20 reasons to visit Shanghai in 2012

20 reasons to visit Shanghai in 2012

China’s mega metropolis will enter its luckiest lunar year, host numerous exciting events and refresh the futuristic skyline

Shanghai is China's ultimate east-meets-west metropolis. Nowhere else in the nation can you see traditional houses in the shadow of towering skyscrapers and the latest luxury brand stores cheek-by-jowl with workaday eateries.

The city is developing fast, and 2012 is set to be another big year, with even more changes coming to shake things up.

Here are 20 reasons -- in no particular order -- why you should schedule a trip to the mega metropolis in the year to come. Hold on -- should? Make that a "must."

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiExpect to see more dragon dances during the dragon year Spring Festival.

1. Dragon Year

According to the lunar calendar, the year of dragon starts on January 23, 2012.

The dragon is considered the most auspicious of all 12 animal signs and the Lunar New Year (aka Spring Festival) celebration is expected to be grander than any of those in the past decade.

Brave the country's annual migration to experience China’s ultimate happiness around Spring Festival. Every Chinese believes their life is blessed in a dragon year.

The Middle Kingdom is going through a dragon baby boom due to the belief that children born in a dragon year are likely to enjoy professional success and considerable wealth.

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiRide on the world's longest metro system.

2. Better metro system

Metro Line 12 (which will run from Pudong to Yangpu) and Line 16 (which will be roaming around Pudong) will open in 2012. At least, that's what the latest Shanghai Metro development plan claims. 

Metro Line 11 will be extended to Pudong and Line 13, the temporarily disused Expo line, will stretch all the way to Putuo by the end of next year.

And if you're undecided between Beijing and Shanghai as your next holiday destination, consider this: Shanghai's subway system is the longest in the world at around 420 kilometers

And once the 2012 extensions are complete, it will trump Beijing’s with almost three times the number of stations, with a total of more than 70 stops.

Plus, Shanghai just launched its first official iOS app for Shanghai metro. Download, install and you're off.

20 reasons to visit Shanghai“No hotel rooms” will never be an excuse not to visit Shanghai again.

3. More superb hotels 

With Shangri-La and Sofitel opening in Jing’an and Four Seasons and Marriott in Pudong, Shanghai will see hospitality choices multiplying in 2012.

And there is good news for budget travelers as well, as economy hotel chain 7 Days Inn has ambitious expansion plans, with 360 new hotels opening around China and an unconfirmed number joining the existing 40 in Shanghai.

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiHit Shanghai Expo exhibition to understand China's passion for the World Expo and queuing.

4. Shanghai Expo exhibition

Missed the Shanghai Expo? Or just couldn't face the queues to get a stamp on a mock passport? 

Check out the Shanghai Expo Memorial Exhibition in the former Expo Pavilion of Footprint in 2012. 

The 12,000-square-meter exhibition showcases more than 2,000 Expo-related objects sourced from different participating countries.

Exhibits include the Giant Baby, a gargantuan baby robot that welcomed visitors to the 2010 Spain Pavilion, the skeleton of the Australopithecus Lucy and, inevitably, giant reproductions of the Shanghai Expo mascot Haibao

The exhibition opened to the public last September and is expected to run until 2014.

After the exhibitions, most objects will be relocated to Shanghai Expo Museum, the world's first museum of World Expositions. Construction of the museum will start in 2012 and the space is due to open the former Expo site in Puxi in 2015. 

The former Expo Pavilion of Footprint is located on Jumen Lu near Longhua Dong Lu. Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiForget about Hong Kong, Shanghai is the city to (window) shop in 2012.

5. Shopping center frenzy

No recession or Euro crisis can stop Shanghai’s optimism and consumption frenzy.

For this reason, a horde of new shopping centers is set to open before the end of next year, ready to welcome travelers looking to slim their wallets.

Noteworthy entries include the “art shopping mall” K11 and IAPM on Huaihai Zhong Lu; the new “New World” in Pudong; and the swanky Takashimaya in Gubei, for which Japanese sculptor Sekine Nobuo is preparing an ad hoc art piece.

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiTravelers will be able to use 4G network throughout Shanghai city center by the end of 2012.

