Shanghai: Exploring the Metropolis

The unexpected but welcome sunny weather was still in full force as I woke up for my second day in Shanghai. It was good that the weather was still beautiful because another day of hardcore walking awaited me.

I started off by taking the metro to Shanghai Library in order to visit the Propaganda Poster Museum, an extensive collection of some of the best, worst and best worst Communist propaganda posters released in China over the years. What I didn’t realise was that after Mao died, many of these posters were destroyed and so this collection is pretty rare. The museum itself evokes Cold War vibes in its difficult to find location. I alighted at Shanghai Library (Line 10) from where I just meandered down roads trying to seek out Huashan Road where it was located.

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I walked past it twice since the collection is housed, not in a museum, but in the basement of a housing complex. Although the collection has been approved by the government, walking down the steps into the basement definitely gave the place a rebellious feel. Entry is ¥25 and the posters are laid out across the decades. Next door is a pricey gift shop. The more budget friendly gifts include some of the posters in postcard and fridge magnet form which I couldn’t resist.

After the museum, I strolled through the French Concession. I really loved this area of Shanghai. The wide, open, tree-lined streets and European buildings made for a great wander in the spring sunshine. I eventually walked to Fuxing Park, a large green oasis which is brimming with locals gambling, singing, practising Tai che etc. It’s a fantastic people-watching spot.

Nearby to the park are two famous shopping areas in Shanghai. Tian Zi Fang is the more local, old-school area with maze-like narrow streets, tiny restaurants and craft/gift shops. It is located to the south of the park (Metro: Dapuqiao, Line 9). I found it a bit too crowded on this sunny Sunday but perhaps in the week it would be more tolerable. To the east of the park is Xintiandi (Metro: Xintiandi, Line 10 & 13) which is a more spacious and lavish area. Loaded with bars and restaurants where you can sit out as well as more upmarket shops, even if you’re just here to window shop or grab a drink it’s worth a stroll, especially for the old, brick buildings the shops are housed in.

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Continuing east, I finally made it back to the Bund. I stopped off at the Cool Docks to the south of the Bund, a collection of bars and restaurants housed in an old warehouse type building. There are some good happy hour deals to be found here but its quite far-out location means the atmosphere is a bit lacking.

After endlessly wandering round Shanghai during my first two days there, it only seemed right that I continued the trend on day 3. This time however I went a bit further out. Surrounding Shanghai are a series of old, traditional towns filled with old buildings, street food, bridges and winding canals. The nearest town to Shanghai is Qibao, accessible by metro on line 9. After passing through some decidedly less traditional looking shopping malls, I arrived at the bustling old street. It’s exactly what you’d expect from an old town – selfie-obsessed tourists, stalls selling questionable meat, souvenir shops and tea houses. It’s busy and vibrant but in a completely different way to Shanghai and is well worth a look if you have a spare half day.

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I took the metro back to Pudong and opted to wander amongst the impressive skyscrapers. Century Avenue, which passes directly through the middle of Pudong, makes for a fantastic walking spot from the east. It starts off as a large road with wide pavements but after a while, an elevated walkway allows you to stroll all the way to the promenade whilst being up close and personal to the towering buildings. I think my favourite is the bottle opener – now if only I could find a bottle of beer that size…

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I soon returned to the Bund via the ferry and got myself a prime seat for sundown and nightfall. It doesn’t matter how many times I admire that view, it just doesn’t get old.

One other attraction of note in Shanghai is something you can do going to/from Pudong airport. The Maglev is the fastest train in the world and so for a train lover like me it was irresistible. The train is unique in that it doesn’t touch the track and can reach speeds of over 400km an hour. It is well signposted from the airport but only ferries passengers as far as Longyang Road from which you can transfer to lines 2, 7 and 16 of the ordinary metro. Taking just 7 minutes, it’s a good bucket list experience and isn’t too expensive at ¥50 (or ¥40 if you show your plane ticket) one way. I took the other way heading back to Pudong airport and after my hellish journey to Shanghai, it was nice to travel back in style.

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