things to do in shanghai

Shanghai, one of the largest cities in China has plenty to offer. And when we talk about visiting China, most people wanted to visit Beijing and Shanghai. This is especially true for westerners.

It was known as the “Oriental Paris”, Shanghai is one of China’s greatest economic and cultural centers. It represents the modern and developed side of China.

If you make a visit to Shanghai, you will notice that it is a city that blends with both the eastern and western culture. In the morning, you can visit temples and Chinese traditional garden. And in the afternoon, you can enjoy the stunning skyscrapers view from The Bund.

Shanghai can be busy, but at the same time, there are parts of it where you can enjoy leisurely walks. It is a shopping paradise offers everything you can ever imagine, and at the same time, you can visit the calming ancient water towns like Zhujiajiao.

Not to mention there is also a Disneyland Theme Park in Shanghai too. Thus, no matter whether you’re visiting Shanghai for its culture, shopping, or as a first-time trip to China, it is a great city that you should not miss.

Here are the 23 amazing things to see and do when you’re in Shanghai…

1. The Bund

the bund

There is no way you can miss out The Bund when you come to Shanghai. If you never been to The Bund, it’s like you’ve never been to Shanghai.

The Bund is Shanghai’s waterfront boulevard. On one side, you can see the heritage buildings lined-up to showcase the city’s past with colonial architecture. And on the other side across Huangpu River, you will find the city’s most amazing skyscrapers and the view will amaze you.

You can take a stroll along the Bund to enjoy and admire the city view. Or, you can also take the Huangpu River Cruise and to enjoy the city skyline from the cruise.

At night, the skyscrapers are lit up with flashing lights reflected on the river. Taking a walk along the Bund can be relaxing and inspiring at the same time.

2. Shanghai Tower

shanghai tower

There is no way to not visit the world’s second-tallest building and China’s highest building when you get to Shanghai. Shanghai Tower was completed in 2014 with 632m height.

There are many tall buildings in Shanghai, but this is the tallest. It is a 128-storey skyscraper, and you can get to the observation deck at level 118, which is the world’s highest. Plus, you can also get the chance to take the world’s fastest elevator up the tower.

If you want to enjoy the city’s view from the top, Shanghai Tower is a great choice. In fact, there are other buildings where you can also enjoy the city’s view, my best suggestion goes to Shanghai Tower, World Financial Center, and the famous Oriental Pearl Tower.

3. Shanghai World Financial Center

shanghai world financial center

The Shanghai World Financial Center is another skyline located nearby to Shanghai Tower. Park Hyatt Shanghai is located in this building, it is the third-highest hotel in the world.

The observation deck offers views from 474m above ground. It may be lower than the observation deck in Shanghai Tower, but WFC offers a different feel and view.

4. Oriental Pearl Tower

oriental pearl tower

The Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower is a very interesting building that you can notice from afar. The tower consists of 11 spheres, big and small. It is a TV tower in Shanghai that brightly lit in different LED sequences at night.

The tower has 15 observatory levels and the highest is at 351m which is called the Space Module. There is also a revolving restaurant at 267m above ground. Besides, the upper observation platform has an outside area that was made with glass.

You don’t have to visit all three buildings, if you get the chance, just choose one and go for it.

5. Yu Garden

yu garden

Besides skyscrapers, the Yu Garden is also a top attraction in Shanghai. It is a must-visit because you get to see the old and classical side of Shanghai. In Chinese, Yu Garden is called Yuyuan Garden.

You can find a lot of interesting culture and architecture from the Ming Dynasty, including the zig-zag bridges and colorful pagodas.

It will be crowded if you visit Yu Garden at the weekend. If possible, try to go during weekdays. And if you want to learn more about the history of the place, hire a tour guide.

6. Tianzifang


If you want to shop for souvenirs and enjoy a cup of hot coffee, go to Tianzifang. It is a tourist shopping heaven in Shanghai in the old French quarter.

