World ? Asia ? China ? Shanghai

Shanghai: Walking Tour 1

The Bund & Beyond

Start: Waibaidu Bridge, Suzhou Creek (Metro: Henan Zhong Lu).

Finish: Yan'an Dong Lu, south Bund.

Time: 2 to 3 hours.

Best Times: Weekday mornings or late afternoons; nighttime for the lights, not the sights.

Worst Times: Weekends bring out the crowds on the Bund Promenade. Evenings are pretty, with the lights on the Bund buildings and the river, but the architecture cannot be viewed well after dark.

Defining the eastern boundary of downtown Shanghai, the Bund (Wai Tan) refers to both sides of the wide avenue (Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu) that runs north and south along the western shore of the Huangpu River. The Bund Promenade now occupies the east side of the street, affording terrific pedestrian-only walks along the river shore. Our stroll concentrates, however, on the colonial-era European-style architecture on the west side of the street.

The colonial era began in Shanghai after the Treaty of Nanjing ended the First Opium War in 1842. The British and other Western nations moved in, establishing foreign enclaves (concessions) and opening up the city to trade. Consisting of mud flats and streams that were drained, the Bund (which means embankment) became the chief shipping, trading, and financial district of the colonialists. Shanghai's foreign population grew from 10,000 in 1910 to 60,000 by 1940, and it was during this period that the great buildings that still line the Bund were built. Many of the more notable buildings were designed by the architectural firm Palmer and Turner, including the Customs House, the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Bank of China, and the Peace Hotel.

War with Japan signaled the end to the Bund's colonial heyday, the first bomb dropping on the Peace Hotel August 14, 1937. In January 1943, the Japanese occupation of Shanghai put an end to the city's foreign concessions. Shortly after the communist triumph of 1949, the last of the foreign trading houses abandoned the Bund. In the decades since, many of the buildings, occupied sporadically by local banks, organizations, and businesses, fell into disrepair, but since the late 1990s there has been a concerted effort to restore the Bund's architectural grandeur, to refurbish the colonial interiors, and to open them to a curious public, all of which makes for a fascinating walking tour.

Begin at the northern end of the Bund (Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu) on the southern shore of Suzhou Creek at:

1. Waibaidu Bridge

This steel span was built in 1907 to replace the wooden Garden Bridge that once connected the American Settlement north of the Suzhou Creek to the British Concession. On the north side of the bridge you can still see a number of colonial holdovers: to the left (west), the former Broadway Mansions (now Shanghai Mansions), an Art Deco apartment building built in 1934 and which later housed the Foreign Correspondents Club after World War II; to the right on the north side of the street, the marvelous old Astor House Hotel, built in 1860 and reconstructed in 1906. The hotel was the first to use telephones and electric lights in China. Albert Einstein stayed here in 1921 and 1923 (and you can, too, in his former room, in today's Pujiang Hotel). South of the Pujiang is the former and again current Russian Consulate, built in 1917, which served as a seamen's hotel in intervening years.

From the bridge, head south down the east side of Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu past:

2. Huangpu Gongyuan (Huangpu Park)

Originally built by the British in 1868, this is the notorious park that in colonial days was reputed to have a sign posted forbidding entrance by dogs and Chinese. Actually, they were just 2 out of 10 park prohibitions, but the underlying attitude towards the Chinese was clear. Today, the park is dwarfed by the Bund Promenade, at the northern end of which is an obelisk, the Monument to the People's Heroes. This is a great spot to take in views of Pudong across the river, as well as of the Bund buildings you'll soon be seeing up close. Underneath the monument is the Bund Historical Museum (Waitan Lishi Bowuguan; daily 9am-4:15pm; free admission), worth a quick tour if you want to see photos of the Bund's early days.

Cross to the west side of the Bund via the pedestrian underpass just south of Beijing Dong Lu. Take the right exit (heading north) and proceed north until the road starts to curve. To your left, you'll find the:

3. Former British Consulate (Nos. 33-53)

This large sprawling compound with the two stately gray granite buildings was the former British Consulate, first established here in 1852 after the British victory in the Opium War of 1842, and rebuilt in 1873. From this perch at the top of the Bund, the British oversaw the growth and development of Shanghai into an economic powerhouse in the first half of the 20th century. Until 2004, these two remaining buildings served as offices for the Shanghai Municipal Government, but part of the compound is now being developed into the Peninsula Hotel Shanghai, which will surely be the hotel with the most desirable location in town once it's completed. South of here at no. 29 is the former Banque de L'Indo-Chine, a French classic structure built in 1911; and the Glen Line Building (no. 28), built in 1922, both now occupied by the Everbright Bank. The Glen Line Building was the American Consulate for a brief spell after World War II.

