IN PHOTOS: Exploring Shanghai’s heritage buildings, record-breaking towers

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The Zhujiajiao Water Town, sometimes called the Zhujiaojao Water Village, is one of the four ancient towns in Shanghai. It is said to be 1,700 years old. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — When Shanghai opened its city to foreigners in 1843, British botanist Robert Fortune described it as “the great gate — the principal entrance, in fact, to the Chinese empire.” Over a century later, Shanghai displays an apparent hybrid of both Asian and Western influences primarily seen in its built environment — the grandeur of Roman columns, Palladian structures, and ancient townhouses stand defiant amid the rapid rise of glass facade towers.

This blending of the old and the new is best captured in The Bund, one of the most popular tourist attractions that have colonial-era buildings that were previously trading houses of France, Britain, Germany, Italy, and Russia. The Bund faces the Huangpu River, which passes through Pudong, the financial district that prides itself with its skyline.

The Bund is an area any tourist just has to see when in Shanghai, if only to immediately make sense of the history and value of what is now becoming China’s most important city. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

The famous Shanghai skyline in Pudong, which features some of the tallest buildings in China and the world. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

The strip of neo-classical buildings in The Bund was actually scorned for many years because foreign rule was seen to be destructive to Chinese culture. This disdain was, however, turned into something useful: the government used these buildings as heritage sites for tourists to visit (and for corporations to rent in) and converted alleyways surrounding it into shopping centers.

The Chinese called the years of foreign invasion as a “century of humiliation,” but perhaps there is something to be said for how they’ve simply turned this “dark past” into a money-making venture.

The Bund is an area any tourist just has to see when in Shanghai, if only to immediately make sense of the history and value of what is now becoming China’s most important city. Of course, there are more areas, spots, and activities that are well worth a visit in Shanghai — from traditional towns to world record-breaking skyscrapers. Ever since it reluctantly welcomed Western powers, Shanghai has indeed remained to be a bridge between its elusive country and the rest of the world.

Here are a few other things you can check out in Shanghai.

The Zhujiajiao Ancient Town in Shanghai is known to be the Venice of China. It is famous for its waterways and bridges that have been in existence since the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

While there are still residents in Zhujiajiao, most of the area has been turned into restaurants, food stalls, clothing stores, and souvenir shops. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

Young Chinese girls in traditional costume roaming the modernized streets of Zhujiajao. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

Xintiandi is an entertainment and shopping district in Shanghai that houses international brands, local up and coming designers, nightclubs, and luxury dim sum places. Photos by NICK OLAYAO

Xintiandi is part of the French Concession district, where you can still find traditional brick buildings. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

This is the site of the first National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which is also located in Xintiandi. Founded in 1961, the commemorative museum shows the literature, philosophy, and works of the founding leaders of the Communist Party. Photo by PORTIA LADRIDO

To experience one of the best traditional Chinese restaurants in Shanghai, head to the Quanjude Restaurant for what is known to be the best Peking duck in China. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

Quanjude’s roast duck was said to be served for imperial families during the Qing Dynasty. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

The Oriental Pearl Tower is a conspicuous landmark in Shanghai, and the second tallest tower in China at 468 meters. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

Tourists are invited to go to the top of the tower to view the city from a glass floor. Not for the faint-hearted. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

Inside the Pearl Tower is the Municipality History Museum, which takes guests through the history of China’s development. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

The museum features wax figures depicting the life of the Chinese — from the life of an ancient trader to the opening of bars for foreigners. Photos by NICK OLAYAO

During the night, instead of going to clubs or karaoke bars, the ERA acrobatic show can be an entertaining alternative. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

The ERA acrobatic show presents the story of China through acrobatics, martial arts, drama, traditional music, and more. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

ERA acrobats balancing stunts on a bike. Photo by NICK OLAYAO

The Bund at night is also a feast for the eyes. The Hangpu River cruise can take you around the river to enjoy this view. Photo by NICK OLAYAO


Book a Cebu Pacific flight to Shanghai. The airline has some of the lowest rates from Manila and Cebu. Visit the Cebu Pacific website for more details.