Shanghai is easily divided into three main parts: the Old City; the old French, British and American concessions; and Pudong, the New Shanghai. While older city structures tend to reflect typically older or more traditional Chinese culture, Pudong projects its vision of Shanghai with towering skyscrapers and bright lights. Wherever you stay, in traditional or new luxury hotels, Shanghai promises that you will experience a city where past and present coexist.
In Shanghai, the architecture reflects the trends and culture of the time. The Bund is, however, the best place to visit and see the range of popular international styles from the 1920s and 1930s. In the construction of its banks, theaters and luxury hotels, Shanghai saw a preference for the Art Deco style. This is particularly true of Palmer and Turner’s Peace Hotel and L. Hudec’s Park Hotel.
In parts of the Old City, the international aspect never gained ground. Art Deco was not common, but traditional Shikumen (old stone gatehouse) houses remain. The same thing happens with temples and markets. In Xintiandi, renovation and restoration has modernized the Shikumen, turning them into trendy bars, chic shops and high-end restaurants.
Across the river, a different kind of architecture is developing. This is the Shanghai of the future. In Pudong, the buildings and towers are conspicuous and eye-catching. They reflect the new Shanghai. The Oriental Pearl Tower is the tallest of its kind in Asia, while the silver-colored Jinmao Tower is a wonderfully elegant and luxurious 88-story hotel. The Shanghai World Financial Center is also located in Pudong. Built in 2008, it rises 101 stories. This impressive structure includes the Skywalk, an observation deck and the tallest hotel in the world: the Park Shanghai Hyatt.
Museums – Big and Small
The value of a city can often be judged by how well it cares for and presents its past. While it boasts high-end shopping, lively entertainment, beautiful architecture, and luxury hotels, Shanghai also allows visitors a glimpse into the city’s past. It even provides a look at different aspects of the city’s cultural history.
A visit to the city is not complete without taking time to admire all that the Shanghai Museum at People’s Square has to offer. Among the more than 120,000 pieces there are truly unique items. Sancai ceramic figurines (3 colors) are exquisite in design and representation. Shang bronzes include some wonderful objects of specialized crafts and art. At the Jade Gallery, you can wander among delicately carved jade pieces. Some date back to the 31st century CBE. Exhibits include ornate and skillfully rendered artifacts ranging from the Neolithic period to the Quing dynasty.
Shanghai is home to other smaller and often curious museums. One of the most intriguing local museums is the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Museum. You can locate it in Changyang Road, Hongkou District. The 1927 structure originally housed the Ohel Moshe Synagogue. During the 1930s and into the period of World War II, the Synagogue was the place of worship for many of the Jewish refugees seeking safety from the ongoing massacre. Shanghai, unlike other cities and countries, did not reject the Jews. In fact, it welcomed approximately 25,000.
Today, the synagogue is a reminder of an important part of Shanghai’s Jewish past and history. The former Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, visited the Museum in 1993. He admired the various cultural relics, including ancient scrolls. However, he also came to thank the people of Shanghai for doing what so many other peoples and nations had failed to do.
Entertainment that delights
You can find entertainment in many of the city’s luxury hotels. Shanghai, however, welcomes visitors with a variety of places and forms of entertainment. They reflect Shanghai’s heritage as traditional and Western-influenced living offerings for your attention. See the incredible and world famous Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe at Shanghai Circus World or the Shanghai Center Theater. The Peace Hotel offers traditional New Orleans jazz every night, while at Babyface, the popular and trendy nightclub, visitors can people watch and listen to more popular music.
If you are a fan of opera, consider trying Chinese opera. The Yifu Theater offers classic examples of this stylized form of traditional music. Meanwhile, the Heluting Concert Hall hosts classical and chamber music performances, while the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is on stage in the modern, butterfly-shaped Shanghai Oriental Art Center.
Jazz and blues are alive in Shanghai. Visit the Cotton Club, the J2 Club or even the House of Blues and Jazz. Alternatively, you can consult a local guide and find any number of modern techno, indie, or popular music venues.