The Bund Sightseeing Tour, Shanghai

The Bund Sightseeing Tour (Self Guided), Shanghai

The Bund is a waterfront area and a protected historical district in central Shanghai. The term "bund" was borrowed into English from Hindi and originally referred to a dyke or embankment. The Chinese name for the Bund is unrelated in origin: it literally means "outer bank", and distinguishes this part of the riverfront from the "inner bank" adjacent to the Old Town of Shanghai.

The area has a significant European influence, with the style of many structures most comparable to that of European cities, particularly Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical, Romanesque, Art Deco, and Renaissance architecture. Additionally, some of the city's top eateries are located there. From the 1860s to the 1930s, it was the rich and powerful center of the foreign establishment in Shanghai, operating as a legally protected treaty port.

This row of 52 beautiful buildings has for decades facilitated economic relations between China and other countries. One of the notable landmarks in the Bund is the Waibadu Bridge, which connects the historic district with Pudong across the river.

The Former British Consulate, dating back to the late 19th century, is a testament to Shanghai's colonial past. Nearby, the Bank of Indochina Building is a beautiful example of neoclassical architecture, reflecting the city's international trading history.

The Old Bank of China Building, Peace Hotel, Chartered Bank Building, Russo-Chinese Bank Building, and The Customs House are all striking structures that tell the story of foreign presence and financial influence in old Shanghai. Each building boasts unique design elements that blend Eastern and Western styles.

The HSBC Building, The Great Northern Telegraph Company Building, and the China Merchants Bank Building also add to the area's charm with their architectural grandeur, showcasing the city's transformation over the years.

Visiting the Bund area provides a fascinating journey through Shanghai's history, where East meets West in a captivating architectural and cultural blend. From strolling along the riverside promenade to admiring the historic sites, this area offers a rich and immersive experience for history enthusiasts, architecture aficionados, and anyone interested in Shanghai's vibrant past.
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The Bund Sightseeing Tour Map

Guide Name: The Bund Sightseeing Tour
Guide Location: China » Shanghai (See other walking tours in Shanghai)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Waibadu Bridge
  • Former British Consulate
  • Bank of Indochina Building
  • Old Bank of China Building
  • Peace Hotel
  • Chartered Bank Building
  • Russo-Chinese Bank Building
  • The Customs House
  • HSBC Building
  • The Great Northern Telegraph Company Building
  • China Merchants Bank Building
Waibadu Bridge

1) Waibadu Bridge

One of the distinctive landmarks of the city of Shanghai, the Waibadu Bridge is the first steel truss bridge built in China. It connects the Huangpu and Hongkou districts at the confluence of the Suzhou and Huang Pu Rivers.

The Waibadu Bridge gets its name from the word in the Shanghai dialect for crossing a bridge without paying. It was funded by a group of European investors led by a British businessman, Charles Wills. At first, its name was Wills Bridge. The steel bridge was completed in 1907. It stands 106.7 meters long and 52.16 meters wide and is the largest bridge made of steel in Shanghai. It was designed by the Singapore based British firm, Howarth Erskine Ltd., and remains the only surviving camelback steel truss bridge in the country.

After 1940, the bridge was repaired and reinforced four times. The last major reconstruction was in 1999 when its strength was increased to sustain increased vehicular traffic and to showcase the bridge as an important tourist attraction in Shanghai. Waibadu Bridge celebrated its centenary in 2007. It was again restored to accommodate both vehicular and pedestrian traffic in 2009. Today, it is fitted with modern LED lighting with flashing colourful lights that make the bridge spectacular at night while reducing electricity consumption.
Former British Consulate

2) Former British Consulate

One of the earliest buildings to be constructed on the Bund in Shanghai, the former British Consulate, is a living memorial to the heydays of the British Empire in China. The elaborate neo renaissance style structure also served as the law court of the city at the time.

The British Consulate building was constructed between 1871 and 1873. It housed the British consulate that was the center of British trade and investments in China until the Japanese occupation in 1941. It was restored to its former function briefly after the communists took over Shanghai and in 1967 the consulate was closed. The building had no Chinese features and the doors faced the European Settlement to symbolize the hostile attitude of the British to the Qing Dynasty and the locals.

The British Consulate building fell into disrepair and remained neglected until the early 1980s when it was converted into a Friendship Store. The main customers of the store were foreign tourists who came to buy Chinese products. Later, it housed various government departments. In the 1990s the building suffered neglect again. In a bid to revitalize and restore the area, the British Consulate building was refurbished in the mid 2000s and became a guest house. Today, the British Consulate building is partially owned by the Shanghai Peninsular Hotel and managed by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group. It is the venue for conferences, functions and events.
Bank of Indochina Building

3) Bank of Indochina Building

The renaissance structure called the Bank of Indochina Building stands at No:24 the Bund, Shanghai. The bank was established by the French to manage their trade interests and financial assets in China. As a French colonial bank, The Bank of Indochina also held sway over properties in the French colonies of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. After the success of the Qing Dynasty in quelling the Boxer rebellion, European countries like France that helped the rulers were rewarded by the Boxer Indemnity. The indemnity allowed them to set up trade facilities in the city. The bank shifted its entire operations to Shanghai from the French colonies in 1889 to facilitate French trade with China.

