Recent articles

Qingdao – My first love…

Qingdao (in Chinese 青岛; formerly Tsingtao) is a city in eastern Shandong Province on the east coast of China and looking out to the Yellow Sea. ...

Qingdao – My first love…


The Great Wall: Beat the Crowds at Mutianyu

We visited the Great Wall on a weekend. ...

The Great Wall: Beat the Crowds at Mutianyu


Trip to Suzhou

On this trip I decided it was time for a little more culture. ...

Trip to Suzhou


Harbin: Day 1

After spending a few weeks in Beijing on a language intensive course for my university, my class hopped on a train and after seven painfully boring hours, we arrived in Harbin. ...

Harbin: Day 1


Speaking Xuzhounese

‘If you speak English here, maybe 2 in 100 people will understand,’ a young worker in a Xuzhou noodle shop told me. ...

Speaking Xuzhounese


Dizzying Heights of Shanghai

by James Thomas   - Feb 17, 2015

We take a look around some of Shanghai’s most inpsiring and influential buildings, from Greek Neoclassic designs to modern-day sky scrappers and everything in between, as we walk the streets of the Dizzying Heights of Shanghai.



Constructed in 977 AD – during the Wuyue kingdom – the Longhua Pagoda (Lónghuá Gǔtǎ; 龙华古塔) is a seven tier tower with a height of 40.55 m (133 ft) standing in front of Longhua Temple. Out of the 16 historic pagodas in the city, the Longhua Pagoda is the most well-known. Previously it remained as Shanghai’s highest building for about 1,000 years until the end of the 1970s. It has wooden staircases and brick body and has been the subject of continuous renovations of some of its most fragile components. Unfortunately, due to its fragile state, the pagoda is not open to the public. The tower has an octagonal shape outside but square shape inside, and the size of each storey decreases from bottom to top. Every storey is equipped with banisters and balconies and a bell hangs under each of the octagon eaves to create charming and cheerful rings with every passing breeze.


Address: 2853 Longhua Rd, Longhua Town, Shanghai (上海市龙华镇龙华路2853号)





Considered one of Shanghai’s most outstanding architectural landmarks, the building was completed in 1916 by the Union Assurance Company, and was the first building in China to utilize a structural steel frame. Formally known as the Union Building (Yǒulì Dàlóu; 有利大楼) and now known as 3 on The Bund, the neo-renaissance design has a height of 45.75 m (150 ft). With a total floor space of almost 13,000 meters squared – the prime piece of real estate currently houses a luxury shopping center run by a Singaporean company. 


Address: 4 Zhongshan East 1st Rd, Huangpu District, Shanghai (上海市黄浦区中山东一路4号)





Regarded as one of the key buildings of Shanghai’s world-famous Bund, the eight-story Shanghai Customs House (Hǎiguān Dàlóu; 海关大楼) was built in a Greek Neoclassic architectural style in 1927. The current design was dreamt up by British architects, who captured the historic feel and importance of the 78.2 m (257 ft) tall structure. The total bill for the project came in at double the original budget, totaling a cool 4.3 million taels of silver.

Previously set up in the late 17th century to facilitate trade along China’s east coast, the Qing government set up four customs houses in four coastal provinces including Jiangsu, Fujian, Zhejiang and Guangdong. The Jiangsu Customs House was established in Shanghai, which was at that time a part of Jiangsu Province. With the fast development of the sea trade in Shanghai, the old customs house failed to meet the increasing demands and was replaced by a new customs house, which was built at the present site.

The current building is separated into two main sections: the western section and the eastern section, the former facing Sichuan Road and the latter facing the Huangpu River. With four huge Doric columns, the Customs House uses granite extensively for the building’s entire exterior facade. One of the most unique features of the building is the Big Ben-inspired clock tower, from which people can enjoy a fantastic view of the entire Bund and the city. The clock remains the biggest in Asia. The central tower has four faces and each face is comprised of more than one hundred pieces of glass.