6. 4G network

According to China's Ministry of Information Technology, Shanghai’s city center (the area inside Metro Line 4) will be covered by 4G network by the end of 2012, and 39 percent of the city’s population will have access to 4G mobile broadband.

With a connection 36 times faster than the current 3G, allowing data download peaks of one gigabyte per second, Shanghai will become the preferred destination to check the speed of your new smartphone.

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiShanghai First Food is one of the most famous stores on Nanjing Dong Lu.

7. Shanghai First Food

With the revamping of the Shanghai First Food store (食品一店), Shanghai will recover a piece of its culinary history in 2012.

Before the end of next year, Shanghai First Food will resume its original 1920s look on the pedestrianized Nanjing Dong Lu.

The food mall will become one of the biggest food courts in the world and the perfect foil to Nanjing Xi Lu's Marks & Spencer (which, by the way, will open five new stores in Shanghai in 2012).

No better reason to go and try its signature jiaxin binggan (夹心饼干, stuffed cookies) and jinhua huotui (金华火腿, Zhejiang-style preserved meat).

The store is scheduled to close in March and will reopen by December 2012. 

Shanghai First Food, 720 Nanjing Dong Lu, near Guizhou Lu 南京东路720号, 近贵州路, +86 21 6322 2777, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m.
Marks & Spencer (Nanjing Xi Lu branch), 863 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Shimen Yi Lu 南京西路863号, 近石门一路, +86 21 6218 2558, 10 a.m.-10 p.m., www.marksandspencer.com

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiGo wild with one of Asia's biggest extreme sports events.

8. X Games

If a high-speed cab ride on the city’s elevated road is not extreme enough, don’t miss X Games Asia, one of the biggest extreme sports events on this side of the globe.

The 2012 event will be held in April for the sixth consecutive year in Shanghai in the historical Jiangwan Sport Center in Yangpu District.

Organizers aim to repeat the success of last year (almost 200 athletes competed, and 62,100 spectators attended) with a newly designed racecourse and the best international athletes in skateboarding, BMX cycling and aggressive line skating.

The dates of 2012 X Games Asia are yet to be announced.

Jiangwan Sport Center, 346 Guohe Lu, near Zhengzhong Lu 国和路346号, 近政衷路, +86 21 5522 5880, www.kic-jwsc.com

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiA rendering of Shanghai Tower (left), Jin Mao (middle) and Shanghai World Financial Center all together.

9. Watch the Shanghai skyline grow

Shanghai Tower, a 632-meter super skyscraper, is under construction next to Jin Mao and Shanghai World Financial Center.

Shanghai’s skyline will change again soon, and there will be yet another reason for a postcard snap on the Bund.

The Shanghai Tower will be completed in 2014, but according to Gensler, the architectural firm in charge of the project, the structure will reach the height of 340-350 meters in 2012, overtaking the Shanghai World Financial Center, aka the “bottle opener,” by 80 meters.

More on CNNGo: Best skyscrapers in Shanghai

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiSpend your dollars in China while they are worth more than they might be later.

10. Things are cheap … for now

Although the International Monetary Fund has said that renminbi appreciation won’t strongly affect worldwide growth and trade, it does affect your buying power.

Shanghai is China’s most expensive city, and that’s reflected in store windows, taxi meters, and on restaurant menus; Taiwanese chain Din Tai Fung charges RMB 10 more per dish in Shanghai than it does in Beijing.

With the renminbi getting stronger by the day -- or really, your dollar or pound getting weaker -- now is the time to take advantage of the currency exchange rate.

More on CNNGo: Shanghai now more expensive than New York

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiBe a part of China's biggest international literary festival.

11. Literary festival hits double digits

When the Shanghai International Literary Festival (SILF) kicked off in 2003, the Bund was quiet: SWFC wouldn’t open for another five years, Bar Rouge for another year, and the pedestrian walkway was not yet under construction.

A decade later and the festival is China’s largest of its kind, drawing a huge roster of authors, many of whom have been shortlisted for or taken home a slew of literary prizes -- Man Booker, National Book Award, and the Los Angeles Times Fiction Prize.

