Your Travel Guide To Having The Best Time In Shanghai

Your Travel Guide To Having The Best Time In Shanghai

Updated On: June 07, 2024 by   Esraa MahmoudEsraa Mahmoud

For any Westerner, China is already synonymous with adventure, curiosity, and exoticism. When we talk about the great cities of this vast country, we, of course, talk about Beijing and Shanghai.

Fifteen or twenty years ago, Shanghai seemed almost abandoned, stuck in a past and outdated century. Still, today, it is a city in full expansion and explosion, where buildings and skyscrapers seem to rise from the ground daily.

With its gigantic skyscrapers, futuristic architecture, and pulsating nightlife, Shanghai is ideal for those who travel in search of spectacular views and unique shots. The city’s panorama is breathtaking.

With almost 15 million inhabitants, Shanghai is one of the world’s most important metropolises and a city of contrasts. In no other city does new meet old, modern meet tradition, and rich meet poor in such an impressive way.

Shanghai is one of the most exciting places in the world. The city’s charm lies in its streets, where the daily lives of Shanghai residents occur. To help you have the best time in the city, here is our list of the best places to visit and the best things to do in Shanghai.

The Bund: The landmark of Shanghai

The picture of the Bund appears in almost all articles reporting on Shanghai. It is the city’s number one landmark and the first thing you should see. The Bund is the waterfront on the western side of the Huangpu River (Puxi), from which you can see the skyline on the eastern side (Pudong)—a beautiful sight by day and night.

Many historical, European colonial buildings, such as the Customs House, modelled on Big Ben, adorn the promenade and are eye-catching, especially at night. All the night lighting on the Bund and Pudong is switched off at 10:00 p.m. sharp, so be sure to be there before that.

In addition, it is also worth taking a boat ride in the evening to observe the Bund in all its colourful glory. If you prefer a view from the top, you can get a perfect view of the Bund and the opposite side from the 420 m high Jin Mao Tower, right next to the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC), which looks like a bottle opener. It’s worth the view.

Visit Shanghai Tower

The Shanghai Tower is the most vantage point for panoramic photography in Shanghai and perhaps in all of China. This gigantic 632-meter structure with 121 floors is second in height only to the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai! A unique feature of this architectural marvel is the spiral design.

At the tower, a high-speed elevator will take you to the world’s tallest observation deck in the blink of an eye, where you can admire panoramic views of the river and the Bund (Waitan) waterfront and take stunning photos!

Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC)

At 492 meters, the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) is the second-tallest building in Shanghai. The Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) has a unique shape; it resembles an oversized bottle opener, making it very easy to spot in Pudong.

Instead of the famous touristy Observation Deck on the 94th, 97th and 100th floors (entrance fee up to 180 RMB), we recommend visiting the 100 Century Avenue Bar on the 91st floor. This not only saves you the entrance fee, but you can also sip a cocktail at your leisure and enjoy the magnificent view down to the 468-meter-high Oriental Pearl Tower or the 420-meter-high Jin Mao Tower.

Jin Mao Tower

The Jin Mao Tower is undoubtedly one of the most impressive skyscrapers in Shanghai. With its 88 floors and a height of 420 meters (higher than the Eiffel Tower), it was ranked sixth in the world ranking of skyscrapers when it opened in 1999. You will indeed have one of the best viewpoints and a fantastic panorama of the whole city. Note its art deco facade and its ultra-fast elevators —simply breathtaking!

The Magnificent Park of Yu Garden

Located in the heart of Shanghai, the Yu Garden is the oldest in the city. The Yu Garden, AKA Yuyuan Garden, is a typical Chinese garden where everything is in its place; the arrangement is faithful to the rules of Chinese geomancy.

When you enter this garden, you will see how nature has regained its rights and evolved as it wishes. If possible, try to discover the garden early enough in the day for a peaceful stroll because it is quickly taken over.

This 400+-year-old garden was initially built for a Ming Dynasty officer. It is located in the middle of the Old Quarter, perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of the metropolis for a while.

The Yuyuan Garden has beautiful parks, a tea house in the middle of a lake, and lovely little alleys for shopping or dining. The nearly 2-hectare magnificent site also includes traditional buildings, small pavilions, flowers, and ponds. The garden is a must-visit for anyone coming to Shanghai!

