With a population of 23 million people, Shanghai is the world’s biggest city. It is the richest city in mainland China, has the busiest container port in the world and the world’s sixth largest stock exchange by market capitalisation.
Shanghai is located on the Yangtze River Delta, bordered by the East China Sea. It has for centuries been an important shipping and trading town but was regarded with little political importance until the last two centuries.
The Shanghai we know today came of age under European influence. Following British victory in the First Opium War of 1839-1842, a treaty was signed to allow international trade. Recognising its potential as a commercial centre, the British, French, Americans, Germans and Russians moved in. During the 1930s Shanghai was the biggest city in the Far East and the undisputed financial hub of Asia Pacific.
Under Communist rule, Shanghai became less important to the west, but the liberalisation of its economy in the 1990s had them rushing back in. It receives more foreign investment today than any other city in the developing world.
Shanghai looks like a glitzy blend of east and west. Its shikumens – colonial buildings that combine European and Chinese architecture – stand side by side with skyscrapers and designer shops. It is the trendsetting Chinese town.
As well as being the most important financial city in mainland China, Shanghai is a significant industrial hub.
When to go:
As an international city, Shanghai is amenable to visitors year-round, but the best weather is from March to May and September to November.
- Cycle around Shanghai to take in its spectacular architecture and cultural mix.
- Dine at Epicure on 45, one of Shanghai’s best restaurants. Located on the 45th floor of the Radisson Blu Hotel, the revolving restaurant provides 360 degree views of the stunning Lujiazui skyline. For more great views, follow dinner with drinks at Sky Dome Bar on the 47th floor.
- Walk along The Bund, the waterfront area regarded as the symbol of Shanghai. The area was first developed by the British after 1846 and became the cultural and financial centre of Shanghai. Its mix of architectural styles make it a particularly special sight.
- Visit the Yuyuan Garden, originally built in the Ming Dynasty and restored in the 1950s.
- Check out the City God Temple. Originally built in 1605, it gave Shanghai a prestige at the time that it lacked politically. Today it serves as a market.
- Take a cruise on the Huangpu River, which divides Shanghai in two. It’s a great place to see the Shanghai skyline and the fascinating estuary where the Huangpu and Yangtze Rivers meet the East China Sea.
- Admire ancient Chinese art at the Shanghai Museum.
- Don’t miss some of the world’s most impressive skyscrapers: the Shanghai World Trade Centre, Jin Mao Tower and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower are among the must-sees.
- See the jade Buddhas at Jade Buddha Temple, which was built in 1882 to house two jade Buddhas brought from Burma.