City Orientation Walk I, Shanghai (Self Guided)

Perhaps more than any other Chinese city, Shanghai deserves to be called the “face of modern China.” Opened for centuries to foreign trade, the city has turned into the country's largest and most populated metropolis. The variety of local attractions, both ancient and modern, is enormous and includes the historic Bund area, massive skyscrapers, museums, theaters and more. This walking tour highlights some of the top attractions of central Shanghai.
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City Orientation Walk I Map

Guide Name: City Orientation Walk I
Guide Location: China » Shanghai (See other walking tours in Shanghai)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Author: emma
People's Square and Park

1) People's Square and Park (must see)

People’s Square is at the very heart of Shanghai, its exact center and its showcase spot, home to world-class museums, a Grand Theater, five-star hotels, a large water fountain, as well as the imposing Shanghai City Hall in the middle of it all. The buildings were all raised in the late 1990s with each one making a significant architectural statement meant to symbolize modern Shanghai's economic and cultural progress.

Few places in China have such a concentration of great sights and such beautiful skylines all around, which makes it also a good meeting point and a place where many Chinese gather for celebrating various events. Like everywhere else, there’s zero litter and plenty of benches give every opportunity to use it as a space to relax.

Although there is little in People’s Square itself to remind of its past, this once was the finest racecourse in Asia, where millionaires used to ride their steeds. The wartime Japanese then used the racetrack as a holding camp and the post-war Chinese nationalist government turned it into a sports arena. By 1952, the new Communist government banned racing and gambling altogether and proceeded to pave over part of the racetrack, while turning the rest into a recreation area, called the People’s Park.

The park is pleasantly landscaped, with pretty tree-lined paths and ponds, and one may get to see the locals as they walk, exercise, or fly kites, and there's a separate children's playground to send the kids into for some pretty cool rides and activities.

Below the surface, don't miss the underground area – a fantastic labyrinth of galleries with plenty of colorful stores, a subway station, as well as a decent food court if you're peckish.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Shanghai Museum

2) Shanghai Museum (must see)

To take a very close and comprehensive look at many of the world's most well preserved exquisite artifacts, head over to the Shanghai Museum. Opened in 1952, it holds one of the best displays of ancient Chinese art and cultural exhibits with around one million pieces from China’s neolithic period to the Qing dynasty – a span of over 5,000 years.

The building’s form is based on an ancient Chinese pot called “ding”, and its layout is inspired by traditional cosmogony, with a square base to represent earth and a rounded roof to represent heaven. The inside houses 10 permanent galleries as well as 3 rotating exhibitions from around the world – all with well-displayed pieces that you're free to snap photos of without flash.

After a 15-minute wait to pass through security, this incredible museum is totally free to explore – though, due to a tight schedule, you may have limited time. Guided tours can be arranged and there are also audio guides for those who prefer to explore independently.

According to the brochure, "There are nearly 130,000 pieces of national treasures covering 21 categories: bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, jade and ivory works, bamboo and lacquer wares, oracle bones, seals, coins, and artifacts of the ethnic minorities." The best stuff, on the whole, is on the ground and top floors.

One of the star attractions is, of course, the ground-floor gallery of bronzes, some of which date back to 2200 BC. Many visitors are unfamiliar with this early aspect of Chinese art and therefore the exhibit may seem less appealing than others; however, the diversity of shapes and versatility is striking and the intricacy of the metalwork is evidence that the Chinese society of the time had a sophisticated level of technology.

The ceramics gallery that takes over the first floor proudly displays pieces from every Chinese dynasty, while the painting gallery on the 2nd floor features amazingly naturalistic images of animals that are very easy to respond to – especially the lively images of birds.

The top floor contains the most striking and colorful gallery, dedicated to the many Chinese minorities, which will likely come as a shock to anyone perceiving China as a monoculture. Next door on the same floor, the Ming and Qing dynasty furniture is more interesting than it sounds, and don't forget the bookstore on-site with a wide variety of beautiful books on China!

Clean bathrooms on each floor, a tea house on the 2nd floor, and don't forget the bookstore on the 1st floor with a wide variety of beautiful books on China!

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 9am-5pm (last entry at 4pm)
Free admission
Sight description based on wikipedia
Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall

3) Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall (must see)

To make better sense of urban Shanghai and follow its development over the years, head over to the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, the building shaped as a white magnolia, Shanghai's official flower. Sporting four inverted tents for a roof, it looks to the future both in its design and its contents, and is most interesting for the insight it gives into the grand ambitions and the vision of the city planners. It is actually a good idea to include this place early in your visit to Shanghai, as it provides plenty of information on the history and future, from geology to transportation, and you'll also pick lots of tips and facts to share when you get back from your travels.

