Shanghai is the largest city in the People’s Republic of China, and the seventh largest in the world. Shanghai is one of the country’s most populous and most developed cities. It is situated on the banks of the Yangtze River Delta, and lies in East China. The city is split in two by the Hangzhou River: it is divided into the older part, Puxi on the west bank, and the new town on the east bank, Pudong.
Shanghai is a municipality of the People’s Republic of China and has province-level status. It is the hub of Chinese economy, and the nation’s major cultural, financial, commercial and industrial center. The city’s port is one of the busiest ports in the world and has been the world’s largest cargo port since 2005. Transformed from a fishing village into a mega-city in just 50 years, it experienced a period of obscurity until it re-emerged in the early 1990s.
The name Shanghai means ‘on top of the sea’ or more poetically ‘the upper reaches of the sea’ but its nicknames include ‘Paris of the East’, ‘Queen of the Orient’, and – in reference to the drug and prostitution problems of the 1920s and 30s also ‘The Whore of Asia’.
Shanghai is characterized by its fascinating mix of East and West. It has one of the richest collections of Art deco buildings in the world. In addition, there were many designated districts to Western powers so parts of the city look like Paris, New York and Chicago of the 1930s.
The city’s goal today is to transform into a world-class financial and economic center of China and entire Asia. Rapid industrial growth and economic development have their downsides; air pollution ranks the city as one of the World’s most polluted places.
Shanghai has four distinct seasons and temperature differences between summer and winter are significant. Summer temperatures are around mid 30ºC. The hottest months are July and August. The summer season is also very humid, with air humidity reaching 80%. Most of the rainfall occurs during this time. The rainiest month is September.
Spring lasts from March to June with moderate conditions, making it the best time to visit. However, changes in weather can be expected during this period. Autumn lasts from September to November, temperatures are moderate as well. Weather is dry and sunny; however, the period from September to October is prone to occasional typhoons.
Winters are cold; temperatures can often drop below zero. The sky is mostly grey but there is no snowfall. The coldest month is January.
January average temperature 3 deg Celsius, 47 mm rainfall February average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 61 mm rainfall March average temperature 7.7 deg Celsius, 84 mm rainfall April average temperature 14 deg Celsius, 95 mm rainfall May average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 104 mm rainfall June average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 174 mm rainfall July average temperature 26.6 deg Celsius, 145 mm rainfall August average temperature 26.6 deg Celsius, 137 mm rainfall September average temperature 23 deg Celsius, 138 mm rainfall October average temperature 16.6 deg Celsius, 69 mm rainfall November average temperature 10.5 deg Celsius, 52 mm rainfall December average temperature 5.5 deg Celsius, 37 mm rainfall
Shanghai’s second airport is Hongqiao which serves only domestic traffic. It is located 18 km from the city center.
From Pudong airport:
Taxi is the most convenient way of getting to and from the city but is also the most expensive. It takes around one hour to reach the city center. Airport buses are much cheaper but they operate only until 9:00 pm. The ride takes approximately one hour and a half. The maglev train is a high-speed shuttle, blazing at 430km/h. It is more a prestige project and a tourist attraction, but it gets you to the city in mere 8 minutes. Service operates from 7:00 am – 9:00 pm daily.
From Hongqiao airport
Taxi ride takes 20 minutes but allow additional 30 minutes in case of traffic congestion. Public buses nos. 952 and 505 run to Renmin Square. The ride takes around one hour.
Shanghai is served by ferries from Kobe, Osaka and Hong Kong.
There are good rail connections all over China.
Bus lines mainly service small towns near the city. There are also several long-distance buses.
Shanghai Jiaotong Card comes in useful if you are planning a longer stay. It can be used on metro, buses and even taxis.
Shanghai Metro network has 5 lines but is growing fast, with additional 4 lines under construction. The facilities are efficient, fast, clean and user-friendly; most of the signs are also in English. Note that trains tend to get very crowded during rush hours. Metro is the best solution to cover longer distances. www.shmetro.com/
The most popular mode of transport is taxi. The metered Volkswagen cabs come in primary colors. The older cars are usually cheaper. Taxis can be hailed on the street or ordered via telephone.
