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Shanghai

oriental pearl shanghai The Bund, Shanghai's most memorable mile, is the place to see and be seen for visitors and locals alike. Walk along East Zhongshan No. 1 Road for close-up views of buildings that include the Art Deco Peace Hotel, the towering Bank of China and the Customs House, topped by a clock face and bell modeled after London's Big Ben. Or check out the elevated promenade for the best views of the rocket-shaped Oriental Pearl and Jin Mao towers, once the highest buildings on the Pudong side of the river (until they were eclipsed by the Shanghai World Financial Center and then the Shanghai Tower). Although it's a magnet any time of day, the best time to go is at night when the neon-lit Pudong skyline is a nocturnal spectacle.

Designed in the shape of a ding, an ancient circular Chinese cooking vessel, the Shanghai Museum displays a dazzling collection of bronze, sculptures, calligraphy, jade, coins and ceramics. It also has a colorful exhibition of clothing, arts and crafts of "Chinese minorities," the name given to ethnic groups. Admission to the museum, located near People's Square, is free; if time is tight, though, it's worth renting a handheld audio guide that covers the highlights.

The Old Town, in the southeastern part of the city, provides a tantalizing glimpse of 16th-century Shanghai. Behind the inevitable souvenir stands sit beautiful old buildings, temples and pagodas. The bustling bazaar is a fun place to watch locals queue up for dim sum and to wander through the narrow side streets. The area is bordered by the Renmin Lu and Zhonghua Lu roads that follow the line of the original walls built to keep Japanese pirates at bay.

No visit to the Old Town would be complete without taking in the Yuyuan Garden, just off the central square of the bazaar. Created in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty, the garden is split into six areas divided by dramatic dragon walls. Shady paths lead past pools filled with bright orange carp, serene pavilions, rock gardens and a covered walkway originally designed for women to walk on one side and men on the other.

Two priceless white jade Buddhas were transported from Burma to China in 1881 by a monk. Although the original temple built a year later no longer exists, the replacement Jade Buddha Temple constructed in 1928 in western Shanghai provides a beautiful backdrop for the pair of seated and reclining Buddhas.

When it comes to a stylish and historic haunt for a cocktail, the Long Bar at the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund is hard to beat. Originally the site of the Shanghai Club, a gentleman's club and watering hole for British nationals, the bar opened in 1910. (At the time, the 111-foot-long bar was reputed to be the longest in the world.) It has since been restored to its former glory, with sumptuous leather chairs, marble columns, stained glass and archive photos that show what it was like in its heyday.

The site of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921, the Xintiandi area has reinvented itself as a trendy district famous for its renovated old shikumen (stone-gated houses), relaxed cafe society, and individual shops and galleries.

If you've seen the Bund from the ground, enjoy a completely different perspective of Shanghai with panoramic views from the 100th floor observation deck at the Shanghai World Financial Center, which reaches the dizzying height of 1,555 feet.

Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is a modern complex next to the Oriental Pearl Tower, displaying hundreds of aquatic species from four oceans and five continents. It features a particularly interesting area with rare and endangered species from various areas of China, including the Yangtze River.

The Propaganda Poster Art Center is a private museum and the only one of its kind in China. It provides a thought-provoking and powerful insight into social history through thousands of idealized posters dating from 1910 to 1990.

Designed by English architect William Doyle and completed in 1910, St. Ignatius Cathedral was the first Western-style cathedral built in China. The vast building can accommodate up to 2,500 worshippers and is known as the grandest cathedral in the Far East.

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