In association with Emirates

It is the engine room of China's economic miracle, but Cathy Packe discovers that this modern metropolis has an ancient heart

WHY GO NOW?

Shanghai is one of the most exciting, and fastest-developing, cities in Asia. And although the city is proud of its modernity, there is still plenty of the traditional Chinese way of life to explore.

TOUCH DOWN

Before you set off, get a visa from the Chinese Embassy in London (020-7631 1430; www.chinese-embassy.org.uk) or from the consulates in Manchester or Edinburgh. Visas for British citizens cost £30 and normally take three days to obtain. You can fly non-stop from Heathrow to Shanghai on China Eastern (020-7935 2676; www.ce-air.com ), Virgin Atlantic (0870 380 2007; www.virgin-atlantic.com) and, from 1 June, British Airways (0870 850 9850, www.ba.com). Expect to pay around £505 for a return flight in June. Emirates (0870 243 2222; www.emirates.com) flies from Gatwick, Heathrow, Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow via Dubai.

TAKE A RIDE

Pudong International Airport is 20 miles east of Shanghai, and connected to the outskirts of the city by a Maglev railway (00 86 21 2890 7777). Trains run every 20 minutes from 8.30am to 5.30pm, single fare Y50 (£3.20). The sensation of travelling at up to 275mph is amazing, even though the seven-minute journey ends at in the suburbs at a station called Longyang Lu. From here, follow the signs to the green line of the Metro, or hop in a cab.

TAKE A VIEW

The tallest building in China is the Jin Mao Tower (1) at 88 Century Boulevard (00 86 21 5047 5101; www.jinmao88.com). There is an observation deck on the 88th floor, open 8.30am-9pm daily, for which admission is Y50 (£3.20). Or have a cocktail one floor below at Cloud 9 in the Grand Hyatt hotel (00 86 21 5049 1234; www.shanghai.grand.hyatt.com).

GET YOUR BEARINGS

Shanghai sprawls along the west bank of the Huangpu River. Along the riverfront is Zhongshan Road, known as the Bund. Further west is People's Square (2), or Renmin Guangchang, which is connected to the Bund by Nanjing Lu, the main shopping street. The oldest part of the city is Nanshi, an area that is contained within Renmin Lu and Zhonghua Lu; to the west is the now-chic French Concession. If you can handle the crowds, Shanghai is easy to walk around. Signposts and maps show the main street names in pinyin, a transcription of the Chinese name in Roman letters. The metro system also has station names in pinyin. There are two lines, and tickets cost between Y2 (12p) and Y4 (25p). Taxis have a flat rate of Y10 (65p) for the first couple of miles. Have your destination written down in Chinese, as it is rare to find an English-speaking driver.

CHECK IN

In the heart of the city, one of the best bets is the Sofitel Hyland (3) at 505 Nanjing Road East (00 86 21 6351 5888; www.sofitel.com), near both the Bund and People's Square. Doubles here start at $241.50 (£127), including breakfast. The Metropole (4) is in a good location at 180 Jianxi Zhong Road (00 86 21 6321 3030; www.metropolehotel-sh.com). Rooms start at Y650 (£41); the Chinese buffet breakfast is Y25 (£1.60). The Pudong Shangri-La (5) at 33 Fu Cheng Road (00 86 21 6882 8888; www.shangri-la.com) is an easy journey from central Shanghai if you take the metro to Lujiazui Road, and has magnificent views across the river. Rooms start at US$391 (£206) for a double. Breakfast is $25 (£13).

TAKE A HIKE

Begin at the junction of Renmin Lu and Dajing Lu, where you will find the last surviving section of the city walls. The Dajingge Pavilion (6) (00 86 21 6385 2443), on top of the walls, opens 9am-4pm daily; admission Y5 (32p). Although nothing is labelled in English, the exhibition has some interesting photos of old Shanghai. From here, head east along Dajing Lu, wandering down the side alleys for a snapshot of life in old China. Head along Henan Nanlu and into Fangbang Zhonglu, where a red wooden arch protected by two rampant stone lions marks the entrance to the City Temple (7); admission is Y5 (32p). Around the corner is a market, selling typical souvenirs, and in its centre is Yuyuan(8), the Garden of Leisurely Repose, a 16th-century Ming dynasty garden that is one of Shanghai's most popular attractions, and an ideal place to finish your walk. It is open 8.30am-5.30pm daily, admission Y30 (£1.90).

