Shanghai is located in the south estuary of the Yangtze River in China east coast, and borders on Jiangsu to the north and west, Zhejiang to the south. Shanghai, called Hu or Shen in short, is the largest and most developed and populated city of China. The city has written a remarkable economic legend from a small shabby fishing village to a great international metropolis. With a fascinating mixture of the East and West, Shanghai is reputed as the “Oriental Pearl” and the “Paris of the East” by the world. It’s the best showcase of China’s reform and opening-up achievement. Based on its good location, Shanghai is often served as a popular gateway to China and a must-visit destination for worldwide travelers.
As a renowned Chinese saying goes, Xian is the best place to trace back to ancient China of 3,000 years ago, Beijing is ideal for exploring China 1,000 years ago while century-old history was best staged in Shanghai. After be opened as a treaty port during the late Qing Dynasty in the mid-19th century, Shanghai grew amazing and developed as a vital harbor city and window connecting China and the world. Shanghai is a city of action, not ideas. Now the city is a world financial center with unpredictable vitality and distinctive charm, cutting-edge trends and advances lie everywhere. The Bund is the epitome of Shanghai’s history. Taking a stroll along the Bund and around, you’ll experience Shanghai’s yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Why Visit Shanghai?
A Perfect Blend of the Western & Eastern culture - Shanghai is a city with more than one face - modern and traditional, eastern and western. A real Shanghai discovery must cover them all. You be amazed by the excellent coexistence of the western and eastern culture in the Bund, Former French Concession, where European featured historical buildings has survived among classical Chinese gardens, ancient Buddhist temples, water towns. It’s interesting to witness the traditional legacy embraced by rising modern skyscrapers. Traditional and snazzy lifestyle naturally live in great harmony in Shanghai.
Incredible Modern Skyline - Shanghai is a photogenic target that never lacks of inspirations and good shots. The blooming economy and leading position in science and technology has made Shanghai super first-tier city in Shanghai whose wealth even exceeds that of Beijing and any other Chinese cities. Shanghai is home to some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers and the most phenomenal skyline belongs to the tall building group in Lujiazui, where the world’s 2nd tallest building - Shanghai Tower (623-m-high) stands. You can get a wide vision of the skyline from the Bund, take a Huangpu River Cruise to view them on the bank, or get up inside and learn interior construct and enjoy a spectacular bird’s view of Shanghai city.
Diverse Traditional Culture - Shanghai has done well in retaining traditional culture and history in its modernization. Historical sites dotted in Shanghai old town can bring you to travel across time and space and appreciate the ancient architectures, wisdom and faith at close quarters. Yu Garden, a Ming Dynasty private garden is regarded as a miniature of Suzhou classical garden. Jade Buddha Temple, Jing’an Temple and Longhua Temple are influential Buddhist shrines with delicate buildings. City God Temple keeps localized Taoist culture. These cultural sites can present you the old Shanghai in a mind-blowing visit.
A Popular Gateway City to China - The geographical advantage not only promotes Shanghai’s economy but also offers great convenience for arrival and transfer to nearby areas. Visitors abroad can get to Shanghai conveniently by flight and land at one of its two international airports, or by international cruise. Meanwhile, it’s very convenient to transfer from Shanghai to Beijing, Xian, Guilin and other top destinations by air and by train. And, Shanghai is the best transfer center in the Yangtze River Delta, who provides fast high speed trains to Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, etc. If you want to visit some best water towns, ancient villages in the Southern China, Shanghai is the best portal for you.
A Bite of Shanghai - Shanghai Cuisine, or Hu Cuisine, Benbang Cuisine, is a popular culinary style of Chinese food. It gains popularity via its original, tasty flavor and skillful use of thick oil and red sauce. Compared with the upscale international dishes, the local Shanghai food, especially the local snacks like Shengjianbao, Tangbao, Shaomai and Hongshaorou and other typical dishes can open up a new world for you to taste.
