What to visit in Shanghai ?

Shanghai is a city bustling with bright lights, imposing skyscrapers, a treasure of colonial style, bustling markets and creative energy. As one of China’s largest cities, there is a lot to explore as the sprawl is massive. Fortunately, the metro is incredibly efficient and there is so much to occupy your time whether it’s a look at the old, the new or the mix of the two in this dynamic metropolis.

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Over these years, I had the chance to visit every corner of this city in China and I had the chance to explore every corner of this city in China. As a first timer however, I can appreciate how overwhelming it can be so what I’ve done with this article is highlighting my top 10 personal things you should do in Shanghai. That you have only one day or want to build a 7-day itinerary, here are the things you need to do in Shanghai and the places you need to add to the map when planning your trip.

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      • Where to sleep in Shanghai?
  • Table of contents
  • The 10 must-see things in Shanghai
    • 1. The Bund
    • Download My Best Choices of Restaurants in Shanghai
    • Note: JavaScript is required for this content. 2. Zhujiajiao/Qibao
    • OPINION 3. Yu Yuan & Cheng Huang Miao (Yu Yuan Garden and City God Temple)
    • Want a Free Airbnb Credit?
    • 4. Tian Zi Fang
    • 5. Science and Technology Subway Station Market (Xiangyang)
    • NOTICE 6. Din Tai Fung for Xiao Long Bao
    • 7. M1nt
    • 8. Shanghai Global Financial Centre (SWFC)
    • Looking for a guided experience?
    • 9. Xintiandi
    • 10. Nanjing Road East
  • Recommended Places
    • Best Airbnb Rentals in Shanghai
  • Find out more about Shanghai
  • Can’t access Facebook or Gmail?

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  • Where to stay in Shanghai — a neighborhood guide
  • 24 hours in Shanghai for less than $25
  • How to get free wifi at Shanghai International Airport

Where to stay in Shanghai?

  • If you are looking for the best of the best, it must be the Radisson New World Shanghai. For something on the budget side, see how we managed to score a killer spot with my first experience with Airbnb in China.

Table of contents

Are you looking for something specific in this route? Go to what you want to read.

Here’s what we cover:

  • Table of contents
  • The 10 must-see things in Shanghai
    • 1. The Bund
    • 2. Zhujiajiao/Qibao
    • 3. Yu Yuan & Cheng Huang Miao (Yu Yuan Garden and City God Temple)
    • Want a free Airbnb credit?
    • 4. Tian Zi Fang
    • 5. Science and Technology Subway Station Market (Xiangyang)
    • 6. Din Tai Fung for Xiao Long Bao
    • 7. M1nt
    • 8. Shanghai Global Financial Centre (SWFC)
    • 9. Xintiandi
    • 10. Nanjing Road
  • Recommended places to stay
    • Top Shanghai Airbnb rentals
  • More about Shanghai
  • In China and can’t access Facebook or Gmail?

The 10 must-see things in Shanghai

1. The Bund

Iconic seafront view of Shanghai’s Pudong side with its huge collection of ridiculous skyscrapers and the Huangpu River that crosses its barges and cruise ships. After or during sunset, it’s probably when you want to go and when it’s the most magical when the dizziness of lights take over the night sky. Just be prepared to face the massive crowds that accumulate where you will end up being side by side with other tourists and Chinese.

Make sure that Discover the Bund and the People’s Heroes Memorial on the left and even further down cross the Waibaidu Bridge which offers beautiful views. The bridge changes color also at night. Oh and speaking of cruise ships, take a along the river as this is the best way to see both the Puxi side (Bund) and the Pudong side (all skyscrapers).

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Note: JavaScript is required for this content. 2. Zhujiajiao/Qibao

Many tourists come to China to discover what he would like to live during one of the Chinese Dynasties. Many times that consists of waterways, old ruined buildings, alleys, temples and street food. Well, you can have all this by heading towards Zhujiajiao which is about an hour from Shanghai.

To get there, you can take a bus from People’s Square for 12 RMB or you can take a taxi there to 150-200 RMB. It’s this ancient aquatic village Classic which is a great day trip to escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city. However, do not expect the crowd to be less.

Now, if you’re looking for a little alternative, it’s probably worth mentioning Qibao which is actually accessible by the metro (Qibao) which is another ancient city where you feel like being transported to another world but of course on a smaller scale than Zhujiajiao. If you don’t want to move too far, Qibao can be the choice for you!