If you're interested in seeing some colonial architecture just behind the Bund, follow the road north as it curves to the left and becomes Suzhou Nan Lu. Take a left (south) at Yuanmingyuan Lu, which has a row of remarkable Art Deco and classical buildings along its western edge. Loop back by taking a left (east) at Beijing Dong Lu. At the southeastern corner of Beijing Dong Lu and the Bund, you'll find:

4. Jardine Matheson Building (No. 27, now the Shanghai Foreign Trade Building)

Completed in 1922, this was one of the first and most powerful foreign trading companies to take root in Shanghai, their founders, Scotsmen William Jardine and James Matheson, having been some of the earliest profiteers from the opium trade. A sushi restaurant now occupies the ground floor. Next door is the former Yangtze Insurance Building (no. 26, now the Agricultural Bank of China), built in 1916 and possessed of a nicely restored lobby, worth a quick peek to whet your appetite for the splendors that lie ahead. The building at no. 24 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu is now the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (formerly the Yokohama Specie Bank).

The last building on this block is the:

5. Bank of China (No. 23)

Built in 1937 by the Chiang Kai-shek Nationalist government, this Art Deco building with a Chinese roof has always been and still is the Bank of China. During its construction, there was a competition between the bank director H. H. Kung (Chiang Kai-shek's brother-in-law) and Victor Sassoon, the owner of the Peace Hotel next door, for the claim to the tallest building on the Bund. Sassoon won, barely, with the addition of a small tower on top of the Peace. Take a peek inside the bank for its grand interior.

Next door, on the corner of Nanjing Lu, is a Bund landmark, the:

6. Peace Hotel (No. 20)

Built in 1929 as both the private residence of the Sassoon family and as a grand hotel, the Cathay, this is a living museum of Art Deco, capped by its famous pyramid roof. Walk through its romantic lobby and check out its rooftop views of the Bund (11th floor). The latter will cost you ť50 ($6) with a beverage, though this is not always enforced. Noel Coward wrote his play Private Lives at the Peace in 1930, W. Somerset Maugham was a guest, and Steven Spielberg later filmed part of Empire of the Sun (based on J. G. Ballard's memoir of growing up as an expatriate during the Japanese occupation) here. Also take a look at the gorgeous gilded ballroom on the eighth floor.

Immediately across Nanjing Lu is the Peace's older sister, the:

7. Palace Hotel (No. 19)

Built in 1906 by the Sassoons, this white and red brick hotel is now the South Building of the Peace Hotel. Its interiors are less extravagant than those of the Peace, but there is still plenty of grandeur in its marble lobby.

The next building to the south is the:

8. Bund 18 (formerly Chartered Bank of India, Australia, and China, No. 18)

Built in 1923, this striking building with the two Ionic stone columns was completely redeveloped into a high-end commercial and restaurant complex in 2004. Restaurants include the flagship establishment of Michelin-rated French chefs (the Pourcel twins), a raft of high-end boutiques, and the hippest bar in town on the roof. Take a peek inside its lavish interiors. Next door, the former North China Daily News Building (no. 17, now the AIA Building), completed in 1921 in a late-Renaissance style, was originally home to the oldest English-language newspaper in China, the North China Daily News, where American writer Emily Hahn once worked. It now houses the American International Assurance Company. At the end of the block, the former Bank of Taiwan Building (no. 16, now the China Merchants Bank), with its simple classical lines, was built in 1924 and was actually a Japanese bank (Taiwan was occupied by Japan in 1895), despite its name.

In the next block of the Bund, across Jiujiang Lu, is the:

9. Russo-Chinese Bank Building (No. 15, now the China Foreign Exchange Trade System Building)

Built in 1901, this was the first tile-faced construction in Shanghai, a wide and squat edifice. Next door is the modernistic former Bank of Communications Building (no. 14, now the Bank of Shanghai/Shanghai Federation of Trade Unions), built in 1940, its large entrance framed in copper sheets.

Cross Hankou Lu to a venerable landmark, the:

10. Shanghai Customs House (No. 13)

Built in 1927, the classical-style Customs House is fronted by four massive granite Roman columns and topped by a rising bell tower (known as "Big Ching"). The low and dark lobby has beautiful mosaics of Chinese junks, but the rest of the building is run down and consists mostly of crowded offices and dank apartments in the back, where some family members of old Customs officials still live.

Next door is the even more spectacular:

11. Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (No. 12, now the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank)

This gorgeous classic European building with grand columns and archways, and capped by a huge dome, was built in 1923 (G. L. Wilson of Palmer and Turner was the chief architect). Inside the massive revolving doors, the restored dome and lobby are the most magnificent on the Bund. The foyer, supported by marble columns, is decorated with eight gold-trimmed mosaic panels, each a salute to one of the world's financial capitals at that time (Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York, London, Paris, Calcutta, and of course Shanghai). The bank's lobby is also stunning, restored in alabaster and polished wood. The English hailed it as the most spectacular building ever erected between the Suez Canal and the Bering Strait. Between 1955 and 1995, this building served as Shanghai's city hall.

