The Shanghai Skyline, Night and Day

Shanghai, China at night: a scene from Blade Runner–the original version. Note the face on the building on the right.

If you can stand all the pushing and shoving of the millions walking along The Bund in Shanghai, you can get up to the riverside rail and get a photo of the colorful and architecturally distinguished modern high-rise buildings of the Pudong District that make up the Shanghai skyline.

Pudong is a district of Shanghai located east of the Huangpu River which flows through central Shanghai. The name Pudong was originally applied to the Huangpu's east bank, directly across from the west bank and the historic city center. It now refers to the broader Pudong New Area, which extends all the way to the East China Sea.

The traditional area of Pudong is now home to the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, the Shanghai Stock Exchange and Shanghai's best-known modern buildings, such as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Jin Mao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and the Shanghai Tower.

The city's skyline to me seems lifted right out of Blade Runner. The humidity, the pollution, the noodles, and, most of all, the projected advertising face on the Kyocera building. Eerie at best. Frightening and foreboding at worst.

For travelers looking to immerse themselves further into Chinese culture, here's a great opportunity to learn Cantonese, the predominant language of Hong Kong and many other regions in southern China.

The pointy building on the left side of the photo is the Oriental Pearl Tower. It's a television broadcasting tower. The tall building on the right, behind the Kyocera Building, is the Shanghai Tower, the tallest skyscraper in China, and the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

the bund Shanghai china
You want Saturday Night Live? Try the Bund. More people walking around than the entire population of New York.

This is the view from the Fairmont Hotel down the river promenade known as The Bund. It was holiday week in China, and there were an estimated 5 million Chinese tourists in Shanghai. That's on top of the 24 million who live there. And, as you can see from the photo, most of them were taking an evening stroll along the river. The Chinese army was directing foot traffic. Really. And strictly enforcing one way walking. Walking in that crowd was a Chinese experience I won't forget.

If you go to Shanghai, China, the first thing you have to get used to is that there are always millions of people. Always. Shanghai is the most populous city in China, after all.

But the view of The Bund is worth it. Ships on the river, an amazing modern skyline on one side of the river, and the 19th Century colonial architecture on the other, including the Fairmont Hotel where we stayed at the end of our Viking River Cruises tour. The view is so spectacular, The Bund and its architecture has been named a Unesco World Heritage site. It's a beautiful and stunning contrast to the skyline of the Financial District across the river, which was mostly built in the last 20 years.

shanghai 1
The view of the financial district from the Hyatt Hotel. Just a taste. This is the Jin Mao Tower in the foreground.

The best way to get a feel for the immensity of Shanghai is to get a look over it. This is the view from the 84th floor restaurant of the Park Hyatt Hotel in the Shanghai World Financial Center. It was kind of them to let us press our lenses up against their windows to get these images of Shanghai. This is the Jinmao Tower. It was the tallest building in China from its completion in 1999 until 2007, when it was surpassed by the Shanghai World Financial Center

How the hell do they wash those windows, anyway?

shanghai skyine financial district river
Along the busy Huangpu river. The last tributary of the mighty Yangtze before it reaches the East China Sea.

The building in the foreground of the top shot is the Jin Mao Tower. And the building to the right of the second shot is the Shanghai Tower, which is the tallest building in Shanghai and the second tallest in the world. The Shanghai World Financial Center is the fifth tallest, and we actually weren't all that near to the top.

But we went up the World Financial Center instead of the Shanghai Tower, because, well, they charge about $15 to have a look at Shanghai's skyline from the observation deck of the larger building. And, I liked the views from this one just fine.

Finally, here's a look at the trio from human level.

The trio Shanghai financial district
The so-called trio of the Financial District. From left to right: the Jinmao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center, and the Shanghai Tower.

The great views of the city of Shanghai are endless. It is, after all, one of the most exciting cities in the world. And not just visually.

You can also get a lot more information about the spectacular changing architecture of Shanghai by taking a Context Travel tour while you are there. We did, and loved it.

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