As trade between the two countries increased, a large building was required for its offices and the present structure was built. Designed and built by architectural firm, Atkinson and Dallas, The Bank of Indochina building opened its doors in 1914. It had an Italian renaissance style and a typical French interior design. The building is divided into three parts horizontally and vertically with a baroque style arched gate and Ionic columns.

The Bank of Indochina closed its doors in Shanghai after the Japanese occupation in 1941. Today, the building houses the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Everbright Bank.
Old Bank of China Building

4) Old Bank of China Building

The Old Bank of China Building is one of the highest structures on the Bund. Its stunted appearance is because the owner of the neighbouring building, Victor Sassoon insisted that no other structure in Shanghai could be higher than his.

The Old Bank of China Building was built on the site of an old German Club. It was once the headquarters of the Bank of China. Today, it houses the bank’s Shanghai branch. The site was purchased in 1930 and the design was formulated jointly by Shanghai based firm Palmer and Turner and the chief architect of the bank, Lu Quianshou. The local Dao Kee construction company built the structure in 18 months after the laying of the foundation stone in 1936.

Political upheavals in the city resulted in the Bank of China moving into the building in 1946, ten years after its completion. The structure has a 50,000 square meter floor space. It has 17 floors, two of which are underground. The building has a traditional Chinese style and is built of smooth Jinshan stones. The old Bank of China building is unique because it was the first Chinese owned and built structure on the Bund where all other buildings were constructed by foreign nations.
Peace Hotel

5) Peace Hotel (must see)

Standing proudly at the eastern end of Nanjing Road is the renowned Fairmont Peace Hotel, an iconic structure on the Bund. Originally known as the Cathay Hotel, it was inaugurated in 1929 and boasts a striking Art Deco exterior and an iconic green copper dome, both of which have recently been meticulously restored to their former splendor.

Dubbed the "Claridges of the Far East," this spot was a pre-war Shanghai hotspot, hosting celebrities like Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and George Bernard Shaw. It's even rumored that Noel Coward penned "Private Lives" here in just four days while battling the flu. Owned by opium tycoon Sir Victor Sassoon, the hotel hosted many dignitaries and diplomats. It was known for its pioneering amenities, including in-room telephones, which outpaced European hotels at the time. With six floors and 120 guest rooms, it was also the first hotel in Shanghai to feature two elevators. The lavish offerings extended to private plumbing systems, marble baths with silver fixtures and enamel-coated lavatories imported from Britain.

Today, in addition to catering to upscale clientele, the hotel also draws history and architecture enthusiasts. Its Art Deco lobby, on-site Peace Museum, and the Old Shanghai reading room filled with a diverse collection of memorabilia, including Qing-period porcelain and bronze items, black-and-white photographs of days gone by, silverware, and an array of books, are notable attractions.

The ground floor café provides an excellent vantage point for people-watching from window-side seats. Meanwhile, the rooftop bar on the 9th floor offers a pleasant spot for evening drinks with a captivating view of the illuminated Bund and Pudong skyline. If you're in the mood for some leisurely classical jazz and the opportunity to enjoy a cocktail while listening to nostalgic tunes performed by a spirited group of octogenarians, make your way to the hotel's Jazz Bar, reminiscent of the 1920s and 30s, featuring the Old Jazz Band. A quality experience is virtually guaranteed!

Those who want to take a guided tour can book it either at the hotel's museum or online. Some tours are offered in English and come at a charge.
Chartered Bank Building

6) Chartered Bank Building

The Building was built for the offices of the British Chartered Bank at No:18, the Bund in Shanghai. It was the earliest foreign bank in China.

The site of the Chartered Bank Building was purchased from another bank called the Oriental Bank in 1893. The structure was designed by Tug Wilson in a neo Greek style. The steel framed building rests on two rafts, one for the main structure and another for one at the back used for the treasuries. The lion’s heads on the bronze lamps were the symbols of the British trade dominance in the area. The interiors were clad with Italian marble. The entire floor, walls and ceiling were shipped from England and erected on the site. The building was inaugurated by Sidney Barton, the British Consul and thrown open for business in 1923.

After 80 years of neglect, the building was taken over by Taiwanese developers who restored the entire structure to its former glory. The restoration was overseen by Venetian designer Pilippo Gabbiani who added modern facilities in harmony with the original fittings in the building. Today, the Chartered Bank building houses high end boutiques, branches of well known brands and a space where creative exhibitions are held.
Russo-Chinese Bank Building

7) Russo-Chinese Bank Building

The Russo Chinese Bank Building is an elaborate renaissance structure on the Shanghai Bund. It was the first building in Shanghai with elevators, tiles, sanitary facilities and modern amenities like heating and electric generator.

