The now subdued colonial facades of The Bund riverfront promenade in the old city of Shanghai stand in stark contrast to the futuristic brilliance of the Pudong skyline on the far bank. The gleaming, space-age towers, once the site of rice paddies and dilapidated riverbank industry, reflect China’s march towards modernisation and Shanghai’s centrality to its inexorable economic rise. But then, Shanghai has always been a grand commercial hub, regardless of era. The vehicle-free shopping district along Nanjing Road is but one place to witness the famed Chinese love for good business, but another, less hectic example, and well worth the visit, is the nearby Yuyuan gardens and bazaar. The market’s food stalls offer up an array of delectable treats to help you enjoy a full-belly wander through the gardens.
China’s vertical city has more skyscrapers than New York and can leave visitors with a crick in the neck from looking upwards. Best to get elevated, then, and head for the mighty Shanghai World Financial Center. The world’s highest observation deck sits nearly half a kilometre above ground level, a mere 100 storeys up. Whether day or night, the views are sensational – thousands of high-rises beneath, an endless symphony of glass and concrete. Cutting through the gleaming cityscape, the Huangpu River makes its curve nearby, its many ships suddenly tiny, while on the river’s west bank the green squares and grand colonial buildings of the Bund still impress. Nearer to you, the future-skyline takes centre stage, with the Jin Mao Tower, a postmodern take on pagoda architecture, and Shanghai’s bulbous icon, the Oriental Pearl Tower. A waking nightmare for an acrophobic perhaps, but the view from the SWFC should be on every other Shanghai visitor’s must-do list.