Nanjing Lu

Start: Shanghai Centre (Metro: Jing'an Temple).

Finish: Peace Hotel, the Bund (Metro: Nanjing Rd. [E]).

Time: 2 to 3 hours (for the western half, from Shanghai Centre to People's Square/Xizang Lu); another 2 to 3 hours to tour the eastern half of Nanjing Lu (from Xizang Zhong Lu to the Bund). Those who want to see it all should allot a full day (7km/4 1/3 miles).

Best Times: Any weekday starting by 9:30am or at 2:30pm (if you're only going to walk a portion), to avoid midday crowds.

Worst Times: Weekends are impossibly crowded. Most stores aren't open before 10am, but they stay open late, often until 10pm.

Nanjing Lu is the most famous shopping street in China, long celebrated for its large department stores, silk shops, and fashionable clothing stores. In colonial Shanghai, this was the main thoroughfare running through the International Settlement, built originally as a pathway to successive horse-race tracks. Today, this famous stretch is known as Nanjing Dong Lu (Nanjing Road East), while the western portion, Nanjing Xi Lu, is the current name for the former Bubbling Well Road, so named because of a now-displaced well located at the western end of the street (today's intersection with Huashan Lu). People's Park (Renmin Gongyuan) is the halfway point, dividing the eastern and western sections. Today's Nanjing Lu still has remnants of its past retail glories, but the department stores have been modernized and Western-style boutiques are rapidly cornering the fashion trade. There are still plenty of colonial period structures sandwiched in along the avenue (hotels, offices, department stores). If you're short on time or want to save your legs, begin your stroll at People's Park (at Xizang Zhong Lu) and head east for the river along the Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Mall. You can walk either the east or west half of Nanjing Lu in a little more than an hour, if you don't stop -- but you should.

To begin, take a taxi or walk straight east from the Jing'an Temple Metro station down Nanjing Xi Lu to:

1. Shanghai Centre (Shanghai Shangcheng; No. 1376)

This premier all-in-one complex is home to the 42-floor Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel, expensive residential apartments (mostly for foreign business families), a medical clinic, a supermarket, ATMs, and upscale boutiques and restaurants. Starbucks is here, but if you need a more substantial breakfast, a light salad lunch, or a fresh fruit smoothie, pay a quick visit to the diner Element Fresh (Unit 112).

If you have plenty of time, cross the street south to the:

2. Shanghai Exhibition Centre (Shanghai Zhanlan Zhongxin)

Built in 1955 with help from the Soviet Union (then a staunch Communist ally), this somber, grandiose monument to socialist realism is yet another chapter in Shanghai's history of foreign architecture. Eye-catching on the outside, it has a decaying air on the inside, where there are regular exhibits that are not very interesting. Before 1955, this was the site of the 11-hectare (26-acre) Hardoon Gardens, a colonial-era fantasy estate built by millionaire Silas Hardoon.

Continue east along the north side of Nanjing Xi Lu across Xikang Lu and take a quick peek into:

3. Plaza 66 (Henglong Guangchang, No. 1266)

This is as upscale and as Western a shopping mall as you'll find in Shanghai, arguably with the city's largest collection of luxury brand shops under one roof. Hermes, Dior, Versace, Cartier, Louis Vuitton -- they're all here. Don't let the lack of foot traffic fool you -- customers, when they do show up, drop off yuan notes by the suitcase-full. One shop reportedly had to shutter for a few hours just to count the bills.

Head east 1 block and turn left (north) onto Shanxi Bei Lu for 1 1/2 blocks, crossing Beijing Xi Lu. Halfway up the block on the east side of the street is the former:

4. Ohel Rachel Synagogue (Youtai Jiaotang, Shanxi Bei Lu, No. 500)

Built in 1920 by Jacob Sassoon (uncle to Victor Sassoon who built the Peace Hotel) in memory of his wife Rachel, this Greek Revival-style vine-trellised synagogue served the wealthy Sephardic Jewish community until 1952. It was renovated and sanctified for the visit of Hillary Clinton in 1998, and reopened in May 2010 as a living synagogue for the Jewish community to use for Shabbat and holiday services. It also has been on the list of the 100 most endangered sites of the World Monuments Watch.

Head back down (south) Shanxi Bei Lu and cross to the south side of Nanjing Lu. If you're interested in ceramics, take a peek inside:

5. Shanghai Jingde Zhen Porcelain Artware (No. 1185)

This corner emporium carries a full array of classic Chinese pottery and porcelain, much of it from factories and artisans in Jingde Zhen, one of China's most celebrated pottery centers (located up the Yangzi River from Shanghai).

Continue east on the south side of Nanjing Xi Lu until you come to Maoming Bei Lu and the giant Uniqlo Store (the biggest in the world and their flagship store in Shanghai) at the corner. This also marks the start of the pedestrian food street:

6. Wujiang Lu Leisure Street

One of five food streets in Shanghai, this recently renovated pedestrian lane is lined with shops, restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and food stalls, and is a great spot for people-watching. If you need a refresher at this point, Cristal Restaurant at 269 Wujiang Lu, fourth floor (tel. 021/6136-1388), is good for everything from a stiff cappuccino to a delicious pasta.

