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Weird Wednesday: Thames Town

Visitors to Shanghai are often in awe of the size and scale of the city. With a population of more than 24 million, it’s the largest in China and the 3rd largest by population in the world. The city’s proximity to the ocean (the Chinese characters for Shanghai translate to “upon the sea”) makes it a popular destination for cruise ships coming from ocean ports and from the Yangzi River. Those getting off the ships are probably looking for an authentic Chinese experience, but there’s one part of the city you absolutely don’t want to miss, Thames Town.

Thames Town, named for the famed river in London, is a development on the outskirts of the city in what is known as the Songjiang District. Stroll down the cobblestone streets and you’d think you were in Jolly Old, not the Far East. The architecture is entirely Elizabethan, complete with red phone booths and green hedges that would make Prince William feel right at home.

Thames Town: What is it?

Architecture in Thames Town | Photo: Drew Bates of TripleFiveDrew from Flickr

How did this charming British village come to be? Think of it like the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty in Las Vegas.

Several decades ago, a campaign to help reduce the ever-growing population of Shanghai away from the city was developed by the Shanghai Planning Commision. The idea was to create nine unique developments mirroring cities and cultures all over the world. There was a German design, one for the Dutch, and perhaps the most interesting, a maple-themed town for the Chinese people who always dreamed of living in Canada.

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For Thames Town, authenticity was a top priority. Lampposts were brought in from England and many of the buildings are exact replicas of those found across the United Kingdom.

While the town is wildly popular among tourists, the biggest draw of Thames Town is among Chinese couples looking for a unique backdrop for their engagement and wedding photos. A pub and fish and chips shop is certainly out of the ordinary in Shanghai!

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