Once a playground for foreign adventurers and socialites, Shanghai is now a soaring metropolis with crisp modernity and youthful vigor. Unlike Beijing, don't come here for history and culture - instead, come for the rocketing modern skyscrapers, funky art deco architecture, charming 19th century shikumen (stone gate) buildings, or simply for its international array of restaurants and bars.
Symbolic of colonial Shanghai, the Bund was the city's equivalent of Wall Street, a place of feverish trading and fortunes made and lost. Today the Bund has emerged as a designer retail and restaurant zone set in neoclassical architecture to art deco elegance. Head also to the bohemian French Concession, where you'll find shikumen converted into upmarket retail complexes and the site of the first National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Within easy reach of Shanghai are the ancient Yangzi Region canal towns that dot the lushly watered landscape, but many travellers will want to explore Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) or chart a passage through the magnificent Three Gorges. The charming canal-town of Zhujiajiao within Shanghai municipality is an ideal counterpart to the urban zeal of metropolitan Shanghai, where you can enjoy an admirable seletion of tiny hotels, cafes, and arty shops scattered around town.
If you intend to stay in Shanghai for more than a few days the Shanghai Jiaotong Card, the equivalent of Singapore's EZ-link and can be used in buses, trains and even taxis, is a must. The Metro is fast, cheap, air conditioned and fairly user-friendly with most signs and station arrival announcements bilingual in Mandarin and English. Taxis are a good choice for transportation in the city, and are affordable during off-peak hours.