smatterings of international inspiration. Indeed, dining in Shanghai is a great opportunity for visitors to sample Chinese food of all kinds as well as interesting fusion cuisine.

    Traditional Shanghai cuisine is known as benbang cai, and tends to be sweeter than food from other Chinese regions, flavoured with sugar, vinegar, ginger, and soy for a distinct flavour. Whether dining in style at a chic hotel restaurant or indulging at a roadside cart, tourists are spoiled for choice with delectable treats like xiao long bao (steamed soup-filled buns) and Shanghai hairy crab. The city's location at the mouth of the Huangpu River means fresh seafood is abundant, and the soy fields of the region provide the city's unique 'stinky tofu'.

    Shanghai's food streets, some of the best of which are Huang He Lu, Yunnan Lu, and Zhapu Lu, boast a variety of cheap eateries, while flashier districts like the Bund and Luwan offer pricier fine-dining restaurants. Shanghai's major shopping malls all have food courts with many vendors offering everything from stir fries to dim sum for low prices, a great way to sample a variety of dishes.

    Being a cosmopolitan city, Shanghai is home to a number of good international restaurants serving Thai, Japanese, French, Italian, and other world cuisines. There are also a number of new international chain restaurants.

    The more expensive restaurants in Shanghai generally accept credit cards, but street vendors and takeaway joints usually expect cash. While hotel restaurants sometimes include a 10 to 15 percent service charge, tipping is not generally practised in Shanghai.

    Hakkasan

    This fine-dining restaurant, located on the Bund, is part of a highly respected international chain, serving exceptional Chinese fusion cuisine. There are three different dining spaces: the Ling Ling Lounge offers a stylish setting for cocktails with beautiful views; the main dining area, known as the 'Cage', is enclosed in delicate woodwork; and then there are a number of luxurious private dining rooms. Reservations are essential and smart casual dress is encouraged, though dress jackets are not required.

    Address: 5F, 18 Zhongshan East 1st Road, Huangpu District
    Scena

    Scena is located within the glitzy Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong Hotel and serves authentic Italian cuisine. The restaurant is on the 52nd floor of the hotel, with floor to ceiling windows providing spectacular views over the city. Although comparatively expensive, Scena gets consistent rave reviews from travellers and the service is known to be of an excellent standard. Reservations are recommended.

    Address: 52/F, The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong Hotel, 8 Century Avenue
    Din Tai Fung

    This Shanghai restaurant serves Chinese staples such as wonton soup, sweet-smoky fried fish and braised bamboo shoots, but what it's best known for is its lip-smacking xiao long bao (steamed soup buns). They're roughly 10 times what you'd pay at a street stall, but most who have tried them say they're worth it. Located in the Super Brand Mall, the walls are covered in watercolour sketches of famous Chinese celebrities. Din Tai Fung is also a child-friendly restaurant, so don't be afraid to take the little ones.

    Address: 123 Xing Ye Road
    The Camel

    For those looking for a sports bar in Shanghai to have a pint and watch the game, The Camel is the best place in town. The restaurant is broken up into three viewing areas, so multiple games can be watched simultaneously on the many flat-screen televisions. The menu is standard gastropub, serving such classics as fish and chips, steak, burgers and pies, and there's a good selection of beers and cocktails to go with them.

    Address: 1 Yue Yang Road (near Dong Ping Road)
    Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated eight miles (13km) southwest of central Shanghai.
    Time: GMT +8.
    Transfer Between Terminals The two terminals are linked by free shuttle buses and subway line 10.
    Getting to the city: Public buses serve the airport, linking to People's Square and the main railway stations; buses depart regularly from 6am to around 11pm. Line 2 and 10 of the Shanghai Metro connects the airport to the city, found outside terminal 2. The bigger hotels offer shuttle bus services to and from the airport.
    Car Rental: Car rental is available.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the airport but finding the right one can be confusing without assistance. Taxi drivers usually do not speak English so it is best to indicate your destination on a map, or have it written down in Chinese.
    Facilities: There are ATMs and currency exchange facilities, as well as duty-free shops. There are also a variety of food outlets, bars, an information counter, a post office, a children's playground, medical facilities, and business centre. Smoking is banned throughout the airport but there is a smoking room. If you want to shop in earnest there is a shopping centre just outside of the airport.
    Parking Parking is available outside terminal 2. The first two hours cost RMB 10 per hour, after two hours, its costs RMB 5 per hour. A day costs RMB 60.
    Pudong International Airport
    Location: The airport is situated about 29 miles (47km) east of central Shanghai.
    Time: GMT +8
    Transfer Between Terminals Shuttle buses run between the terminals at 10 minute intervals between 6am and 12am.
    Getting to the city: Metro Line 2 (Green Line) connects the airport with the city, with regular departures between 6am and 10pm. Public buses also service the airport. Taxis are available and are a convenient way to get to the city, but they are a more expensive option. Many hotels provide an airport pick-up service for their guests.
    Car Rental: Car hire is available at the airport and vehicles can be booked in advance.
    Airport Taxis: Taxis are available outside the airport terminal. Do not expect drivers to speak English; use a map to indicate your destination, or get it written down in Chinese. The drive into central Shanghai takes about 45 minutes.
    Facilities: Facilities at the airport include banks, ATMs and currency exchange, a post office, luggage storage, a children's playground, medical facilities, and business facilities. There are also several restaurants and shops, including duty free.
    Parking Short-term and long-term parking is provided at Shanghai Pudong Airport. Rates range from CNY 10 per hour, for the first two hours, up to a daily maximum of CNY 60.
    Moon Festival

    One of China's most beloved cultural celebrations, the Moon Festival marks the end of the harvest season. Also called the Mid-Autumn Festival, the 3,000-year-old celebration is now a public holiday, when family and friends get together to give thanks for the harvest and eat Moon Cakes, round pastries with sweet fillings like red bean paste.

