On my second day in China (staying in the Fairmont Peace Hotel), we took a quick tour of Shanghai before heading to the airport to fly to Lijiang and begin touring the Yunnan province. Shanghai was INSTANT LOVE for me. Something about it was so much like the energy I feel in New York. My number one tip for any city so foreign is to hire a guide (I was on an Abercrombie & Kent itinerary with one of their best guides) but I always make sure to spend some alone time on the streets.
The Bund curves around Shanghai's river, and has been the cultural heart and best place to live in the city for decades. I had no idea the architecture on the Bund was so worldly and international, dating back to when ex-pats lived and spent their money in the city.
In 2010, Shanghai commissioned the original artist of the famous Wall Street bull to replicate a bull for the Bund. As the Financial Times stated, "Call it the sincerest form of rivalry. Shanghai plans to equal New York as a global financial centre by 2020, so it needs its own bull." The artist, Arturo DiModico, said that the Shanghai Bull weighs exactly the same as the New York Bull (though there are minor differences).
We also toured Old Shanghai, a very tourist-y but still architecturally cool area, with tea & chopsticks shops, and a very popular place with an hour-long line, Nanxiang, for soup dumplings. I recently tried the famous soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai in New York and it was a travel "duh" moment that connected all the dots. "It's called Joe's Shanghai in New York...The Shanghainese inhale soup dumplings...oh soup dumplings come from Shanghai, not Chinatown!"
The Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse has served Queen Elizabeth II and Bill Clinton and holds court in the center of this historic area, reached by a winding bridge with nine turns.