In considering Chinese culture as a whole, we would have to look to its cities for examples of its incredible diversity. Beijing has its long-standing dynastic eminence and contemporary enclave of artists, Xi'an has its ancient walls and grottoes, Guangzhou bows to little else than the gods of manufacturing, and Hong Kong pulses with the neon excess of an all-night tourist party. In Shanghai, you have all of these worlds spinning concentrically: historic art and architecture, soot-spewing factories, and an ode to science fiction in both its upward development and the ant-hill swarm of people that make up the most populated urban zone on Earth. If this is not a place for adventure, we aren't sure what is.
One only needs to view the skyline of the new city center of Pudong to understand Shanghai's place as a leader on the world stage. A financial mecca of architectural one-upmanship, massive, cloud-masted structures like the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center are best seen from across the Huang Pu River from the Bund, which lures travelers with the period mystique of preserved custom houses and colonial edifices. Then again, one needs to only stroll the tiny lanes of Tianzifang in the Huangpu District or leave the city proper for water towns like Zhujiajiao, Qibao, Xitang and Zhouzhuang, with their ornate bridges and local cafes, to begin to experience Shanghai's diversity.
But what about the "adventures?" Despite the reputation the Chinese people have for being behind the curve with more extreme or vigorous activities, Shanghai is home to attractions like one of the world's largest skate parks, a handful of rock climbing facilities, paragliding take-offs just north of Hangzhou, and even a number of mountain biking locations accessible with local outfits like these guys. Hiking will be on a smaller scale unless you want to take the four hour drive to the Huangshan Mountains of the Anhui province, a world heritage site that is renowned for the sunsets from its foggy, granite peaks. Browse our adventure page for more on active trips in Shanghai.
The nightlife here is extravagant, from the wacky themes of the city's superclubs to lounge terraces with superlative views of the city lights to dive bars packed wall to wall. Unlike some of the other mainland cities in China, the "going out" crowd here is young, tireless, and everywhere. There are also far too many neighborhoods that cater to Shanghai nightlife to describe in depth here, so we suggest browsing our nightlife page for further information.
Because so many have migrated to Shanghai, sharing not only a full complement of provincial customs, but their varied cuisines, you'll encounter every variety of Chinese food here. Served everywhere from the street corner to sprawling, re-purposed mansions, you'll see a particular emphasis put on pork and seafood consumption, while dumplings and buns of all varieties are a staple of many diets. Again, we have a whole lot of insight devoted to this if you'd like to check out our cuisine page.
In case you thought we'd forgotten, there are plenty of attractions reminiscent of ancient China. The Yuyuan Gardens and the nearby market, both of which present classic Qing and Ming architecture, are great for a stroll, while temples like Jing'an on West Nanjing Road, the hard-to-find Jinshan Donglin temple in the suburb of Zhujing, and Shanghai's largest, the Longhua Temple are places of great religious significance. The cultural buildings on the Peoples' Square, especially the Shanghai Museum, are also worth your time, while the somewhat off-the-beaten-path but particularly satisfying Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre on Hua Shan Road is an unflinching look at the Maoist era of the 20th century. Further information on cultural attractions may be accessed at our (you guessed it!) culture page.
If you plan on relying on public transportation in your time here, we suggest purchasing a Shanghai Jiaotong Card, which can be used in taxis (which are usually inexpensive) or in subway travel. There is also the MagLev, for those who want to experience the novelty of moving at speeds of over 420 kmph (261 mph). Check out this site for more information on subway usage.
So you've begun to get an idea about what makes Shanghai such a unique and appealing destination; and we haven't even touched on variety of adventures that await. It's up to you to continue to browse the website, contact local embark users, and start putting together a trip to Shanghai worth telling the grandkids about; we'll leave how much you tell up to you.