Shanghai is truly one of the most exciting cities in the world. Home of 25 million people, there are many exciting, adventurous things to do in Shanghai. This city also serves as a great starting point to exploring other areas in China. I just returned from my 5-day trip and here are places and activities I suggest if you’re curious about what to do in Shanghai!
What To Do In Shanghai
The Bund (Wàitān)
The Bund is, without a doubt, the most famous area of Shanghai. It really is the most incredible place to spend time, night or day, whether taking in the relaxing views or just casually people-watching. A trip to Shanghai is incomplete without a stroll along the Bund, just as a trip to China is incomplete without climbing on The Great Wall. The view of the Shanghai skyline, filled with different colonial architecture, across the Huangpu River is on par with the famous skylines of cities like Hong Kong, New York, and Chicago. Walking the Bund at night is MUST do. It is when the views are most magical as the array of lights take over the night sky. You will feel a calm sensation walking near the chilly waters while herds of tourists are trying to take their selfies.
What to do in Shanghai if you like shopping: Walk Nanjing Road (Nánjīng Lù)
Crowds of tourists, artists, and fashionistas flock to Nanjing Road (Nánjīng Lù), Shanghai’s main shopping street. It is a pedestrian-friendly street filled with shops selling traditional Chinese-styled souvenirs, boutiques selling arts and crafts from around the world, and shopping malls selling every conceivable type of consumer good imaginable. As a well-known tourist spot, souvenirs tend to be highly overpriced; however, the atmosphere is worth checking out. Aside from the shopping, there are a lot of entertainment venues as well as countless restaurants. On average, statistics say there are over 1.7 million visitors PER DAY. You won’t miss this area because it is the nearest subway station to the Bund!
What to do in Shanghai if you are not afraid of heights: Find A Building To Get On Top Of!
I chose to go to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Centre (the Shanghai Tower wasn’t open for visitors just yet). Almost half a kilometre in the air (474 meters exactly), you can get a great panoramic view of the metropolis from the world’s 2nd highest observatory, Skywalk 100; You can get a birds-eye view of the Oriental Pearl Tower, Jinmao Tower, and the city skyline along the Huangpu River (I recommend going around sunset as the buildings start to light up and it truly is a mesmerising view).
Walking on the skywalk is a feeling many will never experience again; the observatory is lined with angled glass making you feel like you are leaning on the edge of the building! To top it off, the observatory also has see-through glass panels on its floor! The entrance fee is a bit steep (120rmb to go to the 94th floor; 180 fro go to the 94th, 97th and 100th floors).
What to do in Shanghai if you like the Chinese past: Qibao Ancient Town
Experience what it would feel like to live during one of China’s ancient dynasties. The views are incredible, and you get to see how people are living in the old days, even today. What’s nice is that you get away from the hustle of the actual city. I chose to go to the ancient town of Qibao (the other being the larger-scale Zhujiajiao). Qibao also has a subway station, unlike Zhujiajiao, which is about an hour away from Shanghai.
Shanghai has quite a few temples, but this one is my favourite, by far! Located on W. Nanjing Road, you get a serene feeling as you learn about Buddhist history and culture. Nearly 800 years old, this temple was first built during the Three Kingdoms period of Ancient China.
What to do in Shanghai if you like boating: Boat ride the Huangpu River
Cruising on the Huangpu is a MUST! Shanghai is known for its architectural beauty. What better way to witness the scenery along the river than on a boat, up-close and in person! Once you purchase your tickets, walk south for a few meters to Shiliupu Dock to board the ship you bought a ticket for. There are quite a few tour lengths that you can sign up for, from a short, 30-minute cruise to a long, 3½ hour cruise seeing the absolute best Shanghai has to offer. Imagine a nighttime cruise on an open deck surrounded by skyscrapers! Doesn’t get much better than that!
What to don in Shanghai if you like greenery: Yu Garden
The Yu Garden (Garden of Happiness) covers more than 20,000 square metres in the old town section of Shanghai. It was first established in the Ming Dynasty by a governor of Sichuan. It is filled with beautiful scenery, colourful bridges, and historic pagodas. It provides a feeling of zen, even though you are still in the megacity.
Only a decade ago, this space was an old residential area filled with Shikumen-themed buildings surrounding the beautiful alleyways. Nowadays, it is a busy, high-end business district filled with restaurants (many foreign), bars, cafes, and even a few shopping malls. It is also filled with tourist attractions showing a mix of the city’s historical legacies, providing great spots for photography. It usually comes alive at night as a place to hang out. This is also the site where the Communist Party of China was founded.
Food lovers shouldn’t wonder what to do in Shanghai
It’s pretty agreed upon that food in Asia is among the best in the entire world. There is a street vendor or restaurant on every corner in the city. With so many great places and endless choices, the only way to truly experience it is to try it yourself!
With so many options of what to visit and what to do in Shanghai, seeing this incredible city should be on EVERYONE’S China itinerary; it truly is a can’t-miss city. Walking around is also a great idea as you may stumble upon something interesting no guidebook can offer.