With a population of around 24 million people, Shanghai is the largest city in China and one of the world’s most populous destinations. The truth is that visitors either love it or hate it. Although you might find it busy and chaotic at first because of the never-ending traffic jams, Shanghai is actually one of the most fun places to visit in East Asia. From admiring the beauty of picturesque botanical gardens and exploring art galleries and world-renowned museums to learning about the local culture through traditional pagodas and ancient temples, there are many amazing things to do in Shanghai.
1. The Bund
Also known as Zhongshan Lu, the Bund is an ideal place to start your Shanghai travel adventure. This charming waterfront promenade that runs along the west bank of the famous Huangpujiang River is a popular destination with both tourists and locals. The area boasts a European feel with some of the finest examples of Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Art Deco, and Renaissance architecture. Most of these European-styled buildings nowadays serve as galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. A stroll along the Bund also allows you to see modern buildings such as the Shanghai Banking Corporation and the Bank of China.
2. Yu Garden
Covering an area of over 20,000 square meters, the Yu Garden is an extraordinary Chinese Garden located right next to the City God Temple in the Old City. Home to attractions such as the Lion Study, Pavilion of Listening to Billows, Sansui Hall, Outer Garden, and the Chamber of the Ten Thousand Flowers, Yuyuan Garden is one of the best places to visit for nature lovers who wish to see cute little pavilions, small ponds, artificial rocks, and miniature mountain ranges.
3. Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Travelers searching for things to do in Padang, Shanghai can head out to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. Towering over Huangpu River, this 468 meters tall structure with 11 structures, three legs, and dozens of observatory decks looks basically like a mixture of the Space Needle in Seattle and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. The best viewpoint is from the amazing Space Module which is the tower’s highest observation deck and has a glass floor. Oriental Pearl TV Tower is also home to the Shanghai Municipal History Museum, a shopping mall, a hotel, and a few restaurants.
4. Shanghai Tower
Looking for things to do in Shanghai alone? Head out to the Shanghai Tower, one of the newest constructions in the city. Open to tourists since 2017, the tower sits 600 meters above the ground and is the world’s second-highest building. The main attraction here is the ‘Top of Shanghai Observatory’, the highest observation deck in the work that offers panoramic views of attractions such as Bund on the west, World Financial Center, and the Jin Mao Tower. Don’t miss the awesome Shanghai Eye exhibition that is located on 125th and 126th floors.
5. Shanghai World Financial Center
No visit to Shanghai is complete without stopping by the Shanghai World Financial Center. Home to everything from shopping malls and conference rooms to hotels and observation decks, this building is Shanghai’s second tallest structure. The 55 meters long viewing gallery is not to be missed, as well as the Park Hyatt Hotel that features nearly 200 rooms and suites. Riding the elevators here is fun, as they are extremely fast and can take you from the first to the top floor with a spend of 10m per second.
6. Nanjing Road
The touristy Nanjing Road in Shanghai is a must-visit destination when exploring China’s most populous city. Whether you wish to go on a shopping spree and browse through shopping malls, department stores, and locally-owned shops or try local cuisine from street food vendors, this pedestrian street that stretches for around six miles offers something for everyone. If you are visiting at night, you’ll have an opportunity to admire hundreds of illuminated lights from brand names and logos.
7. Zhujiajiao Water Town
Located just a short drive from Shanghai in Qingpu District, Zhujiajiao Water Town is an ancient water town that boasts charming waterways, historical buildings, stone pathways, and curved rock bridges. Also known as “The Venice of Shanghai”, it is one of the most romantic places to visit in the region with that special someone. If you wish to enjoy the beauty of small rivers shaded by trees and cute houses that date back to the Ming Dynasty, Zhujiajiao Water Town will impress you in every way.