LUNCH ON THE RUN

There are plenty of eateries around Yu Yuan, including two branches of Lu Bo Lang (00 86 21 6328 0602; www.lubolang.com). Both serve dim sum, as well as shark fin and other Shanghainese specialities. Or try the city's oldest teahouse, the Huxinting (9), or Mid-Lake Pavilion, at 257 Yuyuan Road (00 86 21 6373 6950). It is open from 8.30am-10pm, and until 5pm you can experience a full Chinese tea ceremony.

WINDOW SHOPPING

The classiest shops are along Nanjing Road West, in centres like Plaza 66 (10) and CITIC (11), although locals prefer the livelier Huahai Road. To buy Chinese silk, go to the daily fabric market (12) at Donjiadu Lu, or to Silk King (13) at 819 Nanjing Xi Road (00 86 21 6215 3114), where a tailor will make up your fabric into a design of your choice.

AN APERITIF

Head for Xin Tiandi, where two blocks of buildings have been turned into a lively bar and restaurant district. Look out for K2, Zenzi Bar, or Star East, owned by film star Jacky Chan.

DINING WITH THE LOCALS

For Shanghainese food, aim for the 18 on the Bund building (14) at 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road and locate the excellent Tan Wai Lou (00 86 21 6339 1188). In the same building and even more popular among the trendy set is Sens and Bund (00 86 21 6323 9898; www.resto18.com), which serves exquisite French dishes at very reasonable prices. The chefs are twins: Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, who have won Michelin stars back home in France. To eat in Xin Tiandi, try the Italian food at Luna (15) on Tai Cang Road (00 86 21 6336 1717; www.lunashanghai.com.cn).

SUNDAY MORNING: GO TO CHURCH

The Moore Memorial Church is a red-brick gothic building on People's Square (2), built by 19th-century missionaries. All the services are in Chinese, but visitors are welcome 9am-5pm daily (00 86 21 6322 5069).

A WALK IN THE PARK

Originally designed as an open space for the French residents of Shanghai, Fuxing Park (16) is now is dominated by large statues of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. You will encounter martial arts enthusiasts and singing groups, as well as locals who come to enjoy the rose garden and the waterside pavilion.

OUT TO BRUNCH

In the top floor of Three on the Bund (17), New Heights (00 86 21 6321 0909; www.threeonthebund.com) is a relaxed alternative, where breakfast dishes start at Y95 (£6) and are served until 6pm at weekends. Along the road, Bar Rouge (00 86 21 6339 1199; www.resto18.com), on the seventh floor of 18 on the Bund (14) serves brunch from 10.30am-3.30pm every weekend, with set menus including egg dishes and pastries starting at Y132 (£8.40).

CULTURAL AFTERNOON

The former residence of China's first president, Dr Sun Yat Sen (18), at 7 Xiangshan Road (00 86 21 6437 2954, www.sh-sunyat-sen.com) is well worth a visit. Its heavy furniture and original decor have been left as they were when he lived here. It opens 9am-4.30pm daily, admission Y8 (50p). Nearby, at 374 Huangpi Road South, is the Memorial House (19) (00 86 21 5383 2171; www.shcrm.com) where the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party was held in 1921. It opens 9am-5pm daily, and admission is Y3 (20p).

WRITE A POSTCARD

... bought from the Shanghai Museum (20) at 201 Renmin Da Dao (00 86 21 6372 3500; www.shanghaimuseum.net). This is one of the city's finest attractions, being a treasure house of jade, calligraphy, costumes, furniture and other Chinese arts. The museum opens 9am-4pm daily, admission Y20 (£1.25).

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