A visit to the observation deck of the Jin Mao Tower, one of the tallest structures in the world, offers an aerial view of Shanghai.
As our Crystal Cruise docked in downtown Shanghai, the magnificent cityscape was mesmerizing. The skyscrapers that have been erected on both sides of the Huangpu River (an offshoot of the Yangtze that runs through the city) are incredible feats of engineering. Their design and construction is even more impressive once you learn that the buildings sit on a belt of seismic activity that has been hit in the past by powerful 200 mile-per-hour typhoons.
As part of an all-day shore excursion offered by the cruise line, we took one of the two high-speed express elevators to the observation deck on the 88th floor of the Jin Mao Tower. In addition to a deck (called a skywalk) that is open to the public, the structure has a shopping mall, office space, and a 5-star Grand Hyatt Hotel with 555 rooms occupying the 53rd to 87th floors. The deck hosts the highest post office in China. The underground parking garage has room for cars as well as 2000 bicycles.
Designed by an architectural firm from Chicago, the structure’s steel piles reach 274 feet into the ground. The exterior is covered in stainless steel, glass, aluminum, and granite, combining elements of both contemporary and traditional Chinese design.
Tickets to the top are sold on the ground floor, where you are invited to pose for a photograph. The rapid ride up only takes 45 seconds and you can feel your ears pop from the change in altitude. Inside the elevator, an engraved metal illustration of the tower on the elevator wall has a small red light pinpointing your precise floor location en route.
Once you arrive at the skywalk, windowed walls offers 360-degree city views from a space large enough to accommodate 1000 visitors at a time. Even on a cloudy day (which we were told is the usual weather in Shanghai), we were able to see the countless number of building rooftops below from every vantage point. Our ship, the Crystal Symphony, looked like a tiny skiff from 1380-feet above the ground.
Those who aren’t prone to vertigo can walk to the center of the floor and gaze down at the dizzying view of the barrel-vaulted central atrium, which extends down to the 56th floor but appears to go on forever.
The tower was completed in 1999 at an estimated cost of $630 million but in accordance with Chinese traditions associated with prosperity of the number 8, it was dedicated on 8/28/98. Once the tallest building in China, Jin Mao Tower now ranks number three in Shanghai and 17th tallest in the world, having lost its local standing to the neighboring 121-floor Shanghai Tower and 101-floor Shanghai World Financial Center, both of which can be seen outside it.
Once you’re on the queue waiting for the elevator ride down to terra firma, you can purchase a kitschy souvenir: a Jin Mao Observatory Certificate and photo of your memorable visit above Shanghai.
IF YOU GO
Open 8AM to 10PM, the entry fee to visit the observation deck of the Jin Mao Tower is CNY 100 (about $16 per person). The lines for the elevator move quickly because the elevator cars travel so fast.
TIP: You can enter for free as part of a hop-on, hop-off city tour.
FUN FACT: In 2007, the French urban climber Alain Robert scaled the Jin Mao Tower in a Spiderman suit. Shanghai police detained him when he returned to the ground 90 minutes later.
You can watch his climb on YouTube:
For another great view of Shanghai on Vimeo: