The Oriental Pearl Radio is the Perfect Perch

The Pearl Tower is the world’s third-tallest TV and radio tower By: Mark Edward Harris
The Pearl Tower offers visitors beautiful views of Shanghai. // © 2012 Mark Edward Harris
The Pearl Tower offers visitors beautiful views of Shanghai. // © 2012 Mark Edward Harris

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The Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower

Whenever professional travel photographers arrive in a new destination, one of the first things they look for is a perch — natural or manmade — to get a grand overview. When in Shanghai, the location to gain that perspective is obvious. The Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower, located in the city’s Pudong district, offers incredible views of the city, including the historic Bund across the Huangpu River. On a clear day, camera-toting visitors of all levels can see all the way to the Yangtze River.

Construction on the tower, which was Designed by the Shanghai Modern Architectural Design Co. Ltd., began in 1990 and was completed in 1994. At 1,536 feet high, it became the tallest structure in Mainland China until 2007 when it was surpassed by the Shanghai World Financial Center. Supported by three enormous columns, the Pearl Tower has 15 observatory levels beginning with Space City at 295 feet and topped off with the Space Module at 1,148 feet. Double-decker elevators that can hold up to 50 people travel at a rate of 23 feet per second. The elevator attendants recite an introduction to the TV Tower in English and Chinese during the ascent. In addition to providing spectacular views, the tower has dining facilities including a revolving restaurant at 876 feet, exhibition spaces, a shopping mall and a small hotel. For those who do not have a fear of heights, a walk around the glass-floored outside area of the upper observation platform is a thrilling experience.

From any of the observation decks visitors can also examine the construction progress of the nearby Shanghai Tower, designed by the international architectural design firm Gensler. Upon completion in 2014, the 121-story building will rise approximately 2,073 feet making it the tallest building in China and the second tallest in the world, surpassed only by the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

While the Pearl Tower at 1,536 feet is presently the world’s third-tallest TV and radio tower — after the towers in Toronto and Moscow — it could arguably be considered the most beautiful. The tower is reachable by bus and by subway. On the subway, take Line 2 and use exit one. Several buses stop at the tower but the Cai Lu Special Line or City Sightseeing Bus both stop at Dong Fang Ming Zhu (Oriental Pearl) Station.

The museum is open from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., daily. Entrance is approximately $16 and includes entrance to the sightseeing hall on the second sphere. For slightly more money, clients can purchase a pass to both the Shanghai Municipal History Museum as well as the sightseeing hall. Purchased separately, the Shanghai Municipal History Museum entrance fee is about $5.

After visiting the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, visitors can board a nearby boat for a Huangpu River cruise and/or visit the nearby Shanghai Ocean Aquarium.

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