The Bund

Chinese name
外滩 (Wài Tān)
Admission
FREE
Hours
24 hours
Location
On the west bank of the Huangpu River, directly across from the skyscrapers in the Pudong Financial District. Nanjing Road intersects the Bund near the north end, and Zhongshan Road (中山路) is the main drag on the Bund running between the historic buildings and the waterfront area.
Transportation
Subway – Lines 2 & 10 go to Nanjing East Road Station (南京东路站); the Bund is a ten-minute walk to the east. If coming from Pudong (or if you just want some great views) take the Huangpu River ferry for ¥2.
Bus – 33, 37, 55, 65, 123, 135, 305, 307, 576, 910, 912 or 928

You are essentially required to visit the Bund at least once during your Shanghai trip.The iconic views on the shores of the Huangpu River leave deep and lasting impressions of Shanghai’s colonial past along with the spectacular economic ascent of Shanghai’s present. Get ready for tons of tourists, a taste of history and urban splendor on par with the world’s greatest cities. A well-known Western investor based in Hong Kong once warned his clients “Don’t visit the Bund on your first day in China.” Why? Because he thought it would give first-time visitors an unrealistic impression of China’s level of development. Whether you plan to visit the Bund on your first day in Shanghai or not, remember that while the Bund certainly is in China, China is not the Bund. Nevertheless, this stretch of land offers perhaps the best view of China’s ongoing efforts to transform from a broken land of fallen imperial glory into the center of the global economy.

History

In 1842 the British Empire defeated China’s Qing Dynasty in the First Opium War. China’s rulers were then forced to sign the Treaty of Nanking, granting the British control of Hong Kong and forcing China to open five ports to British trade. Shanghai was among those five ports, and the British quickly set up shop on the west banks of the Huangpu River, just to the north of the old walled city of Shanghai.

This area was called the Bund (a Persian term meaning embarkment or levvee) and it was coined by the Sassoon’s: a family of Iraqi Jews that had moved to Shanghai in order to reap tremendous profits in international trade. Ambitious merchants from France, the United States, Russia and Japan soon joined the Sassoons and other British citizens and subjects.

These foreign businesspeople soon established the Shanghai International Settlement, which included much of what is the center of modern Shanghai – including the Bund and Nanjing Road. Although it was technically Chinese land, foreigners were allowed to conduct their own affairs in the zone and even had their own Municipal Council, fire brigade, court houses and police force.

In the early 20th century, the Bund was the center of finance and trade in China. Grand hotels, banks and trading houses were built upon the banks of the Huangpu, while swanky clubs and cinemas soon followed. Many of these striking structures, which combine Western architectural elements with Chinese influences, can still be found in the area.

At first the British and Americans dominated the International Settlement, but by the 1920s both groups were well outnumbered by the Japanese. Once a victim of unequal treaties at the hands of Western powers themselves, the Japanese government used its growing industrial and military might to dominate China. When Japan began a full-scale invasion of China in 1937, the Bund and its surroundings were full of Chinese refugees. Soon running battles were being fought between Chinese guerrillas and Japanese occupation forces on the outskirts of the area, and after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces invaded the International Settlement.

The Bund stagnated during the Mao era, but with the recent opening of China’s economy to the outside world, the Bund has arisen from the ashes of neglect and mismanagement – much like China itself. It once again serves as a symbol of the opportunities China presents to the world, this time with the Chinese firmly in charge of it.

Layout

Located on the west bank of the Huangpu River, the Bund is essentially the apex of modern Shanghai. The main drag of the Bund stretches for almost 3 km (1 mi). The tallest buildings in Shanghai and the Oriental Pearl Tower are directly across the river in Pudong.

