On March 8, 2013, I blogged TripAdvisors Top Ten Destinations in the World and focused on the top 10 even though the list actually contained 25 must-see places. Each entry ended with 3 Don’t Miss attractions. For Shanghai, China, they were The Bund, Garden of Contentment, and Maglev. All musts. To them I have added 7 more below.
The Bund: The Huangpu River curves through Shanghai and divides it into old and new sections. On its west bank in old city center, The Bund is a row of smog-encrusted European-style buildings that were bank and trading establishments in the era that also created the neighborhood known as The French Concession, blocks of retail and residential buildings that will make you think you’re in Paris. Lonely Planet called The Bund, “a vagabond assortment of neoclassical 1930s downtown New York styles and monumental antiquity.” I couldn’t describe it better.
Huangpu River Cruises: After dark, Shanghai’s riverfront lights up better than Times Square. Several companies take locals and tourists up and down the Haungpu to see a night-defying myriad of lights that showcase this city’s deserved self-importance.
The Chinese Circus: Death-defying took on new meaning as I watched acrobats do what seemed humanly impossible while dangling, hanging by their teeth, climbing atop each other, etc. Check such venues such as Shanghai Centre Theatre for performance times and go.
Yu Yuan Garden: To me, formal Chinese gardens are the equivalent of European cathedrals. After about 20 of them in 3 days, I shout, “Enough is enough!” The Garden of Contentment is, nevertheless, a must. After you enjoy the serenity of the place, you’ll have the opportunity to repeatedly use the term bu yao (boo yow) in the particularly crowded, old Shanghai bazaar surrounding Yu Yuan where street entrepreneurs are certain you want to own a Rolex watch. “Bu yao”, a useful phrase said petulantly, means not want.
Jade Buddha Temple: If the day of our visit was typical, not many western tourists make it to this active Buddhist monastery. If we hadn’t had a picture of it to show the taxi driver, we wouldn’t have seen it either. The experience is authentic and the Jade Buddha stunning.
The Shanghai Museum: Located in the heart of tourist activity on People’s Square (201 Renmin Avenue), this is one of the finest museums IN THE WORLD. If you think you’ve seen enough Asian art to last a lifetime, this is the place for you to realize how wrong you are. Prepare to wait in a long line.
Maglev: This seemingly bullet-velocity train takes riders from point-of-entry Pudong Airport to Longyang Metro Station in Pudong New Area, which is not where most visitors want to go. Getting to your real destination via taxi is, nevertheless, a fine trade-off to experience a conveyance that looks like a WALL-E character and takes you to Longyang at 268 mph in 8 minutes.
St Ignatius Cathedral: Not especially beautiful but grandly imposing, this Jesuit landmark is fairly close to public transportation. Riding the metro is an experience in itself and at rush hour not unlike a Chinese circus.
Shanghai Municipal History Museum: A lot more fun than it sounds, SMHM is in the Pearl Tower and provides a speedy education about how Shanghai happened. Here I learned that the Chinese not only discovered gunpowder and paper making but they also invented the compass and typography.
Signage: Pay attention to signs translated into English. One in a park partially read, “…exposing one’s top, lying about, Washing and airing clothes, scavenging or begging from others is unallowable.” I left out the best part so as not to offend.