For a different – and less crowded – take on cosmopolitanism, head to the suburbs. Hidden among the city outskirts are six European-style towns. These novel developments are a result of a 2001 plan to relieve population pressure in the city centre, by building new suburbs on the outskirts. It was hoped the European motifs would help attract Shanghai's middle and upper classes, but deserted streets in some of these areas suggest it takes more than quirky themes to pull residents away from central Shanghai.
If the city's population growth catches up with its relentless construction, though, these offbeat enclaves are unlikely to stay quiet forever. Here are a few of the most intriguing.
It’s this very Englishness that makes touches of Chinese life stand out all the more: the red-coated guard on an electric moped, the ladies with purple permed hair and their similarly coiffured poodles, the countless couples who travel here for wedding photography.
Though it’s known officially as Thames Town, perhaps the place is best summed up by the name of a local language school: Li Yang Crazy English Town.
As well as rows of yellow and red apartment blocks, the development includes the German Football Park – a small pitch where real players have been substituted for plastic statues.
In the central square, too, statues dominate. Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang van Goethe stand with an air of gravity that suggests that they are in a town with more than one open bar.
German beer, and Taiwanese sausages, are on offer in the restaurant opposite the literary figures, and you won’t need to queue to place your order.
Away from the water, statues of naked Scandinavians pose outside northwest Chinese noodle shops. With titles such as Vitality, these scantily-clad artworks fit right into Luodian’s natural, outdoors theme.
But Spanish influence there is, and you’ll know you’ve found it once you spot the three windmills. The adjacent bridge is decorated with stone-carved pictures of scenes from Don Quixote.
Rising up from the river running under the bridge is a sculpture that may well be the Lady of La Mancha; she aims a level gaze at a housing compound with unmistakeable white-washed walls and red-tiled roofs.
Image by Joseph O'Neill
The result is a modern hybrid of Italian design and Shanghai suburb, with wide streets and long canals that are popular with both anglers and canoers.
Wander far enough from the populated apartment blocks and you’ll find a deserted Venetian-style canal, where a disused gondola floats eerily.
Gaohe Road, the main thoroughfare, has little open aside from a gym and a martial arts centre. The rows of narrow houses, in colours from asphalt grey to faded orange, are topped by an array of turrets and gables.
At the northeaster end of Gaohe Road, past Shanghai Renjia and the closed St Michael’s Catholic Church, are a few riverside benches from where you can enjoy a panoramic view of this picturesque Dutch town.