Dynamic by nature and necessity, Shanghai is proof that the world's most populous city can be livable and loveable. Merchants and tycoons once sought their fortune here and it still has a whiff of opportunism and decadence. Pudong's cloud-piercing skyscrapers and the flashy malls of Nanjing Lu show where China is swiftly headed in the 21st century. But while Shanghai's sights are certainly fixed on the future, you'll still find the glamour of the past along the Art Deco Bund and French Concession's colonial boulevards.
Things to Do
Locals greet the day with tai chi as the first rays illuminate the The Bund's Art Deco facades and Pudong's gleaming skyscrapers across the Huangpu River. Rise to the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower for morning views of the skyline. Shanghai's green heart is People's Square, where the cavernous Shanghai Museum showcases exquisite Chinese bronzes, ceramics, and silk scroll paintings. Seek respite from the hubbub strolling French Concession's elegant avenues and sitting beside koi-filled ponds in serene Yu Yuan Garden.
Shopping in Shanghai wouldn't be the same without neon-lit Nanjing Lu's three-mile strip of street entertainers, glitzy malls, and traditional stores selling silk, jade, and porcelain. The ambience is more leisurely in the French Concession, where leafy streets shade luxury boutiques, antiques shops, and Paris-worthy cafes. Join Shanghai's early risers for the freshest fish and vegetables at the Old City's wet markets. For custom-made suits at a bargain price, South Bund Fabric Market has the cutting edge.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Shanghai is a festive, party-loving city, which really comes alive when Pudong's futuristic skyline lights up -- best admired from a sleek lounge or jazz bar on the Bund. Big-name DJs and live music keep dance floors crowded in nightlife hub Xintiandi, which gravitates between Zen-style chic and kitschy bars pumping out Canto-pop. Mingle with stylishly dressed locals and expats over decadent cocktails in the French Concession's 1920s villas, before enjoying Chinese Kunqu Opera at the nearby Shanghai Grand Theater.
Restaurants and Dining
For an authentic Shanghainese experience, tackle hairy crabs by their pincers and suck out the roe in the Old City's family-run restaurants. Flaming woks and market banter lure locals to Yunnan Lu night market, dishing up noodles, duck, and—for adventurous palates—deep-fried scorpion. Choose between pan-Asian cuisine and fresh seafood in the French Concession's elegant bistros.