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NOTICE 3. Yu Yuan & Cheng Huang Miao (Yu Yuan Garden and City God Temple)

A theme of tradition, culture and antiquity develops here and Yu Yuan and Cheng Huang Miao are one of the best travel destinations in Shanghai as it gives you a little idea of what it was like to live here in ancient times, despite the way it is commercial today. In addition, this attraction is easily accessible from the interior of the city via metro line #10, so there is no reason not to go.

Where Zhujiajiao is an ancient aquatic village, it gives you an idea of what would be a big market or a pious temple. From the shopping aspect, you get a ton of shops with handmade crafts, fake typing tricks, folk art and other trinkets. From the food point of view, there are a ton of street stalls with a random assortment of Chinese food and snacks. Oh and don’t forget the huge signs for Starbucks and Dairy Queen out there. There is also a famous restaurant xiao long bao (Shanghai steamed soup dumpling) here called Nanxiang Mantou Dian.

From the point From sight of curiosity, you are surrounded by these large, old and well-preserved spaces where you are bombarded with temples, pavilions, halls and hanging lanterns. Towards the middle of the area you are adorned with a magnificent zig-zagging trail with a huge pond below with huge koi fish.

Yu Yuan Garden is absolutely beautiful inside with its well-preserved zen, greenery and delicate flowers. Over 400 years at this point, it’s the perfect escape for the city strolling through pavilions, corridors, streams and open courtyards. It is well worth the entrance fee.

The only thing I warn you is that it is hyper touristic as with many places in Shanghai, so get ready!

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Want a free Airbnb credit?

Airbnb is an excellent alternative to find a place to stay in Shanghai. I stayed in an Airbnb in Shanghai and it turned out to be a good decision for my family since we were 4 people.

4. Tian Zi Fang

There’s a real charm in this place that brings me back every time I go to Shanghai. It is an art and crafts district that developed from a renovated residential area in the French concession area. What I like about it are the maze-like lanes that take you around to see a bunch of gift shops, clothing stores, cafes, galleries, studios and other random trinkets stores.

Looks like the neighborhood itself was preserved to what it was in the 1930s with its traditional architecture and ambience. It’s on a smaller scale by compared to Cheng Huang Miao, more trendy and less touristic.

Always a winner here. Eat, shop and lose yourself.

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5. Science and Technology Subway Station Market (Xiangyang)

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Okay, let’s take a break in all these traditional things and let’s tell us why you came to China — to buy cheap stuff, wrong, of course!

I checked several of these markets and find that the one literally just outside the turnstiles of Science and Technology subway station (Pudong side) is the best for foreigners. It is the most organized, clean and easy to understand. Excellent shopping include phone accessories, sports jerseys, Popular clothing brands, shoes (Tom, Adidas, Uggs), women’s bags and other technological equipment (GoPro, drones, speakers, power banks, screen protectors, etc.).

The better/worst part of a market like this is that you need to know how to negotiate. Never take the indicated price or the price they give you when you ask. Do not be afraid to counter-offer their initial price at 50% or more. If they don’t bite, go. The truth is that there are so many shops selling the same thing on the market, so if you don’t get it in one of them, you’ll find another one just a block away.

The strange part is that TripAdvisor says the market is closed but I’m pretty sure it’s still open unless it’s a way to deter people from going.

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OPINIONS 6. DIN Tai Fung for Xiao Long Bao

Shanghai is known for its xiao long bao (Shanghai steam soup dumplings). There’s a little art at eating them, but basically what you’re supposed to do is soak them in soy vinegar first, place it on your spoon, bite a little corner outside to let the soup escape. Then you read a little soup to see how hot it is, and then chow down on the rest of the spill.

There are a ton of good restaurants in China and you should always list them all, but coming from someone who spent a lot of time in Shanghai, you really can’t beat the Din Tai Fung franchise. Originally from Taiwan, they grew rapidly around the world, including in the city itself. You can find Din Tai Fung practically in every corner now. They are not exactly the cheaper in the city, but honestly, I did not find any other xiao long bao restaurant that can beat their quality, the slimming of the skin dumplings, the amount of soup, and the taste of meat inside. You really can’t go wrong with Din Tai Fung (sometimes spelled as Ding Tai Fung).

