Shanghai Financial District In Fog

Best way to see Shanghai

There are few cities that can get your heart racing quite like Shanghai. From market shopping in Nanjing Road West, to strolling along the Bund – these are our expert's favourite things to do in Shanghai

The fun starts straight off the night flight. I’m barely past passport control and already I’m hitting 400kph on the Maglev train, keeping pace with a plane landing outside. A metaphor for Shanghai itself, this airport to Downtown shuttle takes just seven minutes, a journey that could take an hour by taxi. It zooms me through the cutting edge Pudong District, cluttered with megatowers so lofty they pierce the watercolour sky. I just need a kung fu master to base jump into view, Godzilla to stomp across the skyline, and Fritz Lang to peek out from the backdrop.

Yet such anachronisms don’t really belong in Shanghai, a city of the future happening right blooming now. If you love cities, there are few that will get your heart racing like Shanghai. Scroll forward to sunset and I’m across the river at Char Bar in the Hotel Indigo, working through its gin cocktails.

Range Rovers pull up outside a crystal facade Louis Vuitton that out sparkles its neighbour, the gilded Jing’an Temple. In this city of 24 million people, millionaires are rife

I’m at the highest point here on the Neo Classical Bund, Shanghai’s picturesque historic waterfront, barely knee high to the 21st century Shanghai Tower of Pudong, a steel twister, and the world’s second tallest building. I’ll get there soon enough, but a booking’s waiting at super gourmet Taian Table, where the star attraction is goat’s cheese disguised as tomato.

Shop on Nanjing Road West

Next morning, while market vendors haul wooden carts behind the Bund, I pursue vendors of another sort along Nanjing Road West, home to £1,000 handbags (and £30 knock offs). Electric scooters ping past on the pavement, Armani-suited professionals close behind, heading, it appears, for the largest Starbucks on Earth, big as a football pitch, around the corner.

Range Rovers pull up outside a crystal facade Louis Vuitton that out sparkles its neighbour, the gilded Jing’an Temple. In this city of 24 million people, millionaires are rife, and they like flash for their cash. At blingy mall Plaza 66, home to Chanel, Dior and Hermès, customers orbit the tubular levels like it’s the Guggenheim.

At the epicentre of the three million square metres of retail currently under construction, this mall is only the beginning. Some of those square metres go up so fast, you could miss it over a stuffed lobster lunch at the lattice-roofed Calypso. Indeed, after lunch I hail a taxi north to Moganshan Road and watch this new creative district morph seemingly before my eyes.

Nanjing road in rainy day in Shanghai.Getty Images

Explore Suzhou Creek

Galleries in the repurposed factories have multiplied over the past few years, along with patrons sporting pastel hairdos and platform trainers. They skip into Island6 to admire kitsch electronic canvases by Shanghainese art collective Liu Dao.

A year ago, you wouldn’t have known this enclave was bang on Suzhou Creek. But now Moganshan’s graffiti-lined streets lead to 1000 Trees, a new riverfront mega building, by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, surrounded by concrete pedestals, each bearing its own tree. Together they form a sort of forest, shrouding the building’s homes and public spaces, a modern Babylon.

And they’ve inspired more construction down river: towers of steel over clean, slate piazzas and pristine boardwalks where families gather by the water’s edge. The party line was that Shanghai once accounted for half the construction cranes in the world. The claim had seemed dubious. But back on Nanjing Road, past the old race course, now a quaint park eclipsed by the space agey Radisson hotel, I believe it. At dusk, the road closes to traffic and reflects the vibrant, vibrating neon. Ultimately, the road hits the Bund for that classic panorama over the river toward futuristic Pudong.

Scaffolding sprouts from the steel like a fertile metallic garden: it’s the future in the making.

Next departure: February 27th 2020

Jiaxiu Pavilion in lake at night, Guiyang, Guizhou Province, China
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