Fifteen million people call Shanghai China home. For years it was the country's biggest and busiest port, the gateway to and from the West, not to mention the Yangtze River, which meets the ocean in the outskirts of the city. Because of this, the city is the chief metropolitan base in the country, its aging streets greeting millions of travelers per year just as they have done decade after decade. In fact, Shanghai China is often the first city many visitors encounter—many of the cheapest and quickest flights begin and end here.
The city itself is a barrage of colors, sounds and, above all, motion. Nothing seems to stay still in this city, not even the shops. As the largest financial and commercial center in the country, the city seems to be expanding exponentially. It's a bit strange to find such rapid growth in what was once a fiercely communist area, but that's just the name of the game in Shanghai China. The Pudong New Area is an important special economic zone in China. As the most prosperous business locations in China, Shanghai leads all the others in both retail and exports. Larger than the rest of Shanghai combined, what used to be acres of boggy farmland now dominates the city.
That's not to say the city hasn't embraced tourism. Shanghai China has a mild climate year round, has practical beaches within its city limits and features a number of popular Chinese festivals and holidays, including the Longhua Temple Bell Striking, the Longhua Temple Fair, the Nanhui County Peach Blossom Festival, the International Tea Culture Festival, the Orange Festival, even the Shanghai Tourism festival.
But a real Shanghai tour does not hinge on these festivities—there's plenty of things to see and do in the city at any time of the year. The Bund continues to be one of the most visited architectural landmarks in all of China. It is an imposing row of buildings that were once the country's version of Wall Street, back when Europeans controlled Shanghai. It still houses a number of important financial companies, but the interiors of the giant structures are hardly the draw here, not to mention the views of the city at night from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower are magnificent.
Another reminder of Shanghai's past is what is known as Old Shanghai. A winding collection of colonial lanes, it features the Yu Gardens amongst its landmarks. Scenic Frenchtown is a staple of Shanghai tourism, where shoppers go to do their thing, while others can wander the quaint streets featuring Art Deco apartments, plenty of examples of neoclassicism and villas that evoke a multicultural mix of European, Chinese, even American influences. St. Ignatius Cathedral draws those that seek the stoicism of religious architecture, while Sun Yatsen's Former Residence pulls in plenty of foreign and domestic travelers alike, just another example as to why Shanghai travel is so popular. A more recently constructed (during the twentieth century) tourist attraction is the Jade Buddha Temple, one of Shanghai's only active temples in the city. Located in the northwest corner of town, its centerpiece is a six foot high jade Buddha that is supposed to weigh over a ton - a procession of both tourists and worshippers come and go on an almost constant basis here.
Top image: melvindewildt (flickr)