ROL Cruise recommends…
1. See surprising European influences
It’s not all high-rises and skyscrapers; some of Shanghai remains resolutely, wonderfully, stuck in the past. Along the Huangpu riverfront is the Bund, a long stretch of magnificent Art Deco buildings which housed European banks and trading houses in the early 20th century. A short taxi ride inland is the Concession, a sector controlled by France until 1943 and where most of the street-front buildings have been preserved from that period. This relaxed area of tree-lined streets has its own standouts, including a spectacular former mansion that’s now an arts and crafts museum, plus Tianzifang, a maze of tiny alleys crammed with more than 200 shops, photography studios and boutiques.
2. Experience local life – through the ages
If you’re interested in what life is like for local residents, head to the city centre for the People’s Park and the adjoining People’s Square. You will be instantly immersed in Chinese culture, with pavilions, gardens, monuments and a beautiful lotus pond. Locals spend a good deal of time here - you’ll see them playing cards and board games, while others frequent the marriage market, advertising their children to potential partners. At the bottom of People’s Square is the Shanghai Museum, which holds one of the best collections of historical Chinese artifacts in the world, including ancient bronzes, ceramics and calligraphy.
3. Tower above everybody
The big businesses that jostle for supremacy in the city’s Pudong district aren’t just battling it out in the financial world, they’re competing to dominate the skyline too. Some of the world’s tallest buildings are found here, offering both mind-blowing architecture and city views. The sky-piercing Shanghai Tower reigns supreme at 2,073ft, with the world’s fastest lifts taking passengers to the observation deck on level 121. The Shanghai World Financial Center boasts a glass-bottomed skywalk on its 100th deck, making it another impressive pick. Ascend one the skyscrapers during the day for impressive views, then - back on the ground - marvel at them from across the river, lit up at night.
4. Discover the Garden of Happiness
One of the country’s most beautiful oriental gardens is just a few blocks south of the waterfront, boasting curved bridges over fish-filled expanses of water, exquisite rockeries and ornate pavilions. Literally ‘the Garden of Happiness’, Yuyuan Garden dates back to 1559 and provides an incredible glimpse into those ancient times. A zigzag bridge will take you across to the highly decorative Huxinting Teahouse, and close by is the Taoist City God Temple, with intricately detailed religious buildings.