Shanghai’s Top 10 Iconic Landmarks

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Each city has its own iconic landmarks which have been lingering in people’s minds either due to their greatness or intriguing stories behind them. Shanghai is a fish-village-turned-metropolitan city dating back to China’s Spring and Autumn period (771 to 476 BC ).

Shanghai architectural landmarks mainly epitomize the colonial buildings set up in the early 1900s and the modern and futuristic architectures constructed in late 1900s and early 2000s, the two main periods for the massive city construction in Shanghai.

My Top 10 List largely reflects the best architectural landmarks in these two periods. Hopefully it could serve as a simple guide to your Shanghai tour.

1. The Bund ( Mid-1800s – 1930s )

The word “Bund” comes from an old Hindi word which means “embankment” and was used by a British company which opened an office there in 1846.

The original buildings along the Bund were the warehouses first built by the opium traders who flocked to China in Mid-nineteenth century to make their money. Check out The Concession-Era Buildings on the Bund for more detailed information.

The Night View of the Bund

From Mid-1800s to 1933s, about 50 various buildings of different architectural styles were successively constructed including Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and the Renaissance between the Bund and the present East Zhong Shan Road.

The clock tower of the old waterfront Customs House, built in 1925, is modelled on Big Ben in London, striking the hour with Chairman Mao’s favorite tune. Check out Tips for Visiting the Bund in Shanghai for more information.

2. Shanghai The Paramount (百乐门)1933

Shanghai The Paramount was a three-story building designed by the architect architect S. J. Young ( 1899-1978) was completed in 1933. The building was once home to the most popular ballrooms for the wealthy elite in Shanghai.

The structure’s façade adopted America’s modern Avant-garde architectural style, and was regarded as the most trendy architectural design in China and around the world as well, and the “No.01 Oriental Musical Palace” in 1930s. check out Paramount (Shanghai) for more information.

Shanghai The Paramount
Shanghai The Paramount ( photo from the internet)

Today Shanghai The Paramount is besieged by contemporary high-rise buildings, but it still stands out a nostalgic reminder of Shanghai’ glamorous past. Its address: 218 Yuyuan Road in Jing’an, Shanghai (静安区愚园路218号).

3. Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower ( 1991 – 1994 )

Oriental Pear Tower is a TV Tower and an iconic landmark in Shanghai, and located by the side of the west bank of Huangpu River, opposite to the Bund. Check How to Visit Lujiazui in Pudong for more information.

It is one of the most photographed building on the Pudong Skyline, viewed from the Bund. The construction began in 1991, and the tower was completed in 1994.

Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower

With a height of 468 m, the tower has fifteen observatory levels. The lower level at 263 m is the Sightseeing Floor. There is a revolving restaurant at the 267 m level. The tower also houses exhibition facilities, restaurants and a shopping mall. Add: 1 Century Ave, Pudong New Area, Shanghai, China 上海市浦东新区世纪大道1号

4. Shanghai World Financial Center (2008)

The Shanghai World Financial Center is the second highest building in mainland China with a total height of 492 m (1,614 ft). The skyscraper is located in the Pudong district, an essential structure on the spectacular Pudong Skyline.

It was designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox. The tower’s foundation stone was laid on 27 August 1997 and it was declared complete on 17 July 2008. check out How to Visit Shanghai World Financial Center for more information.

Shanghai World Financial Center

The supertall building comprises offices, hotels, conference rooms, observation decks, and ground-floor shopping malls. The tower features three separate observation decks -lowest at the 94th floor at 423 m ; the second, on the 97th floor at a height of 439 m ; and the highest, on the 100th floor at 474 m (1,555 ft) high. Add: 100 Century Avenue, Pudong, Shanghai 上海市浦东新区世纪大道100号

5. Jin Mao Tower (1999)

The Jin Mao Tower is located next to Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center and Shanghai Tower ( the highest ) in the Lujiazui area of the Pudong district in Shanghai.

It is composed of offices and the Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel. It is one of the centerpieces of the Pudong skyline at the height of 420.5m. It was designed by the Chicago firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). The tower was fully operational in 1999.

Jinmao Tower in the center

Jin Mao Building has four entrances, two for the offices, one for the lobby, the last one for the entrance to the 88-floor observation – the skywalk, a 1,520 m2 indoor observation deck with a capacity of over 1,000 people. It offers the panoramic views of Shanghai as well as a topside view below of the atrium of Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel inside Jin Mao Tower( occupying the floors from 53 to 87). Check out How to visit Jin Mao Tower for more information.