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7. M1nt

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Celebrate the party in Shanghai one night and watch the club scene here. I can’t say I’ve done a lot of international clubbing, but all about M1nt screams of high class. One of the main strengths that you will struggle to find anywhere else is the that is built in the place and inside there are sharks. Yes, you heard me right, SHARKS! The views from here are also quite amazing.

Be sure to check out the best clubs in Shanghai and whether you’re going to M1nt or elsewhere, you’re going to have an incredible time.

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8. Shanghai Global Financial Centre (SWFC)

What city tour doesn’t include some kind of high-rise tower overlooking the scenery below? Right now, you have a choice between Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC), Jing Mao, and of course the highest of them, the new Shanghai Tower. I made them all and I must say that my favorite is still the SWFC which has a very long and open platform and the beauty is that you can see the twisted Shanghai tower and the angular architecture of Jing Mao and of course Pearl Tower in front.

A word of warning, the views from here will make your legs screwed if you are afraid of heights like me.

If you feel like something a little more traditional, there is also the Pearl Tower which is easier to access to the riverside and close to a ton of shopping malls and good food.

Looking for a guided experience?

Book your own private half-day tour that takes you to SWFC, French Concession and also includes lunch! Book now READ REVIEWS

9. Xintiandi

Xintiandi is an interesting place in the city to check though it is more of a hanging/party place that wakes up in the evening hours. It is a car-free shopping, dining and entertainment district that is a gentrified neighborhood where traditional “shikumen” houses occupy narrow alleys.

This area is certainly important for foreigners and especially ex-pats. Even if you are not a party, it’s still worth checking the area. It is very well made, clean, trendy, different from your typical China and also many great places for photography.

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10. Nanjing Road East

This may be the best for the last time, but just as iconic as the Bund is, Nanjing Road East is buzzing of activity all day. No cars are allowed on this street and wherever you turn there is some kind of shopping. It is also unlikely that you will miss this area because the nearest metro station to the Bund is this one, so you will walk through it I guarantee it.

Most of the major brands are represented on this street. In addition to this, there are some stones Precious hidden here, so be sure to stitch inside the different showcases to see what’s going on.

I’m not going to lie, it’s definitely very touristic here, but if you want to come and see the Mecca of Chinese consumerism, more bright lights than Times Square, a ton of people and the potential for some decent discoveries for shopping, you’ll want to visit Nanjing Road East.

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Recommended Places

If you are also looking for city accommodation and don’t know where to start, check out these properties that suit your travel style.

Budget

  • Green Court Serviced Apartment-People’s Square — Although not a hotel, this apartment enjoys an extremely convenient location, just 10 minutes from Nanjing Road East. UNTO a fraction of the cost of brand hotels, this is a property that is both highly rated and has the bonus of having a full kitchen to help you save even more money.
  • Charms Hotel Shanghai — This hotel is located just along Nanjing Road East, making it desirable in terms of location. Now that it’s a budget, there are no frills and if you read the reviews, there is certainly room for improvement. However, if you’re going to be out all day, the cost and location can be good enough to allow you to press the trigger on it.

Mid-range

  • Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel — As the name suggests, this hotel is located right next to Yu Yuan Subway Station which puts you directly to one of the main attractions of the city. Don’t worry that it’s not close to People’s Square because a fast subway jumps and you’re there.
  • Pullman Shanghai Jingan — If you agree to be a little further in the Jingan area, you can save a lot of money. Jingan has plenty to explore, including the famous temple and with the subway you can go anywhere in the city.

Luxury

  • Radisson New World Shanghai — Located in the heart of things and right across from People’s Square, it’s no more convenient than that.
  • Shanghai Marriott Hotel City Centre — Another property that is right in the heart of the action and also only a 5-minute walk from Nanjing Road East.

Best Airbnb Rentals in Shanghai

If you prefer to stay in the rental of private rooms, here are my choices for The 9 best Airbnb properties in Shanghai that you can find on the market right now.

A more detailed breakdown of each of the properties can be found in Shanghai’s best Airbnbs.

Learn more about Shanghai

For more of my Shanghai adventures, check out some of my other posts!

144-hour transit visa operation

Back in Shanghai after a few years

My experience doing a one-month summer language exchange program in Shanghai

In China and can’t access Facebook or Gmail?

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