To truly understand the chaotic madness that is Shanghai, one must inevitably come to terms with the megalopolis district by district. A piecemeal approach is the best approach for a city with the same number of people as Sri Lanka, after all.
Shanghai’s road and public transport infrastructure may have undergone a seismic about-face by the time you finish this post – change comes Formula One fast to this dynamic city on the move – but, nonetheless, it will take a monumental miracle to reverse the inherent helter-skelter nature of a city this big and this gorged with people. With that in mind, a little primer on the districts of Shanghai is in order.
China’s financial and commercial capital is a province-like area with 17 districts and 1 county. The entire urban mass spirals out from old Puxi (a dense region that contains the first 9 districts on our list below) and the hyper-modern skyline of Pudong that we all know and love/revile. If game to explore, grab your transport card (jiÄotÅng kÇŽ), steel yourself to the inevitable rush hour seas of humanity and read on for a little district dissection.
With close to 50,000 people per km2, Huangpu makes Cairo look like Canada. Venerable home of the Bund, Nanjing Road, People’s Square and many of the best hotels in Shanghai.
South of People’s Square, Luwan contains some of the most branchÃ© shops and restaurants in the city.
Close to 900,000 people live in this mix of French Concession architecture and department stores. Xuhui is also home to the Grand Gateway towers complex.
The presence of Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and Zhongshan Park make Changning a popular Shanghai district.
Jing’an packs over 300,000 people into a tiny area of 7 km2. A definite expat and nightlife hive of activity.
Jing’an Temple – Photo credit
Points of interest to look out for in Putuo include the Shanghai Textile Museum, Future Museum and Suzhou Creek.
A July 2010 article in The Telegraph fingered Zhabei as the hot new place to be for young foreign professionals in Shanghai.
The famous Astor House Hotel dominates tourism in Hongkou but the district also contains the Broadway Mansions, Hongkou Football Stadium and Lu Xun Park.
Broadway Mansions – Photo credit
Two of Shanghai’s most notable academic stars, Fudan University and Tongji University, reside in Yangpu. Several massive mixed-use riverside developments, however, draw most of the headlines about the district.
Pudong New District
Pudong is the undeniable face of the new Shanghai. A vibrant city within the city, Pudong is home to all the skyline eye candy, from the Oriental Pearl Tower to Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center and Shanghai Tower.
The big scoop on Baoshan is that city officials plan to remake the heavy industry hub into the new green lung of Shanghai. Excellent news for the thousands of students who attend Shanghai University here.
Minhang’s Gubei Town is home to a considerable cluster of expats from Japan, South Korea and Taiwan and the district’s old Qibao town is a very popular tourist area.
Qibao – Photo credit
The Formula One Grand Prix of China takes place at the Shanghai International Circuit in Jiading every year and Anting Old Street contains some fabulous traditional shops and tea houses.
Residents of Jinshan blather in a peculiar dialect of Shanghainese, which summer visitors to the district’s shoreline and islands can well affirm. A new extension of the Shanghai metro will connect Jinshan to Pudong by October 2011.
A deluge of renminbi is going Songjiang’s way as the district prepares for a major economic and social overhaul as part of Shanghai’s latest five-year plan. Head to Thames Town, a remarkable English market town copycat.
Thames Town, Songjiang District – Photo credit
The only natural freshwater lake in the vicinity of Shanghai is smack dab in Qingpu District. The ancient water village of Zhujiajiao is a wonderful point of interest here.
If you want to find out where Shanghai residents hang out on hot summer weekends, look no further. A spate of beach resorts on Hangzhou Bay offers sumptuous leisure in Fengxian, with significant real estate developments in the works over the next several years.
The only county in Shanghai encompasses Chongming Island, Changxing Island and Hengsha Island. The crack team of architects, engineers and urban planners over at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (the firm behind the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, among countless other famous landmarks) is being paid a mint to make over the sleepy and quasi-rural county into Shanghai’s new destination par excellence.