With celebrated titles like “the Paris of the East”, “the Magic City”, Shanghai shows amazing city sights like other metropolis, but is more famous for its unique charms of blended cultures. Your trip to Shanghai will be diverse and memorable for the city is brimming with lots of fun things to do. You can appreciate awe-inspiring skyline to encounter its modernization, explore cultural fusion along the Bund and Former French Concession, admire traditional culture in Yu Garden and ancient temples, trace back to old China in Shanghai Museum, experience local life and flavor in Tianzifang, Xintiandi, spend wonderful nightlife by taking a Huangpu River Cruise, watching an Acrobatic Show, produce joyous family time in Disneyland, etc. Loads of attractions will present Shanghai’s different looks and unusual fascination. China Discovery here carefully select Top 16 Shanghai Things to Do to help you see, feel, listen and taste Shanghai efficiently, and have a glimpse of Shanghai’s past, see what’s on the horizon, and get a blueprint of Shanghai’s future!
Amazing Shanghai Skyline in the Daytime
Night View of Lujiazui Skyscrapers
Shanghai is the biggest and most developed city in China which is wildly recognized as the best display of China’s booming economy. In a surprisingly short time, nearly 1,000 high building rises above the city, ranking the highest number in China and the fifth city in the world with the most skyscrapers taller than 150 m (after Hong Kong, Shenzhen, New York, Dubai). These iconic edifices not only define Shanghai’s amazing modernization achievements, but also sketch a sublime skyline inspiring numerous photographers. The most eye-catching Shanghai skyline lies in Lujiazui, opposite the Bund, where four iconic towers rear high into the sky. They are Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower (468 m/1,535 ft), Shanghai Tower (632 m/2,073 ft), Shanghai World Financial Center (492 m/1,614 ft) and Jinmao Tower (421 m/1,381 ft). The best place to spot the panoramic view of the four skyscrapers is the riverside viewing platform along the Bund. All travelers to Shanghai take good photos here as landmark check-in. Buildings with colorful lights shows are dazzling when reflected on the river.
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Check Shanghai Skyline to know more imposing skyscrapers in Shanghai.
A Row of Europen-style Historical Buildings along the Bund
Night Scenery of the Bund
Stretching 1.5 km along the bank of the Huangu River from the Waibaidu Bridge, the Bund is the No.1 must-visit and most famous landmark in Shanghai. Used as a towpath over one hundred years ago, now this site is world known as the home to 52 early 20th century European historical buildings of various western classical and modern styles and a proof of Shanghai’s open and inclusive tenet of global cultures. In the late Qing Dynasty, dozens of foreign banks and Chinese banks had been build in the Bund, making it an influential city financial center and the “Eastern Wall Street”. You can walk around the Bund in day and night, enjoy a rich exhibition of well-preserved western architectures of Anglo-classic and Renaissance, Gothic, Baroque, Eclectic, etc., and learn the prominent financial history of Shanghai, compare the historical and modern buildings on two banks. Lots of excellent bars, cafés, restaurants, hotels and high-end brands and shops can be found in this area. In the morning, local morning exercises, like Tai Chi is a nice scene to seize the local lifestyle and when night falls, bustling and hustling life stages on.
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Traditional Architecture above the Water
Yu Garden's Lantern Show during Chinese New Year
Located in the old town of Shanghai, next to the City God Temple (Chenghuang Temple), Yu Garden is one of Shanghai’s most historical and famous tourist site. Built in Ming Dynasty by a government official for his parents, Yu Garden, more than 400-year-old, has been reconstructed to be a large beautiful Chinese classical garden comprised of well-laid-out ancient halls, towers, pavilions, vivid rockeries, corridors, delicate carvings, unique sculptures, kois filled ponds, old trees, etc. It’s worth a walk around, appreciating the artistic traditional architecture and history. Outside area is the busy Yuyuan Bazaar for local snacks and souvenirs. The garden is more beautiful when night lights and Chinese lamps on, especially during the annual Chinese New Year, many festival decorations and lanterns set all over the garden. As a popular site for international and local tourist, it’s very crowded on weekends, so weekday visit in early morning is highly advised.
