The Bund is back, big time. The iconic Shanghai waterfront has reopened in its entirety after some three years and about $2 billion in rehabilitation.
Long the city's No. 1 attraction, the Bund has played a central role in both local and visitor consciousness since its first distinctive buildings were raised by foreign powers and commercial interests in the late 1800s.
"The Bund revitalization was something that had to happen," said Spencer Dodington, founder of tour company Luxury Concierge China. "If you come here, it's the most important, iconic place to be ... and see."
A two-tier, six-lane traffic tunnel was dug along the waterfront, over which lies a new, wider pedestrian promenade offering views of the futuristic skyline of the Pudong district. And the 50 or so significant structures on the Bund, which range in style from neoclassical to beaux-arts and art deco, have nearly all gotten face-lifts, if not outright overhauls, and are again home to banks, shops and hotels.
For example, the former Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China building is now a high-end shopping, art and dining complex known simply by its address of Bund 18. There's a new museum, the Rockbund Art Museum, in the historical Royal Asiatic Society building, two blocks from the Bund at 20 Huqiu Road.
Anchoring the reinvented Bund at its northern end near Suzhou Creek is the 235-unit Peninsula Shanghai hotel, housed in the street's only new structure.
"What they've really done is make the Bund -- in the 1920s and '30s the Fifth Avenue or Rodeo Drive of Shanghai but in later years just another faded, waterside road -- a lot more attractive again," said Paul Tchen, general manager of the Peninsula Shanghai. "When we were looking for a property site in Shanghai, we decided we had to be on the Bund."
Fairmont Hotels, meanwhile, last week reopened the Peace Hotel, long home to the city's revered Old Jazz Band, as the new Fairmont Peace Hotel, at the corner of the Bund and busy Nanjing Road. The 12-story building, topped by an eye-catching green pyramid, dates to 1929.
Travelers making a beeline to the Bund, day or night, will find themselves in good company. Four months after its official reopening, the area is attracting some 630,000 tourists a day, according to the Bund Management Office.
Luxury Concierge China offers full-day, half-day and custom historical guided tours of the Bund as part of its Shanghai Cultural collection of experience. See www.luxuryconciergechina.com for more.
For more on the Bund and Shanghai, visit the China National Tourist Office at www.cnto.org.
This report appeared in the Aug. 2 issue of Travel Weekly.