Tianzifang is a maze of narrow alleyways filled with shops and cafes. There is also a more upscale area that is filled with bars and high-end restaurants.

During the day time, Tianzifang is popular with shopping and coffee, and at night, it offers a completely different vibe with bars and nightlife.

7. Xintiandi


Another attraction similar to Tianzifang is Xintiandi, which known as “New World” in Chinese. Compared to Tianzifang, Xintiandi is a better-known redeveloped French Concession with luxury stores, gourmet restaurants, and upscale shopping.

Both Tianzifang and Xintiandi are quite similar. With their traditional residences with gates and courtyards, turned into shops, cafes, and bars, these places are famous among the tourists. But, Xintiandi has been renovated on a grand scale while Tianzifang still maintains its old feels.

8. Temple of the Town God

temple of the town god

Temple of the Town God is located next to Yu Garden. In China, most of the cities have temples built for Gods to protect the cities and the people. It is just a part of Chinese tradition. The temple can sometimes be known as Temple of City God, just depends on how you want to translate it.

You can visit the Temple of the Town God when you visit Yu Garden. It is a Taoist temple that offers an old architecture that resembles the ancient Chinese buildings.

Although the buildings’ design is from the past, the entire place has been redeveloped to fit into modern Chinese culture. You can find many restaurants, cafes, and shops here. There is also Starbucks in these buildings to give you a sense of the culture.

9. Longhua Temple

longhua temple

Longhua Temple is another famous temple in Shanghai. In fact, it is the most active and largest temple in the entire city. There were scenes from the movie, Empire of the Sun that were taken in Longhua Temple.

The temple has 5 halls and 2 towers with a 5-ton and 2-meter-high copper bell. There is also a 7-storey and 8-sided pagoda located in the middle.

10. Jing’an Temple

jing an temple

There is another popular temple located on the west of Nanjing Road, the Jing’an Temple. The temple has a history of over 78 years and was built during the Three Kingdoms Period.

As you enter the temple, you will see a lot of worshippers and tourists throwing coins into a large urn located in the center. If you make your visit there, maybe you can try your luck too by throwing coins into the urn.

11. People’s Square and People’s Park

shanghai peoples park

People’s Square is a large public square in the Huangpu District, located to the south of Nanjing Road. While it may just be a square, but you can walk and enjoy the view of the city in this place.

Next to the People’s Square is the People’s Park, which also known as Renmin Park in Chinese. It is a huge park with 24 acres of land. During the day, you can come to the People’s Park and enjoy the greenery and the more relaxing side of the city.

You can also see a lot of locals exercising, dancing, playing musical instruments, and also enjoying other activities in the park.

12. Former French Concession

former french concession

One of the most common features of French Concession in Shanghai is the gorgeous tree-lined avenues, which are perfect for taking a long stroll. In the French Concession area, you will find a lot of cafes and hip restaurants, bars, boutiques, art galleries, and more.

Tianzifang and Xintiandi are considered the more developed French Concession. Other French Concession area includes Wukang Lu, Tai’an Lu, Fuxing Lu, Dongping Lu, Wulumuqi Lu, etc., where “Lu” means road in Chinese.

13. Urban Planning Exhibition Center

urban planning exhibition center

Another place worth visiting in Shanghai is the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall located on People’s Square. There are 5 storeys and it was built to showcase the achievement of the city planning and construction of Shanghai.

People interested in city planning and the history of how Shanghai developed from the past to its modern days are encouraged to visit this place. One of the most amazing attractions in the building is none other than the city model in the scale of 1/500.

14. Shanghai Museum

shanghai museum

If you love history and the Chinese culture, there is no way you want to miss out visiting the Shanghai Museum. Although the building may look plain and nothing fancy from the outside, Shanghai Museum has a lot to offer.

They have over 120,000 pieces of artifacts spread across 11 galleries. You will find ceramics, pots, sculptures, paintings, jade, calligraphies, furniture from the past time, coins and jewelry from Ming and Qing Dynasty, and more.