The 88-storey observation deck is open from 8:30am to 10:00pm. It’s better to have the tower tour on a bright clear day or one a fine evening. You will enjoy different views visiting Jin Mao Tower in the daytime or in the evening.
Add: 88 Century Avenue, Pudong, Shanghai 上海市浦东新区世纪大道88号

6. Shanghai Tower (2008 – 2015) the tallest in China

The Shanghai Tower is a megatall skyscraper in Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai. It is designed by Gensler and owned by a consortium of Chinese state-owned companies.

It is the tallest building in China accompanied by the other three supertall buildings in Pudong – the Jin Mao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center and Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The megatall structure is 632 metres high with128 stories. Check out How to Visit Shanghai Tower for more information.

The 632-meter high Shanghai Tower

Shanghai Tower is currently the tallest building in China and the second-tallest in the world, surpassed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. However, Shenzhen’s 660-metre Ping An Finance Centre will beat the Shanghai Tower as China’s tallest building when it is completed in 2016. Add: 501 Yincheng Middle Rd, Lu Jia Zui, Lujiazui Residential District, Pudong, Shanghai, China 中国上海市陆家嘴金融贸易区

7. Nanpu Bridge (1991)

The Nanpu Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge, a sister bridge to the Yangpu Bridge, which also spans over Huangpu River connecting Puxi and Pudong in Shanghai.

It was designed by Chinese architects. It has a main span of 846 meters with an extended bridge over 7500 meters.

Shanghai Grand Theatre
Shanghai Grand Theatre

The bridge has two towers with one on each side and each of them has 22 couple of iron cables to link the main bridge in the shape of a fan. A ship of 50000 tons can pass under the bridge. The bridge accommodates 7 drive lanes – 4 lanes from Puxi to Pudong and 3 lanes from Puxi to Pudong.

8. Shanghai Grand Theatre (1998)

Completed in 1998, the Shanghai Grand Theatre is listed as one of the largest and best-equipped automatic stages in the world.

The theatre stages the performances of operas, symphonies, chamber music concerts, musicals, ballets, spoken dramas and various Chinese operas. It is located in the northern part of the People’s Square in Huangpu District, Shanghai.

Shanghai Grand Theatre
Shanghai Grand Theatre (Photo from the internet)

Grand Theatre building is one of Shanghai’s iconic landmark with an area of 2.1 hectares and a total construction area of 70,000 sq. meters.

The building was designed by ARTE Charpentier, a famous architecture design company founded by French architect Jean-Marie Charpentier. When the night falls, the lights around the building transforms its exterior into a crystal palace.
Add: 300 Renmin Avenue, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China 上海市黄浦区人民大道300号

9. Mercedes-Benz Arena (Shanghai) 2011

Originally the Expo Performance Center, the center was officially renamed the Mercedes-Benz Cultural Center in 2011. Located at the former Shanghai Expo site, it has an 18,000-seat main venue, as well as a music club, cinema, skating rink, restaurants and retail space.

Mercedes-Benz Arena ( photo from the internet)

Now Mercedes-Benz Arena, along with the China Pavilion and the Expo Axis, becomes a part of the permanent pavilions of the Shanghai World Expo. Add: 1200 Shibo Avenue, Pudong New Area, Shanghai, China上海市浦东新区世博大道1200号

10. NECC (Shanghai) 2014

National Exhibition and Convention Center (Shanghai), abbreviated as “NECC (Shanghai)”, is an exhibition complex with functions of exhibition, conference, office and commercial services. It is also one of the landmark buildings in Shanghai.

National Exhibition and Convention Center ( photo/163.com/dy/media)

The construction of National Convention and Exhibition Center (Shanghai) started on December 26, 2011; Completed on September 28, 2014; It was fully operational on December 1, 2016. On January 6, 2020, it was selected as one of the top ten new landmark buildings in Shanghai. Add: No. 333 Songze Avenue, Qingpu District, Shanghai 上海市青浦区崧泽大道333号

Hassle-free Shanghai Guided Tours

If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself bus route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for guided tours to Shanghai:

Shanghai Highlight Day Tour from US$ 65
Afternoon Ambling & Evening Brilliant Cruise Day Tour from US$ 55
Historic Shanghai and Ancient Water Town Day Tour from US$ 59
Shanghai 2 Day Tour Package from US$ 145
Shanghai 3 Day Tour Pacakge from US$ 199

Further Readings


Top 10 Attraction in Shanghai
Top 10 Markets in Shanghai
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Shanghai
Top 10 Things to Do at night in Shanghai
Best Places for Autumn Leaves in Shanghai
Top 10 Things to Do in Winter in Shanghai
Top 10 Souvenirs in Shanghai
Top 10 Photo Spots in Shanghai
Top 10 Attractions in Shanghai
10 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Shanghai

Any questions, just drop a line.

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