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With Cathay Pacific offering non-stop (and very comfortable) flights to Hong-Kong from IAD these days, Asia has never seemed closer/within reach.

So, for those who made a New Year’s resolution to travel more and are planning to treat themselves in the months to come – a selection of sights, sounds and bites not to miss, even if, like we, you only had a couple of days to enjoy the island.

We already ran our primer on Hong Kong, and for those considering checking out Shanghai in the same trip (and you should – it is just another couple hours on a plane, and it is SPECTACULAR)

First thing you should know is that Shanghai is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. The Pudong area, which couple decades a go was merely fields, is now a bustling Skyscraper metropolis with breathtaking office buildings and hotels (including the Mandarin Oriental Pudong where we stayed – which was so lovely it was almost hard to leave it an explore). Across the river, the old city is a testament to the traditions and influences that shaped China, and everywhere you go that tension provides a special energy that can’t be ignored.

So, where to go once there?

What to see?

Shanghai has a few can’t misses for all first time visitors:

The Bund – Running along the Huangpu River, this waterfront walking path provides a picture perfect view of the Pudong district skyline, while offering a veritable cornucopia of architectural styles of its own: from Gothic European to quirky Art Deco flourishes. If you are to take one photo of yourself in Shanghai, it will likely be here, with the history in front of you, and the future behind you. The sightseeing tunnel is pretty great too.

Yu Gardens – A living testament to the Ming Dynasty and one of the oldest attractions in town, the gardens span 5 acres of land. Stop by and see the infamous 5-ton Jade Rock, or plan a peaceful afternoon exploring the ponds, rockeries and pavilions of the Inner Garden.

French Concession – a maze of alleyways comprise this arts and crafts neighbourhood that has developed from a renovated residential area in the French Concession area. A perfect place to find a unique gift or just get lost for hours.

People’s Square – marks the very center of Shanghai and is also the divider between the busy shopping streets of East Nanjing Road and West Nanjing Road. Once there – take in as much of Shanghai history as you can: Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Urban PLanning Exhibition Hall, People’s Park and Shanghai Museum are all there.

Culture:

Shanghai Film Park -An ode to classic cinema, Shanghai Film Park is filled with movie sets and activities allowing you to relive such Chinese classics as 1930S Old Town of Shanghai, Nanjing Road and more.

M50 Art Space – Established by local artist Xue Song, the M50 Contemporary Art District was originally home to several warehouses that have since been transformed in galleries, shops and restaurants full of authentic cuisine and incredible, locally made art and some of China’s finest street art

Aurora Museum – designed by Tadao Ando in the relatively new Pudong District, Aurora opened in October 2013. Its decidedly modern, geometric space is committed to the preservation and transmission of, and contribution to Chinese history and culture. At night, its gorgeous structure becomes an illuminated box, among the dazzling night ligths of Shanghai.

Shanghai Marriage Market – while Shanghai is one of the most developed cities in the world now, some old traditions never went away. A glimpse into the past that is still very much alive today.

Very Instagrammable Spots:

Xinhua Bookstore – a jawdropping jewel hidden inside a mall (which also happens to be very well known for its hot pot restaurants)

Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre – Located in the basement of an apartment building, this private collection of posters started as a hobby which expanded into an exhibition of more than 5,000 prints. The owner is often on hand to help guide you and join in on any discussions.

And that is just the tip of the ice-berg. Use these as starting points and see where the adventure takes you.

Planning to visit Hong Kong too while there? Check out our 72 Hours In Hong Kong story as well. (all photos courtesy of Unsplash)

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