Take a Break

Stop for a coffee or a refresher at the Bund 12 Cafe on the second floor of the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (Room 226). To get there, exit the main entrance of the bank, turn left and take the northern entrance to the second floor. This cafe offers coffees, juices, and light lunches, which you can linger over as you contemplate the splendid interior you've just seen.

When you are refreshed, head back out to the Bund and take a detour right (west) onto Fuzhou Lu past a Tudor-style house (no. 44, Fuzhou Lu), formerly the Calbeck, Macgregor and Company wine importers. Head to the:

13. Intersection of Fuzhou Lu & Jiangxi Lu

This intersection has four somewhat dilapidated but still grand colonial buildings. Notice the two identical Art Deco structures on the northeast (today's Metropole Hotel) and southeast (formerly the Hamilton House, an apartment complex) corners, both built by Palmer and Turner. In the building at the northwest corner lodged the Shanghai Municipal Council -- the governing body of the International Settlement. Just a bit further west at Fuzhou Lu 209 is the former American Club, a classic red brick American Georgian-style building with marble columns. Today it's the Shanghai's People Court. In the old days, Fuzhou Lu was both the red light district and the location of Shanghai's publishing houses and bookstores, with many of the latter still located at the western end of the street.

Head back up (east) Fuzhou Lu to the Bund and turn right. The building at no. 9 is currently the China Merchant Holdings Company with its ground floor now developed into yet another luxury boutique; next to it stands the former:

14. Hospital of the Shanghai Navigation Company (No. 7, now the Bangkok Bank & the Thai Consulate)

This handsome late French Renaissance building is one of the oldest buildings on the Bund, built in 1906. It was the site of China's first telephone switchboard. Next door, the English Gothic structure, the former Commercial Bank of China (no. 6, now empty) was built in 1906, but what you see today, though still intriguing, is a stripped-down version of the original, which had many more pillars, cornices, and chimneys. The narrower building next to it on the north corner of Guangdong Lu is the former headquarters of the Nishin Navigation Company (no. 5, now the Huaxia Bank Building). Another modernistic, Western-style building, it was constructed in 1925 by its Japanese owners. Today, it's best known for its seventh-floor inhabitants, the restaurant and bar, M on the Bund. An underground bar in the basement, number five, offers a more relaxed vibe with cheaper drinks, tasty bar food, and free pool.

On the south side of Gungdong Lu is:

15. Three on the Bund (formerly the Union Insurance Company Building, No. 3)

One of the toniest addresses in town, this newly restored Renaissance-style building from 1922 is the first of the traditional Bund buildings to be developed into a high-end retail and restaurant complex. Besides hosting world-renowned chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and David Laris, the building is home to the Evian Spa, luxury shops including Giorgio Armani's flagship store, and an art gallery showing the works of contemporary Chinese artists. Entrance is on Guangdong Lu.

Next door to the south is one of the most famous buildings on the Bund, the former:

16. Shanghai Club (No. 2)

Built in 1910, this was the city's most extravagant private club, an English Renaissance structure with elaborate white columns and baroque attic windows. It housed the famous black-and-white granite Long Bar, at over 30m (100 ft.) reputedly the longest bar in the world; this was the watering hole for the "old boys' club" that ruled colonial Shanghai. For much of the late 20th century, this was the Dong Feng Hotel. Today, it is closed and gutted, awaiting yet another transformation. The last building on the block, at the corner of Yan'an Dong Lu, is the former Asiatic Petroleum Building, also known as the McBain Building (no. 1, now the China Pacific Insurance Company), built in 1916, a substantial structure employing the ubiquitous baroque pillars, Roman stone archway, and Greek columns.

You can conclude your walk at this point, or cross Zhongshan Dong Lu using the overpass just south of Jinling Dong Lu, take a quick peek into the tiny Bund Repository inside the Signal Tower, and head north on the Bund promenade for more views of the Bund skyline. You can also take a Huangpu River cruise from the docks along the promenade, or simply take a much-deserved break in one of the cafes or restaurants on the west side of the street.

Winding Down

Head to the north side of Guangdong Lu for the elevator to M on the Bund (7th floor). M offers a splendid lounge, world-class Mediterranean cuisine, and a spacious balcony overlooking the Bund and the Huangpu River. Alternatively, Three on the Bund (south side of Guangdong Lu opposite M) features top-notch French cuisine at Jean Georges (4th floor), inventive Shanghainese dining at the Whampoa Club (5th floor), creative "new world" cuisine at Laris (6th floor), and inexpensive cafe food at New Heights (7th-floor terrace). All are open for lunch and dinner.

Content provided by Frommer's Unlimited © 2019, Whatsonwhen Limited and Wiley Publishing, Inc. By its very nature much of the information in this travel guide is subject to change at short notice and travellers are urged to verify information on which they're relying with the relevant authorities. Travmarket cannot accept any responsibility for any loss or inconvenience to any person as a result of information contained above.Event details can change. Please check with the organizers that an event is happening before making travel arrangements. We accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by any person resulting from information published on this site.