8. Shanghai Museum
A first-class museum located right on the People’s Square, the Shanghai Museum attracts around 2 million visitors per year and is often compared to European museums such as the Louvre in Paris and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. With a diverse collection of about 1 million artifacts that include everything from bronze works, priceless paintings and ceramics, traditional lacquer furniture, and jade carvings to ornate calligraphy, it’s easy to see why the Shanghai Museum is one of the most popular cultural attractions in China. Want to hear more good news? The museum offers free admission to 8,000 visitors per day.
Tianzifang is a narrow lane-house neighborhood that attracts a large number of tourists visiting Shanghai. If you wish to go shopping in Shanghai, this is definitely the place to be. The area is home to a bunch of boutiques where travelers can score some cool arts and crafts. Most of the shops, studios, galleries, and restaurants are actually locally-owned small businesses, which add to the appeal of Tianzifang. If you’ve had enough of shopping, feel free to admire the beauty of the legacy architecture and traditional Chinese buildings.
10. Shanghai Disneyland Resort
Vacationers visiting Shanghai with their kids should spend the day at the extraordinary Shanghai Disneyland Resort. Opened back in 2016, this is the first Disney theme park in the country. Take your kids to meet their favorite Disney characters, see numerous light and shadow effects, and win some fluffy souvenirs to take back home. Going on the rides is also one of the most popular activities here. In case you get hungry, many fast-food options can be found on-site. There is also a nice museum at the Maglev Longyang Road Station which showcases the history of this amazing train.
11. Century Park
If you wish to escape from the busy central streets of Shanghai, we recommend spending a day at Century Park which is one of the most beautiful parks in the world. An oasis of tranquility, this charming park covers a total of 140 acres and boasts everything from lawns and forests to lakes and gardens. It’s a perfect place to go for families with children and couples on vacation visiting Shanghai. Some of the park’s most popular attractions include Century Flower Bell, Mirror Lake, and High Column Fountain, Rural Field Area, Bird Protection Area, and Woodland Lawn Area.
12. Shanghai Old Street
Home to around 250 stores, Shanghai Old Street is a shopaholic’s paradise. It is also a great place to see how the city looked back in the old days. Thanks to its proximity to attractions like Chenghuang Temple Bazaar and Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai Old Street is one of the most popular areas in the city. Expect to find handicrafts and souvenirs, as well as numerous cultural and entertainment exhibits. Visit the Lao Tong Sheng Food Store and Wu Liang Cai Glass Shop or dine at the popular De Shun restaurant.
13. Shanghai Circus World
Not many places in the world are as amazing as the Shanghai Circus World. See world-famous acrobatic acts and performances that take place three times a week. From spectacular modern lighting, stunning effects, and performances by agile acrobats, there is plenty to look forward to when visiting this superb place. The performances here range from traditional acrobatics and bowl balancing to martial arts, and even motorcycle stunts.
14. Jade Buddha Temple
Located in the Anyuan Lu district, the lovely Jade Buddha Temple is home to two beautiful Shakyamuni statues that were imported from Burma. It’s one of the most peaceful places to visit in the city and there are three main halls and two cute courtyards worth exploring. See the Wentang Main Hall which houses an impressive collection of Buddhist manuscripts and don’t forget to visit the Hall of the Great Hero where Buddhas of the Three Ages and dozens of Luohan figures can be found.
15. Huangpu River Cruise
Embark on a memorable cruise along the Huangpu River and discover why this is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Shanghai. Passengers can board the spacious shop and enjoy spectacular views of dozens of buildings from the water. There are many tours to choose from. Whether you wish to go on a romantic evening cruise, enjoy a short 30-minute boat trip, or join a 4-hour cruise with delicious meals, going on a Huangpu River Cruise is one of the must-have experiences while staying in Shanghai.
Want to hop on the world’s fastest train? Operating since 2002, Shanghai Maglev runs from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Rd. Station and the journey takes around 8 minutes covering the distance of 30 km. Maglev can reach the speed of 431 km per hour and uses the magnetic levitation technology. This modern and comfortable train also boasts many amenities ranging from air conditioning that can be controlled by passengers to LCD screens that indicate the speed of the train.