Jing’an Temple, with its unmissable gold-plated pagoda, rises above one of central Shanghai’s busiest roads. It is the Jing’an district’s most striking landmark, and is situated on the oldest historical site in the bustling, modern city.
In fact, the temple predates even the city itself. It was constructed in 247 AD, more than 1,000 years before the official birth of Shanghai in 1292.
This temple, wreathed in the smoke of heady incense, is more than a tranquil respite in the crowded city centre. Surrounded by towering office buildings and sprawling luxurious shopping centres, the temple and its surrounds are a symbol of Shanghai’s historical and cultural past.
For anyone who has been to Shanghai, you’d know that China’s most populated city (at 24 million) is not easily toured by car as the traffic situation is bad. But, if you are a frequent business traveller who must spend time in Shanghai, you may want to extend your trip by just a day or two to explore the area of Jing’an on foot. The sights are rewarding.
Start your day at the former French Concession, even if it is not in the same district. With its tree-lined streets and well preserved colonial villas, the former French Concession feels like a different world and sets the tone for Jing’an. Stop by a cafe and pick up a coffee for your stroll. Among our top picks are the newly opened % Arabica, a Japanese export that should be visited during off-peak hours to avoid the queues. From there, take a 15-minute walk to Jing’an Temple. Enjoy the scenery on the way.
Originally built next to the Suzhou Creek, the temple is a truly a historical masterpiece. It was relocated to its current site in 1216 and served as a plastics factory during the Cultural Revolution. It reopened as a temple only in 1983 after a major restoration.
Next, head to Jing’an Sculptural Park, a 30-minute walk away. Here you’ll find 44ha of parkland dedicated to sculptural art, and the perfect place to spend an afternoon. The 61 sculptures in the Jing’an Sculptural Park, some by international artists, are rotated throughout the year.
A crowd puller for four years until last August was British artist Alex Rinsler’s Urban Fox, a sculpture of metal and straw sitting atop a shipping container.
Housed within the park is also the avant-garde-looking Shanghai Natural History Museum opened in 2015. It is host to over 10,000 animal and plant specimens and exhibits from all seven contents.
After a leisurely stroll through leafy and cultural locales, you might be ready for HKRI Taikoo Hui, the embodiment of modern Shanghai.
The glitzy and modern multi-use space has been the most talked about opening in the city since it opened in 2017.
At almost 330,000sq m, it is huge, and is home to two hotels and an uber-luxe mall. Its biggest tenant is the world’s largest Starbucks Reserve Roastery, the second in the world to open after Seattle. It boasts three coffee bars each specialising in different brewing methods, tea bars that can whip up a fancy tea blend (spiked, if it’s that time of the afternoon), and roasting and packaging facilities.
The grub here is baked onsite by Italian artisanal bakery Rocco Princi. The atmosphere, perhaps fuelled by caffeine, is buzzy and vibrant.
Also located in HKRI Taikoo Hui is The Sukhothai Shanghai designed by Shanghai interiors firm Neri&Hu Design & Research Office. If the Sukhothai name sounds familiar, that’s because the Shanghai hotel is the first overseas offshoot of the iconic Sukhothai in Bangkok, Thailand.
In comparison to the opulently outfitted original, the Shanghai hotel is modern and minimal.
The look of the hotel mimics a high-end residential building, with a mostly grey-and-beige colour palette. A curated collection of just under 300 art pieces, featuring both local and international artists, hang in the common areas and rooms. As a testimony of its commitment to providing a sanctuary for visitors to a city like Shanghai, the room walls are made of diatom silica, a porous material that purifies air and absorbs sound.
To bliss out completely, check into The Retreat, the hotel spa and wellness centre in the basement, where a menu of treatments incorporating Asian wellness concepts await. End the day with dinner at The Urban Café. The satay, oxtail soup and sambal kangkung on the South-East Asian menu are knockouts, making you feel rather like you’ve arrived home.