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Things to do in Shanghai

Things to do in  Shanghai

Welcome to Shanghai

With its futuristic skyline, traditional shikumen (stone gate) architecture, and vibrant bursts of neon, Shanghai seamlessly combines glamour, history, and Chinese flair. The Bund (Waitan) represents the colonial center of Shanghai and evokes the architectural spirit of a European city, while the Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si) pays homage to China’s religious heritage. Shanghai’s Old Town (Nanshi) offers an abundance of historic charm, and the Old French Concession wows with lofty mansions and an international culinary scene. Guided city tours—from walking and biking to minivan and hop-on-hop-off bus options—help you easily navigate these areas and tick off can’t-miss highlights such as Yuyuan Garden, the Freshwater Pearl Gallery, People’s Square (Renmin Guang Chang), and the city’s picturesque lanes and alleyways. Come evening, when the Shanghai skyline lights up like a firework, take a Huangpu River cruise followed by an evening food tour. Popular day tours leave Shanghai for the traditional water towns of Suzhou and Zhouzhuang, as well as Hangzhou, home to the UNESCO World Heritage–listed West Lake. Some full-day and overnight tours whisk travelers from Shanghai to Beijing’s iconic Great Wall of China and Forbidden City; the enchanting landscapes of Guilin; or the Army of Terracotta Warriors in Xian.

Top 15 attractions in Shanghai

Yuyuan Garden (Yu Garden)

Dating from the Ming Dynasty, Yuyuan Garden—or simply, Yu Garden—in the middle of the Old Town (Nanshi) Shanghai, is one of China’s best-preserved classical gardens. Covering an area of 5 acres (2 hectares), Yuyuan Garden is known for its beautiful scenery, elegant layout, and delightful pavilions, pagodas, pools, bridges, and rockeries.More

The Bund (Waitan)

The Bund (Waitan) refers to Shanghai’s iconic waterfront strip, which runs for 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) along the west shore of the Huangpu River. Renowned for its extensive collection of colonial-era buildings, there’s also pedestrian-friendly promenade perfect for strolling, which offers stunning views of both the Bund and Pudong.More

Shanghai Maglev Train (SMT)

Experience the world’s fastest commercial train: Shanghai Maglev Train (SMT). The train uses magnetic levitation to “float” along the tracks and can make the 19-mile (30 kilometer) journey between Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Longyang Road Station in Shanghai in just over seven minutes, reaching speeds of up to 268 miles per hour (431 kilometers per hour).More

Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si)

Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si) is a working Buddhist monastery—one of the few in China. The star attractions of the Jade Buddha Temple are two figures brought to Shanghai from Singapore by a monk from Burma in the 19th century: a 6.5-foot (2-meter) seated jade Buddha encrusted with semiprecious stones and a smaller white jade reclining Buddha.More

Shanghai Tower (Shanghai Zhongxin Dasha)

One of the tallest buildings in the world, the Shanghai Tower (Shanghai Zhongxin Dasha) has a twisting silhouette that dominates the skyline. Standing 137 stories and 2,073 feet (632 meters) high, the building features some of the world’s fastest elevators, which race to a viewing platform 1,841 feet (561 meters) above the city. On a clear day, the views are spectacular.More


Also known as the “Venice of Shanghai,” Zhujiajiao is the best preserved of the four ancient water towns in the Shanghai area. With a history dating back over 1,700 years, Zhujiajiao is full of lovely canals and waterways, small alleys, picturesque bridges, and ancient buildings, many from the Ming and Qing dynasties.More


Pudong, which lies east of the Huangpu River, is Shanghai’s modern business and financial center. Formerly an agricultural area, Pudong is now home to an international airport, the biggest park in Shanghai, luxury shopping, a lively culinary scene, and the tallest and most distinctive skyscrapers in the city.More

Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan)

Considered one of the finest museums in China, the Shanghai Museum has a vast collection of Chinese artifacts from the Neolithic period onward. The museum’s 11 state-of-the-art galleries display ancient bronze, jade, and ceramics; painting, calligraphy, and ancient sculptures; and Ming and Qing dynasty furniture.More

Shanghai French Concession

One of Shanghai’s most charming areas, the former French Concession is known for its tree-lined streets and interesting mix of Chinese and Western architectural styles. Popular with locals, expats, and visitors, the area is home to a number of top attractions, as well as hip cafés, restaurants, bars, clubs, boutiques, galleries, and museums.More

