Along the Waterfront of Shanghai’s Bund

When you take your first steps onto Shanghai’s Bund waterfront, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another continent, a century back in time. More than 50 striking early 20th-century commercial buildings line the street, once the headquarters of the world’s East Asia-based banking and trading houses. Financiers and industrialists from the global powers of the era built grand stone buildings in various Western architectural styles—Beaux Arts, Art Nouveau, and Gothic Revival, among others—creating a dramatic skyline along the west banks of the Huangpu River. The Bund, which stretches over a mile along Zhongshan Road, treats visitors to a living gallery of architectural history.

Many of the old buildings no longer house their original banks and financial institutions. The Russo-Chinese Bank Building is now the home of the Shanghai Gold Exchange. China Merchants Bank took the place of the Bank of Taiwan Building. And the Shanghai Club now houses the Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai Hotel. The Customs House, built in 1927, is one of the few structures still used for its original purpose. Its clock tower, marble columns, and tiled octagonal dome distinguish this grand building.

Old and new Shanghai meet here in startling contrast: Looking across the river affords the best views of Pudong, Shanghai’s futuristic financial center, while the Old City, with its jumbled streets, wooden houses, gardens, and ornate temples, lies just south. A recently restored waterfront graces the street directly across from the historic buildings of the Bund. It’s a pedestrian friendly promenade comprised of pavilions, parks, and plazas designed for rest and recreation. As evening approaches, the major buildings of the Bund and Pudong are illuminated, making it an ideal time for photography. Cruise boats, with trips starting at around $18, offer another option for viewing the area.

Getting to the Bund is simple on public transportation. Take Metro Line 2 to East Nanjing Road; the Bund is a five-minute walk from the station.