The Russo Chinese Bank Building was designed by architect Heinrich Bake of the German firm, Becker and Baedecker. The brick and concrete structure was built between 1901 and 1905. It has three floors and has a floor space of 1460 square meters. Glazed ceramic tiles cover the outside walls of the building and the entrance is guarded by an ornate iron gate. The interior has a spectacular central hall with marble staircases. The three floors look down into the hall with a coloured glass ceiling. The third floor had two large beautiful apartments that served as residences for the managers of the bank.

The bank ceased operation in 1937 during the Japanese occupation and the building was put to many uses over the years. Today, it houses the Shanghai Foreign Exchange Trade Center. A small portion of the building is occupied by the Three Gun Store selling knitted undergarments manufactured by the State run Three Gun Factory that now produces and sells children’s garments for the Disney Brand.
The Customs House

8) The Customs House

The Customs House was built by the British on the Shanghai Bund as the office of the British Governor general of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. The structure is still used as a customs house and is regarded along with its neighbour, the HSBC building as symbols of the Bund and the city of Shanghai.

The Customs House was designed by Palmer and Turner Architects in 1925 and completed in 1927. The building occupies an area of 5722 square meters and has a floor space of 32,680 square meters. The structure has a Greek revival neoclassical design. The exterior is made of red brick and granite. The grand main hall is decorated with marble and gold leaf with an octagonal dome surrounded by mosaics. It has eight floors and a clock tower that offers spectacular views of the Bund and the city.

The notable feature of the Shanghai Customs House is the clock tower. The structure, inspired by the British Big Ben has four faces with over a 100 pieces of glass. JB Joyce and Company designed and created the mechanism and the clock was shipped to Shanghai in 1927. It remains, till date, the largest clock in Asia.
HSBC Building

9) HSBC Building

The HSBC Building at No. 10, The Bund, Shanghai was at the time of its completion, the second largest building in the world after the Bank of Scotland Building in Edinburgh. It is now home to the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

The HSBC or Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation first occupied the ground floor of the Peace Hotel in Shanghai. As the business of the Bank grew the premises became too small for HSBC. They purchased a three storey building that stood at No. 10 called the Foreign Club. The new elaborate structure was built between 1921 and 1923 and was the HSBC headquarters until 1955. During World War II, it was occupied by the Japanese Yokohama Specie Bank and later by the Shanghai Municipality.

The HSBC building was designed by the British, Palmer and Turner architects and surveyors in consultation with Chinese Feng Shui Masters. The structure had a neoclassical style with ornate interiors of marble and Monel. The entire building was fitted with air conditioning and heating equipment. It has a spectacular dome with 8 mosaic murals depicting the cities where the main branches of the HSBC bank were located. The Pudong Development Bank took over the building in 1997 and funded its restoration. The only changes made were the removal of the HSBC emblem which was replaced by that of the Pudong Development Bank.
The Great Northern Telegraph Company Building

10) The Great Northern Telegraph Company Building

This Beaux Arts Style building located at No: 7, the Bund, Shanghai first housed the offices of the Danish Great Northern Telegraph Company. The first telephone switch in Shanghai was installed here.

Construction of the Great Northern Telegraph Company Building began in the early 1900s. In 1905, a fire broke out and delayed the work. The building was finally opened in 1908. The Great Northern Telegraph Company was the first to provide telephone and telegraph services in Shanghai. They occupied the first floor and the front of the building had luxurious suites for the residence of its manager, engineer and accountant. Later, the British owned Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and the American owned Commercial Cable Telegraph Company also had their offices in the building. The renaissance style Beaux Arts structure was designed by the firm of architects, Atkinson and Dallas. Some of the unique early telegraph equipment is still available including a pneumatic tube system used in handling telegrams.

The Chinese Commercial Bank moved into the building in 1922. From 1995, the Bangkok Bank has occupied a part of the building. The other part has become the Royal Consulate of Thailand and the residence of the Thai Consul General.
China Merchants Bank Building

11) China Merchants Bank Building

This China Merchants Bank Building is one of the Bund’s oldest European style structures. It was built in 1897 as the headquarters of Russel and Co, one of the most prosperous among American Companies with operations in Shanghai during the 19th century. It is also known as the Yuangfang Building.

The China Merchants Bank Building was occupied by banks after it ceased to be the headquarters of Russel and Co. The Imperial Bank of China and the Commercial bank of China had their offices here at different periods. The China Merchants Bank that had its offices in the building was the first bank in China established entirely with Chinese funds. It was also a hospital belonging to the Shanghai Changjiang Navigation Company. Today, it is owned by the Hong Kong based International Enterprise Company.

The Gothic style structure is made of brick and stone. It has four floors and the windows have a typical Gothic flower lattice. The third and fourth floors have small steeples. At one time the structure had a spire with five large crosses. Today the upper floors of the China Merchants Bank Building have been converted into a high end hotel with a classy restaurant for fine dining.

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