China: Shanghai: Aspiration and Tradition
From the colonial buildings of Old Shanghai to the architectural splendor of the entire Bund, a visit to Shanghai is both an affair with the past and a glimpse into the future.
Upon arrival in Shanghai, you will be met at the airport and transferred directly to your luxury boutique hotel, housed in a restored 1930’s Art Deco building just steps away from Nanjing Road, one of Shanghai’s most popular business and commercial areas.
After you’ve had a chance to settle in, meet your guide for a drive across the river to Pudong, the new financial center of China. Your first stop is the Shanghai World Financial Center, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. From the 100th floor viewing deck, take in the view of the contrasting skylines: the colonial buildings of Old Shanghai on the west side of the river, or the Bund, which you will visit next, and the modern skyscrapers on the east.
Before dinner, take a walk on Shanghai’s landmark, the Bund, where the great foreign commercial houses and banks built their imposing office buildings in the first half of the 20th century. Follow along the edge of the Huangpu River, which affords a sweeping view of the architectural splendor of the entire Bund. Your guide will point out some of the buildings that are most interesting from the point of view of architecture and history.
This morning, head to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, home to beautiful scale models of Shanghai’s past, present, and future from an urban planning perspective, a testimony to Shanghai’s aspirations.
Just across the street is the Shanghai Museum, where your expert guide shares the rich history and importance of the museum’s collections. Built as a giant Shang Dynasty ding, or ancient bronze vessel, much like the ones in the museum collection, the Shanghai Museum is a world-class institution, housing a unique collection of artifacts dating from the imperial dynasties to the colonial era. While the highlights are its bronze wares, ceramics, calligraphy, and painting, the Shanghai Museum also has excellent displays of ancient coins and Chinese name seals, or “chops.”
Lunch today is in Xintiandi, heralded as “the place where yesterday meets tomorrow.” Many Xintiandi buildings retain the antique walls, tiles, and exteriors of Old Shanghai’s shikumen buildings, while the internal spaces showcase modern, creative design and decor. Xintiandi is a hip dining, retail, and entertainment area filled with international-standard restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and bars.
After lunch, choose from two excursions for this afternoon:
Step into Shanghai’s past on a walking tour of the French Concession. The tree-lined streets and colonial era houses of the French Concession rekindle memories of 1930’s Shanghai, or the “Paris of the East.” Stroll along the charming streets and view the interior of one of these historical homes during a walk-through of the home of either Sun Yatsen, the founder of modern china, or Song Qingling.
Alternatively, take a short taxi ride from Shanghai’s city center to the epicenter of modern art in Shanghai, a cluster of warehouses-turned-artists’ studios. Come here to immerse yourself in Shanghai’s booming contemporary art scene.
After a dinner featuring local Shanghainese specialties, be enthralled by the dexterity and precision of the city’s best acrobats and dancers in a performance heralded as “not-to-be-missed.”
After breakfast, join your guide for a stroll through Fuxin Park, a popular spot for local Shanghai people to perform all kinds of morning exercises.
Afterwards, enter the Chinese Quarter of Shanghai’s colonial past and walk through the Yu Garden, the most celebrated Chinese garden in Shanghai, where each stone, pavilion, and stream replicates the Southern Chinese garden style made popular during the Qing and Ming dynasties. Here, rest at the Mid-Lake Pavilion, the most famous teahouse in Shanghai.
Just outside this classical garden, navigate your way through Cheng Hung Miao Bazaar, a bustling market brimming with Shanghai souvenirs and snacks.
This rest of the day is free for you to explore Shanghai on your own, strolling, or shopping, at the bustling Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street, lined with shops, restaurants, and bright lights at night, or listening to live jazz at the historic Peace Hotel.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to catch your flight, or continue on to the next leg of your Willing Foot journey.
This is just the beginning.
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