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Shanghai Travel Guide

About Shanghai

Shanghai, where cloud-piercing corporate towers intermingle with sepia-tinted memories of the 1920s and 1930s, has always been a place of its own. These days, it’s the metropolis that other Chinese cities aspire to reach. It’s fast-paced, confident and still growing at an extraordinary rate.

For visitors, the main riddle is knowing where to begin. Scenically at least, there’s no clearer way of putting Shanghai’s growth into context than by standing on the Bund, the city’s famous waterfront sweep of colonial buildings. From here, gaze across the Huangpu River at the glossy ranks of mega-structures that now cluster the Pudong skyline.

But while money and progress have defined Shanghai for generations, this is far more than a business city. Nanjing Lu, often billed as one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, is a 5.5km long (3.5 mile) artery of malls, department stores, hotels and restaurants. It gives a good taste of Shanghai’s rampant modernity, and a sense of the round-the-clock energy that keeps the city ticking along.

No less interesting is the Old City, where street food, antique markets and period architecture create an entirely different atmosphere. It’s unashamedly touristy at times, but remains an absorbing counterpoint to elsewhere in the city. Call in at a tea shop, wander the exquisite YuYuan Gardens or visit the 400-year-old Dajing Temple, which incorporates part of the ancient city wall.

Elsewhere, the Shanghai Museum (set in a striking complex intended to resemble a traditional Chinese cauldron) showcases superb artworks from earlier eras, while the (deep breath) Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party gives interesting insight into the early days of the Mao era.

Shanghai is a city that travels at speed and sweeps you along for the ride. Whether you’re joining the masses on the waterfront, delving into the city’s thriving arts scene or settling into a packed dumpling restaurant, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer scale of the place.

Key facts

Population:
24150000
Latitude:
31.235797
Longitude:
121.483230

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Quintet

In the heart of the French Concession, the spotless rooms, great service and attention to detail at Quintet has been winning over visitors. As the name suggests, there are just five rooms, each individually designed to a standard you’d expect from pricier stays. The staff are super friendly too, with a wealth of knowledge about the area.

The Waterhouse at South Bund

Once a dockyard factory, The Waterhouse is now one of Shanghai’s sharpest boutique hotels. Lavish furnishings and the odd nod to the city’s shipping heritage offset its industrial chic. There are just 19 rooms, 11 of which are suites. Thanks to its location, views across the river to Pudong are stunning whichever one you bed up in.

Magnolia Bed & Breakfast

This cosy little bed and breakfast located in a 1930s French Concession home has art deco features as well as modern comfort and design. There are only five rooms so book well in advance.

Fairmont Peace Hotel

After more than three years of renovations, Shanghai’s definitive art deco building reopened in 2010 under the direction of the Fairmont group. The main challenge in modernising the building was balancing out the architectural integrity of its history with the need to upgrade a building that was not originally designed to be a hotel. Connoisseurs of old Shanghai will be pleased to know that the famous antediluvian jazz band is back in action.

Mansion Hotel

Combining historic charm and modern luxury like no other Shanghai hotel, this truly exceptional stay is housed in a beautiful 1930s building and was originally the residence and office of a trio of Shanghai gangsters. The lobby, corridors and even the rooms are filled with 20th-century memorabilia, but there's exquisite luxury too with super-soft carpets, beautifully upholstered wood furniture, big-screen satellite TVs, Wi-Fi and private Jacuzzis.

Pudi Boutique Hotel

This exquisite 52-room boutique hotel in Shanghai has trendy, ultra-modern rooms, professional staff and an elite, but accessible, atmosphere. The interior is super stylish and alluringly dark hued, while rooms are beautifully attired and spacious.