Address: 13 Zhongshan East 1st Rd, Huangpu District, Shanghai (上海市黄浦区中山东一路13号)





Originally built by Sir Ellice Victor Sasson – an Iraqi-born British jew who single-handedly invested millions of pounds into Shanghai real estate and personally initiated a decade-long property boom in the city – the Cathay Hotel or Sassoon House (Shāxùn Dàshà; 沙逊大厦) as it was also known, was built in 1929 and designed by the same company responsible for the Customs House.


Spread out over ten luxurious floors, and standing at a height of 77m (253 ft) it is the Bund’s tallest building. Sir Victor’s private residence was on the top floor while the 9th floor hosted lavish jazz performances – something the venue is still famed for to this very day – while floors 7 and 8 were dedicated to the customers of the Cathy Hotel, the lower floors were offices, banks and a shopping arcade.


Noel Coward wrote one of his most famous plays here, called Private Lives, as this was the place to stay and be seen during the building’s early life. Today, it forms the part of The Fairmount Peace Hotel (和平饭店).


Address: 20 Zhongshan East 1st Rd, Huangpu District, Shanghai (上海市黄浦区中山东一路20号)





The Broadway Mansions (Bǎilǎohuì Dàshà; 百老汇大厦) is a nineteen-floor Art Deco five star hotel and private residential apartment complex. It's been stated "since the day of its opening it had been one of the sights of Shanghai", and it was – for over five decades – one of the primary symbols of Shanghai’s skyline. Designed by the highly reputed Palmer & Turner (who brought a taste of Big Ben to this city), from it’s opening in 1935 it remained the tallest apartment building Shanghai for several decades (and is thought to be one of the city’s, and therefore the country’s, first high-rise buildings). 


At a height of 77 m (253 ft), it was described as the “closest approach to a modern American skyscraper.” The Broadway Mansions was the first hotel in the city to place its restaurant on the top of the building. These days the property has six restaurants and is well regarded for their Huaiyang cuisine.


Originally labeled as "The Broadway Mansions" in 1935, it was renamed Shanghai Mansions by the Shanghai Municipal Council in 1951, but reverted to its original name after China opened up again to the West.


Address: 20 North Suzhou Rd, Hongkou District, Shanghai (上海市虹口区北苏州路20号)





Park Hotel (Guójì Fàndìan; 国际饭店), once the tallest building in Asia from 1934 to 1952, is a famous hotel on Nanjing Road West overlooking People's Park in Shanghai. The building is 83.8 m (275 ft) high and contains 22 stories above ground and another 2 stories underground. It was built by the Joint Savings Society as a competitor for the Cathay Hotel in 1934. 


It was the tallest building in Asia until 1952. It remained the tallest building in China until 1966, and in Shanghai until 1983. 


It was built overlooking the horse racing course owned by The Shanghai Race Club one of the most prestigious locations in Shanghai at the time. The Shanghai Race Course and the Shanghai Recreation Ground that it enclosed was turned into People's Park by the PRC government. Originally the Park Hotel accommodated the Joint Savings Society Bank in its lower two floors, and the hotel on the upper floors.


Address: 170 Nanjing West Rd, Huangpu District, Shanghai (上海市黄浦区南京西路170号)





The Shanghai Exhibition Center (Shànghǎi Zhǎnlǎn Zhōngxīn; 上海展览中心) is a major landmark located in central Shanghai. The building was built in 1955 as the Sino-Soviet Friendship Building (中苏友好大厦) to commemorate the alliance between China and the Soviet Union, a name by which many locals still refer to the building. Reflecting its original name, the design draws heavily on Russian and Empire style neoclassical architecture with Stalinist neoclassical innovations. 


The building is a major landmark in Shanghai. At 93,000 square meters, it is one of the largest integrated building complexes in central Shanghai by footprint. At 110.4 m or 362 ft (to top of spire), it was for decades (1955-1988) the tallest building in Shanghai. Its main frontage, an open quadrangle with an elaborate central tower, faces Yan'an Road, today the main east-west artery across central Shanghai, while its secondary façade, a colonnade, faces Nanjing West Road, one of the premier retail and commercial streets of Shanghai.


