If you search “things to do in Shanghai”, I guarantee The Bund (known as Wàitān in Chinese) will be pretty high up, if not top, of the list. But, as with many tourist attractions around the world, sometimes the actual place doesn’t quite live up to expectations. The Bund is not one of those, it’s the real deal. For me, standing along the river looking over at the sparkly skyscrapers soaring above the water and reaching into the sky, that’s what really cemented in my head that ‘oh my gosh, I’m actually here!’.
The Bund runs along the Western bank of the Huangpu River, facing out onto the majestic Lùjiāzuǐ area of Shanghai’s Pudong District. Nestled into the bend of the river, these spectacular skyscrapers make up the city’s new financial district and include the iconic The Oriental Pearl Tower and the big three; Jin Mao Building, Shanghai World Financial Tower and the world’s second tallest building, The Shanghai Tower.
The path along The Bund is wide and paved, with occasional lil’ trucks selling drinks. Keep an eye out for dodgy street sellers trying to guilt trip you into buying whatever wallets or trinkets they have, and, of course, if it’s busy keep your belongings safe. Parts become busier than others, so make sure you wander up and down a little to get the best view. At night, the place is packed, especially once it’s just got dark. As The Bund is one of the iconic tourists sites of China, you’ll find many native tourists from all far flung corners of the country flocking there too, so as with many attraction areas, you may become the star of the show with gangs of cute old ladies wanting to take a snap or two with you.
Opposite the glitzy strip, behind you if you’re facing it, sits the old financial centre buildings which make up The Bund itself. These are a mixture of Western style buildings with various former roles, including housing the first Chinese-owned bank, hotels and the Consulate-General of the UK. Now, they are mostly hotels, other banks or designer stores such a Dolce & Gabbana and Rolex. The style of buildings makes for an interesting contrast to the climbing bright lights of the Lujiazui side of the river.
Personally, I think it’s totally worth the trip, and I would recommend a stroll along The Bund over actually going across the river and wandering around skyscraper side any day (unless you’re planning to actually go up one of them). You also have the chance to take guided river boat tours, although I can’t comment on that as I haven’t done so, but I imagine it would be great fun if you’re visiting as part of a group. There’s an array of shops along the roadside, before you climb up to the path, including the likes of Costa, Starbucks and Subway, as well various mini convenience stores, restaurants and snacks windows.
If you’re looking for a more relaxed visit, I’d recommend visiting during the day (although I wouldn’t say it was quiet then, just quieter), but for the truly iconic shot, you’ve got to visit at night when the skyscrapers are lit up to their full extent and everything is sparkling super brightly. It’s truly a sight to be seen. Oh, and the Chinese are really big on their mini photoshoots – either just taking pictures of each other for WeChat, dressing up in graduation gowns and visiting iconic locations, and even wedding shoots. I lost count of the number of gorgeous brides I saw around tourist areas like The Bund, dressed up to the nines in their stunning gowns, with their fiancé and sometimes even a hoard of bridesmaids in tow. They go all out, and they really do look amazing.
There’s no Metro directly to The Bund, but you can get Line 2 to East Nanjing Road and pretty much follow the crowds along the five – ten minute walk. Just look up, keep heading East and walk towards the skyscrapers; you’ll hit The Bund sooner or later.
So, short answer to the question; yes, it certainly is worth the hype, you’ve gotta visit at least once whilst you’re in the city! And, it’s completely free!
All photographs used in this post were taken by myself and all rights are my own.