Rising above the Huangpu River and Pudong skyline like something out of an old science fiction flick, the Oriental Pearl Tower (Dōngfāng Míngzhū Tǎ, 东方明珠塔) holds a special place in Shanghai’s recent history. Before the early 1990s, the east bank of the Huangpu was a low-rise jumble of warehouses and muddy settlements. The erection of the tower, completed in 1995, served as a symbolic declaration of Shanghai’s future-forward orientation and grand ambition.
Its quintessential Shanghai retro-futurist architectural kitsch set the tone for much of the high-rise hijinks that have since come to define Shanghai’s active skyline (lots of flashing lights, rooftop ornamentation running from the sublime to the ridiculous). As Pudong’s more recent giants—the Jin Mao Tower and World Financial Center—show, Shanghai’s architecture is maturing, favoring cool international grays and sophisticated glass and metal claddings, but the pink glass orbs and rocket-ship base of the Oriental Pearl Tower will always remain dear to the hearts of true fans of Shanghai style.
Besides admiring the tower from afar, whether from the Bund across the Huangpu or from the observation deck of a nearby skyscraper, most tourists find that they simply must view the cityscape from inside one of the Oriental Pearls—there are 11 glass spheres, all told, threading the 468 m (1,535.5 ft) spire. Three of the orbs house observation decks served by six high-speed elevators. The highest, known as the Space Module, sits 350 m (1,148 ft) above ground, with a second, lower “Sightseeing Floor” at 263 m (863 ft) and “Space City” sphere hanging at 90 m (295 ft). With all this, you might expect a revolving restaurant—and you’d be in luck: you can dine in rotating high style 267 m (876 ft) above ground. Finally, if you’re really lucky and call way ahead, you can stay in the 20-room Space Hotel, lodged between the tower’s two largest spheres.
Be ready for long lines and big crowds on weekends and holidays.