Xin Tian Di

A vibrant mix of old and new, Xin Tian Di is a fashionable and upscale area full of modern and trendy shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs, many housed within traditional Shikumen buildings that have been restored. It’s a place to see and be seen, and a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.More

Huangpu River

Stretching for over 71 miles (113 kilometers) and with an average width of 1,312 feet (400 meters), the Huangpu River flows through the middle of Shanghai and divides the city into two parts. Puxi, to the west, is the city’s historical, cultural, and entertainment center, while Pudong, to the east, is Shanghai’s business and financial center.More

Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu)

Shanghai’s premier shopping street, Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu) features businesses ranging from small shops and stalls to massive department stores and malls. It’s the world’s longest shopping district, stretching 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) from the Bund to Jing’an Temple, and attracts over a million visitors a day.More

Shanghai Disneyland

Experience the magic at Shanghai Disneyland, the first Disney park in Mainland China. Enjoy thrilling rides, shows, and attractions; shop and dine; and pose with your favorite characters in six different themed areas: Mickey Avenue, Gardens of Imagination, Fantasyland, Adventure Isle, Treasure Cove, and Tomorrowland.More

Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC)

Nicknamed the “Bottle Opener” due to its distinctive shape, the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) is the second tallest building in Shanghai, reaching a dizzying 1,614 feet (492 meters). Its three observatories—in particular, the glass-bottomed observatory on the 100th floor—are the main draw of the building, located in the Lujiazui area of Pudong. There’s also a hotel and a mall.More

Oriental Pearl Tower (Dongfang Mingzhu Ta)

Once the tallest building in Shanghai, the Oriental Pearl Tower (Dongfang Mingzhu Ta) remains one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Pudong, part of the skyline visible from The Bund. The sci-fi-esque 1,535-foot (468-meter) tower houses observation platforms, a glass-bottomed walkway, rotating restaurant, as well as the Shanghai History Museum in its basement.More
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All about Shanghai

When to visit

If it’s culture that you’re after, venture to Shanghai in the spring, when its events calendar is filled to bursting. From March’s Peach Blossom Festival to April’s Chinese Grand Prix and Shanghai International Film Festival in June, there’s no shortage of options. For a less crowded experience, visit during the pleasant autumn months.

People Also Ask

Is Shanghai famous for anything?

Vibrant, cosmopolitan Shanghai is famous for being China’s commercial capital: during the 1930s, it was called “The Paris of the East”. Today, it boasts one of the world’s most recognizable skylines as well as The Bund, a historic waterfront strip. Foodies seek out Shanghai hairy crabs in season and dumplings all year round.

What is the most visited place in Shanghai?

The Huangpu River waterfront is probably the most visited place in Shanghai. On the west side of the river is The Bund, a charming cocktail of heritage architecture; on the east side lies Lujiazui, where iconic skyline sights include the twisting Shanghai Tower and the rocket-shaped Oriental Pearl Tower.

Is Shanghai worth visiting?

As a major world city, Shanghai is absolutely worth visiting. Besides the cultural and culinary delights you’d expect in a city with three times the population of New York, heritage areas include the The Bund, Yuyuan Garden, a classical Chinese garden, and Jing’An Temple, with a history dating back to the 13th century.

What are the do's and don'ts in Shanghai?

Do keep your phone and wallet in a zipping pocket and watch your bags: pickpockets are common in Shanghai, as in other big cities. Don’t dabble in drugs: China has extremely harsh penalties and has tested foreigners at random and prosecuted them. Never join a stranger for tea: the tea scam is a Shanghai signature.

What is there to do in Shanghai at night?

Shanghai has all the nightlife you’d expect in an international city this size—and it’s well worth exploring. For a more distinctively local experience, take a Huangpu River night cruise, inhale skyline views from the 1,844-foot (562-meter) Shanghai Tower Observation Deck, or experience an acrobatics show or Shanghai opera.

Is Shanghai expensive to visit?

Yes, by Chinese standards Shanghai is expensive: it’s the nation’s most expensive city. But by international standards prices are reasonable. Some luxury hotels can run to four figures, but budget-conscious travelers can find hostel dorm beds for around US$15, while public transport costs pennies and street food is very affordable.


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