Shanghai is a colossal megacity! With a population of roughly 25 million people, it is one of the most populated cities in the world and also boasts some of the world’s biggest skyscrapers. It has the world’s busiest port and is the financial centre of China, the world’s most populated country! Some people may be a little overwhelmed by the sheer size and scale of Shanghai, but the majority of people who visit here tend to become infatuated by the place.
Shanghai has an enormous array of places to visit and things to do. However, due to the size of the city and the sheer volume of amazing things to do it can be difficult for people to choose exactly how to spend their free time within the city. In order to assist people who are planning on either visiting or moving to Shanghai, we have compiled this city guide. Here we will share with you all the top things to do within the city, as well as the must-have apps which will help you tremendously during day-to-day life within one of the best cities in the world!
Top 10 Things To Do
1. The Bund
No trip to Shanghai would be complete without a visit to The Bund. Situated on the banks of the Huangpu River, The Bund provides arguably one of the best sightseeing opportunities in Shanghai, with a stunning view of the diverse skyscrapers that populate Lujiazui (Shanghai’s Financial District) across the river. From The Bund you will be able to see the Shanghai Tower, which is the second tallest building in the world, as well as the Shanghai World Financial Centre, with its unique bottle opener like architectural design. The best time of day to visit is sunset, where you will get the witness the sun setting shortly before the magnificent buildings light up the night sky!
2. Zhujiajiao Water Town
Given how quickly Shanghai has been industrialised over recent years, with its large array of modern buildings and bustling city centre it can often be difficult for visitors to find an authentic Chinese experience. Zhujiajiao Water Town is the perfect place to provide an authentic experience and gives visitors an insight into what it would have been like to live in ancient China. With its beautiful traditional architecture, maze-like canals, temples, and street food Zhujiajiao is a must-visit place. It is easily accessible by metro, taking roughly an hour to get there, and is also the perfect place to head if you want a day away from the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, as it is an extremely calm and relaxed town in comparison.
3. Shanghai World Financial Center
Of the many large skyscrapers situated in Lujiazui the three tallest all offer stunning views of the city from high up. Out of the three, the Shanghai World Financial Center is definitely my favourite. The long open platform enables a stunning view of the sprawling city below, and also enables the opportunity to admire the breathtaking architecture of the Shanghai Tower, the Pearl Tower, and the Jin Mao Tower.
4. Nanjing Road
When it comes to shopping there really is one place that stands out above the rest in Shanghai, and that place is Nanjing Road. Easy to find and close to the subway Nanjing Road is probably the most famous walking street in Shanghai. All of the main brands are represented with shops here, and there are countless other shops and restaurants that make up this bustling area. Whether you’re a lover of shopping or not, Nanjing Road is simply a place that you have to visit when you are in Shanghai!
5. Tian Zi Fang
With its maze-like alleyways and traditional architecture, Tian Zi Fang is one of the few places in Shanghai city centre that offers a real glimpse of the past. The narrow alleyways are filled with a diverse range of shops, bars, restaurants, cafes, and galleries. It’s a lot less touristy than some of the other shopping areas in the city and offers a really unique experience.
6. Yuyuan Garden
Another must-see place in Shanghai if you are seeking that authentic Chinese experience is Yuyuan Garden. Finished in 1577, Yuyuan Garden was built in the Ming Dynasty and is nearly 450 years old. With its traditional Chinese architecture, wooden bridges, temples, ponds, and beautifully preserved gardens this place gives a real sense of what it would have been like to live in ancient China. Yuyuan Garden is an extremely tranquil and peaceful place, yet it is very close to the city centre and easily accessible by metro, meaning it is the perfect getaway from the usual hustle and bustle that exists in Shanghai.
7. Century Park
A popular spot for those who love the outdoors, Century Park is an enormous park located in Pudong, across the Huangpu River. This park is the largest in Shanghai and its trees, flowers, and large sections of grass are all expertly kept. At the back end of the park is a large lake, which you can hire paddle boats to go on. The park has an array of winding pathways and is the perfect place to go to exercise or relax if you want to be surrounded by greenery in a peaceful area.
8. Science & Tech Subway Station Market
One of the many great perks about being in China is having access to markets that sell top quality designer products at ridiculously low prices. Out of all of these markets that exist in Shanghai, the market located next to the Science and Technology Subway Station is hands down the best for foreigners. It’s very well organised, easy to navigate around and has the widest selection of shops and products on offer. You can get anything and everything at this market such as tailor-fitted suits, designer clothes, handbags, drones, cameras, mobile phones, and the list goes on. One thing to know before you visit this market is that the initial price you are told is usually up to four or five times higher than the price the seller is willing to accept, depending on the product, so make sure you know how to bargain!
9. Found 158
A really popular place amongst the ex-pat community and somewhere you’ll no doubt end up spending a large amount of time if you live in Shanghai as a foreigner is Found 158. Here you will find a wide selection of bars, restaurants, and clubs, all enclosed within the same area. No matter what type of music you’re into or what food you like there is a place within Found 158 that can accommodate you. If you head here on either a Friday or Saturday night the place will be so packed with ex-pats that you wouldn’t even think you were in China!
As a foreigner, Xintiandi is one of the best locations to go for entertainment. There is a large range of bars, restaurants, shops, and other forms of entertainment. The area is really well designed, with a clean and trendy layout, and is extremely popular amongst the ex-pat community for good reasons!
Other Must Visit Places
Although some of the zoos in China are slightly disappointing the Shanghai Aquarium is definitely worth a visit at some point. Here you will find huge sections of the aquarium dedicated to Chinese animals that you won’t be able to learn about in any other country. In addition to this, there’s also a tunnel with a conveyor belt that takes you through a different part of the aquarium, providing some mesmerising views and makes the visit definitely worthwhile!
A western-run pub that serves great food, with half-price meals on Monday nights and cheap chicken wings on Wednesday nights. The vibe is great, all the staff are extremely friendly and the music on play creates a great atmosphere. There are plenty of TVs on the walls playing live sports, and there’s also a pool table and dartboards if you need any other reason to visit. A definite ex-pat hub in the city centre!
Shanghai Museum of Natural History
If there is one thing Shanghai knows how to organise, it’s a museum. The Shanghai Museum of Natural History is recognised as one of the best museums in the world and with good reason! With the layout of this museum, it is advised to you start at the bottom and work your way to the top for maximum effect. Depending on when you go it may be relatively busy, like a lot of places in Shanghai, but it’s worth the visit for the sheer quantity of artifacts they’ve got and the genius of their design.
An old bar street, Yongkang Lu sits in the heart of French Concession, one of the leafiest and most beautiful places in Shanghai. While the bars on the street have mostly been shut down, they’ve been replaced by artisan cafes and novelty shops, which make for a fun afternoon or evening visit. The bagel shop on this street is easily one of the best in Shanghai, and the Japanese restaurant in the middle of the street is amazing!
Another fun ex-pat hub in the city centre is Chair Club, a venue that has a variety of live music every night of the week (except Tuesdays), playing genres to fit all different tastes. Hit it up on a Monday when there is an open mic jazz night, and be wowed (or cringe) at the talent (or lack of) in the audience.