Shanghai’s Most Impressive Architectural Wonders

By: Katie Manning

March 11, 2013

In the last few years, Shanghai has continued to assert itself architecturally, and is home to some of the most striking and significant structures in the world. The city is noted for having more Art Deco buildings than any other, and its skyscrapers are among the tallest in the world. Here, we take a look at some of the most interesting and impressive architectural wonders in Shanghai.


As well as providing some of the best views of the city, these structures are extraordinary in their architectural prowess and individuality – and we think they make the skyline of Shanghai one of the most distinctive and recognisable on the planet.

The Shanghai World Financial Centre

Shanghai World Financial Centre

The Shanghai World Financial Centre © BriYYZ


No list of Shanghai’s most extraordinary architecture would be complete without possibly the most idiosyncratic of all its buildings: The Shanghai World Financial Centre, or as it is affectionately known by both locals and tourists, the “˜bottle opener’. As well as being one of the tallest structures in the world at 492m, its striking trapezoid aperture with the rectangular cut-out design marks it as one of the most dramatic skyscrapers on earth.


Nanpu Bridge

Nanpu Bridge

Nanpu Bridge © Philip Lange, 2013. Used under license from




Although we love the famous Nanpu Bridge itself, what we really marvel at is how one goes about getting on it. The incredible spiral ramp built on the Shanghai side of the bridge really is an astonishing sight, and although it was created in order to minimise its spatial impact, we think that architecturally it’s one of the most aesthetically mindboggling structures in Shanghai.


The Shanghai Grand Theatre

The Shanghai Grand Theatre

The Shanghai Grand Theatre © Jakob Montrasio




Created by the famous French architect Jean-Marie Charpentier, the Shanghai Grand Theatre is one of the most distinctive landmarks in the city. In the daylight, it looks like a crystal palace, and at night – well, the whole building just shines. It just goes to show, height isn’t everything when it comes to remarkable architecture in Shanghai.


Shanghai Oriental Art Centre

Oriental Art Centre | Shanghai

Shanghai Oriental Art Centre © Song Heming. Used under license from




From above, this structure resembles a butterfly orchid in full bloom, with “˜petals’ of varying sizes that serve as the five “˜Halls’ that make up the Shanghai Oriental Art Centre. We think this mass of laminated glass, designed by French architect Paul Andreu and the Huadong Architectural Design & Research Institute Co., Ltd. is simply stunning.


The Oriental Pearl Tower

The Oriental Pearl Tower

The Oriental Pearl Tower © trioptikmal




Standing majestically by the banks of the Huangpu River, the Oriental Pearl Tower is a feat of design and engineering. At 468m high, it already makes an impact with sheer size, however it’s the unique architectural design which earns it a place on this list of extraordinary structures. The dazzling collection of steel spheres, or “˜pearls’, supported by stanchions and columns make this building, without a doubt, the best known landmark in Shanghai.


The Shanghai Tower


New to the Shanghai skyline as of 2015, Gensler architect’s Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in China and the second tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Found in the financial district of Lujiazui, this imposing steel structure is 632 metres tall and is said to reflect China’s growing reputation as an important player on the international financial scene. Featuring “sky gardens”, public spaces, shops and restaurants, the tower has been designed as a multi-use structure for work, sleep and play.


Have you visited any of the structures on our list, or have others to recommend? Tell us in the comments below. 


Virgin Atlantic operates a daily flight to Shanghai from London Heathrow. 


Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning

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