Shanghai Visa-free Travel News: From Jan. 30, 2016, traveler from 53 countries could travel among Shanghai, Jiangsu Province (Suzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi included) and Zhejiang Province (Hangzhou, Ningbo included) for 144 hours (6 days) without visa. Please check detailed requirements and application tips in Shanghai 144 Hours Visa-Free Transit and enjoy best Shanghai layover tours.
Top Attractions to Visit in Shanghai
No matter you want to check in top landmarks to witness the prosperous metropolis, or like to discover its traditional culture and history, there are plenty of places you can visit in Shanghai, including modern skyscrapers, historical sites, shopping and nightlife, ancient garden, temple, water towns, Disneyland, etc. Most tourist attractions of Shanghai are located in the downtown area, except Shanghai Disney Resort in the southeast suburb and Zhujiajiao Water Town in the southwest outskirt. Specifically, central Shanghai is divided into two parts by the Huangpu River: Puxi (in the west) and Pudong (in the east). Shanghai’s historical sites are clustered in Puxi where the old Shanghai is often explored. Pudong is the financial district where stands the famous Shanghai skyline. Below are top ranking must-visits of Shanghai.
Shanghai attractions by categories:
>> Popular Shanghai Attractions / Shanghai Top Places to Visit
>> Top Shanghai Museum / Top Shanghai Parks / Best Shanghai Skyline
The Bund (Wai Tan)
Enter into “An Exhibition of International Architecture” by viewing 52 buildings with various styles and witness the breathtaking modern skyline of Shanghai.
Yu Garden & Bazaar
Over 400-year-old Yu Garden is regarded as Shanghai’s most popular historical site showing classical Chinese garden architecture and abundant traditional culture.
Former French Concession
Old foreign concession has been well-preserved with massive early 20th century western-style mansions. Stroll around to feel the exotic flavor and leisure time.
World Financial Center (SWFC)
With a height of 492 m, the tower is the 12th tallest building in the world. The 474-m-high glass bridge offers you a thrilling skywalk and a panoramic view of Shanghai city.
The-632-m-high tower is the tallest skyscraper in China & the second in the world. Take the world’s fast elevator, you can go up to 546-m-high observation deck to get a bird’s eye view of the entire city.
Reputed as the one of the best national museums, the museum presents remarkable ancient Chinese arts through rich collections of the bronze, ceramics, paintings, calligraphic works...
Urban Planning Exhibition Center
The center in the People’s Square is an interesting palace to see the historical change, present situation and the future plan in Shanghai from many aspects.
Reconstructed on the old neighborhood, Tianzifang is a block of old lanes of cultural and artistic features where you can enjoy the daily life of the Shanghainese and modern flavor of local snacks, lovely bars, souvenir shops.
Xintiandi, combining traditional Shikumen buildings and stylish domain, is a stylish landmark of Shanghai, which offers a greater concentration of leisurely lifestyle, chic dining and fashion.
Shanghai Disney Resort
The biggest Disneyland Park in China and Asia! Enjoy the cheerful Disney characters, dream-like castles, fairyland stages and exciting rides to create a memorable trip memory with your family and children.
Oriental Pearl Tower
As a vital landmark in Shanghai standing on the shore of Huangpu River, the Oriental Pearl Tower is a great place to enjoy the grand panorama of Shanghai and to have a wonderful time with excitement.
Jade Buddha Temple
It's a time-honored Buddhist temple serenely situated in the bustling Shanghai that is most famous for the two elegant ancient Jade Buddha statues - one is a sitting Jade Buddha and the other is the reclining Jade Buddha.
Zhujiajiao Ancient Town
Reputed as "Venice of Shanghai", the town is a 1700-year-old town with old streets, bridges, Ming-dynasty architectures, old Buddhist and Taoist sites. An ideal place to escape from the city bustle and experience old lifestyle.