Otherwise, continue east along Wujiang Lu passing JIA Hotel (in a refurbished 1920s building) and cross Taixing Lu. Take a left at Shimen Yi Lu back to Nanjing Lu. Just to the left on the south side of the street is:

7. Wang Jia Sha Dumpling Restaurant (No. 805)

One of Shanghai's oldest and most popular diners for cheap local eats has been renovated. You can watch women wrapping xiaolong bao dumplings through the glass windows. Or join the crowds in ordering up your own steamer of dumplings.

Cross to the north side of Nanjing Lu and continue east, passing at no. 778 the 1928 Art Deco Denis Apartments. East of Shimen Yi Lu is the:

8. Former International Recreation Club (No. 722)

This handsome, sprawling colonial structure was designed by Palmer and Turner and built in 1929 as the International Recreation Club. In those days, the interiors included a dance hall with sprung floor, a theater, and a dining room. In 1941, it became the Jewish Club of Shanghai. Unfortunately, the interiors are off limits these days as the building belongs to an air-conditioning manufacturing company.

Continue east on Nanjing Lu past the skyscraper complex (the Shanghai Broadcasting & Television International News Exchange Centre at no. 585) and cross the wide and very busy Chengdu Bei Lu very carefully. On the south side of the street at no. 479 is:

9. Tong Yi LiLong (No. 479)

Here is an example of the classic lane (lilong) housing that proliferated throughout Shanghai for over a century. In this particular warren of lanes, bas-relief sculptures have been put up on the sides of houses by the local Party committee to boost residents' patriotism by reminding them of all the revolutionary activities that have gone on at the nearby People's Square. None of today's residents seem to pay much attention.

Continuing east on the south side of Nanjing Lu, you'll pass Gongdelin (no. 445), Shanghai's most famous vegetarian restaurant. In front of you is:

10. Tomorrow Square (Mintian Guangchang)

This architecturally intriguing rocket tower, which does a 90-degree horizontal shift at the 38th floor, is home to the JW Marriott Hotel (the tallest hotel on the Bund side of the river), the first Mandara Spa in China, and a Ferrari dealership.

11. Take a Break

If you need to freshen up or take a break, stop for a cup of tea on the 38th floor lobby lounge of the JW Marriott Hotel (Wanyi Jiudian), where you can choose from 40 different tea vintages while gazing on stunning panoramas of the city. The hotel also serves one of the best afternoon teas (Mon-Fri 2:30-5:30pm) if you're here in the afternoon. There's no better place for a bird's-eye appreciation of how far you've come and how much farther you have to go. Alternatively, you can jump straight to dessert and cappuccino at Kathleen's 5 (tel. 021/6327-0004) atop the upcoming Shanghai Art Museum, or kick back at the Moroccan-themed Barbarossa, sitting pretty on a lake in the middle of People's Park, which is coming up.

Just east of Huangpi Bei Lu is:

12. Shanghai Art Museum (Shanghai Meishuguan, No. 325)

This five-story landmark has been beautifully restored to its colonial splendor. There's a lovely restaurant (Kathleen's 5) inside, too. At this point, you're at the northwestern edge of Renmin Gongyuan and Renmin Guangchang (People's Park and People's Square).

Enter via either the western or northwestern entrance:

13. People's Park (Renmin Gongyuan, No. 231)

This is the city's biggest downtown green, which, together with People's Square, covers what was the Shanghai Race Track in colonial times. Smack dab in the middle of this pleasant park is Shanghai's new Museum of Contemporary Art, worth a quick tour if you are interested in the modern Chinese art scene. Or refresh yourself with a cup of coffee at Barbarossa in the middle of the lake. If you're here on weekend afternoons, you'll see a large crowd gathered around the lake in what has become a matchmaking marketplace. Older singles gather here, as do many parents of younger singles. The latter often have profiles of their offspring in hand or attached to nearby bulletin boards, in an attempt to find dates for their children, who are apparently too busy working to do it themselves. Such is life in modern China -- perhaps not so different from life in any other modern city.

Exit the park via the northern (main) entrance. Cross to the north side of Nanjing Lu. Straight ahead is the sleek Grand Theatre, built in 1933, which used to show first-run Hollywood movies before 1949 and, now refurbished, still screens the occasional American blockbuster. Head east, crossing Huanghe Lu (another restaurant street) to the:

14. Park Hotel (Guoji Fandian, No. 170)

Designed by prolific Hungarian architect Ladislav Hudec (1893-1958), who also designed the Grand Theatre, this hotel was the tallest building outside North America when it was built in 1934. It also boasted the fastest elevators in Shanghai at the time. Young, fashionable Chinese people came here in droves to party the night away. Chinese-American Architect I. M. Pei reportedly said that it was the Park Hotel, which he first saw as a young boy in Shanghai, that inspired his interest in architecture. Don't miss its finely restored Art Deco interiors.

