What Is Pudong?
Pudong is new Shanghai. It’s an unfair punching bag for those who live in the cramped confines of Puxi, and an unmitigated success story for the politicians who master-planned its development and are now watching it rack up higher GDP than almost all other entire cities in China.
Geographically, it’s massive. It’s bigger than Singapore by a good margin (Pudong: 1,210 sq km, Singapore: 721 sq km) and has a population of 5.5 million people — if Pudong was a city in the United States, it would be the second-biggest, far ahead of the current #2, Los Angeles (4 million people). It stretches from the glass and steel towers of Lujiazui in the northwest, facing the Old Bund, to the ghost town of Dishui Hu in the southeast, and encompasses both the world’s busiest port, the majority of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, and one of the world’s busiest airports. Basically, Pudong is a massive superlative. It’s the biggest, baddest, richest Shanghai district. But it’s also diverse, given its size, and it’s way more than just the skyscraper forests of Lujiazui.
In fact, Pudong used to be salt marshes and agricultural land hundreds of years ago, when salt was controlled by the government and the entire Jiangnan coast prospered by harvesting it. More recently, what we now think of as Pudong was called Chuansha; it wasn’t until the early 90s that the Shanghai government officially created “Pudong New District” as it's known to the bureaucrats. According to the folklore, in its heady rush to create Lujiazui in the 1990s and 2000s, Pudong was home to ¼ of the world’s construction cranes.
And yet, it’s still so unloved. It’s Wikipedia page is TEN YEARS out of date. The district gets derided as Pu-Jersey, the unwanted and un-fun no-man’s land of Shanghai. That’s not right! So, a guide to just a few of the many, many things that should draw you across the river.
A Very Incomplete List Of Things You Only Get In Pudong
1. The Riverside Trail
Huangpu Riverside Trail
is a dedicated stretch of bike (and pedestrian, but mostly bike) path, awaits on just the other side of the river. A whopping 25 kilometers in length, it's well-lit, verdant and only occasionally overrun by pedestrians.
2. The Shanghai Tower Observation Deck
Shanghai might not boast the highest tower in the world, but it does have the tallest observation deck
in the world, right at the tippity-tippy-toppy-top, with a 360 degree panoramic view of the city. The 118th floor is always open, but on the busier weekends, they open up the 119th so you can get those crucial extra meters of flex over Puxi.
3. The Best Aquarium
From high to low: Pudong holds the monopoly on Shanghai's best aquarium. The Ocean Aquarium
houses some 10,000 varieties of sea animals, from giant sting rays, sharks, penguins, seals, possibly the coolest jellyfish display in the world, and the world's longest tunnel, featuring its own moving sidewalk. It's a cool 160rmb to get in. Go during the week: that glass was designed to resist the thousand drumming fists of the weekend crowds, but it can still be stressful.
4. Facial Recognition Toilet Paper Dispensers
Facial recognition toilet paper dispenser! Yup! Apparently bathroom wipes are a hot-button issue for the bean-counters, with over 700,000rmb flushed away annually in Jing'an alone. Along the Huangpu Riverside Trail, they have these dispensers for toilet paper that scan your face and won't let you go for seconds. Good for a WeChat moment. We're really living in the future now!
5. The Last Major Fake Market
Go get a fake designer tee! A rare beast, the last of its kind... AP Plaza
, aka the Science and Technology Fake Market, aka AP Xinyang Plaza, is the largest remaining major collective of hawkers, rip-off artists and geegaw hucksters. There used to be several of these, but they've gradually been phased out in favor of glitzy shopping malls. Bargain hard and be prepared to walk away.
6. Pudong Canal Towns
Qibao and Zhujiajiao get all the love, but Pudong has its own: Xinchang (新场古镇), a major viewing point for peach blossoms
. Plus, it has its own metro station on Line 16!
7. Visit The "Original" Pudong
The old town that gave Pudong its original name has been kept somewhat preserved. Famous for its brick makers and sporting some nice-looking old mansions, Chuansha has its own metro station, is way less touristy than some of the other centers around town, and is worth a day-trip.
8. Soy Sauce Brewed in the Traditional Way
Call ahead to request a private tour at Qianwanlong
, the only traditional soy sauce factory left in Shanghai. Once the only way to make soy sauce, their antiquated methods and long aging process are now a sought-after commodity and a single jar of soy sauce goes for up to 40rmb. The factory and its methods date back to the end of the Qing Dynasty in the late 1800s; check out their original wooden sign from that period, which they have managed to preserve.
9. The Wild Animal Park
Off the S32 Highway, the Wild Animal Park
features over 200 species and two different options for viewing them. Visitors can walk through the exhibits housing the animals or take a bus to view the more dangerous critters. Just remember to stay inside the car. There is also a performance zone, a bird zone and an animal kindergarten. And, critically, conditions aren't as awful as at the Shanghai Zoo.
10. The Best Road Cycling
If the bike path along the Huangpu was a bit too leisurely for your tricked-out carbon-fibre ride
, Pudong has the best road cycling in the city. The asphalt rivers are new, wide, very
long and often devoid of traffic. Plus, the further out you get, the nicer the countryside gets.
