Shanghai is one of those cities I never thought I would fall in love with. But here I am 8,000 miles away from home, helplessly, inexplicably, in love.
By Regina Kaza
There's something about Shanghai that makes you forget you're in the East. Walking the Bund, you're in New York's Financial District. Take a turn down an alley and you're in Paris surrounded by French bakeries and patio-seated restaurants in the French Concession. Stroll down another alley and you've traveled back in time to Shanghai circa 1930. People forget that only a century ago this metropolis was a small fishing village before it became "the Paris of the east" and "the New York of the west" that we know it as today.
Shanghai is painted with history. Standing on the Bund boardwalk you have futuristic skyscrapers to your right gleaming with corporate wealth and to your left there are beautifully preserved buildings from the city's brief settlement by the British. There's no other place like it and your first time in Shanghai would not be complete without doing these five things. And then stay forever and do everything else because you'll never want to leave.
1. WALK THE BUND
The first thing any local will tell you to do is walk the Bund. So I'm going to tell you, walk the Bund. Walk it during the day, walk it at night, take a boat ride along it, watch it light up at sunset from a rooftop bar. It's the most majestic skyline and combines the Eiffel Tower, Disney and New York City all in one. It never gets old. Be sure to visit Captain Bar for rooftop view paired with pizza and cocktails.
2. EXPLORE YUYUAN BAZAAR
Charming alleyways, noodle shops and jewelry boutiques make up this marketplace in the Old City. While it's a bit more commercialized and crowded, this square is so much fun to explore on your way to You Garden and a must see.
4. VISIT YU GARDEN
Of all the gardens and palaces in Beijing and Shanghai, Yu Garden captured my heart. This garden was built around 1577 by the Sichuan governor for his minister father and is a calm oasis in the center of the city. The minimalist design and intricacy of this garden transports you back in time to a peaceful sanctuary or bamboo trees and koi ponds. You completely forget all the bustle and modern structure that sits just beyond the garden walls.
4. SEE LOCAL CALLIGRAPHY IN THE PARK
In addition to practicing Tai-Chi in the public parks, many locals write calligraphy with water on the concrete sidewalk. This is a very unique (to Westerners) and beautiful practice to see while you're exploring the city and a small glimpse into local life.
5. VISIT THE WORLD FINANCIAL CENTER AND ART AQUARIUM
If the weather is not too overcast, don't miss the chance to visit the ninth tallest building in the world and see stunning views of Shanghai from the observation deck. With admission you're also able to visit the Art Aquarium exhibit which is inexplainable in a post other than to say it is the most extraordinary live fish art installation I've ever seen. I know, I know, what does that even mean? It's just one of those things you need to see.