Are you looking to get off the beaten path a bit? If so, read on to learn about 10 unusual things to do in Shanghai.
Shanghai, China has so many interesting things to do from great nightlife, modern architecture, and delicious restaurants. What some don’t realize is behind all the main hotspots are some beautiful colonial buildings, charming boutiques for shopping, and little rustic restaurants with some of the best food, and lots of different things to do other than the usual tourist destinations. Are you looking to get off the beaten path a bit? If so, read on to learn about 10 unusual things to do in Shanghai.
1. The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is located under the Oriental Pearl Tower and is an alternative option to get to the Bund district. The tunnel was designed to give the riders a psychedelic, mind-altering experience. Riders board a futuristic styled rail car and travel along the tunnel while strobe lights flash, sending the rider through a wild version of space. Accompanying the strobe lights is a soundtrack that evokes wonder and terror to the listener since the music is occasionally punctuated by random words like “hell’ and “shining star.” Although it is referred to as the Sightseeing Tunnel, there is nothing to see other than the sensory overload the tunnel provides, but it does offer you alternative transportation to the sightseeing location of the Bund district. The Bund district is where you can go for a walk along the waterfront and get a nice view of the skyscrapers in the city.
2. 1933 Cattle Slaughterhouse
Located in the historic Hongkou District and built in 1933 as a slaughterhouse for cattle, this surprising architectural location is perfect for those seeking an urban decay backdrop for photography. The building was designed by British architects and was designed for efficiently taking the cattle to slaughter. With thick concrete walls, there are intertwining staircases, ramps with rough floors to avoid slipping, and nooks for the workers to escape into in case the cattle get spooked and stampede. There are also decorative and religious elements to help assist the cattle in their quest for reincarnation according to the Buddhist belief system, for instance, the windows are facing west towards the Buddhist holy land. The air bridges, staircases, latticework windows, and central atrium create an intriguing and mind-bending view. This is a perfect location for anyone seeking unique and interesting architectural photographs.
3. Shanghai Natural History Museum
Located in the building that was formerly the Cotton Exchange, the Shanghai Natural History Museum is a blast from the past in this modernized city. The museum dates from the 1950s and still keeps its original charm, even if that means it’s a little musty. The museum’s collection boasts some dinosaur skeletons, a couple of ancient Chinese mummies, and some worse for wear taxidermy pieces. Although some of the displays have some rare specimens, these aren’t necessarily the draw to visit the Shangai Natural History Museum. The museum itself has an eclectic and scruffy charm, there is little to no lighting and the placards for each display are so old they have yellowed. This museum is perfect for those searching for something a little different and weird.
4. Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall
Originated thousands of years ago on the Silk Road, blue nankeen is a form of Chinese textile that is made out of cotton. The simple blue and white handprinted designs were originally created by placing wooden stencils onto fabric and painting a mixture of soya bean flour and slaked lime into the white space. Then the cloth is soaked in an indigo dye until the desired blue tint is achieved. These beautiful textiles were created amongst Chinese commoners on everyday items such as clothing, tablecloths, towels, and drapes. They were also traditionally gifted to those who were getting married or the birth of a new baby. Those who would like to see pieces of this ancient art can wander through the Chinese Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall and also see a display on how the textiles were created. Visitors can also purchase some of these unique textiles to take home with them.
5. One of the Most Fun Things to do in Shanghai is to See a Show at Shanghai Circus World
This troupe of acrobatic performers is hailed to be some of the greatest acrobats in the world. Located in a geodesic dome in the northern part of Shanghai, the performers put on a show three times a week. The audience will be dazzled with acts of traditional Chinese acrobatics like bowl balancing, hoop diving and juggling to more modern feats of an exciting end of the show motorcycle stunt riding.
6. Take a Visit to Zhouzhuang Water Town
Often called the “Venice of the East,” Zhouzhuang is located just north of Shanghai. This town is surrounded by lakes and rivers and used to be a prominent distribution center for the trade of ceramics, silks, art, and food. Take a walk through the streets to see the wonderful architecture of this quaint town. Book a boat ride on the canal for a different perspective of the water town, a ride at night can be a wonderful lantern lit voyage while the rower sings traditional Chinese songs. Also, be sure to take the time to visit the Taoist Chengxu Temple. The temple was built between 1086 and 1093 AD during the Song Dynasty and is hailed as a masterpiece in Taoist architecture.
7. See Yuyuan Garden
If you are looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai city, be sure to visit Yu Garden, a traditional Chinese garden that was built in the Ming Dynasty. The garden is a wonderful spot to walk through beautiful pavilions, koi fish ponds, and rock gardens. The main focal point of the Yu Garden is the Exquisite Jade Rock, rumored to have been meant for the Huizong Emperor, but sank in the boat transporting it and was later salvaged from the river. This rock is a porous 5-ton boulder and is quite the site to see. Just outside of the garden there are lots of shops and restaurants known for their xiao long bao, which is a steam dumpling filled with soup. Try and plan your visit for the week because crowds can be stifling on the weekends.
8. Jing’An Sculpture Park
Jing’An Sculpture Park is located in the heart of Shanghai’s shopping district. This little park is full of interesting sculptures and gorgeous works of art. The theme of the sculptures is all nature-based and you can access the Natural History Museum from inside the park. The work in the park is created by local and international artists and new pieces are introduced all the time while older pieces are retired. There will always be something new to see if you come back for a visit another time. The park is a great place to have a picnic or a pause from your busy day to grab a cup of coffee. There are lots of interesting things to see and a great place for photographs.
9. Marriage Market
Due to the Chinese one-child policy, the pressure to get married before the age of 30, and the high demand work life, many don’t have the time to find a partner. With the help of their parents though, they’ve got nothing to worry about. The Marriage Market originated in 1996 and gives parents the opportunity to advertise the qualities of their children, harking back to traditional times of arranged marriages. Parents often hang out here and talk to other parents discussing the merits of their children and arranging dates. This uniquely popular destination for Chinese parents is also an interesting place to visit and get a glimpse at a more intimate aspect of Chinese culture.
10. Normandy Apartments
Between 1849 and 1943, the French government owned a small section of Shanghai, known as the French Concession. During this time the French built a lot of businesses and residential areas in the European style. Originally it was a popular place for Europeans to live, but expansions also saw some well-to-do Chinese residents as well. The French Concession is a popular tourist location due to its uniquely European architecture. In the French Concession area sits the Normandy Apartments. These apartments are a beautiful study in architecture, however, they are rumored to be haunted. In the 1960s, actress Shangguan Yunzhu lived here after most of the other rich and famous people had left. Yunzhu was a popular actress at one time but had a fall from grace when her films were described as “poisonous weeds” and she wasn’t able to find work. Yunzhu, unable to accept her fall from stardom, climbed to the seventh floor and jumped, ending her life. Her suicide is not the only one committed at the Normandy apartments which have locals referring to it as “the diving board,” many intellectuals and enemies of the state killed themselves here during the Shanghai cultural revolution.
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