It is the oldest shopping street in Shanghai that has been extended to the Bund. People call it a “Paradise for Shoppers” for it opens lots of traditional brands and notable flagship stores.
City God Temple
Named for enshrining the sacred Taoist figure - City God of the city, the temple is a historical site near Yu Garden. You can explore Taoist architecture, culture and history of Shanghai here.
Shanghai Circus World
This place is a huge recreational venue featuring in unique designed building and various kinds of acrobatic shows. The fantastic and jaw-dropping air acting and animal performances can delight both children and adults.
Top Featured Activities in Shanghai
There are so many great things to do in Shanghai, such as sightsee the modern, foreign-style and traditional architectures, soak up traditional culture in garden and museum, treat yourself with shopping fun, spend a relaxing walking tour in Former French Concession, enjoy a leisurely afternoon in an excellent cafe or restaurant, watch dazzling city night view by a Huangpu River Cruise, sample popular Shanghai food, immerse in undisturbed atmosphere in ancient temples and water towns, etc. Below are most recommended experiences by insiders to let you see, feel, listen and taste Shanghai with great enjoyment.
Find more Shanghai travel inspirations from Top Things to Do in Shanghai & Best Shanghai Nightlife Ideas.
Tourists take photos to memorize each trip and in Shanghai, the most representative photo must be the symbolic skyscrapers in Lujiazui. You can enjoy a full vision of the lining supertall structures from the Bund or ascend up to the viewing platform of hundreds of meters high, catch an amazing wide-ranging view of the whole city sprawling along the Huangpu River.
Feel The West Meets the East
The Bund is the best exhibit of Shanghai’s mixed culture of the West and the East. You can see lining well-maintained architecture of various styles. They tell Shanghai’s financial history, and witness the opening of Shanghai and extraordinary economic growth. Architecture geeks can appreciate the buildings and many people stroll along the walkway and view the distinct contrast on the banks.
Explore the Old Shanghai
Though Shanghai is most known as a modern city, Shanghai old town gathers many places of interest you can look back its ancient situation and cultural relics. You can visit Yu Garden to admire traditional garden of exquisitely-laid out pavilions, halls, towers with artistic natural scenery, see fine temple complex and Buddhist sculptures in Jade Buddha Temple and City God Temple.
Enjoy A Leisure Time in Stylish Restaurants or Cafes
Undeniably, Shanghai has established a tony coffee society than any other cities in China. And it’s easy to find nice bars, culinary of different styles in the Former French Concession, the most trendy block of Shanghai. Tired of walking? Or just want a relaxing outdoor dining, coffee time? Go to Xintiandi or Tianxifang, they has plenty of good choices!
Take A Huangpu River Night Cruise
Huangpu River is the “Mother River” of Shanghai. Taking a Huangpu River Cruise you can free your foot on a relaxed cruise journey. The night view is more impressive and recommended than that during the daytime, because you can see the skyscrapers and historical sites all lighted up by colorful lights, feel the comfortable night breeze blowing on your face.
Encounter the Romantic Shanghai with Ancient Town
After meeting the “hard’ Shanghai, you can visit Zhujiajiao Water Town to feel the “soft” Shanghai. You can walk through stone-paved paths, ancient bridges and residential buildings, temples to slow down and imagine the traditional waterway transport and local life scenes there. Taking an boat ride on the narrow rivers to add more pleasure.
Have Family Fun in Disneyland
Shanghai Disney Resort is where your fairyland dream will come true. Family travelers love to spend 1 or 2 days enjoying a happy trip with the kids and beloved. Once stepping into the entrance, you get into a real Magic World where you can closely see the Mickey and other famous figures, experience exciting rides and splendid live performance & firework shows.
Watch an Incredible Acrobatic Show
Shanghai Circus Wold opens entertaining shows combining animal stars, hilarious clowns, aerial acrobatics and other laughable programs. It’s highly suggested for family travelers with kids, for you can see human-like behaviors of sea lions, black bears and fantastic shows with international-cooperated musics and stages.
