The Bund

For over a mile, the Bund stretches alongside the banks of the Huangpu River. A multitude of elderly buildings face the water, where foreign banks and trading houses from countries all across the globe went about their business in the mid 1900s. Once a British settlement, the Shanghai Bund trails off to the north of the old city walls. It is one of the most famous, and significant, landmarks in all of China.

Though the Bund technically refers to an entire section of Shanghai, it's the riverfront promenade section of Zhongshan Road from which the region derives its fame. Especially at night, when the stately buildings are lit like a subdued Vegas overlooking 10 lanes of traffic speeding to and from the heart of Shanghai, the Bund is one of the most powerful images of modern China.

There 52 buildings that characterize this stretch of road are an amalgamation of a number of architectural styles. You'll pass examples of Gothic, Baroque, Neo-Classical, and Art Deco before reaching the gardens of Huangpu Park, the end of the Shanghai Bund. Once bronze statues lined the street, depicting colonial figures and other foreign dignitaries, but those were removed years ago, to be replaced by a single statue: that of Chen Yi, Shanghai's first communist mayor.

Though the foreign banks have long since disappeared, the buildings continue to house the most powerful financial institutions in the country. The HSBC building, possibly the highlight of the entire promenade, is now home to the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank. At the structure's inception, it was considered the most luxurious building in all of the Orient. It was also blocked off from most travelers. You can also find more than one hotel in the Bund Shanghai. The Peace Hotel and Broadway Mansions are interlaced with the grandiose banks, making them one of the most expensive places to stay in Shanghai. The Tung Feng Hotel used to be the Shanghai Club—at one time it was home to the longest bar in the world, available (of course) to only high-level British males.

To stumble down the street with your neck craned upward is a must for any tourists, but for visitors who want to get a slightly different taste of the Shanghai Bund, you can rent take a boat trip down the Huangpu, all the way to the mouth of the Yangtze. The entire tour can last upwards of three hours, and boats leave regularly from the Shiliupu Pier, just south of the Bund Shanghai.

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