Shanghai Natural History Museum

Top choice in Shanghai

It's not quite on the same scale as Washington, DC's Smithsonian, but this sleek space is nevertheless as comprehensive as it is entertaining and informative. The museum is packed with displays of taxidermied animals, dinosaurs and cool interactive features. Its architecture is also a highlight, with a striking design that is beautifully integrated into its art-filled Jing'an Sculpture Park setting.

Spread over five levels, life-size creatures are the focal point throughout, with taxidermied (mostly realistic) animals, birds and reptiles, and models of soaring marine animals hanging spectacularly from the top floor. Exhibitions span diverse ecologies, humankind and geology, the treasures of earth and the way of evolution.

Dinosaur fossils are well represented (including the indigenous Yunnanese 'Lufeng lizard'); these are interspersed with impressive life-like mechanical dinosaurs that move and roar.

The building's exterior spirals like a nautilus shell topped by a curved lawn embankment, Chinese-inspired water garden and vertical garden wall. Within, the main architectural feature is a 30m-high glass atrium, with a conical molecular-shaped glass 'cell wall' that floods the building with natural light. Symbolic of the living organisms within, its transparent core holds a tranquil courtyard garden with a pond full of plants, trickling waterfalls and rocky outcrops.

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