For its 10th year, SILF is lining up the likes of Amy Tan, Siddhartha Deb, and Edward P. Jones for three weeks of enthralling readings and discussions.

The 2012 SILF will be held from February 29-March 18 at the Glamour Bar. Reserve tickets through reservations@m-onthebund.com.

More on CNNGo: How a martini led to the Shanghai International Literary Festival

Glamour Bar, 6/F, Five on the Bund, 20 Guangdong Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu 广东路20号, 外滩五号6楼, 近中山东一路, +86 21 6350 9988, 5 p.m.-midnight

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiHead to Jing'an Villa on Nanjing Xi Lu to experience the traditional Shanghai long tang.

12. Historic Shanghai is disappearing

Shanghai’s laneways, or long tang, are rich in history and home to generations of Chinese families, but they’re being demolished at a frantic pace.

Two long tang that have not only survived (for now) but thrived with the addition of businesses are Jing’an Villa (静安别墅), at 1025 Nanjing Xi Lu, and Huaihai Fang (淮海坊), at 927 Huaihai Zhong Lu.

Jing’an Villa abounds with twee shops and a handful of cute cafés, many of which have tiny, charming courtyards.

Just off Maoming Nan Lu sits Huaihai Fang, which is slightly less commercial and significantly more maze-like. Be sure to stop by contemporary gallery FQ Projects for paintings from young Chinese artists.

FQ Projects, No. 76, 927 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu 淮海中路927号, 近茂名南路, +86 21 6466 2940, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., www.fqprojects.com

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiThe China Pavilion will be turned into a permanent museum, China Art Palace, in October 2012.

13. China Art Palace

Shanghai is set to join the ranks of international cultural metropolises, such as New York and Paris, with the opening of the China Art Palace in October 2012. 

An artistic hot spot set to be as grandiose as its name, the 160,000-square-meter landmark will be dedicated to art from around China.

The colossal space will be converted from the World Expo’s China Pavilion.

More information on the China Art Palace.

In addition, Shanghai art galleries will be as accessible to travelers as the local milk tea stalls around the block in the year to come. Starting 2012, all public art galleries around the nation are due to grant free admission

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiApril is for speed and parties in Shanghai.

14. Luxury cars and lavish after-parties

Watch as expensive cars race around one of the most expensive Formula 1 track in the world.

Shanghai International Circuit, which cost US$240 million to build, will be hosting the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix from April 13-15.

The 2012 competition will be the ninth race to be held in Shanghai.

Past seasons have seen a large international turnouts and booming after-parties for the rich and famous (luxury cars and all).

Oh, be sure to bring earplugs -- for the race that is.

More on CNNGo: Confessions of Shanghai's biggest F1 fan

Shanghai International Circuit, 2199 Yining Lu, near Hujiawan 伊宁路2199号, 近胡家湾, +86 21 6956 8888, www.icsh.sh.cn

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiCruising, both domestic and international, is set to take off in China in 2012.

15. Cruise away from Shanghai

Shanghai has witnessed a boost in the luxury cruise industry that will only grow stronger with the upcoming year.

International travel between Japan and Shanghai will be cheaper beginning January with a cruise between Shanghai and Nagaski priced at RMB 624 one-way (US$98, excluding taxes). The cruise will be operated by Huis Ten Bosch, a Netherlands-style theme park in Japan.

Major ocean liners have also tapped into the China market.

Miami-based cruise line Royal Caribbean has included Shanghai in its 2012 schedule, including a three- to- eight-night itinerary between Xiamen and Shanghai.

Longer voyages include trips out of Shanghai calling at Okinawa and Fukuoka in Japan, and Busan, Korea.

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiDon't miss out the chocolate terracotta warriors at World Chocolate Wonderland.

16. World Chocolate Wonderland

Three words: chocolate theme park.

If that’s not enough to convince you to visit Shanghai, we really don’t know what will.

China’s first chocolate wonderland will be in Shanghai until February 2012.

It will feature extensive (albeit mouth-watering) displays made completely with chocolate. And yes, there will be chocolate for you to eat.