The city has approximately seven million cyclists. Bikes can be rented at hotels or one of numerous bike rentals.
Public buses are cheap but very crowded and plagued by pickpockets. Buses are uncomfortable and inconvenient.
The older parts of the city are great for walking. Note that even pedestrians come in large numbers in Shanghai, so expect heavy concentration of walkers.
Hangzhou is located 190km south of Shanghai. It can be easily reached by train in 2-3 hours. It is one of the top local tourist destinations, featuring the beautiful Xihu Lake, and also one of the most important cultural centers of China. The area’s top attractions are the West Lake (Xihu) and the Fuchun River and Thousand-Islet Lake. The best way to explore the scenery of the West Lake is to walk around it and take a ferry to its islands. The area is dotted with pavilions, pagodas, monasteries, temples, rockeries, stone bridges, willows and peach trees.
CRUISE THE HUANGPU RIVER
Huangpu River is the city’s main shipping artery and marks the division between the old Shanghai and the new Shanghai. Numerous cruises of various lengths are available. A three-hour journey takes you to the mouth of the Yangzi River and back. There are also numerous shorter variants. Night cruise is a nice way to spend an evening and see the city from a different perspective.
The Bund is Shanghai’s grandiose waterfront promenade with splendid Art deco buildings. The once most famous street in Asia is located along the west bank of the Huangpu River. This street was once the financial center of the Far East and has been the city’s symbol since the 1920s. The area abounds in European style buildings and is hence nicknamed ‘the museum of buildings’. One of the most impressive buildings in the area is the HSBC Building, once the headquarters of the Communist Party, now home to the Pudong Development Bank. The east bank yields great views of the city, especially at night.
THE YUYUAN GARDENS
Address: Yuyuan Street (downtown)
The ‘Garden of Contentment’ was built in 1559 under the Ming Dynasty. The gardens were destroyed and restored several times but remain the best example of Chinese classical gardens in Shanghai. The small park features many Chinese pavilions, endless paths, sculpted gardens, rockeries and ponds. There is also a traditional theatre arranged in a maze.
A traditional teahouse is located in the vicinity, and can be accessed via a zigzagged Bridge of Nine Turns that is one Shanghai’s best known sights.
A bazaar, also located near the gardens, is very popular with locals and tourists alike and offers a colorful array of souvenirs and snacks.
The temple is one of the few active Buddhist temples in Shanghai. It was built between 1911 and 1918. It was built to house two jade Buddha statues brought from Burma by a monk Huigen. The two statues are rare cultural relics and also magnificent works of art. Both the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha are carved entirely from white jade. The statues are 190 cm and 96 cm long, respectively. The temple also features a four-meter-tall Buddha brought from Singapore, several ancient paintings and Buddhist scriptures. Although the temple itself is not very old, it possesses an old-time classical architectural style which makes it a unique place in this modern city.
Access: Metro line 2 (Lujiazui station)
Pudong is the city’s newest, most modern district, full of 21st century skyscrapers. The district’s most famous features are the Jinmao Tower and the Pearl TV Tower. Jinmao Tower is world’s third tallest skyscraper. The tower features the Grand Hyatt, the highest hotel in the world, several restaurants, and on the 88th floor a restaurant – China’s highest visitors’ platform, yielding splendid views over Shanghai and the Bund. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower stands nearby. Built in 1994, it has become the symbol of the new Shanghai.
Shanghai Municipal Museum, located underneath the Pearl Tower, displays local life from the farming era up to the 1930s.
HUAI HAI ROAD
Open: most shops are open 10:00 am-10:00 pm daily
This road is a fusion of top trends and fashion in Shanghai. The section between Shan Xi Road and Xi Zang Road is busiest, containing over 400 shops, restaurants and other venues. What gives the street its cosmopolitan charm is the elegance of the French architecture.
