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Riverside promenade The Bund is the ‘golden mile’ of Shanghai. This string of colonial bank buildings, consulates and hotels is a favourite hangout of Shanghai residents. The historic character of the Bund contrasts sharply with Shanghai’s modern skyline on the other side of the Huangpu Jiang River.
The waterfront promenade begins at the Monument of Heroes – in honour of the nationalists who fought for the freedom of Shanghai – and is composed of historic façades, including Gothic, Baroque, Neoclassical and Renaissance. This is a great place for taking pictures and people watching. Depending on the time of day, you will encounter all kinds of characters: local residents performing their daily tai chi-rituals, children flying kites and business people in suits. Evenings are perfect for a stroll along the Bund to admire the beautifully illuminated modern skyline across the river.
Bund means ‘wharf along the muddy shore’. This name was given by Westerners – the Chinese still refer to the river bank as Waitan. The first European-style building along the Bund was constructed in 1843. Since then, many more consulates, banks and hotels have been built, particularly in an East-Indian, i.e. Western design. This style of building was named for the ‘journey’ it had to make: Western styles only reached the Far East via India. At the end of the 19th century, architects started to combine modernist styles with traditional Chinese styles, as can be seen in the Palace Hotel and the former Russian-Chinese Bank. At the beginning of the 20th century, Art Deco made its entrance and the 1948 Bank of Communications as well as the Peninsula Hotel is a fine example hereof. For a great view of the various styles, visit the latter's outside bar as it offers a fabulous view of the Bund.
Until 1990, the east bank of the Huanpu Jiang River – across from the Bund – had remained relatively quiet but from then it became the most photographed panorama of the city. The shiny skyscrapers of the Shanghai business district compete to be photographed by tourists. They form an impressive contrast to the ‘low-rise’ historic buildings of the Bund which are only a few storeys high. Since 2014, Shanghai boasts the second highest skyscraper in the world: the Shanghai Tower. Only the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is taller. On the same east bank you will also find the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center - nicknamed ‘the bottle opener’ - and the stately Jin Mao Tower. All these buildings offer beautiful views of the city and the Bund, although nothing surpasses the views of the towers themselves as seen from the Bund.