Shanghai, China’s modern commercial center, often gets overlooked for destinations like Beijing and Xi’an when it comes to cultural experiences. As the rapidly evolving city continues changing from day to day, its collection of museums memorialize the history and culture of a city that was once a small fishing village, as well as an entire nation. Here are five of the best collections on display in the City Above the Sea.
1. Shanghai Museum
Considered China’s best museum, the Shanghai Museum is a study in the art history of the Middle Kingdom. The galleries are divided by art form rather than era, allowing visitors to see the evolution of arts like bronze work, calligraphy, ceramics and painting over time. Entrance is free, but the small fee for the English audio guide is well worth it.
2. Shanghai Municipal History Museum
Head down into the basement of the iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower along the Bund and you’ll find a creepy, kitschy, yet surprisingly informative collection of dioramas depicting the history of Shanghai. With a focus on the period between 1860 and 1949, the Shanghai Municipal History Museum evokes the feeling of old nineteenth and twentieth century Shanghai.
3. Shanghai Science and Technology Museum
With two IMAX 3D theaters, a simulated rainforest and more than 100 hands-on science exhibits, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum is your best bet when traveling with children.
4. Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center
If you want to see just how far Shanghai has come from its roots as a tiny fishing village in 1842 then spend an hour or two at the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. Check out the pictures and maps of Old Shanghai before heading up to the third floor to experience the highlight, a massive 6,400 square-foot (595 square-meter) planning model of what city planners expect Shanghai will look like in 2020.
5. Shanghai Art Museum
The Shanghai Art Museum, housed within a historic clock tower in People’s Square, contains 12 exhibit halls filled with paintings, sculptures and calligraphy with a focus on modern artwork. The collection is impressive, but the restored neoclassical interior architectural elements are the real stars.