Shanghai is a city full of contrasts where the new and the old have their distinctive beauty, yet sometimes the two elements amalgamate, giving you a different taste of Shanghai . Having gone through its times of turmoil, not only through the warring period among the states within China itself, and also through the times when foreign powers took over Shanghai, such as the French, Japanese, Americans and the British, Shanghai has thrived and blossomed into one of China’s most important economic hubs. Today, Shanghai is the most populous city in the world with more than 24 million people, where locals, visitors and expats from all over the world live in this melting pot of cultures.
With its rich history, many places in Shanghai give you a completely different feel of Shanghai. Some places are absolutely modern – with sky scrapers that define the skyline; some are foreign you might think you have landed in France instead of China; while some still have that old Shanghai charm which are portrayed in old Chinese movies.
Check out these 10 places below to experience 10 different kinds of Shanghai.
1. 1933 Slaughter House (1933 老场坊) – Drastic Shanghai
The building, as you guessed it was built in 1933, located in Hongkou district. It was designed by British architect and constructed by Chinese developers. It was the largest slaughterhouse in Shanghai, providing 2/3 of meat supply to local folks. When slaughtering activities ceased, a pharmaceutical company took over though the building was abandoned in 2002 and left to deteriorate.
Built more than 70 years ago, this building is a building ahead of its time, with mesmerizing maze-like corridors that has a fascinating element of light and shadow, where light shines through from the circular roof made of glass panels.
The building today is drastically transformed from a hard, cold, concrete slaughterhouse once related to cruelty into an industrial-chic, life-style center. You’ll find performance centers, high-end restaurants, event venues and unique stores such as the Ferrari’s Owners Club and dog cafe here.
Address : No. 611 Haining Road, Hongkou District.
1933 Slaughterhouse Official Website
Getting there : Take the MRT Line 4 or Line 10, exit at Hailun Road Station (海伦路站).
2. The Bund (外滩) – Stunning Shanghai
The Bund, also known as “Wai Tan” (外滩) in Chinese is located along the west bank of Huangpu River, in the former area of International Settlement. Foreign powers might have damaged Shanghai during their settlement, “borrowing” land and taking resources away; but one magnificent legacy they had left behind is undoubtfuly the Bund. The magnificent buildings on the Bund have got to be the most lavish stretch of Shanghai, with 53 eclectic European buildings that are especially stunning at night where the buildings glitter and shimmer, almost as if there is a celebration going on every night. The buildings are now occupied by banks, multinational companies and extravagant restaurants & hotels.
3. Duolun Cultural Street (多伦路名人街) – Cultural Shanghai
Statues of famous writers and activists such as Lu Xun and Mao Dun, are erected on this road not by coincidence as these were the people that resided on this street, or in the vicinity of Hongkou district where Duolun Road is situated. Each statue has a placard that gives a brief explanation about the person. The houses where these people resided have only a placard that gives explanation in Chinese. The street intriguingly possesses various kinds of architectural styles, with the first half of the street being European or European-Chinese fusion. The unusual Hongde Church (鸿德堂) built in Chinese architecture is located in this section.
The second half of the street is mostly Chinese architecture though you see buildings with islamic, and South-East Asian influences as well. If you wish to take a glimpse into these houses, visit cafes and tea houses that are dotted along the street.
Address: Duolun Lu, Hongkou District, Shanghai
Getting there : Take Metro Line 3, exit at Dongxing Baolu Station (东兴宝路站).
**It is in the same vicinity as 1933 Slaughter House, so you can visit both in one go.
4. Nanjing Road East (南京东路) – Busy Shanghai
On this lively pedestrian road, possibly the busiest road in Shanghai, you will have to watch out for people from all directions and tourist trams that traverse across the road every few minutes. Even if you did not plan to visit this road, chances are you might have wandered to this road as it is within 1 km radius to many popular places such as Yuyuan, the Bund, People’s Square and Madam Tussauds Wax Museum.
5. Pudong (浦东)- Futuristic Shanghai
The futuristic Pudong district sits along the east bank of Huangpu River. The skyline is defined with jagged rooftops of some of the world’s tallest buildings – the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) with its characteristic cropped-out opening at the peak resembling very much like a bottle opener, the Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai Tower, which is the tallest among the three. The super-sky scrapers together with the Pearl Tower feature observation decks to take in marvelous panoramic views of the city painted with neon lights at night. Pudong can also be seen from the Bund on the west bank of Huangpu River.
