Throughout the past century, Shanghai has had numerous name tags attached to it; the 'whore of the East', the 'Paris of the Orient' and the 'Pearl Of China'. Images of Shanghai more than any other Chinese city, are bountiful in the west. A visit here therefore, is naturally tainted to some extent, with a preconception of how the city will be.
As the largest and most prosperous city in the nation, Shanghai is the economic, financial and cultural center of China, where Beijing is the political heart. And this image of Shanghai as a fast and modern metropolis is certainly the one that most visitors take away. Those old preconceptions of Shanghai as the home of crime vice and prostitutes are wiped away, as the city successfully projects an image of itself as young, vibrant and cool.
Shanghai is a modern and fast paced city, rich in history and culture and with a wealth of areas and sites just waiting to be explored. One of the nicest aspects of Shanghai is that the crowds here are much more manageable than in a city like Beijing. This is largely because there are no great ancient sites which people flock too. Rather, this is a city to be walked, wandered, explored and discovered in your own time and, in your own style.
What makes Shanghai particularly attractive are the many different styles of architecture and design throughout the city. Shanghai was once divided up into different 'Concessions' or districts and the boundaries of these areas still remain today.The famous, Bund was home to the 'British Public Park' and this boulevard has a plethora of colonial structures to visit, all reminders of Shanghai's days of decadence. The Japanese and the French Concessions too, are fascinating areas to explore. The French quarter is a particularly charming district to wander, and there are many former residences to look at and discover something about old Shanghai and the people who lived here. The area known as the 'Chinese City' is also worthy of a visit. Take a break from the tourists around the Yuyuan and do some serious antique shopping or just lose yourself amidst the old alleys and streets.
But perhaps most of all today, Shanghai is a spectacularly modern city. The pace of development here is unbelievable. Currently, seventeen percent of the world's cranes are in the city and developers boast that the city is changing at a rate incomparable to anywhere else in the world ever. The newest area of the city, Pudong, has just celebrated its 10th anniversary and is almost unrecognizable from the way it was when development began here. Two of the most impressive city structures can be found here, the Jinmao Tower and the Oriental TV Tower.
For any visitor to China, perhaps the most attractive thing about this city is just how fashionable it is. Museums, galleries, restaurants and bars have emerged in the past few years. This cosmopolitan cultural scene which harks back to the heydays of the 1920s and 30s and the new found wealth in the city are helping to reinvent Shanghai as a place with a fabulous and optimistic style and attitude.