Shanghai is a city of contrasts, look one way and you’ll see fashionistas wearing Gucci and look in another direction and you’ll see scenes that look like they are from an ancient history book. Visitors to Shanghai city can enjoy both ultra-modern sites and historic sites from various eras. One of the most exciting places to explore is the Bund (Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu).
The Bund began as a muddy lane lined with reeds along the river bank. The name means embankment. In the 1840s it became a British settlement and when the city became a prosperous trade port the riverside was reinforced and a street was laid. The area became the British Concession and filled up rapidly with commercial buildings becoming the financial center of the region. The Bund was a hub of activity for consulates, foreigners, politics and culture. Thankfully the colonial architecture survived as the government tried to combine socialist ideology with the concept of colonial relics. The Bund underwent an extensive face lift in 2010 and now welcomes visitors as an historic district and a pleasant riverside promenade.
The Bund will take you back to Shanghai in the 1920s. The Bund is located on the west bank of the Huangpu River and runs for 1500 meters from Waibaidu Bridge to Nanpu Bridge. There are several streets worth seeing including Hunan Road, Fuxing Road, Shaoxing Road and Hengshan road. Xinle Road, Anfu Road and Changle Road are also becoming trendy with stylish boutiques and restaurants. The streets boast colonial-era buildings and it is sometimes called an open –air museum of buildings. Concentrated on the west side of the Bund along Zhongshan Lu are 26 historic buildings in various architectural styles. You can see Gothic, Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque style houses. The street lighting has been kept in line with the period look of the Bund and streets are lit with period street lamps. The Bund has four picturesque public squares – Huangpu Park, Bund Financial Square, Observatory Plaza and the Chen Yi Square. There are several notable public works of art including the Monument to the People’s Heroes in Huangpu Park and the statue of Chen Yi, the first Communist mayor of the city.
Things to See and Do in the Bund
Customs House – Take a look at Big Ching, a clock modeled on Big Ben attached to an eight storey building constructed in 1927.
HSBC Building – One of the area’s most elegant buildings now houses the Pudong Development Bank.
Huangpu River Cruise or Ferry – Take a cruise from the Bund’s southern ferry port or go for the cheaper option of simply crossing the river by ferry to Pudong.
Lovers Wall – this 1,700 meter long flood-control wall is known as a lovers’ hang-out. It has recently been renovated and given hollowed out railings to add to the romantic atmosphere.
Sassoon House – Built by Victor Sassoon today it is known for the jazz music played in its café.
Shanghai Club – Today the Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai Hotel occupies what used to be the British social club.
These are only a few of the sites you can discover in Shanghai’s Bund area.