Shanghai-The Paris of the Orient

History, culture, and the proud identity of her citizens have earned Shanghai the nickname “Paris of the Orient”. Given Shanghai’s massive size, it helps to go with an idea of things you would like to see during your visit. Without a game plan, it is easy to get overwhelmed with the magnitude of the city and her various neighborhoods. Below are some “must-see” attractions for every first time visitor to the megalopolis.

The east bank of the Huangpu River houses the modern district of Pudong. The world-famous skyline is what comes to mind for many foreigners when they think of Shanghai. Though the district is home to many office towers and business hotels, there are some landmarks that are worth a day of your time. The Shanghai World Financial Center is among the highest buildings in the world and a trip to the top offers stunning views. A close second would be the bamboo-shaped Jin Mao Tower, which houses a posh lounge [and a Grand Hyatt] on its top floors. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, with its red glass globes, is another famous landmark that is worth a stop, especially for the museum of Shanghainese history housed in the lower levels.

For those looking for a taste of imperial China, Yu Yuan is home to traditional tea-houses, excellent soup dumplings, and “antique” shops selling modern reproductions of ancient Chinese decorative arts. It is easy for the avid souvenir hunter to get lost in the chaos and spend the better part of a day here, rummaging through paper lanterns and painted scrolls. Although most of the buildings have been rebuilt or refurbished, some original structures remain.

These two neighborhoods allow visitors to experience a taste of the past mixed with the rapidly emerging middle class society of the city’s present. High-end shops and European caf├ęs dot tree-lined streets whilst Western architecture blends seamlessly with traditional Shanghainese shikumen houses. One visit here will make the visitor realize why Shanghai has often been referred to as the Paris of the Orient.

This riverfront promenade along the Huangpu’s west bank is a throwback to Shanghai’s heyday as a center for banking, commerce, and good living. Art Deco facades adorn the street as old-school luxury hotels and former bank headquarters from the 1920s look across the river to the glass jungle of Pudong. Great photo opportunities abound here.

As one of the largest cities in the world, Shanghai is a hectic, but rewarding, place to visit. Towering glass skyscrapers mix with Art Deco buildings from the 1920s and ramshackle storefronts flanked with bamboo scaffolding. Peaceful gardens in the traditional Chinese style give way to bustling boulevards lined with hawkers selling food and various wares. Shanghai is nothing if not a sensory overload and that is precisely what makes it the ideal destination for millions of people each year.