Shanghai is a city of the global economy. The most populated city in the most populous country on the planet, it’s a fixture of the world financial markets and a major port for global shipping…which means that if you find yourself in Shanghai then you’re probably there for work or on your way to another destination. But while you might pay a visit to the Shanghai Museum, ride the maglev train, and eat some xiaolong bao in between meetings or during a layover — Shanghai will never truly grab hold of you.
To REALLY get to know Shanghai and fall in love with it, you’ll need to explore it. Here are four areas and neighborhoods to get you started on your affair with the city.
The most iconic and probably recognizable thoroughfare of the city, the Bund is a waterfront area that runs just under a mile along the Huangpu River. Visitors can stroll through the Bund and take in the recognizable view of the Lujiazui financial district’s futuristic skyline (it’s like seeing the view of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn), as well as the more classical architectural examples, and then check out the “lovers’ wall,” which has been called the most romantic spot in Shanghai. Sure, it can be very touristy (especially among the Chinese) but it’s also very Shanghai.
A bustling neighborhood that was once the original walled city of Shanghai founded in the eleventh century, Old City became a Chinatown-like area in Shanghai that foreigners left to the locals. It’s now filled with bazaars and merchant stalls selling everything from food to souvenirs. Visitors should make a point to check out the Yu Yuan Garden and the adjacent City God Temple complex.
50 Moganshan Road
It’s no secret that the contemporary art scene in China is exploding and there’s no better place to experience this than in Shanghai. If you want to see the country’s hottest and up-and-coming painters, sculptors, and others, just venture into the city’s famed 50 Monganshan Road district, sometimes shortened to M50. A former industrial area, M50 is now home to galleries and artist studios, as well as some cool graffiti, that welcome visitors to new exhibits and work.
Since the closing of Dongtai Road (Shanghai’s version of Portobello Road), shoppers visiting the city have been in need of an area where they can buy something unique in Shanghai. Thankfully, there’s Tianzifang — an almost hidden shopping district in a former residential section of the French Concession area of the city, which is made up of interconnected alleyways and lanes between renovated houses that are now home to artist studios, boutique stores, restaurants, and bars. The descriptors “arts and crafts” and “labyrinth” are frequently used to characterize the overall feel and tone of the area. It’s become a major tourist-draw over the years, mostly on word of mouth, and a great place to pick up a gift or souvenir.
Are you a frequent visitor to Shanghai? Have a favorite neighbor that you think we missed and is worth exploring by others? Let us know in the comments section below.