No other city in the world has seen such a growth in the past few decades. The hotbed of creativity and diversity in China, recognized as the country’s cultural focal point, Shanghai is now also considered its economical heart again and easily ranks among the world’s most influential megacities with the likes of New-York, London, Tokyo or Paris. Sparkling like a diamond on the eastern coast of China, boasting a spectacular architecture, it attracts more tourists every year with a wide choice of stunning attractions and events. In case you plan to join them in one of the most populated city in the world, we’ve selected the 10 best things to do in Shanghai for your reading pleasure!
01 – Take a walk on the Bund.
This is probably the most popular boulevard in all of Asia and it is showcasing Shanghai in a brilliant manner. Located on the waterfront, the Bund features numerous historical buildings along its 1,500 meters. Mostly built by western companies in a various panel of architectural styles including Baroque, Renaissance or Gothic, they compose what used to be the financial center of Shanghai also known as the “Oriental Wall Street”. The Bund is the pride of Shanghai people and a must-see for tourists in the city that you will discover if you book this Best of Shanghai City Tour.
02 – Visit Shanghai’s Venice: Zhujiajiao.
Situated in the city’s suburbs, this water-town covers 47 kilometers square and is the most preserved of all ancient towns in Shanghai. Also elegantly called “Pearl Stream”, the antique town offers a journey through time in the Ming and Qing dynasties. By visiting Zhujiajiao you’ll become a witness of 1,700 years in Chinese history as you’ll wander between tiny streets and old bridges. This is a charming and picturesque place you don’t want to miss while staying in Shanghai, so don’t forget to bring your camera!
03 – Reach the highest point of the Oriental Pearl Tower!
Standing at an altitude of 468 meters in the sky of Shanghai, the Oriental Pearl Tower is the most recognizable element in the city’s skyline. The tower is used to broadcast TV and radio programs but also offers the greatest point of view over Shanghai with fifteen observatory levels. By reaching the highest one, also known as the “Space Module”, you will have the opportunity to walk on a glass floor and to take stunning pictures. Hosting a Hotel as well as several shops, restaurants, themed rooms and halls, it is a great way to discover Shanghai from one of its highest edifices.
04 – Be amazed by the acrobats of Shanghai Grand Theater.
They say that you haven’t been to Shanghai unless you’ve seen the city’s acrobats. The prestigious Chinese school of acrobats is showcasing its best shows mixing traditional and contemporary acrobatics featuring aerial walking, bowl balancing, trampolines, trapezes and motorcycle cages. You can book a ticket here for the Era Intersection of Time Chinese Acrobats Show held at Shanghai Grand Theater and admire the prowess of those fearless artists as they tell you the rich history of China.
05 – Wander in YuYuan Garden.
Opened during the Ming Dynasty in 1577 and meant to be a relaxing place for elders to spend their free-time, the garden now offers a slightly different outlook but remain a very interesting place to visit. Considered the historical old-town and located in the center of the city, the garden is divided in six main areas, each boasting scenic spots, making it a nice place to hang while discovering pavilions, rocks, flower walls, courtyards as well as souvenir shops. Known as the “Garden of Happiness” it promises a delightful journey to visitors.
06 – Discover the backstreets of the old southern Shanghai.
The tremendous upsurge in development that the city has experienced in the past years has had an impact on many areas of the old Shanghai. By taking on a Backstreets Walking Tour in The Old Southern Shanghai you will go back in time and re-discover neighborhoods giving you a better sense of the locals’ daily life. Those areas are promised to be reshaped in the future so don’t miss on the opportunity to see it before it’s too late.
07 –Hang in the “Fake markets”.
Shopping in Asia is a sport, as you may already know if you are familiar with our blog or have travelled in this part of the world! Shanghai hosts several markets showcasing zillions of counterfeit brands. The biggest and most popular is located 580 West Nanjing Road, on the main commercial road in the city, not far from The Bund. It features all the items you can think of, from clothes to electronic devices, and requires some bargaining skills! It is a fun spot to visit and one that really illustrates how busy the local marketplaces in Asia can be.
08 – Explore the former French Concession of Shanghai.
Although the concession came to an end in 1943 during World War II, the vibrant French character of the area is still alive in the shape of trees, boulevards, boutiques or houses. Afar from the tall and futuristic constructions of the city you can have a journey into time and get a sense of what used to be the life of French people in the Shanghai of the last century. The concession is also a great place to have a French dinner as it will only make your experience more “française”! A very cool way to visit the French Concession is with this Vintage Sidecar Tour that features the district among other areas of Shanghai.
09 – Head to Tianzifang, Shanghai’s trendiest area.
Often referred to as the SOHO of Shanghai, Tianzfang enclave hold quite a similar mix of galleries, coffee shops, tea houses, cafes and boutiques all reunited in an artsy area. It’s a truly charming neighborhood where trend setters love to hang. Their influence can be felt in every corner as this is probably the most creative and exuberant part of the city. Tianzifang is also an international place where you can try food from all around the world with fellow foreigners. Follow the hype!
10 – Have a food tour and a cooking class.
Your stay in Shanghai won’t be complete until you experience the city’s food scene. Let’s face it: eating is the preferred activity in Shanghai as evidenced by the great number of restaurants you will find in the city. Aside from the restaurants, many food markets are also well worth exploring. That’s exactly what this Wet Market Tour and Cooking Class offers by bringing you right in the heart of a typical local market where you can buy fresh products that you will then learn to prepare during a 2 hours class held by a professional chef. You’ll end up having learned a lot of cooking tips and experienced a lively insight into the Chinese food markets.
In a move to attract even more tourists in the booming city, the Chinese government recently added Shanghai to the list of places where citizens from 51 countries can stay for up to 3 days without a visa. Although 72 hours might not be enough time to see all the attractions Shanghai has to offer, it is plenty long enough for you to pick some of the activities that we’ve selected in this article. It should give you a good sense of what Shanghai is all about and make you want to come back!