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Avid Globetrotter: 24 Hours in Shanghai

Shanghai Skyline

Shanghai is known as the center of Chinese business and a major port city. The side most visitors see is the modern, bustling commercial hub but Shanghai is an ancient city and a short 24-hour layover is best split between the modern and the historical.

The Chinese Cultural Revolution obliterated many of the monuments of Western influence but despite suffering extensive damage, the century-old Sheshan Basilica sits on Sheshan Hill survived. It has now been restored and serves as a wonderful reminder of China’s varied cultural heritage. A path up the hill is designed to represent the fourteen Stations of the Cross and offers amazing views.

Another religious site that survived the Communist takeover is the Longhua Temple on Longhua Road in Xuhui. The current temple structure and adjacent wood and brick pagoda date back to the 10th century A.D. but the site itself is one of China’s oldest; it is thought to have been established as far back as 242 A.D.

Five large halls display Buddhist statues but the 500 gold Luohan Buddhas steal the show. Also worth a look are the two ancient bells, one from the 14th and one from the 16th century. The former is two meters tall and weighs five tons, and is rung on special occasions even today.

Yet another beautiful example of China’s Buddhist heritage is the Jade Buddha Temple. It sits on Anyuan Road in Jing’an. Renowned for two special white jade Shakyamuni statues brought from Myanmar that stand two meters tall and statues of the four heavenly kings, the temple also house Buddhist manuscripts.

Remember those pictures of futuristic space cities you used to draw as a kid? Well, the designer of Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Tower stole your designs. Perhaps the city skyline’s most instantly-recognizable landmark due to both the design and its 1536 ft (468 m) height, the tower sits at 1 Century Avenue in Pudong.

Now a quarter of a century old, it features 15 viewing areas. The best of these are the 1148 ft (350m) high observation deck that has an exterior portion with a glass bottom, and the revolving restaurant. All of these give the observer a spectacular vista of the city sprawl, particularly the Bund promenade.

If shopping is your thing, Shanghai will not disappoint. Nanjing Road is the focal point of retail commerce and offers virtually everything under the sun, modern or traditional, big or small. Redesigned to be pedestrian-friendly, it runs for several miles and incorporates several thousand individual stores of all sizes. You will be spoilt for choice for food, entertainment and window shopping. Nearby Xintiandi can also help you get your purchasing fix, albeit in a higher price bracket.

You can hardly scrape the surface of a city the size of sprawling Shanghai in a single day. These activities will give you a sense of the balance between East and West that its residents contend with daily and leave you with some unforgettable memories and amazing snaps.

Also, check out our Shanghai Infograph!

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