Considering its position within the historical heartland of the ancient dynasties of millennia gone by, it is no surprise that Shanghai has an abundance of historical attractions. From more recent developments in history, to those that go all the way back into its distant past, all these cultural elements can still be found today, even as modern skyscrapers soar up all around them.
While it is not realistic to expect to see a large quantity of these sights due to oppressive heat and humidity during the warm months, and choking pollution through much of the rest of the year, there are essential cultural attractions in Shanghai that you can limit yourself to, and still come away feeling like you have experienced much of what makes this corner of China tick.
With this principle in mind, here are three cultural attractions in Shanghai we feel we help you make the most of your time in one of China’s most vibrant metropolises.
1) Stroll The Bund
Being located at the mouth of the Yangtze River on the East China Sea, Shanghai has long been an important international port. As such, a large expat population had developed here in the 19th century, as import/export companies, banks, and commercial concerns had opened up shop as China began to open up to the outside world.
They constructed many gorgeous buildings, many of which were built in the palatial Beaux Arts style, to house their base of operations here. While many of these foreigners were forced out during the time immediately following the success of the Communist Party, it has largely returned to its original purpose as a place of commerce and entertainment for foreigners in the city in recent years.
Strolling along these streets at your leisure will yield many stunning photos, as these structures, as beautiful as they are, stand out in stark contrast to the traditional Chinese and modern architecture that predominates elsewhere in the city.
2) Find solace in the Yuyuan Gardens
While Shanghai is endlessly fascinating for the traveler that is new to the Far East, the intense traffic, pollution and noise can get to be a bit much after a time. Take a break from all this chaos at the Yuyuan Gardens, a greenspace designed according to traditional Chinese principles. It takes ponds, flower bed, rock gardens and traditional Chinese huts to create an atmosphere of calm in the midst of an urban jungle.
3) Soak in the magnificence of the Jade Buddha Temple
If you seek to gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of Chinese Buddhism, then spending a couple of hours wandering around the Jade Buddha Temple will go a long way towards achieving this goal. The centrepiece of this temple, as suggested by its name, is a pair of jade Buddha statues that were imported from Burma over a hundred years ago, but you’ll spend much more time here afterward soaking in the incense soaked air and admiring the small design touches that will make features back home seem positively boring by comparison.