Visitors are invited to trying their hand at chocolate making and take home customized pieces for gifts or for personal snacking pleasure.

More details on World Chocolate Wonderland.

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiCome to Shanghai for some world-class wines -- no kidding.

17. Great wine

Few would connect Shanghai or China with good wines, but times are changing.

Wines made in China’s northwest Ningxia Province were recently ranked above those from Bordeaux at a blind wine tasting.

Meanwhile, former NBA star Yao Ming has launched a wine line bearing his name straight from Napa Valley.

A 1.5-liter bottle of Yao Ming wine costs 3,800 RMB ($597) and it can only be spotted in restaurants, supermarkets and bars in China for now.

If that can’t make you tipsy, head on over to the Shanghai International Wine Tasting on April 26, 2012. The event will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel and will feature both established and upcoming wine brands.

Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai, 500 Weihai Lu, near Shimen Yi Lu 威海路500号, 近石门一路, +86 21 6256 8888, www.fourseasons.com/shanghai

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiShanghai will be the base for Asian aviation aficionados in 2012.

18. Business aviation show

Chances are you don’t own a private jet. But that doesn’t mean you can’t watch in awe as billionaires talk and shop for their own personal air carrier.

Feel free to geek out at the Asian Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (ABACE). A must-go for aviation junkies, the conference will be held at Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport in March.

The show is expected to draw 200 exhibitors and more than 5,000 attendees.

There will be fancy gadgets to see and, maybe, touch. Exhibitors will be displaying the latest airplanes, helicopters and equipment.

More details on the event.

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiChinese folk artists perform during Longhua Temple Fair.

19. Everything’s worth celebrating

Shanghai may pride itself on being cool and cosmopolitan, but giant festivals are no joke in China.

For nature lovers, there’s the Peach Blossom Festival from March 25-April 11 at Nanhui Peach Blossom Village in Pudong, and the International Flower Festival from April 1-30 at Changfeng Park.

On April 5, join hordes of locals for the annual Longhua Temple Fair, which has been held on the third day of the third month of the Lunar Calendar every year since the Ming Dynasty. Legend has it that dragons visit the temple to grant people’s wishes, so come with your requests.

More on CNNGo: Chinese New Year at Longhua Temple

Shanghai Nanhui Peach Blossom Village, 289 Beimen Lu, Huinan Zhen, Pudong, Shanghai, 浦东新区惠南镇北门路289号, +86 21 5801 9595, www.taohuacun.com.cn. The village hosts peach blossom festival every March and April, peach-tasting festival every July and August, and general farmhouse day trip the rest of the year.

Changfeng Park, 525 Zaoyang Lu, near Daduhe Lu 枣阳路525号, 近大渡河路, +86 21 6245 3270, April 1-June 30: 5 a.m.-6p.m.; July 1-September 30: 5 a.m.-7p.m.; October 1-March 31: 6 a.m.-8 p.m.

Longhua Temple, 2853 Longhua Lu, near Longhua Xi Lu 龙华路2853号, 近龙华西路, RMB10, 5 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (the first and the 15th day of each month on lunar calendar); 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. (for normal days)

20 reasons to visit ShanghaiThe doomsday theory does prompt people to pursue their must-dos in 2012, for example visiting Shanghai.

20. End of the world?

As climate changes in China and in the rest of the world, glaciers melt, sea levels rise and weather becomes more extreme with detrimental effects on nature and humanity.

And as if that was not enough, the end of 2012 looks pretty grim with rumors about a solar storm hitting the earth in September and a Maya prophecy scheduling the end of the world for December.

And even though the scientific community is skeptical (extremely about the apocalypse, not so much about climate change), why taking any chances?

Visit beautiful Shanghai before it is leveled by asteroids. Though we really hope this is not going to happen.

Sinologist, freelance journalist and avid collector of Master's degrees, Andrea Fenn is an Italian/British graduate student at the Journalism School of the University of Hong Kong.
Read more about Andrea Fenn

Sophie Friedman is an exiled New Yorker living in Shanghai. 

Read more about Sophie Friedman

Clarissa Wei is a freelance journalist based in New York and Los Angeles.

Read more about Clarissa Wei