1. Thames Town, named after River Thames in London, is a replication of a British market town located 19 miles away from the Shanghai city center.
Thames Town is part of Songjiang District’s “One City, Nine Towns” initiative to accommodate the staff of a nearby university as well as drive away the upper middle class population out of downtown Shanghai.
*Other Western themes used to date are Scandinavian, Italian, Spanish, Canadian, Dutch and German.
Thames Town was completed in 2006, covering 1 square kilometer and designed for a population of 10,000 people. The project cost $825 million (5 billion Chinese Yuan) and even includes cobblestone streets, corner cafes and a city square.
The Chinese government also saw it as an opportunity to give those who didn’t want to leave China or couldn’t afford to visit Europe a place to travel to. Unfortunately, the concept of having Europe in your backyard didn’t catch on with Shanghainese. Due to its expensive real estate and distance from the heart of Shanghai, Thames Town is essentially a ghost town. Most of the shops and cafes are closed and even the Visitor’s Center isn’t advertised as open (if you go in through City Cafe, you can enter the Visitor’s Center). The town is empty… like really empty.
Now, Thames Town is a popular destination for weddings and wedding photo shoots (no one is around to photobomb, which is incredibly hard to come by in China).
If you’re in Shanghai and in need of a day trip, take Metro Line 9 and get off at the Songjiang New City Station stop and then grab a 20rmb taxi ride to Thames Town. It’ll be the weirdest experience of your life.