10 reasons to visit Shanghai

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2005, 12:00am

The city of 17 million people is the largest, fastest growing and richest in China. It is the world city of the moment. It set out to become an international player in the late 1980s, when then mayor Zhu Rongji launched an ambitious rejuvenation plan, and is rapidly acquiring the credentials

1 Grand Prix

This is much more than a Formula One race on superb track- it is a chance for Shanghai to show its international credentials to the world, demonstrating that it is capable of organising such a large-scale sporting event. Last year's inaugural Grand Prix was deemed a great success - and the circuit has been in regular use since then, winning plaudits from riders and drivers.

2 Pudong skyline

The shimmering skyline of Lujiazui financial district is like a mini-Manhattan, remarkable considering that a little over a decade ago the eastern side of the Huangpu River was a depressing landscape of godowns, derelict buildings and paddy fields.

3 Jin Mao Tower

This is the highest building in the mainland, soaring to a cloud-touching 88 storeys. Inspired by the design of traditional Chinese pagodas, it is at its most striking when the silver surface reflects the late-afternoon sunlight. Lifts whizz people up to a sightseeing platform, but a more pleasant option is to have a drink in one of the Grand Hyatt's bars or restaurants, located on the upper floors, and take in the fabulous views of the Bund across the river.

4 The Bund

In other parts of China, old buildings have been torn down, but the Bund, a collection of grand stone buildings along the Huangpu River waterfront, was spared the wrecker's ball. The city government has encouraged restoration of the British-style edifices, built mostly in the earlier part of the last century. Hong Kong restaurateur Michelle Garnaut was an early pioneer, turning a dilapidated building into a swanky restaurant, M on the Bund. More recent arrivals have been Three on the Bund and Bund 18, buildings that now house bars, restaurants, art galleries and designer shops.

5 Tomorrow Square

Anyone who last visited Shanghai in the early 1990s will barely recognise it. The aptly named Tomorrow Square, in the heart of Puxi, is home to ultra-modern buildings including the Shanghai Museum, the Grand Theatre, the JW Marriott Hotel and the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall.

6 The people

Shanghainese consider themselves the most cosmopolitan in China. The Bund at dawn is a great place to capture the spirit of the city: older people practise tai chi, young women dance traditional dances and couples waltz to music pumped out by ghetto blasters.

7 Lupu Bridge

The bridge stretches 550 metres and can carry 85,000 vehicles a day on its six traffic lanes.

8 The Maglev

The Maglev (magnetic levitation) train goes from the airport to Pudong in eight minutes flat, reaching a breathtaking speed of 430km/h. The paddy fields and factories flash past in a cartoon-like blur. Each carriage has a speedometer so passengers can track the speed. A one-way ticket on the German-built train costs 50 yuan, with a 10 yuan discount for those who have an airline ticket for that day.

9 French Concession

This broadly categorises the areas that contain grand old villas built by French, British and German traders in the early 20th century. Some buildings have been renovated, while others are in a state of disrepair. They are an undeniable part of Shanghai's heritage, which has an international richness that sets it apart from other cities in China.

10 The food

Some of the best food in the city can be found at small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants serving delicious dumplings and onion cake. But Shanghai has also developed a more refined side in recent years, with the arrival of scores of top-class international restaurants.