World’s Fastest Changing City: Shanghai

Shanghai, the largest city in China in terms of population with over 20 million people, is also the world’s fastest changing city.

Shanghai is split in two by the Huangpu River, with the older town on the west bank known as Puxi and the brand new development on the east side being Pudong.

Originally a fishing and textiles town, Shanghai grew to importance in the 19th century due to its favorable port location and as one of the cities opened to foreign trade by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. The city flourished as a center of commerce between east and west, and became a multinational hub of finance and business by the 1930s. However, Shanghai’s prosperity was interrupted after the 1949 Communist takeover and the subsequent cessation of foreign investment.

In the beginning of the 1990s, the Shanghai government launched a series of new strategies to attract foreign investments. The biggest move was to open up Pudong, once a rural area of Shanghai. The strategies succeeded, and now Pudong has become the financial district of Shanghai, with numerous skyscrapers. Moreover, in 2005 Shanghai became the world’s busiest cargo port.


With a history of more than 700 years, Shanghai is an emerging tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks such as the Bund and Xintiandi, its modern and ever-expanding Pudong skyline including the Oriental Pearl Tower, and its new reputation as a cosmopolitan center of culture and design.


Shanghai is a fascinating mix of East and West. It has historic shikumen – houses that blend the styles of Chinese houses with European design flair – and it has one of the richest collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. As there were so many designated districts to Western powers during the turn of the 20th century, at times the city has a cosmopolitan feel. From classic Parisian style, to Tudor style buildings that give a German flair, while the 1930s buildings put you in New York or Chicago.

Shanghai has two main airports, with Pudong the main international gateway and Hongqiao serving most domestic flights. Be sure to check which one your flight is leaving from, and allow at least two hours, to transfer if needed!


Pudong is Shanghai’s new international airport, located 40 km to the east of the city. Arrivals are on the first floor, departures on the third. The most convenient, but also the most expensive way to get to central Shanghai is by taxi, but figure about an hour to get to the center of the city and need of address of your destination in Chinese language. You will have difficulty to communicate with Taxi drivers in Shanghai. They don’t understand English also you have to get the address you want to go written in Chinese alphabet. The official taxi line is at the far right of the arrival terminal.

The Transrapid Maglev train shuttles from the airport to the middle of Pudong in 7 minutes almost flying at a speed of 431 km/hour. If your final destination is Pudong, a short subway or taxi ride remains; however, if you’re looking to go further west to Puxi, plan on 30 minutes or more on the subway. On the 2nd floor of the airport you can purchase Maglev tickets from the ticket counter. The wait for one train is typically no longer than 10 mins. The Maglev to Longyang and a taxi from there is the fastest way to get to places around Pudong, and the ride is definitely an experience in a thrilling way.


The best way to get around town is either by taxi or on the metro. Rush hour on the metro operates at over capacity; however, you may not find taxis during that time as well. Flag fall is Y11 for the first 3km, and Y2 per kilometer thereafter; there is no need to tip. A night rate operates from 11pm to 5am, when the flag fall is Y14, then Y2.6 per kilometer.


Shanghai has many attractions in the downtown area, including Huangpu River, the Bund, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jinmao Tower, Shanghai Museum, Yuyuan Garden, Xin Tian Di and the special old streets and lanes.

There are various bustling commercial streets and shopping centers waiting for you. These include Nanjing Road, Huaihai Road, North Sichuan Road, Xujiahui Shopping Center, Yuyuan Shopping City and Jiali Sleepless City.

You can shop until you drop on China’s premier shopping street Nanjing Road. Nanjing Road is a 1 km street for pedestrians. The shops are often targeted to domestic tourists, so the prices are reasonable. Many people come and offer you if you want to buy replica products. According to your bargaining skills, you can find many replicas of brands such as Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, etc. at the shops on small streets crossing Nanjing Road. For shopping many replica products you would like to visit shops near Shanghai Science & Technology Museum.

But rather than pursuing knock-offs of Western brands, one of the more interesting things to do in Shanghai is to check out the small boutiques in the French Concession area. Some of these are run by individual designers of clothing, jewelry etc and so the items on sale can truly be said to be unique. You can walk at the French Concession Streets Xin Le Road, Chang Le Lu and An Fu Lu starting from east of Shan Xi Road.

Local people often look down on Nanjing Road and shop at Huaihai Road (another busy shopping boulevard with more upscale stores) instead. For the high end boutiques, you can go to the west end of Nanjing Road West near Jing’an Temple. Several large shopping malls (Plaza 66 aka Henglong Plaza, Citic Plaza, Meilongzhen Plaza, and others being built) house boutiques bearing the most famous names in fashion. No. 3 on the Bund is another high-end shopping center featuring Giorgio Armani’s flagship store in China.

Shanghai World Financial Center: If you can look down from a high building or if you don’t have acrophobia, you should look to Shanghai from top of the Shanghai World Financial Center. It is the tallest building in China and third tallest building in the world; after Burj Dubai in Dubai, UAE; and Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan. The Shanghai World Financial Center is a mixed use skyscraper which consists of offices, hotels, conference rooms, observation decks, and shopping malls on the ground floors. Park Hyatt Shanghai is the hotel component containing 174 rooms and suites. It is the highest hotel in the world, surpassing the Grand Hyatt Shanghai on the 53rd to 87th floors of the neighboring Jin Mao Tower. It is currently the world’s tallest completed building by roof. On August 30 the Observation Deck opened with a view from 3 levels. The highest view is at 474 m (1,555 ft) above ground level which is also the highest observation deck of the world.

Shanghai continues to develop at an amazing speed. The city will host World Expo in 2010. The government is building a large district for the Expo. You can have a chance to see what you will see in 2010 during the expo by visiting the Expo site.

Designed by an official in 1559, the YuYuan Garden is a classical garden with many scenic areas for visitors to enjoy.  Located northwest Shanghai is the Jade Buddha Temple.  A monk, Huigien, brought these statues to Shanghai from Burma and they were originally housed in a temple built in northeast Shanghai, but it burned down and was rebuilt at its current location.

The Shanghai Museum of Art is located in what used to be a bank  It is located in the eastern part of Shanghai and holds a large collection of art ranging from paintings to architectural artifacts.

Before leaving the city, I advise to see the city at night by Huangpu River Night Cruise. Riding a cruise along the Huangpu River, you will take a glimpse of the history of Shanghai. On one side of the river, there is the Bund, a landmark of Shanghai. Lining the boulevard of the waterfront are grandiose solid buildings of Western style dating back to the early 19th century. You will also see the Park Bridge, the first toll bridge in Shanghai; the People’s Heroes Monument and Huangpu Park, the city’s first park. On the other side is the image of a new Shanghai.

Located on 2852 Riverside Avenue, you can enjoy a nice lunch or dinner at Seagull Palace with awesome view of river and the Bund in private rooms; outdoor terrace along riverside. You can enjoy Chinese foods with an awesome view of Shanghai.

For the night time, Xintiandi district and Xinye Road with nice cafes, restaurants, bars, cigar bars is a must see place in Shanghai.

Where to Stay?

You’ll find every type of accommodation from all the international brands, to local guesthouses in the old town.

Radisson Hotel Pudong Century Park
1199 Ying Chun Road Pudong, Shanghai
Tel: 86 21 5130 0000

Park Hyatt Shanghai
Shanghai World Financial Center
100 Century Avenue Pudong, Shanghai
Tel: + 86 21 6888 1234

Sheraton Shanghai Hongqiao Hotel

No. 5 Zun Yi Nan Road · Shanghai
Tel: +86 21 6275 8888

For more hotels, click here

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