Nearby is another attraction worth visiting; the Doctor Sun Yat-sen’s Former Residence and Memorial Hall is located at 7 Xian Shan Road. Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese revolutionary and political leader, ‘father of modern China’. His lovely 1920s home is superbly preserved and worth a visit.
Shanghai Museum definitely represents one of the city’s highlights. It boasts 120,000 pieces of Chinese art and archeological findings. The excellent museum displays permanent exhibitions of bronzes, ceramics, paintings and other artifacts, and at the same time it takes you through the entire Chinese history.
The museum building itself is an architectural achievement. The complex features a library containing 20,000 books, and a conservation laboratory. The museum shop sells excellent replicas of old ceramics and a rich selection of books. There is also a teahouse and a gift shop.
Shanghai offers many different cuisines; Chinese is just one of the options. The quickest way of taming your hunger by grabbing a bowl noodles at one of numerous stalls located around the Bund.
Shanghai cuisine is a special hybrid of Chinese cuisine. Its highlight is exotic seafood dishes. Generally Shanghai cuisine leans primarily on fresh seafood and vegetables prepared mainly by stir-frying in vegetable oil or steaming. Its staple is fish and shrimp. Eels, crab and carp are also frequent.
Shanghai sweets are famous. Try one of the following delicacies: glutinous rice cakes, steamed bread filled with meat (baozi), dough sticks, French pastries, fruit pies and other sweets.
The Bund is a great place for restaurants with a view. Nan Jing Road area offers several American restaurants and bars, as well as other restaurants and eateries. The Old French Concession Area has a high density of restaurants, bars, eateries and cafes. This is the best place to go for Shanghainese food. Pu Dong area offers a number of nice hotel restaurants and an Irish Pub. The cheapest bites can be bought around the area of Wujiang Road. For more chic surroundings and food visit the restaurants of Xintiandi.
New Year is the most beloved and happiest occasion in China. The celebration includes huge and very loud fireworks. The noise is believed to ward off evil spirits. The city revels in one giant party as many people take an entire week off work. The Longhua temple celebrations include hitting the Longhua Bell at midnight for the New Year which is believed to bring good luck and longevity.
LONGHUA TEMPLE FAIR
Date: around March 15 of Chinese Traditional Calendar Location: Longhua Ancient Town
The Longua Temple festival is the largest folk gathering in eastern China. It has been held for over 300 years. The colorful festival features stalls, folk art, jugglers and stilt walkers. The stalls sell all kinds of traditional Chinese food and crafts. What makes the festival even more beautiful and colorful, are the blossoming peaches, abundant in the area.
THE SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL TEA CULTURE FESTIVAL
Date: end of April Location:
The festival usually lasts for one week and it celebrates and promotes Chinese culture, bringing together hundreds of thousands of tea lovers, experts and tea producers. The festival offers interesting tea ceremonies and visitors have plenty of tea tasting opportunity. Seminars are held and famous tea spots are visited.
SHANGHAI PEACH BLOSSOM FESTIVAL
Date: late March / early April Location: Nanhui District
The festival is held in the peach planting area, the Shanghai Nanhui District. The Chinese have a deep love of the peach in blossom. It symbolizes life, growth and prosperity. Visitors can enjoy local delicacies, craft work and feast their eyes on beautiful blossoming trees.
THE DRAGON BOAT FESTIVAL
Date: the fifth day of the fifth lunar month (June)
The festival commemorates the national hero Qu Yuan, who drowned himself in the 3rd Century, B.C. in protest against a corrupt emperor. Legend has it that people threw rice dumplings into the sea to prevent fish from eating his body, and beat on the drums to scare the fish away. Today races are held with narrow dragon boats that race to the beat of heavy drums. Rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves are eaten at the festival.
SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL
Date: November, early December Location: various
The month-long festival features a varied program of over 150 performances, among which are opera, dance, symphony orchestras, drama, acrobatics and magic. There are many additional events going taking place, such as the Asian music festival, arts and crafts fair, an international piano competition, and magic festival and contest.
THE SHANGHAI TOURISM FESTIVAL
Date: late September Location: various
The huge festival showcases everything the city has to offer visitors, including a wide variety of cultural programs. It is a chance for both visitors and locals to immerse themselves in the wonders of Chinese history and culture. The grand opening features a float parade and continues with a myriad of activities, from cooking classes, to bike races, in which millions participate. The festival also features a magnificent fireworks display.
THE MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL / THE MOON FESTIVAL
Date: September (15th day of the 8th moon)
The Moon festival marks the end of the harvest season. The festival’s symbol is the moon cake, which is made and eaten for this occasion. These are small rounded cakes with various filings. Houses are adorned with paper lanterns for the occasion. This is a family event and one of the most popular festivals in China. It includes gazing at the moon and a feast at midnight.
Shanghai is China’s most exciting city in terms of nightlife. The scene is extremely varied; you can find anything - from the seediest bars to the trendiest establishments. You can choose from an extensive number of venues. There are stylish restaurants, quality cuisine, numerous cinemas playing Chinese and foreign films, theatres featuring opera, drama, acrobatics, musicals and puppets, many jazz clubs, bars and nightclubs, as well as classical and modern music concerts.
Bars and clubs
Tongren Lu is one of the hottest and most popular bar streets. Other areas for bar-hopping include the Maoming Road South, Ju Lu Road and the Heng Shan Road. Big hotels have elegant lounges and great bars on top floors or in lobbies.
Nightclubs are opening and closing so quickly it is impossible to keep track of them. The dance club scene features foreign and local DJ’s. The most notable club in the city is the Pegasus on Huai Hai Road.
Films are shown in original language with subtitles. In recent years many interesting Chinese movies are being produced.
Many of the city’s venues show dance performances. Shanghai Grand Theatre (300 Renmin Boulevard, People's Square) showcases first-class international performances.
It can be enjoyed at the Shanghai Grand Theater (300 Renmin Boulevard, People's Square), the Majestic Theater (66 Jiang Ning Road) and the Grand Theater. Jing’An Hotel (370 Hua Shan Road) offers weekly performances of chamber music.
Rock and jazz
Live blues shows are performed at the Cotton Club (Fùxing Xi Lù 8, Huáihai Zhong Lù). The Hot Chocolate Club (Dong Ping Road) offers live jazz nightly.
Traditional Chinese opera is a unique sight. The vocals are usually in very high pitch but the visual spectacle cannot be rivaled. Try the Yu Fi Theater (701 Fuzhou Road) or the Great World Entertainment Center (1 Xi Zang South Road).
Modern theatric plays can be seen at the Shanghai Grand Theater (300 Renmin Boulevard, People's Square) and the Shanghai Theater Academy (630 Hua Shan Road). Most plays are performed in Chinese.
For interesting acrobatic shows visit Shanghai Circus World, the Great World Entertainment Center or Shanghai Center Theater.
Shanghai originated as a fishing village in the 11th century. Before that it was a barely developed marshland. The town was walled in the 16th century and in the 17th century canals were built to drain the region. The town, however, was of no importance until the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing, which opened foreign trade. Until that time China and Britain were in bitter conflict due to Britain’s opium smuggling operation in China. Britain prospered but thousands of Chinese became addicted, and the society was in decay. This caused great concern for the Qing Dynasty rulers. In response China disposed of the British opium in Hong Kong. This set off two Opium Wars which China lost to the better armed British. China had to give up Hong Kong, Shanghai and other ports.
The city’s strategic position at the mouth of Yangtze River made it an ideal port handling trade with the West; and after the Nanjing Treaty Shanghai opened to international trade. Foreign trade brought many British, French and Americans who lived in autonomous concession zones that were not under Chinese law. Shanghai thus accepted much foreign influence still seen today in the form of European architecture in The Bund and in the Old French Concession area.
