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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.

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Top 10 attractions in Shanghai

Zhujiajiao
#1

Zhujiajiao

For a genuine experience that not only show you the history of China, but also showcase its beauty, try a visit to China’s great ancient water town known as Zhujiajiao. Formed over 1,700 years ago, this wonderful canal laden town that was once an important trading hub, has seen the days of both the Yuan, Qing and Ming dynasties, and has flourished today as a an up-and-coming bohemia of Asia. In order to truly have an understanding of this beautiful place, one must visit the towns many bridges and canals. The Fangsheng Bridge is the biggest around, wonderfully engraved with eight dragons coiling around a shining pearl. Once you’ve done that, take a boat ride on the canal gondola, where you will experience wonderful views of this historic and well-preserved town. You can also take longer boat rides lakeside, experiencing the town from a different angle and perspective....
Xin Tian Di
#2

Xin Tian Di

Xin Tian Di (Xintiandi) is a sleekly restored area of Shanghai, where the more successful of the city's young come to play. It's also a popular strolling area for tourists, who like to check out the 19th century architecture. The district abounds in shikumen, stone houses that were a popular residential form in the late 19th century and early 20th century city. When the districts that contained these houses were being razed, developers stepped in to save and restore this area. Today the shikumen house galleries, bookshops, antique stores, upmarket boutiques, bars and restaurants. It's particularly ironic that this Westernized playground should be cheek-by-jowl with the Site of the First Conference of the Communist Party of China....
People’s Square (Renmin Guangchang)
#3

People’s Square (Renmin Guangchang)

Located in the heart of Shanghai, People’s Square (Renmin Guang Chang) is the home to the city’s municipal government headquarters and, more importantly, serves as a major landmark and meeting point in Shanghai. What was once an elite horse racing venue before the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 is today a hotspot of cultural attractions. Within People’s Square, you’ll find some of the best museums in Shanghai, including the excellent collection of Chinese art housed within the Shanghai Museum and the impressive Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, where visitors are treated to a look at Shanghai’s past, present and future. The Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Art Museum and the all-glass Shanghai Grand Theater are also worth a look. The park within People’s Square offers cultural insights of its own, especially early in the mornings and on weekends when locals come out to practice tai chi, exercise or play card games....
The Bund (Waitan)
#5

The Bund (Waitan)

The Bund (or Waitan) is the grand center of Colonial architecture in Shanghai. The former International Settlement runs along the waterfront of the Huangpu River, facing the Pudong district ('Bund' is a word of Indian derivation meaning 'embankment'). Loosely known as the "museum of international architecture," the Bund attracts visitors who are interested in the artsy side of Shanghai. When foreign powers entered Shanghai after the Opium Wars of the 19th century, the Bund existed as a towpath. It quickly became the center of Shanghai as Western traders built banks, trading houses and consulates along its length, and has been synonymous with Shanghai's east-meets-west glamor ever since. Today the Bund faces the new wave of trading development - the vast towers of Jin Mao, the World Finance Center and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the financial district of Pudong....
Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si)
#6

Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si)

Yufo Si is a working Buddhist community - one of the few in China - but the star attractions of the Jade Buddha Temple are two figures brought to Shanghai by a Burmese monk in the 19th century. The most impressive is the sitting Buddha, a 1.9 m (6.5 ft) giant encrusted with semi-precious stones. This Buddha is sitting in the pose which captures the moment of his enlightenment by meditation. The other Buddha is smaller and in the attitude of 'happy repose', as he goes peacefully to death. Both Buddhas are carved from white jade. Facing the reclining Buddha is a large copy in stone, brought to the monastery from Singapore. These are the main points of a visit to the temple, but take a look at the halls while you're there, particularly the Grand Hall with its golden 'Gods of the Twenty Heavens'. There's also a restaurant that serves the public, with a simple downstairs and a swankier upstairs....
Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu)
#7

Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu)

Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road) is a shopping street with a history. When the British began trading in Shanghai after the Opium Wars of the 19th century, this was one of their commercial centers. In those days it was called Nanking Road, the 'k' being a more popular form of Anglicization. Today it's not only the hectic heart of Shangai's shopping and tourism scene, but the longest shopping district in the world (6 km/3.5 mi of go-go-go). Even back in its earliest days when it served the International Settlement, it quickly became dominated by big department stores. The chains have well and truly moved in here, but really it's for the experience as much as anything that you should come. The street is divided into two lengths, east and west. The eastern section is pedestrianized. Avoid the Western generic stuff and concentrate on what are still the Shanghai specialties - silk, jade, clocks....
Shanghai French Concession
#8

Shanghai French Concession

Shanghai’s Old French Concession, an area once leased to the French in the Luwan and Xuhui districts of the city, is a reminder of an older Shanghai. The visitor-friendly area is packed full of beautiful colonial mansions and hotels dating back to the first three decades of the twentieth century. The French took control of the area in 1849, but it wasn’t until the 1920s when the neighborhood reached its peak of popularity as one of Shanghai’s most elite neighborhoods. When you walk through the heart of the area on the tree-lined streets between Julu Road and Huaihai Road, you’ll find a collection of nicer restaurants and boutique shops occupying the surviving historic structures alongside Shanghai locals going about their day to day life. The French Concession is a good place to grab some food as there are so many choices; you’ll find almost everything here from Indian to French, Spanish and Thai food....
Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan)
#9

Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan)

The first thing to note about the Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan) is its unusual design. The building, constructed in the 1990s, is supposed to resemble an ancient type of bronze cooking pot called a ding. It's a reference to the objects on display in the museum's five stories of rooms. The museum's structure - a round building on a square base - also holds echoes of China's history. Ancient buildings in China were constructed like this because of the belief that heaven was round and the earth square. The collection, although sensitively ordered, is so large as to be somewhat overwhelming. Pick and choose your areas, or you may run out of steam. Definitely take in some of the ceramics, through which you can trace China's history from the Neolithic Age onwards. There are also furniture, calligraphy, religious sculptures and jade to enjoy....

Trip ideas

Ways to Beat the Crowds in Shanghai

Ways to Beat the Crowds in Shanghai

How to Tackle Shanghai as a First Timer

How to Tackle Shanghai as a First Timer

Top activities in Shanghai

Frequently Asked Questions