Buddha Temple

Shanghai

The Jade Buddha Temple houses three imposing statues carved from jade brought from Burma. It has existed since the end of the 19th century. The original temple was destroyed during the Chinese Revolution, which occurred during the fall of the dynasty of Qing, and a new temple with two jade Buddha statues was built in 1928.

The roofs of the temple are richly decorated with sculptures and bells to scare away evil spirits. The interior is lavishly decorated in shades of red and yellow, and the silk strips hanging from the ceiling represent prayers. Visiting the Buddha Temple is one of the best things to do in Shanghai.

The Maglev

Shanghai

The Maglev is a must-try if you come to visit Shanghai! The unique Maglev is a magnetic levitation train, which means that it does not touch the rails as if it levitates. It is an incredible experience to travel, almost flying at ground level.

There is currently only one trip, but considering it can have a top speed of 430 km/h, it takes only 7 minutes to get from Longyang bus station to Pudong International Airport. Once you are settled, watch the cars driving at 120 km/h next to you. You will have the impression that they are moving very slowly. It is such a fun experience!

Tianzi Fang

Tianzi Fang, or Tianzifang, is the artistic district of Shanghai. In all the district’s tiny streets, you will travel in time and see houses from the 30s and art stores that seem to come from a photo album.

Tianzifang is famous for its small, winding streets with countless cafes, restaurants, and studios. Here, you can get handmade artworks or souvenirs, which have become increasingly rare in times of mass production. It can get crowded on weekends, so try to go on weekdays instead.

Pudong district

Looking at Pudong’s skyline today, it is hard to believe that 25 years ago, this place was still a swamp area. Pudong is the well-known cityscape of Shanghai with many skyscrapers and is considered the symbol of China’s emerging economic power.

The entire district is newly built, and you will feel Asia‘s incredible progress when you walk among the skyscrapers. New York may have its charms, but Pudong is more modern, expensive, and even cleaner.

Pudong is undoubtedly the liveliest district in Shanghai, with its buildings, luxury hotels, shopping malls, and high-end restaurants. Unlike the big American or Australian cities, everything in this district is impressive, and it would be a shame not to visit it.

The Vue Bar’s roof terrace offers a fascinating view of Pudong. Located on the 33rd floor of the Hyatt Hotel, it is directly on the Bund. The entrance fee is around $16; a free drink is already included. Bring your swimsuit and have a cocktail in the hot tub if you want something more exciting.

Walk on East Nanjing Road at Night

Nanjing Road is Shanghai’s most famous shopping street. It is divided into West Nanjing Road (west of People’s Square) and East Nanjing Road, which leads from People’s Square to the Bund. The latter section is especially worth a stroll at night when the lights are on, people are dancing in the streets, and there are local specialities to eat everywhere.

Nanjing Road has countless stores and boutiques of top designers and world-famous brands. In the immediate vicinity is also the People’s Square, which is considered the centre of Shanghai.

The People’s Square is located west of the Huangpu River. You can see restaurants, fashion stores, skyscrapers, a park, the Urban Planning Museum, the Great Theater, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MoCA Shanghai)—a vast place, far from the hubbub of the city, which does not leave indifferent.

Shanghai Museum in People’s Square

If you still have some time left for culture and history, then the Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan), which you will find in the southern part of People’s Square, is worth a visit. On four floors, cultural treasures of the past dynasties are exhibited.

The entrance is free, but you should be there first thing at 9 am because the waiting time at the door increases significantly during the day. If you want to learn more about the history, you can do so on a guided tour.

If you happen to be in Shanghai on the weekend, you must check out the Shanghai Marriage Market. It is just a few minutes from the museum in the north of People’s Square. This is a market where parents of unmarried adults come to exchange information about their sons and daughters.

The French Concession

The former French Concession is also a must-see place to truly understand Shanghai’s past. It covers an area of about 10 square kilometres, so you will need more than a day to visit it. But honestly, the best way to see the French Concession is to stroll under the tall sycamores and drink a good coffee while reading a book.

If you are a history and culture buff, we recommend that you have a guide accompany you on a tour of the French Concession and help you understand the lives of its inhabitants. You will also learn about the history of the Concession’s development, the influence of the celebrities who once lived there, and the political structure and status of the French Concession. Being accompanied by a guide is also the best way to find unique and authentic souvenir stores.

Fuxing Park

There are different types of parks in Shanghai, and each park has its charm; one of the most charming is Fuxing Park. In the morning and afternoon, you can meet many locals playing cards, chess, dancing, or writing calligraphy at the park. The park is an excellent place to glimpse the locals’ hobbies and understand their daily lives better!

