Shanghai (上海; Zånhae in Shanghainese, Shànghǎi in Mandarin) is the largest and most developed city in China, the country's main center for finance and fashion, and one of the world's most populous and important cities.
Shanghai is one of four cities in China that are administered as municipalities (市) at the same level in the hierarchy as provinces (discussion). It is not part of any province and there is no government structure at province, prefecture or city level, just a government for Shanghai Municipality and one for each district or county within it.
The municipality covers quite a large area — 6341 km2 or 2,448 square miles — and has a population around 24 million, which is about the same as Australia and more than all but two US states and all but six EU member countries. Its GDP is larger than that of many countries, and it has the world's busiest container port. Shanghai is the main hub of the East China region, all of which is densely populated, heavily industrialized, prosperous, well supplied with migrant workers from poorer parts of China, and still growing.
Shanghai is split in two by the Huangpu River (黄浦江 Huángpǔ Jiāng), into Puxi (浦西 Pǔxī) west of the river and Pudong (浦东 Pǔdōng) east of the river. Both terms can be used in a general sense for everything on their side of the river, including various suburbs. However, they are more often used in a much narrower sense where Puxi is the older (since the 19th century) city center and Pudong the mass of new (since 1990) high-rise development right across the river from there.
From the early 1840s to the late 1930s parts of Shanghai were concessions, areas administered by foreign powers. Eight nations—Britain, France, the US, Germany, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Japan—had concessions in Shanghai, areas that they controlled and where Chinese law did not apply. Most of these were jointly administered as the "International Settlement", but the French ran theirs separately. In all of them, the population was mainly Chinese but there were also many foreigners, and the government and legal system were foreign. The police included many Sikhs and some French gendarmes.
Many important Chinese lived in the concession areas. Chairman Mao's Shanghai house is now a museum in Jing'an District, while both the houses of several other leaders and the site of the first national meeting of the Communist Party are now museums in the French Concession.
Today most of the former concession areas are parts of downtown Shanghai, listed at #Downtown below.
- "Central District" on the old map was British and the center of colonial Shanghai. It corresponds roughly to the modern district Huangpu.
- The horse racing track on the edge of that area is now People's Square, considered the center of modern Shanghai.
- "Western District" was mostly British but also included the Italian Concession. It corresponds roughly to Jing'an.
- "French Settlement" on the old map corresponds roughly to Luwan District; the Concession later expanded westward to include Xuhui District, and our French Concession article covers both.
The "Chinese City" is the area that was the walled city of Shanghai for hundreds of years before the modern city developed around it. It has its own Wikivoyage article, Old City.
"Northern District" and "Eastern District" were once the American Concession; today they are parts of Zhabei and Hongkou respectively. They do not get as many visitors as the districts mentioned above, but they do have some attractions and the Shanghai Railway Station is in Zhabei. These are listed under #Inner suburbs.
Shanghai Municipality has 16 administrative districts (15 urban districts and one semi-rural county), all with at least a few hundred thousand people, and Wikivoyage has separate articles for most of them. Here we try to split them up in a way that will make sense for travellers.
The historic core of Shanghai, it includes both the old Chinese city and the area of the International Settlement which began in the 1840s and lasted until the 1930s. It can be called Puxi (浦,西), downtown Shanghai (上海市区) or the city center (市中心). Today this area is still the core of the city. Most of the tourist attractions and many hotels are here, and many metro lines run through it.
Wikivoyage has a separate article, Downtown Shanghai that gives an overview of the whole area, plus articles for the four districts it includes:
The most central district of Shanghai with the Bund (a riverside boulevard that was the center of commerce in the colonial era), People's Park (often considered the center of the city), and many other attractions.
|Old City |
This area was a walled city for nearly a thousand years before modern Shanghai developed around it. The wall is long gone but the area still has quite a few traditional Chinese-style buildings and much tourist-oriented shopping. It is a major draw for both Chinese and foreign tourists, less so for Shanghai residents.
The center of this area is a magnificent Buddhist temple more than 1500 years old; today there is a major metro station under it. The area is now one of the most built-up in the city with much upmarket shopping and extensive highrise development — commercial, residential and office — including many of the foreign consulates.
|French Concession |
With a fine cathedral and other interesting older buildings, now also with many up-market highrise residential and office buildings and several large malls. The area has much of the city's shopping — including high-end international brands, boutiques for local designers, and outlets for artists and craftspeople — and much of its nightlife as well.
Our French Concession article covers all of the official district Xuhui (徐汇区 Xúhuìqū), much of which was in the old concession though the southern parts were not. It also covers Luwan, which is no longer an official district and is now administered as part of Huangpu.