11. Renovated Historic Art Centers
Pudong's legacy as a center for warehouses and dockyards has left it with lots of big old buildings ripe for renewal. One example is MIFA 1862
, a 155-year old shipyard converted into a public art center. There's always something on there. Another example is the Silo of 80,000 Tons
, which used to be the largest grain store in Jiangnan, although it's not open year round.
12. Bird Watching in Nanhui
The Nanhui wetlands are a paradise for birding
with nearly 350 species of birds hiding in the reeds. Getting out there can be a bit of a hassle, but if you want to reconnect a bit with nature, you don't even have to leave the city.
13. A Legitimate Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum
As the official museum
attached to the Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, this is one of the better representatives of the field. Originally established in 1983, it's got 4,000sqm of exhibition space packed with interesting artefacts and tools stretching from ancient to modern practices, and a 10,000sqm herb garden.
14. Coca Cola Museum
There's a big Coca-Cola factory
out in Pudong that also houses a museum. They only accept tour groups of 10 or more, booked ahead of time, but it'll include a tour of the manufacturing line! Go see what they put in the gods' dark nectar.
15. The Aurora Museum
Check out this modern, sleek-looking six-story museum
on the Pudong banks of the Huangpu, housing Chinese artifacts. Opened in 2013, the museum's well-regarded for its collection of jade, porcelain, and sculptures dating from throughout China's history. Tickets are a slim 60rmb.
16. Glamping in a National Park
So glamorous. Book a fully-furnished tent (or bring your own), and camp out in the Haiwan National Forest Park at Niulu Camping Resort
on the northern coast of the Hangzhou Bay. Open year-round, they've got plenty of big green spaces to play with your kids, dogs or fellow humans, there's a lake, options for horse riding, and, very important, BBQ facilities. Make sure you bring mosquito repellent.
17. The Biggest Ice Rink in the City
At 1,200sqm, the All Star Skating Club
inside the Mercedes-Benz Arena is probably the biggest, and definitely the nicest, skating rink in Shanghai. Pricing is 80rmb for 90 minutes including skates on the weekends, and about 20rmb cheaper during the weekdays.
18. The Highest Teahouse in Shanghai
Da Ke Tang
, a popular chain of teahouses, has a spot on the 38th floor of the Shanghai Tower. It's refined. The teaware is delicate and the tea sommeliers are knowledgeable and attentive — they brew the tea and keep it warm. You can get tea sets for 218rmb-368rmb, enjoying a thousand-year old tradition in full-on Blade Runner surroundings.
19. The World's Highest Spa
Park Hyatt's Water's Edge
is the world's highest spa, perched on the 85th floor and featuring an overflowing 20-metre infinity pool, a wellness studio with two treatment rooms, and a gym. Tai-chi sessions are held every morning. 2-3 hour packages cost about 1,700-2,200rmb, but you can get a 30 minute head, shoulder and neck massage for 480rmb (+15% service and tax, natch).
20. Super Duper Nice Malls
Not that Shanghai's starved for malls, but Pudong has the only Galleries Lafayette. How about that? If department stores were a music genre, the new Galeries Lafayette
would be electropop. The French institution offers a long list of high-end fashion brands exclusive to mainland China: Faith Connexion, Maison Kitsune, Lemaire. Each floor features a small area called "EDIT" — a mixture of designer brands curated by Galeries Lafayette. Plenty of unconventional designs are on display here, too, from edgy-looking local brand UOOYAA, to the bright yellow, dented Crash Baggage.
21. The City's Most Expensive Hotel Suite
Okay, we're not really going to suggest any of you do this. The suite at the Mandarin Oriental
is only bookable by direct contact and will set you back 185,000rmb per night. Wowza woohza! We'd recommend you buy instead buy 117 VVIP tickets to the Chainsmokers, or 1,156 Spicy Sausage pizzas from Homeslice, or 18,500 shots of "tequila" at Perry's. But still...
22. China's First Public Maglev
Most of Shanghai only uses the maglev
as a way to shave an hour off the trip to the airport, but you could just, y'know, go for a joyride! It's a technological marvel, and the cheapeast way to break 300km/h. Plus, there's that Maglev Museum...
23. Visit A Ghost Town
The blue dot on the southern tip of Pudong, Dishui Hu is a fascinating spot for fans of urban planning. Originally built to take some of the municipal administrative load off the old offices downtown, it never really took off. Might've been because it's at the very end of Line 16, a whopping two hours from the city center by metro. If you want to see the closest Shanghai gets to a ghost town, this is worth a day-trip. The Crowne Plaza
there is a nice getaway, and the China Maritime Museum
is also worth a visit.
24. Shanghai's Version of Seaworld
With everything that entails. Haichang Ocean Park
is a massive amusement park opened in 2018, split into five distinct areas themed after different aquatic environments, featuring fish, polar bears, penguins, whale sharks, orcas and more. It also has a bunch of exhibitions venues, an underwater restaurant with live mermaid performances, a giant volcano, and a resort.
