Shanghai Travel Guide

Shanghai City Overview

Exotic Shanghai is the place where modern China shows its most glamorous side.

The name of the second most important city of the oldest surviving civilization in the world – a port city on the Huangpu River, where the Yangtze empties into the East China Sea – literally means “over the ocean”.

Shanghai is a fast-paced city with towering skyscrapers, with its own distinctive history. Opposite the original settlement of Puxi on the other side of the river is the future Shanghai with the Pudong New Area. The iconic Orient Pearl Tower, the huge Art Deco-style JinMao Tower and the towering 101-story World Financial Center and the Park Hyatt Hotel are located there.

Beijing may be more mysterious, but Shanghai offers visitors a more substantial, almost mythical atmosphere. You won’t find creaking temples and dusty old squares here, but in Shanghai you can see modern China in all its glory. At the end of a trip to China, the city offers history-weary tourists the opportunity to dine in extravagant restaurants, stop at modern cocktail bars and stroll in dazzling shopping centers before resting in the country’s most impressive hotels.

Important facts

Area code: (0) 21

Population: 27,058,479 (2020)

Latitude: 31.235797

Longitude: 121.483230

Weather in Shanghai

The climate is characterized by extremes. The winters are bitterly cold, the summers hot and humid. In the summer months, typhoons often cross the city, which usually bring very heavy rainfall. The best time to visit is the spring and autumn months.

City History of Shanghai

Until the Song Dynasty (960-1126) the area was marshland. Then it was populated by Mongolian and other Nordic nomadic peoples who invaded the country. By 1291, Shanghai had developed into a county seat.

The city wall was built in 1553 (interestingly, to protect the city against Japanese pirates), followed in 1685 by a customs office. Shanghai only became the center of attention when it was captured by a British naval fleet during the First Opium War in June 1842.

The Nanking Treaty, which opened five cities to western colonial trade, expanded Shanghai to include areas controlled by the three colonial powers, Britain, France and the United States.

The British and American concessions were soon summarized as the so-called international settlement. The uncomfortable coexistence between the China of the Qing Dynasty with Shanghai as a trade center on the one hand and the Western powers on the other gave the city a rapid development for almost a century. Today, the Yu Garden in the old town is everything that reminds of the pre-colonial era in Shanghai. Colonialism is evidenced by the architecture of the former French concession and the elegant old buildings on People’s Square and on the Waterbund promenade (in short: Bund).

By 1937, Shanghai had become the fifth largest city in the world and China’s most modern metropolis, in which numerous Eastern and Western cultures coexisted. Thanks to its colonial status, Shanghai had been spared the political conflicts that raged in the rest of the country. In August of the same year, however, the first – Chinese – bombs fell on the foreign concessions.

An exodus of foreign settlers followed, and when the war broke out in the Pacific in 1941, the Japanese had few foreigners left for their internment camps. The British and the Americans gave up their colonial rights in 1943 in favor of their new allies, the Chinese. After the Japanese surrender in 1945, China took power in Shanghai.

Only four years later, however, the city fell into the hands of the Chinese Red Army. The Shanghai companies were nationalized under communist leadership, and the city was not very popular with the political elite. That changed with the Cultural Revolution, when Mao Zedong made the metropolis the central base of his “gang of four”. and campaigned against the leadership in Beijing. Shanghai remained the center of the cultural revolution and its excesses until Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. The reconstruction after that was slow.

When Deng Xiaoping gave free rein to the powers of capitalism in the late 1980s, Shanghai seized his chance. With the support of the government, for which Shanghai already played a central role in China’s economic expansion at that time, the metropolis has developed at breakneck speed and, thanks to its accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001, benefits from massive investments, municipal reconstruction and economic growth Renaissance.

Today Shanghai is by far the richest city in China. Hundreds of futuristic-looking skyscrapers, dazzling restaurants, bars, hotels as well as urban prosperity, a high degree of brand awareness and a clever shopping culture make Shanghai a rival to other Asian cities such as  Hong Kong,  Singapore  and  Bangkok.

The Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix took place in Shanghai for the first time in 2004, and in the same year, Time magazine named the city the hippest metropolis in the world. In 2007 it hosted the first Special Olympics in Asia and in 2010 the Expo Shanghai.

Shanghai Pudong skyline at sunset

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