Address: 1000 Yan’an Middle Rd, Jing’an District, Shanghai (上海市静安区延安中路1000号)






The Oriental Pearl Tower (Dōngfāng Míngzhūtǎ; 东方明珠塔) is a TV tower at the tip of Lujiazui in the Pudong district by the side of Huangpu River, opposite The Bund, makes it a distinct landmark in the area. 

Completed in 1994, at 468 m (1,535 ft) high, it was the tallest structure in China from 1994–2007, when it was surpassed by the Shanghai World Financial Center. 

The tower is brightly lit in different LED sequences at night.


Address: 1 Century Ave, Pudong New District, Shanghai (上海市浦东新区世纪大道1号)





The Jinmao Tower (Jīnmào Dàshà; 金茂大厦) is an 88-story landmark skyscraper in the Lujiazui area of the Pudong. It contains a shopping mall, offices and the Grand Hyatt Shanghai hotel. Until 2007, it was the tallest building in the PRC with a height of 420.5 m (1,380 ft), the 5th-tallest in the world by roof height and the 7th-tallest by pinnacle height. Along with the Oriental Pearl Tower, it is part of the Lujiazui skyline seen from the Bund. Its height was surpassed on September 14, 2007, by the Shanghai World Financial Center next door.


Address: 88 Century Ave, Pudong New District, Shanghai (上海市浦东新区世纪大道88号)





The Shanghai World Financial Center (Shànghǎi Huánqiú Jīnróng Zhōngxīn;上海环球金融中心) is a super tall skyscraper located in Pudong. It is a mixed-use skyscraper, consisting of offices, hotels, conference rooms, observation decks, and ground-floor shopping malls. Park Hyatt Shanghai is the tower's hotel component, comprising 174 rooms and suites occupying the 79th to the 93rd floors, and constituting the second-highest hotel in the world after the Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, which occupies floors 102 to 118 of the International Commerce Centre. 


On September 14, 2007, the skyscraper was topped out at 492 m (1,614 ft), making it, at the time, the second-tallest building in the world and the tallest structure in Mainland China. It also had the highest occupied floor and the highest height to roof, two categories used to determine the title of "world’s tallest building". The SWFC opened to the public on August 28, 2008, with its observation deck opening on August 30. This observation deck, the world's tallest at the time of its completion, offers views from 474 m (1,555 ft) above ground level. 


The SWFC has been lauded for its design, and in 2008 it was named by architects as the year's best completed skyscraper. In 2013, the SWFC was exceeded in height by the adjacent Shanghai Tower, which is China's tallest structure as of 2015. Together, the Shanghai World Financial Center, Shanghai Tower and Jinmao Tower form the world's first adjacent grouping of three super tall skyscrapers.


Address: 100 Century Ave, Pudong New District, Shanghai (上海市浦东新区世纪大道100号)





The Shanghai Tower (Shànghǎi Zhōngxīn; 上海中心) is a mega tall skyscraper under construction in Lujiazui, Pudong. It is the tallest of a group of three adjacent super tall buildings in Pudong. The building stands approximately 632 m (2,073 ft) high and has 121 stories, with a total floor area of 380,000 sq m (4,090,000 sq ft). The Shanghai Tower is projected to open to the public in mid-2015.


Construction work on the tower began in November 2008. Following its topping out on August 3, 2013, the Shanghai Tower is currently the tallest building in China and the second-tallest in the world, surpassed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It is also China's tallest structure of any kind, surpassing the 600 m (1,969 ft) Canton Tower in Guangzhou. However, Shenzhen's 660 m (2,170 ft) Ping An Finance Center will surpass the Shanghai Tower as China's tallest building when it is completed in 2016.


Address: Dongtai Rd, Pudong New District, Shanghai (上海浦东新区东泰路)




© 2015 All rights reserved.