Shanghai 101: a Short Course in China ‘ s Most Populous City

image from Shanghai is China's most populous city. During its heyday in the 1920s and 30s, it was the most cosmopolitan city in the Far East.

Many of the buildings built during that heady era have survived. Thanks to the local government's desire to return the city to its former glory, many of these old buildings have been magnifi-cently restored, and they are beautifully lit up at night.

From the stately mansions of the French Concession to the imposing stone edifices lining the Bund, Shanghai is chock-a-block with architectural gems. Many of these restoerd buildings now house hotels, day spas, restaurants, boutiques, shopping malls, clubs, and art galleries A quick guide to some of Shanghai's more interesting buildings and neighborhoods follows.


This is Shanghai's answer to Hong Kong's Lan Kwai Fong. Whereas the former British Crown Colony's premier F&B district is organic, having evolved gradually from a gritty district with one gay bar (Dateline, where California Fitness now stands) and one disco (Disco Disco, around the corner and up the street) about 30 years ago, Xintiandi was the brain child of real estate developers who rescued a rundown neighborhood, beautifully restoring the old brick houses and turning them into restaurants, bars, sidewalk cafés, museums, and boutiques.

The Bund

The magnificent old Western buildings that grace the waterfront overlooking the Whampoa River were built during the 1920's and 30's, when Shanghai was the most cosmopolitan city in Asia.

Originally housing banks and insurance companies and hotels, these stone edifices have managed to survive the wrecker's ball thanks to the city's officials, who have insisted that they be renovated rather than torn down and redeveloped. Last time I was there, the waterfront was one giant “works in progress” site. I can't wait to revisit it and find out how things have turned out.

The Peace Hotel

Built in the Gothic style of the Chicago School about eight decades ago, the Fairmont Peace Hotel as it is now known was originally called the Cathay Hotel. It was occupied by the Japanese during World War II and housed government offices after Liberation in 1949. It was re-christened the Peace Hotel in 1956.

I had dinner and drinks there during my first trip to Shanghai several years back, and I was overwhelmed by its potential.

It has since undergone a three year restoration project. With 270 rooms and suites, it has six F&B outlets, including the world famous Jazz Club. Again, I can't wait to see how it has turned out.

Shanghai Concert Hall

Originally known as the Nanking Theatre, the Shanghai Concert Hall was moved 66.4 metres from its original site rather than torn down when a new highway running through the city was built a few years back. Built in 1930, the former movie theatre has been beautifully restored and now serves as the city's s premier performance venue.

Nanjing Road

Lined with stately buildings housing department stores, restaurants, theatres, shopping malls, sidewalk cafés, beer gardens, and boutiques, Nanjing Road has been turned into a pedestrian mall. It is the city's – arguably the country's – busiest shopping street. It stands at the heart of the old International Settlement.

Copyright: Michael Taylor Pictured: Skyscrapers overlook the restored gray brick buildings of Xintianti in Shanghai Photo

Courtesy of Xintiandi 


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