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Shanghai - Attractions

Selling abacuses, Shanghai


The former French Concession, is the area around Huaihai Lu and the Jinjiang Hotel, fast becoming the place to explore - especially for foodies. Huaihai Lu is all about shopping. Huge department stores blot out the sun along a road colourfully lined with flower boxes. The area around the hotel is littered with cafes, boutiques and the odd antique shop. Head down the side streets off Yan'an Lu for the tatty, down-at-heel fin de si├Ęcle architecture that is so evocative of yesteryear.

Nearby, the Yuyuan Gardens & Bazaar area of the Old Town offers some delicious lunchtime snacks and welcome greenery. The Pan family, rich Ming Dynasty officials, founded the gardens, which took 18 years (from 1559 to 1577) to be nurtured into existence, only to be decimated during the Opium War in 1842. Today they've been restored and attract hordes of Chinese tourists. The Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse, one of China's most famous Teahouses, is another attraction in the bazaar area. In the Yuyuan Bazaar itself, more than 100 specialty shops and restaurants jostle shoulders over narrow laneways and small squares in a mock 'olde Cathay' setting.

Nanjing Lu

Nanjing Donglu (Nanjing Road East) has long been China's golden mile. Once supreme, it's looking a bit frayed and has slipped a few notches to the emerging luxury option of Huaihai Lu, but laden shoppers still traipse past its cathedrals of commerce. A late 1990s renovation project pedestrianised the street from Xizang Lu to Henan Lu; tired shoppers can catch the tourist train that runs along its length.

Even back in the dull Communist era, Nanjing Donglu had a distinctly 'shop till you drop' feel about it. Nowadays, Esprit, Benetton and McDonald's have shouldered Marx and Mao into the draughty halls of little-visited museums - which was where the capitalist state was meant to end up.

Shanghai Museum

Of the Shanghai Museum's 120,000 works of art, one-third have never before been shown. While guiding you through the craft of millennia, the museum simultaneously draws you through the pages of Chinese history. Expect to spend half, if not a whole day here - it's one of the city's highlights.

The Bund

Formerly a towpath, the Bund gets its name from the Anglo-Indian term for the embankments used to prevent flooding. To the Europeans, the Bund was Shanghai's Wall Street, a place of feverish trading and an unabashed playground for Western business sophisticates. It remains the city's most impressive mile and is an eloquent reminder that Shanghai is a very foreign invention.

Still a grand strip of hotels, shopping streets and nightclubs, the Bund remains an intrinsic part of Shanghai's character. Constant throngs of Chinese and foreign tourists pad past the porticos of the Bund's grand edifices while the buildings themselves loom serenely, a vagabond assortment of neoclassical 1930s downtown New York styles, with a touch of monumental antiquity thrown in for good measure. The building identified by a crowning dome is the former Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) building, completed in 1923 with much pomp and ceremony. For many years it has housed the Shanghai People's Municipal Government. The HSBC has long been negotiating to get it back. Other Bund fixtures are being sold off, and will no doubt be dusted off and cleaned up.

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