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Plane Tree-lined Boulevard alongside Western-style Architecture
Wukang Mansion - Iconic Landmark of Former French Concession
Former French Concession is one of the most favorite sights among international travelers and local residents. It was the oldest, largest and most prosperous foreign concession in Shanghai during the mid-19th century and early 20th century. Today, this huge living block has been transformed into a prestigious and featured historical area with great quantities of old French-style houses, interesting buttonwood tree-lined streets, excellent restaurants of different regional flavors, lovely bars, coffe shops, boutiques, trendy galleries and studios. Taking a walking tour around in this beautiful district with a guide, you can visit massive outstanding apartments, like Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen, Wukang Mansion (Normandie Apartment), Sinan Mansions, spend an aimless relaxing time and deeply feel the ambience of “Paris of the East” of Shanghai. Xintianzi, Tianzifang and Fuxing Park are within walking distance.
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Cultural Exhibitions in Shanghai Museum
Da Ke Ding - the Treasure of Shanghai Museum
Shanghai Museum situated on the People’s Square, city center is China’s first modern museum and one of the best museums. It is a big treasury with an abundant collection of nearly one million of cultural relics, illustrating splendid Chinese history and art. The most unique exhibits are the bronzes, potteries, paintings and calligraphy. The museum’s external appearance is a common example of ancient Chinese philosophy - “round sky, square earth”. Though Shanghai is a young city, this place is filled with history. Just reserve free admission online in advance, you and your friends, family, especially the kids can closely see various fantastic traditional artifacts. The must-see highlights of the collections include Da Ke Ding (bronze food vessel from the Western Zhou Dynasty about 3,000 year ago), Bianzhong (ancient Chinese musical instrument) of Marquis Su of Jin, etc. Ancient jades, seals, furniture and coins are also well worth seeing.
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Check Top Shanghai Museums to know more interesting and educational museums in Shanghai.
Mazy Lanes in Tianzifang
Enjoy A Leisure Time in Xintiandi
Tianzifang and Xintiandi are hot spots for local expats to relax, shop, drink and eat. They are both reconstituted local neighborhoods showing the perfect combination of the Eastern and Western cultures, modern vibe imbued in historical sites.
Used to be a narrow alley lined with local residences, Tianzifang now has expanded to be an arts and crafts enclave where gathers lots of creative stores, little bars, souvenir & food shops. You can spend a few hours roaming around with the crowd, taste local snacks, hunt for lovely gifts. The fun part is you will not know what is around the next corner. Xintiandi within 1.5 km, 20 minutes’ walking distance, is another extraordinary community composing traditional Shikumen architectures and modern buildings. Rated as the most representative and characteristic Shanghainese houses, the Shikumen architectures are precious legacies that reflects Shanghai’s history and residential culture. Xintiandi still has a bunch of modern fancy malls, good-looking cafes, bars, restaurants, offering great chances for a leisurely afternoon. You may choose one place to go since they share some similarities. Tianzifang is more lively because some locals still live there while Xintiandi is with strong petit bourgeoisie sentiments.
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Shanghai Maglev Train
Travelers were Excited about the World's Fastest Train Ride
At present, Maglev Train is only available in Japan, South Korea and China across the world. Shanghai Maglev Train with a top speed of 431 km/h (267.8 mi) is the first commercial Maglev line in the world and the fastest one. It catches the global attention as being the fastest land transportation vehicle and a prominent scientific and technological achievement. During your Shanghai tour, don’t skip the Maglev Train different from any other high speed train travel in China. You can truly feel the flying speed when transferring from Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) and the downtown area, for the Maglev Train cuts down the 30-km-long journey into just 8 minutes.
Learn more about Shanghai Maglev Train map, stations, ticket and interesting facts & news.
474 M High Glass Walkway in World Financial Center
Nearby Skyscrapers Seen from the Top of Shanghai Tower
Going up a supertall skyscraper to see Shanghai city from the air is another must do for first-time travelers. Besides, you can know what’s inside these super-high buildings. The best three candidates are Shanghai Oriental Tower, Shanghai Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center. Night view from the top is more impressive for good pictures.
Oriental Pearl Tower, a famous landmark of Shanghai, is the lowest among the three towers, but still offers an amazing view of the city and many nice cafes, exhibitions, shops, shows and restaurants, including Asia’s largest sky revolving restaurant. In Sapce Capsule, the highest observation deck at 351 m high, you can feel the magic charm of the universe, and from the 263-meter-high Sightseeing Galleria, you can overlook the city stretching along the Huangpu River, the Bund in the front and other high-rises in the left.