Towards the north side of the Bund is Huangpu Park (Huángpǔ Gōngyuán; 黄浦公园). This is Shanghai’s oldest and smallest municipal park, established by the forces of the Shanghai Foreign Settlement who didn’t allow Chinese people to enter. Bruce Lee famously kicked down a “No dogs or Chinese allowed” sign outside the entrance in his classic Fists of Fury. Now a huge statue of Mao Zedong can be found in Huangpu Park, along with The Bund Historical Museum (Wàitān Lìshǐ Jì'niàn'guǎn;外滩历史纪念馆; admission: FREE; phone: 5308 8987; hours: 9:00-16:30, closed Sat & Sun). Huangpu Park is also where Suzhou Creek empties into the Huangpu River. Cross Waibaidu Bridge to get to the Astor House and Broadway Mansions hotel (pg 172), and explore the eerie, old-fashioned streets of the North Bund neighborhood.

On a lovely note, Huangpu Park also has the Valentine Wall, a long wall full of multicolored flowers, which displays different geometric designs and is a favorite place for couples to go on romantic strolls and take pictures with either the flowers or Pudong in the background.

At the end of Nanjing Road on the Bund is Chen Yi Square (Chényì Guǎngchǎng; 陈毅广场), on which stands the statue of Chen Yi, the first mayor of Shanghai in New China. The statue is cast with bronze and stands at 5.5 m (18 ft) on top of a 3.5 m (11.5 ft) pedestal of polished red granite.

From south to north, the main buildings on the Bund are:
Asia Building (Yàxìyà Dàlóu; 亚细亚大楼)
Right at the southern end of the Bund, this structure was originally known as the McBain Building and it once housed Royal Dutch Shell’s Asiatic Petroleum Division. Some say that at night the mournful howls of early 20th century Chinese oil riggers can still be heard from its confines.

Address: 1 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Shanghai Club (Shànghǎi Zǒnghuì Dàlóu; 上海总会大楼)
This building was erected in 1910 as the home for the most exclusive men’s club in the Foreign Settlement. It was once the site of the world’s longest bar and the world’s most despicable expats. As was traditional, membership was restricted to white males “of a certain class.” Nowadays it operates as a luxury hotel and class restrictions are enforced by economics rather than British guns and discrimination.

Address: 2 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Union Building (Yǒulì Dàlóu; 有利大楼)
Once home to insurance companies, this building was completed in 1916 in the neo-Renaissance style. The old Union Building currently houses a luxury shopping center run by a Singaporean company.

Address: 3 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai
The Nissin Building (Rìqīng Dàlóu; 日清大楼)
A Japanese shipping company built this structure in 1925. It is now an upscale restaurant with an excellent view from the terrace.

Address: 5 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

China Merchants Bank Building (Zhōngguó Tōngshāng Yínháng Dàlóu; 中国通商银行大楼)
This building housed the first Chinese-owned bank in China and it’s currently home to a Dolce & Gabbana flagship store. This is one of the oldest standing structures on the Bund, having been completed in 1887.

Address: 6 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Great Northern Telegraph Company Building (Dàběi Diànbào Gōngsī Dàlóu; 大北电报公司大楼)
Built in 1907 as the site of the first telephone switch in Shanghai in 1882, now it houses The Bangkok Bank.

Address: 7 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai
The China Merchants Steam Navigation Company Building (Lúnchuán Zhāoshāng Zǒngjú Dàlóu; 轮船招商总局大楼)
Built in 1901, this is the Bund’s remaining example of neo-Classical external-corridor architecture hailing from the late Victorian era.

Address: 9 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Pudong Development Bank Building (Pǔdōng Fāzhǎn Yínháng Dàlóu; 浦东发展银行大楼)
When this grand structure was completed in 1923, it was the second tallest bank building in the world. Formerly the headquarters of the Shanghai and Hong Kong Development Bank (HSBC), its original owners lost a bid to reclaim the structure in 1996. It was once famously (and very arrogantly) referred to as “the most luxurious building between the Suez Canal and the Bering Strait.” Such arrogance was not entirely unfounded – it is a magnificent neo-classical structure. Make sure to view the mosaic ceiling murals from the main lobby.

