In terms of administration, Shanghai is one of four cities in China that are not part of provinces but instead are treated as municipalities (市) at the same hierarchical level as provinces (discussion). There is no government structure at province, city or prefecture level, just Shanghai Municipality with 16 urban districts and one semi-rural county within it. The municipality covers quite a large area — around 100 km (60 miles) east-west and 120 (75) north-south — and has a huge population — 24 million, about the same as Australia.
Shanghai is split in two by the Huangpu River (黄浦江 Huángpǔ Jiāng), into Puxi (浦西 Pǔxī) west of the river and Pudong (浦东 Pǔdōng) east of the river. Both terms can be used in a general sense for everything on their side of the river, including various suburbs. However, they are more often used in a much narrower sense where Puxi is the older (since the 19th century) city center and Pudong the mass of new (since 1990) high-rise development right across the river from there.
This is an overview article for the entire municipality. For the central districts which have most of the tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants and nightspots, see:
- Downtown Puxi - historically the downtown, including both the areas controlled by foreign powers 1840s-1930s and the old Chinese city which was there hundreds of years earlier
- Downtown Pudong - mostly farmland until 1990, now with more skyscrapers than New York and lots of mostly upmarket facilities for tourists or business travellers
For the many districts outside those central areas, see the next section.
The map shows the administrative divisions. The Wikivoyage structure of articles generally follows it, but with some exceptions:
- Xuhui District does not get its own article. Instead, we have an article on the French Concession, an older area that includes parts of Xuhui and Huangpu districts, with its own distinct character.
- The Old City is administratively part of Huangpu District; however, it is a popular distinct destination for tourism and has its own character. Huangpu therefore has an article for the old town and another for everything else.
- The administrative district of Pudong is enormous and varies significantly from area to area, so we have separate articles for Downtown Pudong and suburban Nanhui.
Downtown Puxi is the historic core of Shanghai, shown on the inset map. It includes both the old Chinese city, which goes back for hundreds of years, and the area of the International Settlement which began in the 1840s and lasted until the 1930s. This area is often called just downtown Shanghai (上海市区)or the city centre (市中心),
Today this area is still the core of the city. Many metro lines (1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13) run through it. Most of the tourist attractions and many hotels are here as well. Details, and links to the eight official districts which make up the area, are in the Downtown Puxi article.
- Downtown Pudong, directly across the river from downtown, a major center of recent development as a skyscraper-filled financial center. The most intensively developed part, closest to the river and shown in photos like the one to the right, is called Lujiazui.
- Downtown Pudong is listed here as Downtown, but it might also be described as an extension of the downtown core or even as the new core.
- The official district called Pudong New Area is much larger than Downtown Pudong.The Chuansha part of pudong new area is described in the inner suburbs. The less developed southern part of that district, Nanhui, is described in a separate article and is listed as an outer suburb below.
The inner suburbs all have direct borders with the downtown core, and are all quite built up. They are:
Chuansha, in the east of Pudong New Area, including Pudong International Airport.
- Minhang, south of downtown, includes the water town Qibao
- Baoshan, north of downtown
- Jiading, northwest of downtown
The outer suburbs wrap around the southern and western sides of the city. (The sea is on the east and the Yangtze on the north.) They are:
- Fengxian, on the southern edge of Shanghai Municipality
- Jinshan, at the southwest corner of the municipality, includes the water town Fengjing
- Qingpu, on the western edge of the municipality. At its western tip is the water town Zhujiajiao.
- Songjiang, southwest of downtown, not on a municipality border
- Nanhui, at the southeast corner of the municipality, administratively part of Pudong
As of 2013, only Jinshan, Songjiang and parts of Nanhui have good metro connections but planned extensions to the metro system will reach all of them by 2020. In the meanwhile, there is bus service to all of them; see the district articles for details.
All of these areas still include some farmland but large parts of them are already covered with residential and industrial suburban development and the trend shows no sign of stopping. What were once rural villages serving nearby farms have become towns, often fairly interesting ones that preserve some of the traditional buildings.
The areas along the seacoast at the southern edge of the municipality — Fengxian, Jinshan and Nanhui — have beaches that are popular as a weekend getaway for Shanghai residents.
Chongming County (崇明县; Chóngmíngxiàn), the most northerly, most remote and least developed area in Shanghai Municipality.Chongming Island in the Yangtze plus a couple of smaller islands nearby make up
Shanghai has existed for centuries but grew enormously after it became a major center of the China trade in the 1840s. By the early 20th century, Shanghai was the largest and most prosperous city in the Far East, and one of the wildest. With the opening up of China in the past few decades, Shanghai has regained much of its former glory and has surpassed it in many ways; the pace of development in recent years has been absolutely furious. Today, Shanghai is back to being one of the largest and most prosperous cities in Asia, though not nearly as wild as it once was. It is now a very attractive city for travellers from all over the world, and a major destination for both tourism and business. A Forbes article ranks Shanghai as the world's 14th most visited city, with 6.5 million visitors in 2012.
Shanghai is definitely a cosmopolitan city by Chinese standards, although it is less diverse than many western cities. The population was 23 million as of the 2010 census; 9 million (almost 40%) of those were migrants, people from elsewhere in China who have come to find work or to attend one of Shanghai's many educational institutions. There is also a substantial international contingent: 208,300 foreigners lived in Shanghai as of 2010, slightly over a third of the national total of 594,000. There are services that cater to these markets — restaurants with food from anywhere in China for the migrants (in particular, lots of good cheap Sichuan food and West-of-China noodles) and a good range of grocery stores, restaurants and bars that cater to the foreigners.