In Point Puzzle Shop

This strange store specializes in puzzles. It is located in the Point Wujiang shopping centre, in the heart of downtown. Most of the themes in their puzzles are of Western origin, and we can notice their affection for Van Gogh’s paintings, Picasso’s, etc. This unique store also offers giant 3D puzzles representing the main buildings of Shanghai.

Water Town Zhujiajiao (Little Venice)

Around Shanghai, there are a lot of so-called “Water Towns.” These water towns are immensely popular with the Chinese for weekend excursions. The most accessible water town is Zhujiajiao, or Shanghai’s Venice. You can get it by bus from People’s Square in about 1.5 hours or by taking a guided tour of Shanghai’s highlights.

Shanghai Circus World

The world-famous acrobatic show, featuring dancing, singing, and tricks, is a must-see. It is performed daily at the Shanghai Circus metro station of the same name. You should book tickets in advance or buy them directly at the Circus.

Taste the Specialties of Shanghai

Dinner, in particular, is a matter of the heart for the Chinese. People exchange ideas, celebrate, and linger for hours. Only those who have eaten in an authentic Chinese restaurant can immerse themselves in the culture.

First of all, don’t be put off by the eating habits, like burping, which is a sign of satisfaction with the meal. Also, chopsticks are not supposed to be upright in a rice bowl, and tipping can be offensive. Additionally, it is essential to know that there is not one Chinese cuisine, but each of the 23 provinces has its specialities.

In Shanghai, people generally eat a lot of fish and shellfish. Dishes are often cooked in soy sauce and (unlike in southern China) tend to be sweet and sour rather than very spicy. The best restaurants are in the French Concession and Jing’An districts. You can’t miss dumplings and meat skewers, which you can get everywhere on the street.

Shanghai is also a snack paradise with many streets full of food stores. The famous Xiao Long Bao is a must-try, a steamed ravioli filled with stuffing and juice. They are small and look like pagodas. Tasting Xiao Long Bao is an art; you must bite the top to open the skin and drink the juice, then dip the ravioli in vinegar before eating it.

Another must-try snack in Shanghai is the Shengjian. It is a steamed bun (mantou), fried with meat and juice, and finally sprinkled with onion and sesame. The bun is crispy, the skin is thin, and the meat is fragrant. So delicious!

Qibao

The old town of Qibao is located a little outside the city centre but is easy to reach by metro. Here, beautiful old alleys meet waterways. Qibao has kept all its past charm with traditional Chinese houses.

Two things characterize this city: one of its canals, where it is possible to rent a boat to sail around the city, and the opportunity to shop quietly to find typical products such as textiles, tea, handicrafts, or food. Don’t forget to bargain!

Shopping

You can’t go to Shanghai and not go shopping! There is a lot of stuff in Shanghai, many brands, and therefore a lot of sales! There are expensive shopping malls, boutiques, and cheap wholesale markets. Do you want to refurbish your wardrobe at unbeatable prices? You can do that, but you will need to be patient.

Even though the wholesale clothing market on Qibao Street is always crowded, you’ll find many surprises. It requires a bit of stamina and a good eye. Shanghai also has a variety of large shopping malls with luxury brands, such as the “New World” in People’s Square.

Buying technology products in Shanghai is also a good choice. For example,” Bainaohui Xujiahui” is a great place for that. It is a chain of stores selling high-quality high-tech equipment. You can find famous brands such as Lenovo, Sony, Dell, and IBM.

You will also find drones, the latest phones and computers, and virtual reality glasses! If you like photography, the “Starlight Photography Equipment City” is the place to be. If you want to buy lovely trinkets or decorations, you can go to Fuyou Street, near Yu Garden. You will find all kinds of beautiful souvenirs there.

When you go shopping in Shanghai, you must buy silk. Shanghai was an essential port for silk exports in ancient times. If you don’t have time to go to Suzhou, which is famous for its silk, you can also reasonably buy silk in Shanghai.

Conclusion

Due to its size, population, urbanism, economic capacity, and numerous tourist sites, Shanghai is undoubtedly a unique city without an equal. This city is still on the move and continues to grow. Don’t miss the chance to immerse yourself in this fascinating megacity between skyscrapers, culture, tradition, and great nightlife!

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