Shop in Nanjing Road and Bustling Malls
Visiting Nanjing Road to fully feel the urban bustle is another must-do in Shanghai. You can walk along the street, see a wide range of stores, traditional local departments and high-end shopping malls. You can buy both international luxury goods and local artifacts and expect huge crowds in this most populous city of China.
Take A Side Trip to Suzhou’s Water Town
Tongli and Zhouhuang are two of China’s finest water towns just 1.5 hours’ ride from Shanghai. Thus, you can conveniently visit one and traverse in well-protected ancient folk houses, gardens, temples that are elegantly linked by winding rivers and ancient bridges and streets, admire the authentic settlement, absorb in the peaceful vibe.
Taste Shanghai Local Snacks & Dishes
When in Shanghai, do as the Shanghainese do. Your Shanghai tour won’t be complete without tasting the local Shanghai Cuisine. In central Shanghai, especially in the Yuyuan Bazaar, Tianzifang, it’s easy to find restaurants for your tastebud. Must-try snacks recommend the Shengjianbao, Guantangbao and Shaomai. Hongshaorou is the favorite dish.
Shanghai Weather & Temperature - Best Time to Go
Shanghai has a subtropic monsoon climate, enjoys generous sunshine and abundant rainfall, and experience four distinct seasons. Its annual average temperature is between 15 ~ 17℃. Being a modern city with less natural sights, Shanghai can be visited all year round. Summer (June to August) is hot and rainy with roughly 60% of the annual total amount. The hottest period of Shanghai happens in July or August, when the daytime temperature rises above 30℃. Shanghai during winter (December to February) is cold, humid. It seldom snows, if has, often occurs in the coldest January and February.
Hence, the ideal times to visit Shanghai are warm spring (March to May) and cool autumn (September to November) with the most comfortable temperature, more sunny days and colorful natural scenery.
Reminder: It’s still a little cold in early March, so better prepare some long-sleeved coat. If you visit Shanghai in summer, take sunscreen, sunglasses and hat for protection. Temperature varies largely between day and night in autumn, so you should dress or carry long-sleeves shirts, sweater and coat. Thick sweater and overcoat are appropriate in winter.
Read more about Shanghai Weather & Best Time to Visit >>
How to Get to Shanghai
No matter Shanghai is your gateway city to China or your final destination before returning home, it is very convenient to get to Shanghai from international cities or major domestic cities.
By Flight:There are two airports in Shanghai - Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airoort (SHA). Shanghai Pudong International Airport, located at 45 km (1 hour’s drive) from central Shanghai, operates more international flights. There are Shanghai Maglev Trains connects the airport and Longyang Road in the southeast suburb. Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, about 20 km (40 minutes’ drive) from the downtown, mainly handles domestic flights between Shanghai and Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Guangzhou, Guilin and other major destinations in China. So, if you plan to fly from/to an overseas country or travel at long-distance in China, taking a flight is the most recommended way.
By (High Speed Bullet) Train: Shanghai has a well-developed high speed train network in China. It has been linked with Beijing, Tianjin, Shandong (Jinan, Qufu, Mount Tai...), Jiangsu (Suzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi...) through China’s busiest high speed railway - Beijing Shanghai High Speed Railway. A high speed bullet train ride (1318-km-long) from Beijing to Shanghai needs 4.5 ~ 6 hours. Meanwhile, Shanghai sends frequent high speed trains to other parts of China daily, including Suzhou (about 30 minutes), Hangzhou (around 1 hour), Huangshan Mountain (2.5 ~ 3.5 hours), Xian (about 6 ~ 9 hours), Guangzhou (7 ~ 8.5 hours), Xiamen (5.5 ~ 6.5 hours), etc.