The Yangzi River delta is currently the world’s fastest-growing urban area and that is well reflected on the 3rd floor which houses the world’s largest model. Sprawling across 100 sq meters, the remarkable model can be viewed from a gallery above and depicts the Shanghai of the not-too-distant future (if all goes to plan). Unsurprisingly, it takes the form of a parade of skyscrapers and apartment blocks, including ones as yet unbuilt, plus all the urban transportation systems, detailed at a scale of 1:2000.

In a video room next door you can get taken on a virtual 3D trip around this plan, called the “Journey of Wonder in Shanghai”, which some are delighted to watch not just once but twice, and maybe even more times. For another excellent view, this time around as limited to People’s Square outside, don't miss the very pleasant top-floor café and gift shop.

Other floors have maps of more construction to come, and a collection of old photos of colonial-era Shanghai, which is most interesting if you’ve already grown somewhat familiar with the new look of the streets. If you're still fresh to the city, not to worry – once you've browsed Shanghai in this Exhibition Hall, you'll be ready to go into the details of actually visiting the city, so carry a notebook with you to take notes of the places you want to see.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5pm (last admission at 4 pm)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road)

4) Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road) (must see)

Nanjing Road has traditionally been Shanghai’s premier shopping street, with all types of stores attracting over a million daily visitors. The street is divided into two distinct halves – the East Road and the West Road. Together, the two parts total close to 10 km (6 miles), making it the world’s longest and busiest pedestrian shopping street.

The Nanjing East Road has always been the “shopper’s paradise”, housing all the major stores even before the 1950s. One of them is now the Shanghai No. 1 Department Store, which continues to attract thousands of people with its exotic window displays.

Once the sun has gone down, the East Road is a fun sight to watch, with all the malls laying side by side trying to grasp your attention by lighting up all the lights and countless screens they have on them, as though electricity bills were never a concern.

Some may develop a hypersensitivity towards the scammers and especially the touts which seem to buzz around endlessly on their nifty skating shoes, but perhaps that's where local Chinese are good at practicing their Zen mode of ignoring all these inconveniences and choosing to see what they want to.

If you feel overwhelmed, then you'll probably miss out the details or the facts that the buildings have been around for a few hundred years – worth admiring also because they're a rare combination of East and West during the 1930s when Shanghai was the foremost trade agent between the two. You may also miss out the fact that the newer malls are worth exploring, too, as they reflect a side of modern Chinese “millennials” and their pursuits in cute luxury items.

Don't expect to see stalls or markets as in other parts of Shanghai, as the shopping areas are primarily large department stores of every variety imaginable. Mostly everything here is on big scale, including the world’s largest Starbucks store – known as the Starbucks Reserve Roastery – that covers three floors of a building! Incredibly, the store can serve 7,000 customers a day, with up to 1,000 at a time planting themselves on its chairs.

In daytime, there are mini-trains that go up and down Nanjing Road, part of the way, and these are an interesting way to see the area, so take them from one end to the other, to avoid walking if you're tired or have kids in tow.
On a foodie note, try the food court in the New World City Plaza. Huge, pretty, clean, numerous stores, good prices. And the LEGO shop on its ground floor is a haven for LEGO lovers.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Peace Hotel

5) Peace Hotel (must see)

Dominating the eastern end of Nanjing Road is the most legendary building on the Bund – the landmark Fairmont Peace Hotel. Opened in 1929 as the luxurious Cathay Hotel, the building has a striking Art Deco façade and iconic green copper dome that were both recently restored to their former glory.

Nicknamed “The Claridges of the Far East”, this was the place to be seen in pre-war Shanghai: Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and George Bernard Shaw were among its celebrity guests and Noel Coward is said to have penned “Private Lives” in four days here while sick with the flu. Owned by property tycoon Sir Victor Sassoon, whose business empire was built on opium trading, the place also hosted many dignitaries and foreign envoys, boasting innovations such as room telephones before any European hotels. With six floors and 120 guest rooms, it was the first hotel in Shanghai to have two elevators. Among other luxuries were its private plumbing system, the marble baths with silver taps, as well as enamel-coated lavatories imported from Britain.

The Peace Hotel today has many options for those not staying here. Firstly, it's a great place to stop for history and architecture buffs. Stunning Art Deco permeates the magnificent lobby and upper floors through elegant fixtures and wall decorations which are a pleasure to look at.

Narrow stairs lead to the Peace Museum, furnished as an Old Shanghai reading room and open to visitors. The long, narrow room displays eclectic memorabilia from the hotel's three periods of history, including porcelain and a bronze from the Qing Dynasty, black and white photos, old menus, silver settings, information on famous guests, such as Charles Chaplin and Mohammad Ali; as well as books through which visitors can browse.