Directly across the river from (east of) downtown, Pudong is a major center of recent development (since about 1990) as a skyscraper-filled financial center. Pudong is listed here separately from the older downtown area on the Puxi side, but it might be described as an extension of the downtown core, or even as the new center of the city.
Pudong is a highly developed area with more skyscrapers than New York, several of the world's tallest buildings, and plenty of facilities catering to business travellers or well-off tourists. The photo to the right is a view of Lujiazui, the most developed area of Pudong, seen from the Bund, a riverside boulevard in the older downtown.
In Shanghai's administrative system the area we describe in the Pudong article is just the central part of a much larger official district called Pudong New Area, which also includes the less developed Nanhui to the south. Wikivoyage has a separate article for Nanhui, and it is listed as an outer suburb below.
The inner suburbs all (except Yangpu) have direct borders with the downtown core, are all quite built up, and all have good metro service. All are primarily residential areas, but many have considerable industry as well and all have some large shopping malls.
These districts have some tourist attractions and several have hotels that are cheaper than those downtown but still convenient for sightseeing or shopping. Several have universities, and nearby areas tend to have many low-priced restaurants and bars catering to the student market; see #Learn below and the district articles for details.
|Yangpu (杨浦区 Yángpǔqū) |
Northeast of downtown, where Fudan University and Tongji University are located. It is has many moderately-priced bars and restaurants catering to the student market. For shoppers, it has the huge Wujiaochang (五角场) mall.
|Hongkou (虹口区 Hóngkǒuqū) |
North and a bit east of downtown, home of Lu Xun Park and a football stadium, had many of Shanghai's substantial Jewish population in the first half of the 20th century. Mostly residential.
|Zhabei (闸北区 Zháběiqū) |
Zhabei is an older district north of downtown with the Shanghai Railway Station and the Shanghai Circus. In 2017 it was merged into Jing'an district for administrative purposes.
|Putuo (普陀区 Pǔtuóqū) |
Northwest of downtown, mainly a residential district. For travellers, it has some decent youth hostels near the metro.
|Changning (长宁区 Chángníngqū) |
West of downtown; the Shanghai Zoo is in this area. Changning is a very large, primarily residential district but in recent years has seen more commercial and entertainment hubs develop, especially in the area around Zhongshan Park.
West and south of downtown, includes the water town Qibao. Metro line runs north-south through much of it. Near its northern tip are Hongqiao Airport and Hongqiao Railway Station.
The outer suburbs wrap around the southern, western and northwestern sides of the city. The sea is on the east and the Yangtze on the northeast.
All of these areas still include some farmland but large parts of them are already covered with residential and industrial suburban development and the trend shows no sign of stopping. What were once rural villages serving nearby farms have become towns, often fairly interesting ones that preserve some of the traditional buildings.
As of 2018, nearly all of these outer suburbs have metro connections and planned extensions to the metro system will reach the rest by 2020. In the meanwhile, there is bus service to all of them; see the district articles for details.
The areas along the seacoast at the southern edge of the municipality — Fengxian, Jinshan and Nanhui — have beaches that are popular as a weekend getaway for Shanghai residents.
North of downtown, with some coastline on the Yangtze.
Northwest of downtown, bordering Suzhou. Metro line passes through Jiading and is the only line that extends beyond Shanghai Municipality; as of early 2018 it reaches Kunshan and planned extensions will connect it to the Suzhou metro.
|Qingpu (青浦区 Qīngpǔ Qū) |
On the western edge of the municipality. At its western tip is the water town Zhujiajiao.
|Songjiang (松江区 Sōngjiāng Qū) |
Southwest of downtown, bordering Minhang, not on a municipality border.
|Jinshan (金山区 Jīnshān Qū) |
At the southwest corner of the municipality, includes the water town Fengjing.
|Fengxian (奉贤区 Fèngxián Qū) |
On the southern edge of Shanghai Municipality.
At the southeast corner of the municipality, administratively part of Pudong New Area. Has the Shanghai Disney Resort.
|Chongming County (崇明县 Chóngmíngxiàn) |
Chongming Island in the Yangtze plus a couple of smaller islands nearby make up Chongming County, the most northerly, most remote and least developed area in Shanghai Municipality. As of 2018, it is reached by ferry from Baoshan or a highway from Pudong; a metro connection is planned for 2020.
Chongming is the only part of Shanghai administered as a "county" rather than a "district"; the general rule is that districts are urban areas while counties are relatively rural. Apparently, compared to the rest of Shanghai, Chongming can be considered rural even though it has about 700,000 people.