Shanghai Tower, often nicknamed an eggbeater for its shape, is the highest building in China and the second tallest building in the world. You can take the world’s fastest sightseeing elevator at a record-breaking speed of 18 m/s and get up to the 118th floor, the highest viewing platform (height: 546 m) within the tower and the highest point of Shanghai city. A majestic panoramic view of Shanghai city and all ground buildings will unfold under your feet. On the 125th floor, you can see a 1000-ton damper stabilizing the tower, know its high-tech operating system. Moreover, Exhibition hall at basement introduces worldwide skyscrapers and 4D music and audio-visual feast are available at this sky city.
Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC), is the world’s 12th tallest building. There are three observation platforms on the 94th floor Sky Arena (423 m), 97th (439 m) and 100th floor (474 m) Sky Walk. At the Sky Arena, you can enjoy photo service, coffee and buy souvenirs and an aerial view of Shanghai. Huge glass windows and hanging walkways at heights offer you heart-accelerated experience at upper floors. Undoubtedly, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime journey for both the kids and adults.
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Meet Most Famous Disney Characters - Mickey and His Friends
Disney Stage Show - Frozen A Sing-along Celebration
Shanghai Disney Resort is Asia’s largest Disney resort park and a wonderful place to create happy hours for families and couples. The theme park blends a great many typical Disney entertainments and some Chinese cultural elements, letting visitors of all ages realize a real fairyland journey. You will meet Mickey, Donald Duck and other classic characters, step into fancy Disney Castle and different fairy scenes, adventure on different thrilling rides and projects, enjoy beautiful firework shows, indulge in the cheerful atmosphere. Prepare a full day for the exciting magic tour in the 7 themed lands - Mickey Avenue, Adventure Isle, Disney & Pixar Toy Story Land, Fantasyland, Gardens of Imagination, Tomorrowland, Treasure Cove. Soaring over the Horizon, The Tron ride are must-tries and night firework shows is incredible. Disneytown has places for shopping and dinning and the park owns themed hotels for overnight accommodation. Better download a Disney App to know the ticket information and get the fast pass for saving time on waiting.
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For more family travel ideas and activities in Shanghai, please visit Top Family-friendly Things to Do in Shanghai.
The Quaint & Charming Zhujiajiao Water Town
Take a Boat Trip in Zhujiajiao Water Town
After witnessing modern city bustling, Zhujiajiao Water Town is a charming old town to close to nature and away from the huge crowds. Located about 1 hour’s drive from the downtown, it is a hidden gem located highly acclaimed as the “Venice of Shanghai” with well-preserved buildings and streets. Rivers criss-cross through the town, thousands of Ming & Qing Dynasty dwellings, ancient bridges, snack vendors lined along the winding streets, locals row above the waterway, tourists walk on the riverside footpath, drawing a secluded world frequently described in Chinese ink painting. When walking around, you can visit Fangsheng Bridge, Baoguo Temple, mansion for the former rich, gardens, lanes and other ancient spots to sense the local and serene aura. A boat trip adds more fun after some pleasant walking. If time allows, China Discovery can arrange a side trip to Tongli, Zhouzhuang Water Towns in Suzhou and Wuzhen, Xitang Water Towns in Hangzhou for you.
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Take a Huangpu River Night Cruise to View Dazzling Cityscape
Enjoy a Huangpu River Cruise Ride during the Day
Huangpu River is the symbolic river of Shanghai, dividing the city into Pudong and Puxi. The essence of Shanghai cityscape are displayed thoroughly along the banks. Cruising on Huangpu River, whether in daytime or at night, is one of the best ways to grab the marvellous riverside skyline and perfect mixed cultures. A Huangpu River Night Cruise is more recommended, because you can see exotic historical buildings and modern skyscrapers standing at each side, grand bridges across the river, all decorated with beautiful lights, drawing dazzling reflections on the water. The Bund on one side mesmerizes with a sense of nostalgia, and on the other side, Pudong’s glitzy, cutting-edge skyline charms like never before, giving you a feeling of contrast of old and new Shanghai. When on board, you can relax, take good pictures of the fabulous riverbank scenery, refresh yourself in the coolness and breeze, figure out why Shanghai is called a sleepless “Magic City”.