Address: 12 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai


Shanghai Customs House (Hǎiguān Dàlóu; 海关大楼)
Perhaps the most iconic building on the Bund, the Customs House features a miniature version of London’s Big Ben. It was built on the site of a previous Chinese customs house, and unlike many of the Bund’s classical structures, it still serves its original purpose.

Address: 13 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Bank of Communications Building (Jiāotōng Yínháng Dàlóu; 交通银行大楼)
The last building to be built on the Bund in 1948, it now houses the Shanghai Council of Trade Unions.

Address: 14 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai
The Russo-Chinese Bank Building (Huá’é Dàoshèng Yínháng Dàlóu; 华俄道胜银行大楼)
Now the Shanghai Foreign Exchange Trade Center, this building was finished in 1901.

Address: 15 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai
The Bank of Taiwan Building (Táiwān Yínháng Dàlóu; 台湾银行大楼)
Constructed in 1924, it now houses the China Merchants Bank.

Address: 16 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai
The North China Daily News Building (Zìlín Xībào Dàlóu; 字林西报大楼)
Built in 1921, it housed the at the time North China Daily News, the most influential English language newspaper in Shanghai. Today, it’s where AIA Insurance calls home.

Address: 17 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Chartered Bank Building (Màijiālì Yínháng Dàlóu; 麦加利银行大楼)
The Shanghai headquarters of the Standard Chartered Bank moved here upon the building’s 1923 completion. Today you’ll find designer shops and a creative exhibition space.

Address: 18 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

Palace Hotel (Huìzhōng Fàndiàn; 汇中饭店)
Today it forms part of the Peace Hotel and is one of the nicest lodgings on the Bund.

Address: 19 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

Sassoon House (Shāxùn Dàshà; 沙逊大厦)
Along with the Cathay Hotel, this building was built by Sir Victor Sassoon and the top floor was the residence of Victor Sassoon. At ten stories, it is the tallest building on the Bund. Just like the heady times of the 1930s, this building is still famous for hosting jazz performances. Today, it forms the other part of the Peace Hotel.

Address: 20 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Bank of China Building (Zhōngguó Yínháng Dàlóu; 中国银行大楼)
This is perhaps the only building on the Bund whose name hasn’t changed. It was originally planned to be taller, but Victor Sassoon insisted no other building in the area should be taller than his.

Address: 23 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Yokohama Specie Bank Building (Zhèngjīn Yínháng Dàlóu; 正金银行大楼)
Built in 1924, the Yokohama Specie Bank Building is now the Industry and Commerce Bank of China building.

Address: 24 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai
The Yangtsze Insurance Association Building (Yángzǐ Dàlóu; 扬子大楼)
This 1916 building is now the Shanghai branch of the Agricultural Bank of China.

Address: 26 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai
Jardine Matheson Building (Yíhé Yángháng Dàlóu; 怡和洋行大楼)
Built in 1920, it housed the then-powerful Jardine Matheson company. Today it is now known as the House of Roosevelt, which houses the Rolex Flagship Store, the largest wine cellar in China, three restaurants and a private club.

Address: 27 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

The Banque de l’Indochine Building (Dōngfāng Huìlǐ Yínháng Dàlóu; 东方汇理银行大楼)
Currently the Everbright Bank of China Shanghai branch, this structure was built in 1914 and once housed the French bank, Banque de l’Indochine.

Address: 29 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai
British Consulate General (Yīngguó Zǒng Lǐngshìguǎn; 英国总领事馆)
Once the Consulate-General of the United Kingdom, the building has been renovated and in 2010 re-opened as 1 Waitanyuan (Wàitānyuán Yīhào; 外滩源壹号), a private dining facility for the government. Part of the site also houses the Peninsula Hotel.

