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About city Gallery Where to stay

The world’s most densely populated city, Shanghai, is awash in myth and legend. Not everyone can image 24 million people living in one city, although for Shanghai, even this is not the limit. It’s one of the fastest growing megapolises on Earth. Shanghai is a place of commerce and manufacture – its harbour is the largest processor of shipping containers in the world. Here you can also find many free economic and business development zones. This mighty Chinese city is also becoming a large conference centre, with ever more hotels and services for business clients, travellers as well as for the locals. Scores of quiet temples, resting between the gigantic skyscrapers, and parks filled with tai chi-practising seniors, however, reveal the true spirit of the city.

People dancing in the morning on the Bund in front of the skyline of Pudong in the City of Shanghai in China
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  People dancing in the morning on the Bund in front of the skyline of Pudong in the City of Shanghai in China

During the period between the 5th and the 7th centuries CE, this (almost unimaginably) large city had its beginnings as a small fishing village, established near the Sea of East China. Later, it became a trade city, surrounded by a protective wall ordered by the Ming Dynasty. During this time, an important 'City God' Temple was also built here – these temples were usually erected only in regional centres. In 1735, Shanghai became the largest trade harbour in the lower region of Yangtze River.

The city became known internationally only in the 19th century, when the British, French and other Westerners discovered its trade potential. In 1932, Shanghai was already home to as many as 70,000 foreigners from all over the world, at a time when the total population was around 3-4 million. During the Second World War, Shanghai was occupied by Japan. After the war, it was returned to China and managed to maintain its economic and social stability even during the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution.

Shanghai, Tongji University Cherry Blossom Festival
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Shanghai, Tongji University Cherry Blossom Festival

Now, in terms of quality of life, suitability for business, and infrastructure, Shanghai is among the 20 most competitive cities in the world.

How does it all look at the street level? CNN.com journalists, who either live or frequently visit Shanghai, had collected as many as 50 pleasant facts about the city. Here we present a few of them, to help you get a clearer picture of what it means to live in the world’s largest city:

  • In Shanghai, absolutely everything can be delivered straight to your door. Even women who sell flowers in the street will give you their numbers and deliver the flowers to your place at any time. Let’s not even start on restaurant food…
  • The fantastic head massage and hair wash are both available all over the city for just a few dollars. For a couple more you can also get an excellent full-body massage.
  • Oh, the parks of Shanghai… Here you can visit more than 150 of them, each offering its own form of entertainment. In the morning, Shanghai’s parks are flooded with seniors, who come here to practice tai chi. Here you can also find all kinds of exercise machines (all of which can be used for free, by the way), dance floors, a lively snack culture, afternoon karaoke (in case of a decent audience, you can even expect some dance moves), and even squares where parents try to pair up their children, and organise blind dates.
A beautiful view of Shanghai Skyline at sunrise with people doing Tai Chi
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  A beautiful view of Shanghai Skyline at sunrise with people doing Tai Chi
  • If you notice people walking around in the streets in their pyjamas, don’t be surprised – this piece of clothing totally acceptable for drinking tea, shopping, playing cards and talking to neighbours (even during winter!).
  • Shanghai is comprised of many distinct neighbourhoods: The Bund is a famous waterfront district with a high concentration of business buildings, night clubs and restaurants. The historic centre of the city charms people with its Colonial buildings, temples and brand new skyscrapers. It’s like one big lecture on Chinese history.
  • It’s a stylish city that gives a lot of freedom to artistic expression. The urban environment is characterized by many innovative design solutions and art pieces. Shanghai also has many museums, galleries, and design and contemporary fashion shows.
  • Shanghai is home to lots of bars and live music performances. Many of them are charming in their naïveté and simplicity, rather than their exceptional quality, although in a city with this many people you’re bound to find some excellent bands and musicians, too.

But let’s not forget that for all its glory, Shanghai also faces many problems. First of all, let’s talk about public transportation. Currently, Shanghai has 14 metro lines, which stretch for over 500 km under the ground. Besides, the city also has over 1000(!) different bus routes and the oldest trolleybus system in the world. Shanghai’s taxi park has, seemingly, no end.

Shanghai, Tongji University Cherry Blossom Festival
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Shanghai, Tongji University Cherry Blossom Festival

Here you’ll also find many railway stations with lots of high-speed train routes. The city has two international airports, with an outbound road system so complex that it must shock people who come here from smaller cities.

It’s not surprise that in such a turbulent and overcrowded city air pollution levels exceed international standards by 23 to 31 times. In Chinese context, however, Shanghai is a truly modern, green and environmentally-friendly city. The city’s Suzhou Bay is currently undergoing purification – as more and more people gain a better understanding of how important cleanliness is for a decent quality of life, more and more new projects are undertaken.

Where to stay

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