    Houses are decorated with coloured animal-shaped paper lanterns and altars are piled with round fruits to symbolise the shape of the moon. Apart from being a traditional time for family reunions and midnight feasts, the Moon Festival is also a romantic day in the Chinese calendar, complete with 'matchmaking dances' for those who are unattached.

    Moon Festival Moon Festival Malcolm Koo
    Shanghai Tourism Festival

    The massive Shanghai Tourism Festival showcases China's fascinating culture and history. Its opening ceremony takes the form of grand parades of floats and performance troupes, replete with sparkling costumes and dancing, which tour every district in the city. Millions of locals and visitors participate in the hundreds of events and activities presented at the festival, ranging from Chinese cooking classes and bicycle tours, to fireworks displays.

    Like the National Arts Festival in Shanghai, the Shanghai Tourism Festival brightens up the city and generates a wonderful festive atmosphere, making it a great time to visit the city, especially seeing as many museums, restaurants and other tourism attractions offer discounts of up to 50 percent during the festival.

    Fireworks in Shanghai Fireworks in Shanghai Sung Ming Whang

    Known as the Paris of the east, Shanghai has a long-standing reputation as one of the world's top 'sin cities'. The nightlife can be seedy and there are many warnings given to visitors, but the ever-changing face of Shanghai's nightlife is vibrant and exciting and the diversity of offerings these days makes it easy to avoid the dodgier elements of this port city if desired.

    The Bund has recently been given new life as a night time destination, with dilapidated buildings demolished to make way for neon-lit jazz clubs, cocktail lounges, and restaurants. Bustling bar and restaurant areas in Shanghai include the pedestrianised Nanjing Road, Hengshan Road, and Maoming South Road, all increasingly popular with expats.

    The district around the Julu Lu and Tongren Lu intersection is a cheaper and more exciting option for those who want to party hard. There is still a booming sex trade in Shanghai and some areas of town are safer than others and it is best to stay in groups when going out at night.

    Shanghai is a major concert destination in Asia, and travellers will find large international concerts on the calendar all year round along with a number of local Mando-pop or Canto-pop acts. There are also a number of good jazz clubs on Fuxing Lu.

    If classical entertainment is what visitors are after, Shanghai has a number of options, including the Shanghai Philharmonic Society or the Shanghai Yueju Opera Group. They can also see acrobatic performances and touring productions of major Broadway shows, as well as touring ballet companies.

    Shanghai is a major international port which is known in China for its enthusiastic embrace of all things new and fashionable, making it a shopper's paradise.

    The Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Mall is a fascinating blend of western and eastern shopping, and Huaihai Zhong Street has a great selection of Chinese silk, which is a popular souvenir. The Old Town Bazaar has a variety of crafts and antiques, including popular Shanghai souvenirs like jade bracelets, cloisonné jewellery and vases, lacquerware and porcelain items, and vintage Cultural Revolution books and posters.

    Other shopping districts in Shanghai include Parkson Shopping Centre, and the 'four cities': Yuyuan Shopping City, Xujiahui Shopping City, New Shanghai Shopping City and Jiali Sleepless City. Fuzhou Road is a great place to find cultural items like music, art and books.

    Although knock-off items are popular buys in Shanghai, visitors should be aware that customs in many countries do not allow travellers to take multiple items of this sort back with them. Counterfeit souvenirs are also common, so buyers should be wary of paying high prices for easily faked items like jade and antiques.

    Travellers should flex their bargaining muscles at street shops and markets, but the prices in formal stores and hotels are generally fixed. They should remember to keep smiling and draw the shopkeeper away from other customers for the best deals.

    Taxis are the preferred mode of transport for visitors in Shanghai. The metered Volkswagen cabs in primary colours are easy to identify and plentiful. The smaller, older cars are generally cheaper. All can be hailed on the street or booked by telephone. Tipping is not expected but welcome. Most drivers speak limited to no English, so be sure to write your destination down.

    The Shanghai subway, costing just a few cents a ride, is cheap, clean, and reliable, perfect for covering long distances. It covers the entire downtown area and connect to the airports. Alternatively, public buses are common and extremely cheap; however, they can be an uncomfortable and inconvenient experience for travellers, being hot, crowded, unreliable, and frequented by pickpockets.

    Many visitors opt to join the city's millions of cyclists and rent bicycles from their hotels or one of the numerous hire shops in the city. Shanghai is also a good city to explore on foot and sometimes the best way to get around in the city is just to walk.

    Shanghai is a slick modern city with millennia of rich Chinese cultural history to draw on. Travellers can float along the Huangpu River on a scenic boat cruise, get lost in the maze-like Yu Garden, or have a drink in a traditional tea house. Shanghai is a great place to start a trip to China, as the blend of western and eastern culture makes for a pleasant combination between the familiar and the exotic.

    No vacation in Shanghai is complete without a stroll along the Bund. The waterfront embankment affords visitors a great view of the city's most spectacular buildings by night and day, and while it is generally crowded with tourists and vendors during the daytime, the mornings and evenings offer great opportunities for photography.

    Shanghai has a number of museums worth a visit, including the Shanghai Museum - which houses about 120,000 historical artefacts - and the Bund History Museum. Travellers can also see many beautiful temples and pagodas, like the Jade Buddha Temple, Longhua Temple and the magnificent Jinshan Donglin Temple.

    Jinshan City Beach is a nice break from the city on sunny days. There are plenty of opportunities for water sports and other activities, including boating, bungee jumping and other fun activities. The beach also hosts annual international volleyball and kite-flying competitions.

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    Companies flying to Shanghai (Pudong)