Cruise Route: Shiliupu Wharf - Binjiang Road - Lujiazui - Shanghai Tower - World Financial Center - Jinmao Tower - Oriental Pearl Tower - Qinhuangdao Wharf - Waibaidu Bridge - Monument to the People's Heroes - The Bund - back to the wharf
Learn more about Huangpu River Cruise operational route, docks, ticket.
Elegant Jade Buddha Worshiped in Jade Buddha Temple
Get away from the Urban Bustle
For Buddhists, Buddhist followers or Buddhist cultural fans, Shanghai possesses more than 10 Buddhist shrines for you to worship and absent from the metropolis clamor. Jade Buddha Temple with the highest reputation is worthy of an exploration. It is named after the Jade Buddha sculptures enshrined inside. You will see many ancient style architectures lying amid stylish modern buildings, an elegant and exquisite reclining Jade Buddha and a treasured sitting Jade Buddha brought from Burma by an eminent monk of Mount Putuo over 120 years ago. Our local tour guide will explain the history to you. The most rare point is that the settings and vibe will help you settle down quickly and soak a mind peace. If you’re quite interested in Buddhist culture, we also recommend you Longhua Temple, the oldest and largest Buddhist temple of Shanghai and Jing’an Temple near West Nanjing Road.
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Go Shopping in Nanjing Road
Busy Nanjing Road in the Evening
Nanjing Road, the oldest commercial street of the city, is the most touristy shopping area in Shanghai and the best showcase of its commercial prosperity. Praised as the “Fifth Avenue” in China, it ranks the longest shopping block in the world with a length of 5.5 km. Actually, Nanjing Road consists of two streets, East Nanjing Road (南京东路) and West Nanjing Road (南京西路). Many famous brands, nice shopping malls and western style architectures, restaurants stands at both sides of East Nanjing Road. Thus, you can feel the vibrant modern Shanghai and acclimatize yourself to the urban exploration. Nanjing Road pedestrian mall is the center where you can see lots of Shanghai’s time-honoured large departments and brands. Following the surprisingly pedestrian volume, you can take a walk, eat snacks and visit China’s biggest App Store and walk all the way to the Bund. West Nanjing Road, connects Jing’an Park and People’s Park and retains more foreign historical buildings. Taking a walking here you can step into old Shanghai during the mid-19th century and thousands of fashionable high-end brands, some world’s largest flagship stores and shopping malls. In this paradise for shoppers, you fully enjoy shopping fun between local souvenirs and luxury stuffs.
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Space Motorcycles and Aerial Acrobatics
Sea Lions Performance in Shanghai Circus World
Want to chill out after sightseeing and walking during the day? Then, watching acrobatic show is always a magic touch for your nightlife in Shanghai! Shanghai Circus World, a large indoor circus, is a hot recreation spot where you can enjoy preeminent acrobatic and circus performances. Different skillful and funny shows will definitely make you and your children roll in the aisles. During the 2 hours’ show, you can see varied thrilling acrobatics, amusing clowns, horse riding, well-trained animal stars like tiger, bear and more awesome acting. The Beautiful stage and wonderful skills will win an endless stream of laughter and applause, and bring you into a joyful world forgetting the time. Top highlights involve “balls of death” acts, chair balancing, hula-hoops, juggling of benches, walking in the air and other breathtaking techniques.
Delicious Shengjianbao - Popular Snack in Shanghai
Mouth-watering Hongshaorou (Red Braised Pork)
As a top international destination, Shanghai assembles diverse culinary styles of worldwide countries and the local. When traveling in Shanghai, you can easily satisfy your tastebuds from exquisite Michelin-starred restaurant to delicious street snacks. To better understand the food culture and complete your Shanghai travel, Shanghai Cuisine is a must-try. Shanghai Cuisine, or called Hu Cuisine, Benbang Cuisine, is one of China’s popular local cuisine style and a crucial part of the traditional food culture in Jiangnan area (the southern Yangtze River). Thick oil, red sauce, moderate tasty in original flavor are the main features. The common cooking method is braising, stewing and skillful usage of sugar. There are lots of street food shops and restaurants around the Bund, Yu Garden, Former French Concession and other major sites you can sample different delicacies. Foodies can’t miss classic traditional dishes like Hongshaorou (Red Braised Pork), Squirrel-shaped Mandarin Fish, Steamed Hairy Crab. Most recommended snacks are Xiaolongbao (Steamed Buns), Soup Dumplings, Shengjianbao (Pan-fried Pork Buns), Shaomai (a dim sum), Huangyumian (Yellow Croaker Noodle Soup), wonton.
