Created By: PocketSights
Start: Waibaidu Bridge, Suzhou Creek (Metro: Nanjing Rd. [E]).
Best Times: Weekday mornings or late afternoons; nighttime for the lights, not the sights.
Worst Times: Weekends bring out the crowds on the Bund Promenade. Evenings are pretty, with the lights on the Bund buildings and the river, but the architecture cannot be viewed well after dark.
Defining the eastern boundary of downtown Shanghai, the Bund (Wai Tan) refers to both sides of the wide avenue (Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu) that runs north and south along the western shore of the Huangpu River. After a 2-year, ¥5-billion expansion project in preparation for the World Expo of 2010, the Bund reopened to great fanfare with a wider and longer Bund Promenade on the east side of the street, affording terrific pedestrian-only walks along the river shore with unparalleled views of Pudong across the river. Our stroll concentrates on the colonial-era European-style architecture on the west side of the street, all of which received face-lifts in the most recent renovations.
The colonial era began in Shanghai after the Treaty of Nanjing ended the First Opium War in 1842. The British and other Western nations moved in, establishing foreign enclaves (concessions) and opening up the city to trade. Consisting of mud flats and streams that were drained, the Bund (which means embankment) became the chief shipping, trading, and financial district of the colonialists. Shanghai's foreign population grew from 10,000 in 1910 to 60,000 by 1940, and it was during this period that the great buildings that still line the Bund were built. Many of the more notable buildings were designed by the architectural firm Palmer and Turner, including the Customs House, the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Bank of China, and the Peace Hotel.
War with Japan signaled the end to the Bund's colonial heyday, the first bomb dropping on the Peace Hotel on August 14, 1937. In January 1943, the Japanese occupation of Shanghai put an end to the city's foreign concessions. Shortly after the Communist triumph of 1949, the last of the foreign trading houses abandoned the Bund. In the decades since, many of the buildings, occupied sporadically by local banks, organizations, and businesses, fell into disrepair, but since the late 1990s, there has been a concerted effort to restore the Bund's architectural grandeur, to refurbish the colonial interiors, and to open them to a curious public. With the renovations of the last 3 years establishing luxury hotels, and high-end shops and restaurants as new tenants on the street, the Bund has once again become the city's focal point, all of which makes for a fascinating walking tour. In addition, the route will also take in part of the area behind the Bund known as Waitanyuan ("headstream of the Bund"), which the Shanghai government is developing into a highly ambitious complex of shops and restaurants in historical buildings connected by courtyards and gardens, pedestrian-only streets, and aerial walkways.