The thrill and excitement of exploring a new city can often be overwhelming, especially when that city is Shanghai. The biggest city in China -- and eighth biggest in the world -- can seem larger than life, so you might not know where to begin.
A great place to start is to wander along the Bund, a walkway along the river and one of Shanghai’s most famous landmarks. On the eastern side of the Bund, there are a collection of large buildings in a variety of styles from Gothic to Renaissance. You can spend some time taking in this "exhibition of buildings" or enjoy a drink in one of the many bars here.
From the western side, you have views across the river to the Pudong skyline, which never gets old. From the futuristic Oriental Pearl TV Tower to the modern World Financial Center, the views can be appreciated any time of day or night.
If you like heights, Shanghai offers several options. You can check out the city views from the top of the World Financial Center, the TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower or enjoy a drink at the Cloud 9 bar on the 87th floor of the Grand Hyatt.
For many, shopping is the main attraction of a big city and Shanghai definitely doesn’t disappoint. East Nanjing Road can be reached easily on the metro and is the premier shopping street. Closed to traffic, the road stretches for nearly two miles and features dozens of shopping malls, famous stores and specialty shops. You can find whatever you want from clothing, shoes, fabrics, cosmetics and watches to food and medicine. You can also find a great spa to revive your weary feet after all that retail therapy.
Getting around the center of Shanghai is easy with the metro running until 11 p.m. and short trips costing less than $1 (5RMB). The station names are descriptive and written in English so you should have no problems.
One of the best experiences in a new city is trying the food, and Shanghai offers up a full spectrum of traditional and modern cuisine. Most restaurants have menus with pictures or even English versions so you can’t get into too much trouble. You can try your hand at charades and enjoy the street food consisting of steamed buns and a variety of grilled meats (including animal innards) as well as dumplings.
One of my favorites is Shanghai dumplings (soup dumplings), locally called Long Xiao Bao and served in many Shanghai restaurants. The dumplings are filled with delicious hot soup as well as the meat so be careful when you bite into one for the first time!
If you get through this, you have barely scratched the surface of this exciting city with a mix of new skyscrapers and old Shikumen lanes drawn together with Western customs and Chinese traditions intertwined.