Find more delicious local snacks and dishes in Popular Shanghai Food & Recommended Restaurants.
Fuxing Park with Extensive Virescence
Relaxing Afternoon in Fuxing Park
Catching a glimpse of local life makes your Shanghai travel more interesting and deepen your understanding of its authentic culture. The city parks are the best places to watch local daily routine and lifestyle. Fuxing Park, once the largest park of Shanghai, is the most recommended site to go. Located near Xintiandi in Former French Concession, it is the only well-reserved park of French classical style and a masterpiece with the western and Chinese garden features. You can take a city break here, view nice ponds, meandering paths flanked by ancient trees, flowers, lawns and comfortable green space, and different local activities here, including morning exercises, family stroll, mini music shows and dances, etc. Time will slow down as if you are not an outside but also a local and a part of the city.
Visit Top Shanghai Parks to find more popular local city parks in Shanghai.
How to Get to Shanghai: You can fly to Shanghai directly from Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, London, Los Angeles & many overseas countries (regions) and almost all major Chinese cities, like Beijing, Xian; or take high speed bullet train to Shanghai from domestic cities.
Best Time to Visit Shanghai: March to May (in spring) & September to November (in autumn), because these periods offer beautiful nature scenery and comfortable weather for outdoor sightseeing and activities.
Top Attractions to Visit in Shanghai: The Bund, Lujiazui Skyscrapers, Yu Garden, Shanghai Museum, French Concession, Shanghai Disney Resort…
Best known as an international popular tourist destination, Shanghai perfectly preserves mixed culture of the western and eastern. The duration and theme of your Shanghai tour can be flexibly arranged based on your time and interests. Usually, tourists spend 2 days on sightseeing the most famous landmarks, including the Bund, Yu Garden, skyscrapers like Shanghai Tower, World Financial Center, Former French Concession, Shanghai Museum, etc. With one extra day, you can enjoy family fun in Disneyland Park or visit Zhujiajiao Water Town in the suburb. Don't miss the Shanghai Maglev Train, wonderful nightlife and Shanghai Cuisine.
Travel Shanghai with Hangzhou Suzhou, More Nearby Destinations
Convenient transportation makes it quite efficient and popular to make day trips from Shanghai to Hangzhou, Suzhou, and longer vacation in Huangshan Mountain, Nanjing, Mount Jiuhua and other places in surrounding areas. So you can visit West Lake and learn Chinese tea culture in Hangzhou, marvel at tasteful classical gardens and witness Chinese silk productive process. Splendid rocky mountains with exotic pine trees are highlights in Huangshan Mountain.
Travel Shanghai with Beijing, Xian & More China Destinations
Beijing Xian Shanghai are golden triangle cities often visited together for a week holiday. You can use 3 days to visit the Great Wall and major iconic spots like Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven in Beijing, and leave 2 days for fulfilling your Terracotta Warriors tour in Xian. With more time, you can extend the trip from Shanghai to Zhangjiajie, Guilin, Chengdu, Yunnan, Silk Road, Tibet and more phenomenal destinations to enrich your China discovery. (more top China tours from Shanghai >>)
As a leading travel agency in China which dedicates to offering high-quality China tours, China Discovery has helped thousands of travelers enjoy their trips to Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, etc., in China. Travel with us, you can enjoy worry-free tour services as well as well-organized itineraries, even our assistance of Chinese Visa application, convenient airport/train station pick-up & drop-off and transfer between all scenic spots, knowledgeable tour guide, safe & licensed private vehicle, satisfactory accommodation and dining and so on. You are free to choose from our most popular Shanghai tour packages or contact us to design a memorable holiday in Shanghai, China.
Top 3 Shanghai tours chosen by most customers to explore Shanghai in the best way. Check the detailed itinerary, or tailor your own trip now with us.
Shanghai / Hangzhou / Suzhou / Shanghai
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