25. Mercedes-Benz Arena
Just a stone's throw from the also-impressive China Art Museum
is Shanghai's premier concert venue
. The crashed-spaceship looking Mercedes-Benz Arena has hosted everything from Iron Maiden to Disney on Ice to WWE to Troy Sivan. If they're big, they'll be here.
Oh, we'll get to you yet, Mouse.
Restaurants You'll Only Find In Pudong
The Shanghai branch of a French gastronomy institution from Eric Pras, owner and chef of the three-Michelin star Chagny restaurant of the same name. That restaurant was awarded three Michelin stars in 2007. This restaurant takes that and jams it upon the 68th floor of the Shanghai Tower, bringing its famously inventive amuse-bouches and swooshy French fine-dining. Predictably, it's very expensive.
Ningbo powerhouse Yongfu's casual dining sub-brand is only available in Pudong. It share a few signature dishes with its big brother, but in smaller quantities and at a slightly lower price point. Yongfu’s iconic raw swimming crabs “shiba zhan” are sold for almost one-third of the price here, as is the “shepherd's purse wrapped in tofu skin”. Also on everyone’s table: Ningbo tangyuan.
Both Michelin and Dianping Award-winning South Yangtze River cuisine, known for its light and delicate flavors. It's got outside seating and some of the most unusual and spectacular private dining rooms in the city. For the quality of the food, the prices aren't bad, either: dinner for two will set you back around 800rmb.
Bird Ryu is a sleek house of worship to grilled chicken, an upscale yakitori joint that deals in the best poultry could hope for after expiration. The menu travels beyond breast, leg and chicken meatballs to the outer limits of kidney and undeveloped eggs. It's delectable and well-presented, even if the environment is a little sterile.
Sanlin Shanghainese food has been listed in Pudong’s tangible cultural heritage protection program since 2008. There's a wanghong restaurant in Sanlin called Sanlin Benbang Guan (三林本帮馆) that does authentic Shanghainese cuisine, and was featured in the second season of Bite of China. It actually has two venues in Puxi, but we're going to call this the authentic one.
Revolving restaurants aren't exclusively a Pudong thing, but they're definitely more popular here. The one in the Pearl Tower does cheapish and passable international cuisine in a slightly kitsch environment, but that's not what you're here for: you're here for the view over Lujiazui.
Possibly the only dedicated Ukrainian restaurant in Shanghai, Hello Kiev is more like a tourist brochure in restaurant format. The chunky cutlery and goblets are reminscent of a 17th century boyar's feast table, the live stage is reminscent of a third-tier live bar, but at least they have borscht, potato pancakes and sausage. Recommended for the desperately homesick.
In a funny twist, this noodle restaurant first launched in New York, where it gained rabid popularity and drew plenty of media attention, before finally coming back to China to launch a sister restaurant to the American original. A light and whimsical store with an expanded menu has seemed to do the trick here as well, with foodies in Pudong making this a favored stop.
The American Chains
Pudong's been drawing US chains like moths to a flame. First was hyperglucose dessert dispenser Cheesecake Factory
, which opened its doors around the time Disneyland opened. Then there was Red Lobster
, which brought a pared down, upscale version of its State-side seafood shack to the ifc mall. Just recently, suburban American margarita mansion Chili's
joined them. Hooters
and the Shanghai Tower branch of Fatburger
, however, are no longer with us.
You didn't think we'd forget, did you? Shanghai Disney Resort
! Pudong has Disneyland
! The House of Mouse! The Home of Dreams, the Castle of Imagination, the Iron Throne of Western entertainment! Does Puxi have one?
It does not. Pudong 1. Puxi 0
Costing five years of construction, 24.5 billion rmb and seven kilometers of Pudong wetland (after expansions), the happiest place in Shanghai opened in 2016, which makes it one of the few things in the city to open on time. The greater Disney Resort itself is split into Shanghai Disneyland Park (the actual theme park), surrounded by Disneytown, a collection of restaurants, shops, a theater, and two themed hotels, the Disneyland Hotel and the Toy Story Hotel. Plus, it has its own lake! Considering it had something like 10,000 employees working on opening day and had 11 million visitors in its first year alone, this almost qualifies as its own hub.
As with everything Pudong, the Park itself is big. It's got the largest Disney Enchanted Storybook Castle in the world, and consequently the world's biggest nightly "Ignite the Dream" light and fireworks display, and the longest parade route in the world. They've got seven themed areas: the shopping-oriented Mickey Avenue, the Gardens of Imagination, the pirate-themed Treasure Cove, Adventure Isle, the newly opened Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, and, natch, a Tomorrowland. Unlike other Tomorrowlands, however, this one replaces the classic Space Mountain ride with the Tron-inspired "Light Cycle Power Run," which looks, and is, rad.
Other good rides: The Battle for the Sunken Treasure, Roaring Rapids, and the Camp Discovery Challenge Trails, a series of rope courses that give you a nice view over the Adventure Isle section.
Even with so much acreage to work with, it gets packed on weekends and holidays. As with most parks, waits can stretch to 3 hours for the super-popular Soaring Over The Horizon ride (here's how to get a Fastpass
), but go during a weekday, (or a rainy day!) and waits can get as low as 10-20 minutes.