The town experienced a rapid change in the late 1800s. It became an important industrial center and trading port. Shanghai attracted many foreign businessmen who enjoyed pleasures available in Shanghai: drugs, casinos and brothels. In this period Shanghai enjoyed a reputation of being one of the world’s most cultured and sophisticated cities.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
The 1920s and 1930s were a time of prosperity. Shanghai was a city with the tallest buildings in Asia and with more motorized vehicles than the entire country put together. It was also a place of countless opium dens, gambling casinos and brothels. The difference between the rich and the poor grew immensely. This caused many revolts and riots. The National Party overthrew the declining Qing Dynasty and Sun Yat-sen was declared the president of the newly-formed Republic of China. In 1921 the Communist Party was formed in Shanghai. Communism became a popular philosophy among Chinese intellectuals.
In 1949 China emerged under the Communist rule of Mao Ze Dong. The foreigners no longer had control of the city and the party was over. They new Communist government started with the removal of slums and the rehabilitation of the many thousands of opium addicts. The government put an end to child and slave labor. Business was also seized by the government after foreigners left the city.
Difficult years of Cultural Revolution, famine, the Great Leap Forward, and political struggles within the party followed. After Mao’s death Deng Xiao Peng rose to power. In 1979 he initiated the open door policy of market liberalization to once again boost China’s economic development.
In 1990 Shanghai was chosen to act as the ringleader of China’s economic progress. By mid 1990s half of the world’s cranes were helping to realize the building boom of Shanghai. Private business increased and foreign investments grew.
Shanghai is continuing to grow, with new buildings, underground stations, highways, and bridges. It is probably the most futuristic city in the world at the moment. Pudong is an entirely new city within Shanghai, full of glittering high-rises. Shanghai is also experiencing a rebirth in arts and culture. It is on its way of becoming Asia’s most cosmopolitan city.
When using chopsticks never point them directly at people. Never stick them directly in a rice bowl as it has funeral/death connotations. It is considered rude to keep one of your hands under the table.
Chinese love to drink. It is impolite to refuse a drink. After the glass is empty the Shanghai people turn it upside down to show there is no more drink left in the glass. Always participate in toasting. Not doing so is deemed offensive. At a business party keep your glass lower than your bosses.
Never insult, embarrass, shame, or shout at a person as this would cause them to lose face. Never try to prove someone wrong in public. Criticism should be delivered privately and discreetly.
Do not expect etiquette while walking on the sidewalks. If people elbow you off do not be surprised, and do the same.
Shanghai is generally a safe destination; however, the usual precautions should be undertaken.
Pick pocketing is a problem, especially around the pedestrian boulevards and outdoor shopping areas, especially in the popular Xiangyang market. Extra caution should be exercised in the pedestrian area of Nanjing Road. Take extra caution at tourist sights, outdoor markets, and around the popular expatriate bar areas, especially at night.
The areas of Mao Ming Road and Ju Lu Road with popular night spots for foreigners, are of special concern. Practice extra caution, especially late at night and when alone. Stick to well-lit areas. Around closing time (2:00 am) the police are usually guarding the end of street.
Be careful when crossing streets. Be especially attentive of motorists, bicyclists and motorcyclists who usually do not stop for pedestrians.
At airports you may be approached by unofficial taxi drivers. They often charge much higher rates. Avoid illegal taxis and rather choose official ones.
Single Western men may be approached by young women or girls, inviting them to a private club for a drink, especially in heavily tourist areas such as Nanjijg Road. Upon leaving the club they are presented with an exorbitant bill, which they must pay if they want to leave.
Emergency Numbers Police: 110 Medical emergency: 120
The best time to visit is spring and autumn. These periods experience moderate temperatures. Spring weather can be a bit unstable and autumn is prone to odd typhoons but compared to the searing summer heat and unbearable (80%) humidity, and frequent below-zero temperatures of the winter, spring and autumn are the logical choice.