Sleepless in Shanghai

Updated: 2012-05-25 09:06

(China Daily European Weekly)

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Sleepless in Shanghai
The Bund is a physical reflection of Shanghai's rise. Shen jingwei / for China Daily

Sleepless in Shanghai

Leading Chinese city continues to draw dream seekers

As the largest city in China and one of its most vibrant urban centers, Shanghai continues to attract visitors from home and abroad eager to explore this eastern metropolis.

Once a paradise for thrill-seekers and adventurers, Shanghai has regained its economic and cultural glory in the past few decades. It is both a financial center and a global port. The city of more than 23 million people also made worldwide headlines in 2010 when it hosted the World Expo.

Shanghai is about pleasure as much as business. Many say its real face lies in the contrast between modern skyscrapers and the shikumen, or local residential compounds.

Shanghai is the birthplace of Haipai culture, which combines southern culture with Western culture and represents as what admirers consider to be the soul of a city that never sleeps.

Here are a few initial offerings to experience this pearl of the Orient.

1. Tianzifang

Named after an ancient Chinese painter, Tianzifang was a little known residential area until 2006 when it was renovated as a space for art galleries, cafes and fine restaurants. All sorts of creative businesses have also sprung up in the area in the past few years.

Chen Yifei, one of the most recognized Chinese contemporary painters, has set up a studio here.

Many say Tianzifang is perfect for hanging out and gift shopping, as well as people watching. Despite its rapid development, Tianzifang has maintained its original flavor.

2. Jing'an Temple

Located in the busy West Nanjing Road, Jing'an Temple offers "peace and tranquility", as its name suggests, amid the insanely swift urban pace of life.

The temple was built more than a thousand years ago and has been relocated and renovated several times.

Jing'an is visited by Buddhists and tourists praying for good luck and peace, and can be extremely crowded during the New Year festivities. The temple consists of many halls and houses the largest sitting jade Buddha in China.

The compound is surrounded by modern office buildings and luxurious shopping centers, and is only a short walk from the subway station.

3. The Bund

This waterfront, located by the bank of the Huangpu River, is one of the most iconic sights in Shanghai, a physical reflection of the city's rise and evolution over the last century.

It is home to the headquarters of many multinational financial institutions and luxury hotels, showcasing architectural styles from various countries, including Britain, France, the United States, Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium.

At the northern end of the Bund, Waibaiduqiao, a century-old bridge that has featured in numerous films and movies, leads to the inner city.

The Bund recently underwent a major facelift. In the morning, locals practice taichi and walk on the riverside. During the day, it is packed with visitors. At night, it is one of the best spots to enjoy the spectacular skyline of Pudong, across the Huangpu.

Visitors can also take a ferry or the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel across the river to get to the other side of the city, Pudong New Area.

4. Sheshan Mountain

With a height of less than 100 meters, Sheshan is Shanghai's only "mountain".

Within an hour's drive from downtown, Sheshan provides a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Sheshan National Forest Park is Shanghai's only natural forest park covering about 400 hectares. Sheshan Mountain Catholic Church, said to the largest church of its kind in the Far East, is located on the top of the mountain, along with an observatory.

The nearby Sheshan International Golf Club boasts some of the most beautiful courses in the country and has been hosting the annual WGC-HSBC Champions, a world golf championship event, since 2006.

Wining and dining

Shanghai cuisine, like the city itself, is known for its sophistication and delicate touch.

Just like its urban population, Shanghai offers dishes from all over the country. From upscale dining in designer restaurants on the Bund to casual snacking at street stalls, eating in Shanghai can be an enjoyable experience, regardless of the price.

The xiaolongbao steamed buns, juicy pork wrapped in paper-thin flour skins, are among the most popular local snacks.

Nanxiang Xiaolong (Nanxiang Steamed Buns Restaurant) is known to offer some of the best xiaolongbao, while Xiaoyang Shengjian restaurant (Yang's Fry Dumpling) offers a crispy version of the dish.

Red-braised pork, sweet-sour ribs and spicy crabs are also representative of Shanghai cuisine.

Reflecting its mix of East and West, Shanghai has many top Western restaurants. Michelin-starred dining on the Bund, as well as cozy Western eateries in the city's alleys, await.