Both Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station and Shanghai Railway Station are mainly used train stations in Shanghai. Hongqiao Station lies in the west outskirt and runs the most high speed trains while Shanghai Railway Station in the city center close to the Bund departs lots of normal trains, such as the train to Lhasa, Tibet.
Shanghai High Speed Trains |
Shanghai Train Stations
By Cruise: You can get to Shanghai by international cruise from Japan, South Korea or by Yangtze River Cruise from Chongqing and other cities in the upper reaches.
How to Get around Shanghai
As the most developed city in China, Shanghai has built perfect ground transportation for the public to transfer easily. There are multiple transport means you can use to get around Shanghai.
By Maglev Train: Shanghai Maglev Train is the world’s first commercial operational Maglev Train and the fastest train experience. Running at a top speed of 431 km/h, it shortens the 30-km-long journey from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Road to just 8 minutes. No need to worry about the traffic jam anymore.
By Metro: 20 metro lines has expanded across Shanghai. It’s fast and convenient by Shanghai Metro. You can take Metro Line 2 to Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, Hongqiao International Airport, East Nanjing Road, People’s Square, Lujiazui, Pudong International Airport, Jing’an Temple. And, you can get to Shanghai Railway Station and Circus World by Line 1, visit Former French Concession by Line 9 & 1o, reach Shanghai Disneyland by Line 11 and Zhujiajiao Water Town by Line 17.
By Taxi: You can take a cab from the airport/train station/cruise terminal to the downtown. Taxis can be easily found in the city center area. Online car-hailing service has gained popularity in recent years.
By Bus: The city bus is the main transport vehicle for local residents. It’s not a good choice for travelers because it’s quite crowed and time-wasting.
By China Discovery’s Private Transfer: Travelling with China Discovery, you can enjoy worry-free transfer service by a private, clean, comfortable, licensed, non-smoking vehicle when getting around in Shanghai. Therefore, you can save time and enjoy hands-free transfer. If you are interested, please feel free to contact us.
Know more details about Shanghai Transportation Guide >>
Travel from Shanghai to Nearby Destinations
Shanghai to Suzhou: about 100 km (62 mi); about 30 minutes by high speed bullet train, 1 hour by normal train; 1.5 hour by drive.
Shanghai to Hangzhou: about 175 km (109 mi); about 1 hour by high speed bullet train; 2 ~ 4 hours by normal train.
Shanghai to Huangshan: about 420 km (260 mi); 2.5 ~ 3.5 hours by high speed bullet train.
Shanghai to Mount Jiuhua: about 430 km (267 mi); about 1 hour 15 minutes by flight, 3.5 hours by high speed bullet train.
Shanghai to Mount Putuo: about 300 km (186 mi); nearly 1.5 hours by flight & ferry, around 3.5 hours by high speed train & ferry
Shanghai to Nanjing: about 300 km (186 mi); about 1 ~ 2.5 hours by high speed bullet train, 3 ~ 4 hours by normal train
Shanghai Accommodation: Where to Stay
Accommodation choice in Shanghai is plentiful, so you can easily find hotels top luxury brands, modish boutique hotels to budget types. Hotels in the downtown Shanghai close to the Bund and People’s Square is the best accommodation area for most travelers. Because they have perfect location to the Bund, Nanjing Road and offer quick access to lots of excellent restaurants and shopping. Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund is the best-reviewed luxury hotel on Tripadvisor. If you want some voguish hotels, Former French Concession hides many nice hotels, and you can spend wonderful nightlife in that area too. For family travelers, there are Disney themed hotels inside the Shanghai Disney Resort for you to stay overnight. If you want to stay in old town of Shanghai, it’s a good idea to stay in hotels near the Yu Garden. When making a side trip to Zhujiajiao Water Town, you can find a local featured homestay. Hotel next to the train stations or airports are more suitable for layover tourists and those depart early or arrive quite late.
