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10 Best Things to Do in Shanghai

Shanghai, located in the east of China, is a charming and vibrant city filled with large international companies, a colonial history, local markets, and skyscrapers. There are various ways to explore this energetic city, from its colonial past to the modern skyscrapers, from its high-paced city lifestyle to the peaceful lifestyle found in the water towns, and from the cultural attractions to taking a cruise on the Huangpu River.

There are many things you can do there but, for a first-timer, you have to cut down the list to ensure you see the highlights. Don’t worry — we have listed the 10 best things you should do in Shanghai here for you.

History Is the Root of Shanghai’s Culture

To fully understand a city, the best way is to start with its history. Shanghai’s colonial history allowed it to become a famous city and opened it up to the world.

1. Witness the Epitome of Shanghai’s History in the Bund
  • Theme: historic
  • Location: Zhongshan East First Road, Huangpu District
  • Recommended reasons:

Whether it’s daytime or nighttime, the Bund is always the most shining highlight of Shanghai. With a concentration of 52 buildings in different styles, the Bund is a living architectural museum, which displays the history of this city.

Not only can you witness the history but you can also discover the authentic local lifestyle there. In the morning or after dinner, local people like doing exercises in the Bund, such as practicing tai chi or qigong, or dancing with partners. If you are interested, join them and they will be very happy to teach you some moves.

2. Have a Stylish Stroll in the French Concession
  • Theme: architectural
  • Location: Huangpu and Xuhui districts
  • Recommended reasons:

Although the colonial history was a bad experience for the local people, the retained area called the French Concession is now a stylish and popular place to entertain people. Romantic leafy streets, boutique shops, delicious food, and lively bars make your day interesting and enjoyable.

3. Explore Hidden Stories Fully at Shanghai Museum
  • Theme: historic and cultural
  • Location: 201 Renmin Road, Huangpu District, near Shanghai People’s Square
  • Recommended reasons:

As it is near People’s Square and has a special “glassy” appearance, you will find it hard to miss Shanghai Museum. As a free and wonderful attraction, you should visit it as early as possible to beat the crowds. Covering 2,800 square meters and housing over 120,000 artworks, it’s an exceptional example of Chinese historic and cultural artifacts. Don’t worry about the language barrier because there are English descriptions to help you understand everything easily.

Traditional Chinese Architectures Are Another Side of Shanghai Who says that Shanghai only has skyscrapers? Of course it doesn’t. Based on the Chinese culture, Shanghai also has its own traditional appearance.

4. Slow Your Pace in Zhujiajiao Water Town
  • Theme: traditional architecture
  • Location: 36 Meizhou Road, Zhujiajiao Town, Qingpu District; about 40 kilometers from central Shanghai
  • Recommended reasons:

Zhujiajiao, an ancient water town located in Qingpu District, is a dream for anyone who loves the Chinese dynasties. Ancient temples, pavilions, corridors, and bridges will make you feel that you are back in China’s ancient times. As well as admiring the ancient town, don’t forget to taste the local snacks and select a souvenir from the exquisite handmade crafts.

5. Enjoy Unexpected Peace in Yu Garden
  • Theme: classic Chinese architecture
  • Location: 218 Anren Street, Huangpu District
  • Recommended reasons:

Located in the city center, inside a busy shopping area, you won’t believe that there is such a quiet place filled with traditional Chinese architectures — Yu Garden. With a perfect fusion of Shanghai’s commercial side and its past, you can witness the cultural influences of both at Yu Garden. Over 400 years have passed by, yet it still retains its original looks: a classical and delicate garden, a unique layout design, amazing decorations, and impressive zigzag bridges.

Modern Architectures Are the Most Representative Symbols of Shanghai

Compared with China’s ancient cities, such as Beijing or Xi’an, Shanghai is a young and modern city. Skyscrapers are everywhere but choosing just one to visit is enough.

6. Ascend the Shanghai World Financial Center and See a Panoramic View of Shanghai
  • Theme: modern skyscraper
  • Location: 100 Century Avenue, Pudong New Area
  • Recommended reasons:

On a clear day, ascend to the highest floor (100th floor) of the Shanghai World Financial Center and be excited by the jaw-dropping panoramic view of Shanghai. It’s 1,555 feet above the ground — standing there, you will feel as though you are a bird flying among the white clouds.

7. Take a Huangpu River Cruise to See the Best Nighttime View of Shanghai
  • Theme: nighttime activity
  • Location: Zhongshan East Second Road, Huangpu District
  • Recommended reasons:

After walking along the Bund, taking a cruise on the Huangpu River is another way to admire the classic Shanghai skyline and view the colonial architecture. Unlike the daytime, it’s more romantic and beautiful at night, with colorful neon lights. You can see many famous attractions along both sides, such as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Nanpu and Yangpu bridges, and colonial Western buildings.

Don’t Forget to Join in with the Most Interesting Activities

Shanghai has its own temper and style, so if you want to know more about it, don’t miss some interesting local activities there.

8. Experience the Unusual Marriage Market in People’s Park
  • Theme: local custom
  • Location: People’s Square, Huangpu District
  • Recommended reasons:

It astonishes foreigners that there is a marriage market in a park. It’s equally interesting and unbelievable. Some Chinese parents like to make future plans for their offspring, especially with regard to their marriage, and consider it to be an important matter for their children’s futures. Every Saturday and Sunday, lots of parents and grandparents convene in the park to seek out suitable partners. Although its success rate has a very low percentage, they enjoy doing this very much.

9. Enjoy the Wonderful Nightlife at Xintiandi
  • Theme: shopping, eating, and nightlife
  • Location: 181 Taicang Road, Huangpu District
  • Recommended reasons:

No matter whether you want to go shopping, take photos, or experience the nightlife in Shanghai, Xintiandi is a good choice. It’s clean and trendy, so it’s popular with both local people and foreign visitors.

10.  Eat Diverse Local Dishes in Nanjing Road
  • Theme: local food
  • Location: Jingan District and Huangpu District
  • Recommended reasons:

Eating and shopping are the main activities in Nanjing Road. Most of the big international brands are found in this street and there are various snacks that you can also try there. It’s definitely a tourist destination that’s not to be missed. Compared with shopping malls, food and souvenirs are cheaper and more delicate in Nanjing Road. Located near the Bund, you can stroll through it after visiting the colonial architectural structures.

Join Our Essential Shanghai Mini Tour to Explore Shanghai

Modern and historic, classic and stylish, Shanghai has lots of highlights that are worth discovering. Join our mini tour and don’t worry about missing any of them.

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