15. Shanghai Natural History Museum

Shanghai Natural History Museum

Another worth-to-visit museum is the Shanghai Natural History Museum. This museum showcases the natural science of ancient animals, human history, and the evolution of plants.

You will find fossils, models, and unearth historical relics here. There are over 180 ancient animals exhibitions here, including Mamenchisaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs in the world, and the ancient elephant of the Yellow River. Not only that, but there are also 5 mummies of over 4,000 years in this exhibition center.

16. Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

Shanghai is known for its modern technology and exhibitions and museums. And the Science and Technology Museum is another worth-visit attraction.

There are plenty of activities, developmental games, robotic showcases, and space exhibitions for you to explore. It can make a great family trip too.

There are plenty of museums in Shanghai. Here are the 7 worth-visiting museums you might want to explore.

17. Nanjing Road

nanjing road

Nanjing Road or Nanjing Lu is a street runs in 2 sections – East Nanjing Road from the Bund to People’s Square, and West Nanjing Road, from People’s Square to Jing’an district where Jing’an Temple is located.

East Nanjing Road is like the Times Square of Shanghai. You can find plenty of shops, foods, and people walking along this street. At night, the entire street blazed with neon lights and signs, and it is one of the shopping heavens in Shanghai.

18. Shanghai Old Street

shanghai old street

Shanghai Old Street is an old business street that began during the Ming Dynasty. It has a wide variety of commercial background that in the early days, there are banks, gold shops, jeweler’s store, tea houses, and wine stores here.

The buildings along Shanghai Old Street reflect the style of Ming and Qing dynasties. You can find the buildings architecture similarities like the Yu Garden.

19. Huangpu Riverboat Tour

huangpu riverboat tour

Another way to enjoy the city view of Shanghai is through riding the Huangpu River Cruise. Of course, you will have to pay for the tickets, but the view and the experience will be worth it.

You can take the cruise tour at night to admire the city skyline brightly lit up. And depending on what season you are visiting, the breeze while you’re on the cruise can be freezing.

20. Zhujiajiao Water Town


Zhujiajiao is a famous ancient water town located at the outskirt, about 50km outside of Shanghai. But if you have time, I strongly suggest you visit this water town.

You can take the metro directly to Zhujiajiao. Similar to Venice in Italy, you can take a boat ride here too. This old town is endowed with many canals and waterways, 36 ancient bridges, and you can find a lot of traditional Chinese-style residences.

Depending on your pace, visiting Zhujiajiao may take at least half a day. It is a great place to escape the busy and bustling city life and enjoy the calm and relaxing ambient of Zhujiajiao.

21. Qibao Water Town

shanghai qibao

Qibao is another water town located nearby to downtown Shanghai. It may not be as famous or large as Zhujiajiao, but Qibao has its own uniqueness and specialties.

Qibao is just 18km from the downtown area. And due to its close proximity to the city, it can be a great place to escape the crowd in the city. And like Zhujiajiao, there are many old buildings and waterways here in Qibao as well.

22. Shanghai Disneyland Park

shanghai disneyland

If you are tired of visiting the ancient towns and you want some thrill and excitement, go to Shanghai Disneyland. And if you are visiting Disneyland in Shanghai, I suggest you read this review from Tom Bicker.

23. Ride the Maglev

shanghai maglev

One of the reasons China become so successful and their economy grows at such a high-pace is because of transportation – the high-speed rail.

Many people talk about the high-speed rail in China and plan to take a ride one day. And if you ever visit Shanghai, it can be the best time to do so because Shanghai, being an international city, is a well-connected gateway to other cities in China.

You can go to Suzhou, Hangzhou, or even Beijing with the Maglev. The speed can reach above 600km/h, which is a lot faster than the Formula One race car.

The maglev cabin and seats are cleaned, spacious, and the train leaves on time. So make sure you get to the station early.

Written by 

Shawn Lim is the founder of He loves to travel and likes to share his experience and talks about his trips.

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