If colonial architecture excites you, right next door at no. 150 is the former Foreign YMCA building (1926-1933) with a gorgeous Beaux Arts facade; it is currently the Shanghai Sports Club. To its east is the:

15. Pacific Hotel (Jinmen Dajiudian, No. 108)

Built in 1926, serving first as the China United Assurance Company, then as the Overseas Chinese Hotel, this classic Italian-style hotel is a bit run-down but still has a stunning Art Deco lobby of coffered ceilings and carved columns. Just to the east, the building with the spaceship roof is the Radisson New World Hotel, and right next to it is the New World City Shopping Center (Nanjing Dong Lu 830), home to mainland China's first Madame Tussauds Museum.

At this point, using the underpass on the south side of Nanjing Lu, cross Xizang Zhong Lu, one of Shanghai's main north-south thoroughfares and the beginning of the eastern section of Nanjing Lu. As you emerge, on your right (south) past the skyscraper Le Meridien Hotel is:

16. Moore Memorial Church (Mu'en Tang)

This Protestant church was established by American missionaries in 1887, and rebuilt in 1931 when it was designed by architect Ladislav Hudec. It was used as a middle school during the Cultural Revolution. In 1979, it was the first church to reopen in Shanghai.

Return to the wide, vehicle-free:

17. Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Mall (Nanjing Lu Buxing Jie)

From here east to Henan Zhong Lu (which is 2 blocks from the Bund and the river), strollers can enjoy a pedestrian-only mall, designed by Arle Jean Marie Carpentier and Associates (France), and opened in 1999. Here, new buildings dwarf the colonial-period landmarks of Nanjing Lu, but there's still plenty of history along the way. Caution: Although this is a pedestrian mall, the cross streets (north-south) still permit vehicular traffic, so look both ways at controlled intersections.

At the northern end of Nanjing Lu is:

18. The No. 1 Department Store (No. 800)

In the old days, this emporium was known as the Sun, one of Nanjing Lu's "Big Four" department stores. The Sun's building was designed by Chinese architects, opened its doors in 1934, and was the first store in China to use an escalator. Later, renamed the No. 1 Department Store complex, it attracted more than 150,000 shoppers daily; and it may be doing more business than ever these days with the addition of the 22-story tower on its East Building, its first 11 floors devoted to retailing.

Those too tired to walk the rest of the street can take a sightseeing trolley, a three-car electric train that weaves its way up and down the length of the pedestrian mall; tickets, purchased onboard, cost ¥2 .

In the next block (across Guizhou Lu) on the north side is the:

19. Shanghai No. 1 Provisions Store (No. 700)

Formerly known as Sun Sun, another of Shanghai's "Big Four" department stores, this shop is still in its old building, where it opened in 1926. A Pizza Hut and McDonald's have attached themselves to the old store. Just to the east is a stunning block-long gray Art Deco building, the:

20. Shanghai Fashion Company (No. 650)

The third of the "Big Four," this was the former Sincere Department Store. A hotel now occupies part of the premises.

Across the street on the south side is the:

21. Hualian Commercial Building (No. 635)

The last of the "Big Four," this was the former Wing On, opened in 1918, a famous department store chain transplanted to Hong Kong after 1949.

At this point, the mall crosses a vast square at the busy intersection with Zhejiang Zhong Lu and Hubei Lu. In the early colonial days, this intersection was the spot where electric trams heading west on Nanjing Lu were rotated on a wooden plate so they could make the return journey eastward.

Continuing east on the south side is:

22. Century Square (Shiji Guangchang)

This block-long square hosts open-air performances and exhibits. Stop for a cappuccino at the open-air cafe in the square, Bar Tazza D'Oro. If you're interested in a bit more shopping, there's a street of specialty shops at the next intersection running north of Nanjing Lu along Fujian Zhong Lu, where you can find stores selling traditional Chinese handicrafts such as chopsticks, tea, and carved-wood products. At this point, the walking tour is almost at an end, unless you want to engage in more shopping.

There are a number of ways to conclude this tour. You can head 3 blocks east past Fujian Zhong Lu to Henan Zhong Lu, which marks the end of the pedestrian mall. From there you can hop on Metro Line 2 (Nanjing Dong Lu station) or catch a cab to your next destination. Or to see this through, visitors can wind up their stroll at the recently restored Art Deco Peace Hotel (Heping Fandian, no. 20), which is 3 more blocks east of Henan Zhong Lu. On the south side of Nanjing Lu across from the Peace Hotel is the former Palace Hotel, now also restored as the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, no. 19. From here, you can catch a cab back to your hotel.

23. Winding Down

The nicest place to end this stroll is the landmark Peace Hotel (Heping Fandian, no. 20), at the intersection of Nanjing Dong Lu and the Bund. Check out the gorgeously restored Art Deco interiors, while you sip tea and refreshments in the lobby lounge. Or head upstairs to the terrace of the Cathy Room where you can admire some stunning views of the city skyline and the Bund.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.