6. Qibao Town (七宝古镇)- Water Town Shanghai
Qibao Water Town is the most accessible and the closest one to Shanghai amongst the few water towns in the suburbs of Shanghai. The town has crisscrossed lanes that you could probably finish walking around in an hour’s time as it’s not too huge. It is commercialized with touristy stores but do look further than that and check out some of the mini-museums within the town that gives you the history of the town.
Puppeteering and cricket fighting are traditional crafts from this town. For those that are fans of “Adventures of Tin Tin”, Zhang of China from the comic book is based on the famous sculptor, Zhang Chongren, whom was from this town. The miniature father and daughter sculptor team of the Zhou family have their exhibition of one million characters from the classic Chinese novel “A Dream of the Red Mansions” carved meticulously on tiny stones. Entry is free into the town but these museums and exhibitions require an entry fee of RMB5.
The town gets extremely crowded, as shown in the food street in the above picture, so plan to be there on weekdays or early on weekend mornings.
Getting there : Take Metro Line 9, Exit at Qibao Station (七宝).
7. Tianzifang (田子坊) – Individualistic Shanghai
Creativity, individualistic and artsy atmosphere brim in the narrow lanes of Tianzifang. Built in traditional shikumen architecture, the neighborhood in the French Concession exudes a charming nostalgia and it is the perfect place to get lost in the small lanes.
Unique craft stores such as pottery classes, embroidery classes taught by the Miao ethnic group; hipster cafes, contemporary tea-houses, Scent library and candy shops that make candies right infront of your eyes are places to spend an interesting afternoon.
Getting there : Take Metro Line 8, exit at Dapu Station (打浦路).
8. Xintiandi (新天地) – Fusion Shanghai
Xiantiandi is the epitome of east meets west; modern yet maintaining the traditional beauty from the bygone years. The classic shikumen buildings are laden with posh cafes and restaurants while fashionable shopping malls with glamorous brand names occupy the tree-lined streets of Xintiandi. Prior to development of Xintiandi, al fresco dining was unheard of and it is now a prominent feature in Xintiandi.
If you love cafe culture and shopping, Xintiandi would be the place to explore and splurge.
Getting there : Take Metro Line 10, exit at Xintiandi Station (新天地)
9. Yu Garden / Yuyuan & Vicinity (豫园， 豫园老街) – Original Shanghai
Yuyuan or Yu Garden was constructed during the Ming Dynasty in 1559. The Chinese garden took 16 years to complete and it is a typical Ming garden with pavilions, lakes and rockeries. The highlight in the garden is a 5 tonne Currow boulder that is thought to be more than 1000 years old.
The vicinity of Yu Garden includes the City God Pavilion, Shanghai Old Street and Yuyuan Old Streets, which are the best places to see what would have been the original Shanghai more than 100 years ago. The old streets may look new and faux, only mimicking the traditional architectural style, but these were indeed the once run-down century-old buildings now refurbished to a mint state.
Getting there : Take Metro Line 10, exit at Yuyuan Station (豫园).
10. Yuan Ming Yuan Road (圆明园路) – Laid Back Shanghai
Yuan Ming Yuan Road is a short Road, perhaps not more than 300 meters that is parallel to the riverbank where the Bund is located. The buildings here are constructed in the 1930’s and each building has a placard (in both Chinese & English) that explains the architectural style of the buildings. These building in soft glow are stark contrasts to the hustle and bustle on the Bund. There was hardly a soul on these cobbled streets. For a beautiful road like this, although not the center of attention, it sits quietly with its demure beauty in laid-back Shanghai.
Getting there : Take Metro Line 2 or Line 10, exit at Nanjing Road East Station (南京东路). Walk towards the north end of the Bund, turn left at Beijing Road East and walk one block to reach Yuan Ming Yuan Road.
**Thanks to Spring Airlines of China for making this post possible. Spring Airlines now have direct routes for Singapore – Shanghai with excellent rates ! Just 5 hours away, Shanghai is not all that far away with plenty of things to do, plenty of things to eat and plenty of places to visit. Start with these 10 places and experience 10 different kinds of Shanghai 🙂