Learn more about the Best Places to Stay & Recommended Shanghai Hotels >>
Useful Shanghai Maps
To help you better understand Shanghai and explore freely, we have collected and made some useful Shanghai maps showing Shanghai’s location, districts, top attractions, transportation system. Check the following Shanghai China Map, Shanghai Flight Map, Shanghai Railway Map to find the best way to get to Shanghai, read Shanghai Attraction Map to organize the places to visit in good order, click Shanghai Metro Map to transfer around Shanghai by subway, etc. All the maps are updated and downloadable. Please feel free to use them when planning your Shanghai tour. For more Shanghai latest maps, please head to 2023 Overall & Detailed Shanghai Maps.
Shanghai China Map
Shanghai Attractions Map
Shanghai Railway Map
Other Destinations near Shanghai
There are some awesome destinations near Shanghai which are well worth your time and exploration. Travelers can visit exquisite Suzhou Gardens in Suzhou, West Lake in Hangzhou, Yellow Mountain with Hongcun, Xidi Ancient Village in Huangshan, also Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing. Discover now!
Other Popular Destinations in China
China is vast and diverse. You can choose your favorite destinations among more than 70 tourist destination and regions, like Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, etc. The following are 4 popular destinations you may get interested in. Check all destinations in China.
Chinese Name: 上海
Chinese Pinyin: shàng hǎi
English IPA: /,ʃæŋ'haɪ/
Area: 6340.5 square kilometers
Population: about 24 million
Language: Mandarin & Shanghai Dialect
Tel Code: 021
Zip Code: 200000
Time Zone: (UTC+8)
City Flower: Michelia Alba
Plan Your Shanghai Tour
You can flexibly arrange a Shanghai itinerary in 1 to 4 days. And, the most classic and popular way is spending 2 days exploring the best highlights of Shanghai in downtown, including the Bund, skyscrapers in Lujiazui, Yu Garden, Shanghai Museum, Former French Concession, etc. To visit Shanghai Disney Resort or Zhujiajiao Water Town in the suburbs, you need an extra day each. According to your time, you can make a short layover tour or an in-depth travel in Shanghai. Different themed tours like biking, family travel can also be customized.
If you have 1 to 2 days more, you can either extend your trip from Shanghai to Suzhou, feel the elegant classical gardens, immerse in the serene ancient water townships and catch a glimpse of the fabulous Chines silk culture; or use 2 days to visit Hangzhou, view the West Lake, old-line Lingyin Temple and learn more about the famous Longjing Tea. It’s quite popular to extend a Hangzhou tour to one of the nearby water towns, like Wuzhen, Xitang for 1 extra day. Taking 5~6 days is enough to cover the essence of Shanghai Suzhou Hangzhou. Nature loves are highly suggested a Huangshan Mountain tour if you fitness and time allows. It needs 3 to 4 more days for a typical hiking trip with nearby World Heritages (Hongcun, Xidi Ancient Viallges...).
For first-time travelers to China, Shanghai, Beijing and Xian are top three must-visit destinations that you can both explore the modern and ancient China. You can take 8 days to travel them all or spare 3 days for Beijing (Great Walls, Forbidden City, etc.) and 2 days for Xian (Terracotta Warriors, Ancient City Wall...). Those who enjoys a long holiday can travel more top destinations in China, such as idyllic Guilin, Avatar World - Zhangjiajie, “Home Town of Giant Panda” - Chengdu, colorful ethnic culture in Yunnan, spectacular Three Gorges on a Yangtze River Cruise, etc.
Travel with China Discovery
We have helped thousands of global travelers enjoy their memorable trips to Shanghai for the past few years. Among them, Lawson's Family from UK enjoyed their 19 days China family vacation with Shanghai with our customized tour package and shared us their memorable travel stories! You can contact us to customize a trip to Shanghai based on your interests, group size, needs, travel time, budget, etc. Travel with China Discovery to create your wonderful Shanghai trip memories!