Address: 33 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai

Other Attractions

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Chinese name: 外滩观光隧道 (Wàitān Guānguāng Suìdào)

Admission: ¥50 (one way); ¥70 (round trip)

Hours: 8:00–22:30 (May-Oct); 8:00–22:00 (Nov-Apr)

Location: There are two entrances: one at 300 Zhongshan East 1st Road, Puxi (中山东一路300号); the other is across the water at 2789 Binjiang Ave, Pudong (滨江大道2789号) near the massive Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

Transport: Subway – Line 2, get off at Lujiazui Station (陆家嘴站) in Pudong side

Do you remember the scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (the 1971 original) in which an enigmatic Mr Wonka takes a group of unsuspecting children on a psychedelic ride into a tunnel full of strange and confusing visions? Did you watch that and think to yourself “Gee, that looks like fun”? If so, The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is the perfect Shanghai attraction for you.

Running under the Huangpu River between the Bund and Shanghai’s tallest buildings in Pudong, the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel was originally envisioned as a moving pedestrian walkway. Instead, automated electric cars were imported from France and a local Chinese company designed the multimedia effects, which are somewhat reminiscent of a particularly nasty acid trip.

Zhang Bin, the sales director of the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, explains the presentation thusly: “The story is about going from space into the core of the Earth and out again. We couldn’t show the dirty Huangpu, which has no fish, so we went for something bigger and better. It’s the only tunnel like it in the world.”

To be fair, the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel certainly is unique. Where else can one see multicolored lights and wacky arm-flailing inflatable characters while listening to strange disembodied voices under a Chinese river in the comfort of a French-made electric vehicle? There are also carnival games at the entrance and a series of bizarre and overpriced souvenirs.

The compartments of the sightseeing trains are completely transparent, allowing for a 360 degree view. For all its tackiness, this is one of the top ten most popular tourist attractions in Shanghai; over two million people have traveled through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel since its opening in 2000. (Of course, this popularity could be due to its location between the two most famous places in the city.) It is simultaneously a monument to the kitschy side of Chinese tourism and the creativity of (presumably) corrupt city planners.

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is also a reliable alternative to taking the ferry across the Huangpu River for those prone to seasickness – so long as you’re not also prone to motion sickness. The total length of the tunnel is 646 m (2,122 ft) and the ride takes about five minutes.

Fuzhou Road
Right off the Bund in between Hankou Road and Guangdong Road, this little alley has the largest concentration of stores in all of Shanghai. They consist mostly of small art, music, DVD and book stores, so if you’re looking to re-stash your reading list, this is the perfect place to do it. Take a look in Shanghai Book City, and also keep an eye out for Shanghai Classics Bookstore, Chinese Science and Technology Bookstore and the Beijing Opera Theatre.
Huangpu River Cruises
The best way to capture the true essence of the Bund is to see it from the water; this way you’ll simultaneously catch a view of glamorous Pudong as well. It’s one of the most enjoyable and relaxing ways to get the most out of Shanghai, so we highly recommend booking a tour.

There are several boat companies that you can use. Our favorite is Shanghai Huangpu River Cruise Company (address: 219 Zhongshan East 2nd Road; phone: 6374 4461, 6374 0091; website: www.pjrivercruise.com). They have a full afternoon cruise from 14:00-17:00, along with a three-hour morning cruise during the summer. Prices run from ¥50-¥100, depending on seating, and some of the more expensive tickets also come with snacks and beverages. If you’re not willing to invest three hours of your time, try one of the shorter, one-hour-long cruises (¥25-¥35) or their hour-long nighttime cruise from the Bund to the Yangpu Bridge (¥35-¥70).

Make sure to check their website for up-to-date prices, tour packages, and departure times since they change depending on the season. You can either book tickets with them directly or through your hotel or hostel. If you don’t fancy what Shanghai Huangpu River Cruise Company has to offer, there are plenty of other liners that you can choose from, so ask your hotel or hostel to see if they have any recommendations. However, we must add that they are basically all the same, differing only in where they depart from and end at.

Cautions

Like all the places heavily trafficked by foreign visitors in Shanghai, the Bund has its share of tricksters. Don’t fall for the infamous Tea or Art House Scams wherein travelers are approached by locals and taken to exorbitantly priced tea houses or art galleries. Also beware of pickpockets; they’re known to target unsuspecting foreigners here.
 

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