Top 10 Things to Do in Shanghai

Sichuan Road, Shanghai
Sichuan Road, Shanghai | © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Jenna Farmer
4 July 2019

As it’s one of China’s biggest and most bustling cities, planning a trip to Shanghai can be a tad overwhelming. Yet stick to this list and you’re guaranteed to have the best attractions covered.

While it may not be China’s capital, Shanghai most definitely feels like it, drawing in millions of tourists every year. Here, glitzy skyscrapers and gigantic shopping complexes coexist with traditional gardens and temples. A to-do list for this city could fill multiple pages, but Culture Trip has narrowed down the activities to 10 of the best.

The Bund

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Shanghai Bund, Shanghai
© Horizon Images / Motion / Alamy Stock Photo
There’s a reason visitors swarm to Shanghai’s mile-long Bund, a waterfront area in the centre of the city. In the daytime, you can enjoy a stroll along the Huangpu River, taking in the impressive, eclectic architecture. You can even cross the water via The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel (which measures high on the cheese factor, but is still a lot of fun). During the evening, come armed with a camera to get a shot of the majestic, glittering skyline; highlights include the Oriental Pearl Tower and Shanghai World Financial Centre.

Stroll around the Former French Concession Shíkùmén

Building, Market, Shop
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French Concession, Shanghai, China
© Sanja Sparica / Alamy Stock Photo

While technically it’s in the centre of Shanghai, the French Concession feels as if it’s a hundred miles away. Dating back to 1849, the area has a much more relaxed feel than the more modern parts of the city, perfect for whiling away a few hours in the afternoon. Stroll through the cobblestone streets, drink a cappuccino at one of the many coffee shops and delis or browse at upmarket boutiques.

Yuyuan Gardens

Botanical Garden
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Yu Yuan Gardens, Shanghai
Yu Yuan Gardens, Shanghai | © Horizon Images / Motion / Alamy Stock Photo

A few minutes away from the bustling Bund lies a moment of tranquillity in the heart of Shanghai: Yuyuan Gardens. Dating back over 400 years to the Ming Dynasty, the gardens combine sculpture grounds, traditional pagodas and classic architecture. Entry costs 40 yuan (£4.50) and hopping on line 10 to subway stop Yuyuan Garden station is the best way to get there.

Jinmao Tower

Archaeological site
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Jinmao Tower, Shanghai
Jinmao Tower, Shanghai | © zhencong chen / Alamy Stock Photo

Skyscrapers are hardly a rarity in Shanghai, but Jinmao Tower (a five-minute walk from Lujiazui station) should be on any daredevil’s agenda. Not only does it offer spectacular panoramic views, but it comes complete with an outdoor glass walkway that’s handrail-free. For those looking for an adrenaline rush, scale the heights and teeter across the glass walkway, peering down to the city below if you dare. While it does come with a hefty price tag of 388 yuan (£44), it’s certainly worth it.

People's Park, Shanghai

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Tourists walking in People's Park, Shanghai
Tourists walking in People's Park, Shanghai | © Fabio Nodari / Alamy Stock Photo

The urban oasis that is People’s Park lies off Nanjing Road, and while it’s a pleasant enough place to enjoy some peace and quiet, its true beauty lies in the people who frequent it. Get up close with locals as they gather for early morning exercise or dance rituals, or take a stroll to the Marriage Market, a place where proud parents gather to advertise their offspring in the pursuit of finding them a potential life partner.

Disneyland Shanghai

Amusement Park
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Shanghai Disneyland
© Alex-VN / Alamy Stock Photo

As the only place to get your dose of Disney magic in mainland China, Disneyland is certainly worth a visit. With its own subway stop, it’s easily accessible from the centre. You’ll find the usual Disney favourites (such as Toy Story Land and Tomorrowland) and Chinese twists (the Gardens of Imagination is a garden-designed Disney park with Chinese zodiac murals). It’s smaller than some of the other Disney parks and manageable in one day, so pop on your mouse ears and take in the magic.

West Nanjing Rd

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Nanjing Road, Shanghai
Nanjing Road, Shanghai | © Roussel Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
No trip to Shanghai is complete without a detour to Nanjing Road, the ultimate shopping street, divided into Nanjing Road East and Nanjing Road West. Here you’ll find every possible retailer, so window shop at upmarket Gucci and Tiffany or pile your basket high at Forever 21 and Sephora.

Shanghai Museum

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Discover ancient bronze metalwork, ceramics and Chinese sculpture at Shanghai Museum
Discover ancient bronze metalwork, ceramics and Chinese sculpture at Shanghai Museum | © Alex Segre / Alamy Stock Photo

At the centre of People’s Square you’ll find the Shanghai Museum, an unmissable chance to take in some Chinese history and learn about ancient Chinese art, ceramics, sculptures and the Ming and Qing dynasties. With pieces dating back 800 years, the museum offers deep insight into both the city and China itself.

Jing’an Temple

Architectural Landmark
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Jing'An Temple, Shanghai
Jing'An Temple, Shanghai | © William Ju / Alamy Stock Photo

On West Nanjing road, the ancient Jing’an temple certainly stands out against a crowded backdrop of shops and restaurants, with many people stopping to gaze up at its glittering golden roof towering above the traffic and pedestrians. Dating back to 247 AD, the temple houses three main halls, with the Mahavira Hall hosting the spectacular Jade Buddha.

Maglev Museum

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The Maglev train in Shanghai
The Maglev train in Shanghai | © Boaz Rottem / Alamy Stock Photo

Arrive from the airport in style by shunning the subway and hopping on Shanghai’s lightning-speed Maglev instead. Connecting Pudong International Airport and Shanghai’s centre in under eight minutes, at peak, the train can reach speeds of an astonishing 430 kilometres per hour (267 miles per hour). If you have time on your hands, take a detour to the accompanying Maglev Museum to learn all about the history of this epic feat of Chinese engineering.

This article is an updated version of a story created by Rachel Deason.

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