The ground floor café has great people-watching seats by the windows, and the bar on the roof of the 9th floor is good for evening drinks with a nice view of the Bund and the lights of Pudong. In addition, the hotel's Jazz Bar, reminiscent of those in the '20s and '30s, features the Old Jazz Band, a group of octogenarians who play slow-paced classic jazz while tourists swirl to the nostalgic rhythms and sip their cocktails.

Those who want to take a tour of the hotel can reserve a space at the museum or online. Some tours are offered in English and there is a charge.
If you stay here be sure to take a tour early in your stay to learn the history of this iconic place.
Sight description based on wikipedia
The Bund (Waitan)

6) The Bund (Waitan) (must see)

If you want to understand why China has become a world financial center, The Bund is the place to be. Originally a towpath for dragging barges of rice, it was the site of the first foreign settlement in Shanghai, gradually turned into the city's business district where important banks and trading companies have set themselves up to reap the rewards of international trade. The area was restored to attract tourism in the 1990s and visitors can stroll through the buildings along the waterfront, all with an interesting array of styles reflecting the nations who wanted to have a finger in the Shanghai pie.

Back in the day, The Bund was also the location of the consulates of Russia and Britain, along with an English club and a Masonic lodge. Before the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, there were also many statues of prominent colonial and European statesmen, replaced today by a bronze statue of Chen Yi (the first mayor of Shanghai after the communist takeover) and a Monument to the People’s Heroes at the Northern end.

The western Bund is older and has impressive colonial-style buildings, chief of which must be the neo-classical Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Signal Tower that was maintained by the Jesuits for the benefit of local shipping. For some Chinese, this side is a reminder of a century of foreign domination, but it has now entered a new golden age as a prime dining, entertainment and shopping hub, thus sparking newfound pride.

Across the water is a view of the now-famous Shanghai skyline with its iconic architect-styled skyscrapers, built in different colors, shapes and heights. Together, these are a powerful symbol to confirm that Shanghai is indeed the financial powerhouse of modern China and whoever wants to be a serious player around these parts would need to have a presence here. Naturally, this is also where the evening light show is most impressive, so be sure to arrive after sunset, but before 10pm when the lights shut off.

Whenever walking along The Bund, try going up to the high-ground promenade right beside the river from which you get a much better look at the two sides.
Another tip would be to go up one of the high towers to the east of the Huangpu River and see from their observation decks this great stretch along the riverfront.
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Shanghai, China

Create Your Own Walk in Shanghai

Create Your Own Walk in Shanghai

Creating your own self-guided walk in Shanghai is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Shanghai Museums Tour

Shanghai Museums Tour

With its architectural diversity, powerful economic hubs and a vibrant social life, Shanghai is highly recognized as the symbol of modern China. It is also a city boasting a rich culture and a large number of museums that show the city's devotion to its history. Get ready to explore some attractive cultural sites of Shanghai in the next self-guided tour.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.2 km
The Bund Sightseeing Tour

The Bund Sightseeing Tour

The Bund is one of the most famous attractions in all of Shanghai. It represents the historic and architectural heritage of one of the most important ports in China. This row of 52 beautiful buildings has for decades facilitated economic relations between China and other countries. Take the following self guided walk to witness the historic buildings along the Bund of Shanghai.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 km
City Orientation Walk II

City Orientation Walk II

Shanghai's old town is a vast area, once walled off when the city was split between foreign concessions. On this walk, you'll get a chance to appreciate the traditional ancient architecture of Shanghai en route to the large open-air market and delightful Yuyuan gardens, plus explore the trendy Xintiandi and Tianzifang districts for the exquisite shopping and entertainment the city has to...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 km
Souvenirs Shopping Walk

Souvenirs Shopping Walk

Leaving Shanghai without calling local specialty shops and procuring something truly original to bring home, as a souvenir, would be a pity. Nanjing Road – Asia's longest and perhaps most famous thoroughfare – is a popular destination replete with shopping and dining opportunities. Lovers of antiques will find Shanghai's Old City particularly interesting. Take this walk to explore...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 km
Places of Worship in Shanghai

Places of Worship in Shanghai

The flourishing city of Shanghai is made up of a broad mix of cultures, with a large Western influence. This metropolis features a great number of places of worship that reflect the religious dedications of many of these cultures. Most of the churches and cathedrals are located in the central areas of the city, so they are surrounded by other wonderful, cultural landmarks. With this tour, you will...  view more

Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.8 km
Children's Entertainment Tour in Shanghai

Children's Entertainment Tour in Shanghai

Shanghai is one of the largest cities in the world, a destination packed with modern architecture, historic sites, museums and other attractions. It is also one of the most fun cities in China with attractions for children, including amusement parks, aquariums and one of China's best zoos. This tour guide highlights some of the fun places in Shanghai for the little travelers.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Shanghai for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Shanghai has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Shanghai, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.