City description

Nicknamed “The Pearl of the Orient”, Shanghai is a megalopolis boldly facing the future. This city with over 23 million inhabitants is always captivating and has little to do any more with the mysterious city of the Blue Lotus of Tintin fame, the memory of its plumes of opium dimmed behind the futuristic skyscrapers of Pudong. Yet, despite covering 7,000 km2, Shanghai is much more than an intangible urban jungle. The city is made up of districts, some of which, historic or idyllic, remain a gateway that opens wide onto a past that has not yet completely gone.

Shanghai, a city full of nuances, makes the best of its anachronisms. It even seems to reconcile its past and future, from the Art Deco façades of the French Concession to the new city of Pudong and its business district, the gleaming Lujiazui. The latter, opposite the Bund, is a showcase of avant-garde architecture that crowds come to admire in the evening. Its skyscrapers are reflected in the dark waters of the Huangpu River. The skyline is dizzying, like the Shanghai Tower or the Jin Mao Tower, 632 and 382 metres high respectively, not to mention the iconic “bottle-opener” that is the Shanghai World Financial Center, reaching its highest point at 492 metres.

Travel in time on the west bank of the Huangpu River: the Bund is a legendary promenade, punctuated with a succession of splendid buildings, often in European style, which recall the era of the International Settlement in the 1930s. Every style is jumbled together there, from Romanesque to Gothic by way of Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-classical and Art Deco. Because Shanghai, in some ways, is still an open-air museum, as shown by Broadway Mansions, the Bank of China or Hamilton House, as well as the famous Three on the Bund Neo-Renaissance building entirely given over to the art of living, light-years from its futuristic alter ego, the Wanda Plaza.

A stroll in the former French Concession offers a glimpse of the stylish and genuine side of Shanghai. It is hard to find the true atmosphere of the “Paris of the East”, but the tree-lined streets and the European villas of the districts of Xuhui and Luwan still possess an old-fashioned charm to be discovered on foot. Especially as the area abounds with bars, restaurants, art galleries and trendy boutiques. And green spaces, too. Fuxing Park, a sort of French-style oasis, stretches its avenues of plane trees across 10 hectares and provides a breath of fresh air before reaching Xintiandi, “the New Heaven and Earth”, entirely redeveloped and which has become one of Shanghai’s most popular districts.

Shanghai also retains some jewels of an older past, such as the Longhua Temple with its seven-storey pagoda and the Jade Buddha Temple, the most sacred in the city. Then from lilong (narrow streets) of shikumen (traditional unassuming houses) to discovering the local markets, Shanghai reveals its authentic, even playful, side near the zoo or the aquarium. At any rate, it shows how fascinating it is thanks to its well-stocked museums: the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, the Shanghai History Museum, the Power Station of Art or even the Shanghai Natural History Museum… And if there is always something going on in Shanghai – the Chinese Grand Prix and Qingming Festival in April, the Shanghai Masters 1000, Vinisud Asia and Chinese National Day in October, or even the Shanghai International Film Festival in June – southern China’s megalopolis is a permanent happening in its own right.
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