Nine Dragon Pillar
At the intersection of downtown Shanghai’s two busiest highways is a curious sight, a gaudy, glittering pillar adorned with dragons. It is easy to pass by without a second look, and the pillar is certainly not a point of interest in the same way as everything else on this list. However, for the discerning traveler, this pillar, with its incredible story, can be one of the lasting memories you leave Shanghai with.
Legend has it that the ground at the point of the pillar was impossible to dig, so impossible that the highway construction workers visited a Buddhist priest for guidance. The priest revealed that beneath the stubborn earth was a dragon’s lair, and the dragon would not move until the workers honored it. The city commissioned the pillar, and construction crews finally broke the earth. Make sure to stop by long enough to snap a picture and pay your respects to the dragon who really hates urban development.
The Under-The-Radar Watertown
You have probably heard of tour- bus-filled Zhujiajiao and Wuzhen already, but tiny Fengjing flies well under the radar and is rarely crowded. Only about an hour from downtown by bus or car, it is a great little day trip and entry is free. The ‘Site of the Former People’s Commune’ is Bespoke’s personal favorite, as it includes a rare exhibit on the Cultural Revolution era, not to mention a chance to explore a disused bomb shelter and a quirky museum dedicated exclusively to badges bearing images of Mao Zedong!
People's Square Marriage Market
Not long ago in China, all marriages were arranged. Although the country has mostly discarded such traditions in the race towards modernity, this one keeps hanging on, if only by a thread. One of the last remaining vestiges of arranged marriage in Shanghai can be witnessed every weekend from 12 - 5pm at the People’s Square Marriage Market.
Parents line up marriage resumes of their children attached to umbrellas. Big ticket items include salary and property ownership. You can go to the market to simply observe the goings-on, or take part in it yourself as long as you are respectful of the fact that for many of the families involved, this is the children’s last chance at marriage before being written off as “leftover” men and women.
Moganshan Road is a road located in the north of Shanghai, in the area of Suzhou Creek, and is known for the density of its art galleries and graffiti. It is here that you will find the best modern artists of Shanghai.
Some of them, Zhou Tiehai and Ding Yi for example, still have their studios here. The two most famous art galleries of Moganshan are probably 50 Moganshan and ShanghART.
Old Jewish Ghetto
During WWII, Shanghai offered protective visas to Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria, and Poland. As a result, more than 18,000 Jewish immigrants poured into the city in the late 1930s and early 1940s. In 1943, the occupying Japanese army required these 18,000 refugees to relocate to a 0.75 square mile (1.9 square km) area of the Hongkou district.
Conditions there were poor, and the Chinese residents already living there refused to move, leading to overcrowding. The 1940s character of the ghetto alleyways has been well preserved and offers visitors a glimpse into a unique and little known time in history. Start your tour at the Ohel Moishe Synagogue, now known as the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.