Best Shanghai Attractions: Top 7 Things to See and Do in Shanghai, China

by Global Viewpoint
Best of Shanghai
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Shanghai is a city of superlatives and world-class attractions

Shanghai is a city of a superlatives. With over 24 million people, Shanghai is the largest city in China and the second largest city proper in the world. It has the world’s fastest passenger train, the Shanghai Maglev, zipping at 267 miles/hour (430 kilometers/hour). Shanghai also has the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower, which stands 2,073 feet (632 meters) tall.

As a commercial and cultural center, Shanghai offers a variety of impressive tourist sites. Based on my recent trip to Shanghai, here are the top 7 attractions and things to do that you can’t miss!

Shanghai attractions map

Here’s a map with the top attractions in Shanghai.

1. The Bund

Nestled along the Huangpu River, the Bund boasts the most spectacular views of Shanghai’s skyline. This waterfront promenade is lined with colonial-era buildings, restaurants, and hotels. As a result, the Bund is an enchanting place for photographers and sightseers alike. After taking a stroll, consider hopping on a Huangpu river cruise for the best views of the cityscape.

The Bund
The Bund is one of the most popular attractions in Shanghai.

2. Yu Garden

Just south of the Bund lies a magnificent display of classical Chinese architecture—the Yu Garden. The Yu Garden is a collection of ponds, rockeries, and shops in a Chinese-style bazaar. This garden dates back to the 1500s, during the golden years of the Ming Dynasty. I also bought my favorite souvenir, an engraved pair of chopsticks, at the bazaar.

Yu Garden is one of the many must-see attractions in Shanghai
Yu Garden

3. Tianzifang and Xintiandi

Located in the French Concession of Shanghai, Tianzifang and Xintiandi are trendy neighborhoods with boutique shops, bars, and restaurants. Tianzifang is known for its bustling narrow streets and Shanghai Shikumen buildings.

Xintiandi, another pedestrian-friendly zone, is a more modern, but equally lively, neighborhood in the heart of Shanghai. Together, both Tianzifang and Xintiandi reflect the city’s French influence.

Tianzifang is one of the top attractions in Shanghai.

4. Shanghai Museum

The Shanghai Museum is China’s premier museum of classical Chinese art. This free museum in the People’s Square offers a glimpse of China’s ancient civilization and rich culture. With over 120,000 historical artifacts—including ancient sculptures, paintings, and bronzeware—the Shanghai Museum is a must-visit in Shanghai!

Shanghai Museum is one of the premier attractions in the center of Shanghai
Shanghai Museum, People’s Square

5. Oriental Pearl Tower

The Oriental Pearl Radio & Television Tower is the most iconic structure of Shanghai’s skyline. Standing 1,535 feet (468 meters) tall, this tower serves as a broadcasting center, observation deck, and hotel. If you wish to visit the Oriental Pearl Tower observation decks, I strongly recommend booking online in advance.

Oriental Pearl Tower
Oriental Pearl Tower

6. Jing’an Temple

The Jing’an Temple is a Buddhist temple complex built nearly 800 years ago. Inside, you will find traditional Chinese structures, white jaded halls, and monks that bring the temple to life. It also has the largest sitting jade Buddha statue in China (fun fact).

Surrounded by luxury shopping malls and skyscrapers, this historic temple stands as a sharp contrast to the modern and bustling city.

Jing'an Temple
Jing’an Temple provides a stark contrast from the ultra-modern buildings surrounding it.

7. Nanjing Road

Nanjing Road is the main pedestrian street in Shanghai and one of the busiest shopping streets in the world. Spanning 3 miles (5 kilometers) between the Jing’an District and the Bund, Nanjing Road contains hundreds of high-end shops, hotels, and restaurants. This street is also home to several historic shops tracing back to the Qing Dynasty— including clock, medicine, and jewelry boutiques.

Words of advice: this street can be extremely packed, especially during holidays and weekends. If you wish to avoid the crowds, I recommend visiting during lunchtime (noon to 1pm).

Nanjing Road
Rain or shine, Nanjing Road is a bustling commercial center.

Shanghai is truly a state-of-the-art city

Contrary to Western perceptions from decades past, China is not merely a nation of remote villages traversed by three-wheeled carts. Shanghai is a modern, innovative, and bustling city.

With so many unique cultural, commercial, and cosmopolitan elements, Shanghai is a wonderful place for locals, expats, and tourists alike. During my recent trip, I was enthralled by the interesting attractions and lively neighborhoods that define this city. Shanghai is certainly a city that the Chinese people can be proud of.

Nanjing Road is one of the most popular attractions in Shanghai
Nanjing Road comes to life at night.

China travel tips and advice

  • Choosing a Tour Operator: China is not particularly a backpacking or do-it-yourself type of destination. As such, I recommend booking your trip through a tour company or travel agency that specializes in China. Remote Lands is a top provider of luxury travel in Asia, and curates excellent itineraries for travelers seeking to experience China’s culture and charm.
  • Processing Your Visa in Advance: Be sure to refer to the Chinese Embassy and consulate websites for visa information and requirements. I recommend utilizing a visa processing service in order to ensure reliable and timely processing. In order to obtain a 10-year visa, I went through Orient Destinations, an efficient and trustworthy agency that is a registered visa agent by the New York Chinese Consulate.
  • Planning Your Itinerary: For first time visitors to China, most travel experts will recommend that you visit Shanghai, Beijing, and Xi’an. Each of these destinations contain established tourism industries, and are safe and easily accessible.
Yu Garden Bazaar is one of the top attractions in Shanghai
Yu Garden is one of the top attractions in the heart of Shanghai.

Learning a Few Key Phrases:

Just like in any foreign country, it’s important to come equipped with some basic understanding of the language. Below are 5 key phrases used for basic greetings, questions, and, of course, bartering:

  • Nǐ hǎoHello
  • Xiè xièThank you
  • Nǐ huì shuō yīng yǔ ma?Do you speak English?
  • Duō shao qián?How much is this?
  • Tài guileToo expensive

Last advice for your trip to China: soak it all in

China is a fascinating country with a rich culture and heritage. With its civilization dating back over 3,500 years, China has the longest continuous history of any country in the world. Be sure to take lots of pictures, and also live in the moment by soaking in the remarkable culture and scenery.

Visiting Shanghai anytime soon? Check out this awesome video guide of Shanghai!

To follow my journey through Europe and around the world, feel free to connect with me on Instagram: @Global.Viewpoint!

Happy Travels! -Jon

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Nishi July 24, 2020 - 06:13

Wow looks amazing awesome attractions in Shanghai. Such a great collection will be very useful for travelers. Thanks for sharing!

Global Viewpoint July 26, 2020 - 15:26

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the article 🙂


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