Shanghai, the world’s largest city by many counts, can be intimidating to explore alone. Sure, it’s easy to get around –whether by metro, bus, trolley, taxi, Maglev, foot, bike, or scooter – but first timers often desire to go deeper than street level. That’s where these four unparalleled Shanghai tours come in.
For the Foodie
UnTour Food Tours
With its commitment to honoring Shanghai and Beijing’s fading street food culture, UnTour Food Tours has unsurprisingly captured the attention of publications like The New York Times, National Geographic, and CNN Travel. As Shanghai in particular works to improve food safety, many street food institutions have sadly seen themselves shuttered in the past few years. Now, taking an UnTour may be one of the only ways to truly experience this vanishing phenomenon. UnTour, which touts itself as the number one food tour company in all of China, offers several tours, each targeting a different aspect of street food culture. There’s the dumpling tour, which takes participants to at least three different tasting shops before turning them loose to try dumpling making for themselves. (Any casual Xiao Long Bao fan is not wise to miss it.) Then there are the breakfast tour, night eats tour, a private tour, and more. Prices range from $70-$90 for adults to $35-$40 for kids.
For the History Buff
Historic Shanghai is much more than just a tour. Founded in 1998 by three expatriates hoping to raise awareness of Shanghai’s built heritage and social and cultural history, the foundation organizes regular walking tours, presentations, author talks, and film screenings. Additionally, Historic Shanghai has done extensive research on the young city through interviews, photographs, maps, directories, and books. The walking tours are all customizable, with a focus on Shanghai’s Art Deco heritage, sacred architecture, revolutionary past, and other often-overlooked but nonetheless integral features of this unique city. Historic Shanghai is not interested in giving participants a shallow overview. Expect to be challenged, entertained, and enriched.
For the Party Animal
Pub Crawl Shanghai
You can’t really experience Shanghai without taking part in its nightlife. Every Saturday at 9:30pm, people from all walks of life gather at Bar Gatsby to embark on a night of debauchery and mirth with Pub Crawl Shanghai, and every week it’s a little bit different. RMB200 ($30) guarantees you entrance to three of Shanghai’s coolest bars and clubs, but which three bars and clubs you will go to is left to surprise. The fee also includes free welcome shots at each location as well as free shots on the party bus, an hour of open bar, drink specials, and table service at the club. Truly daring individuals can go solo and are guaranteed to end the night with a bus full of new friends.
For the Active Adventurer
Culture Shock Bike Tours
No matter the tour, night or day, Culture Shock Bike Tours promises to change your perception of Shanghai. The popular 240-minute morning join-in tour ($70) takes you down the peaceful lanes of the Former French Concession, where you will discover beautiful 1930s villas and pass aunties and uncles practicing Taichi in Fuxing Park. The afternoon promises a zen-like visit to a Buddhist temple, a sensory-engaging ride through an open air wet market, and a time travel experience to Old Town. The night tour ($70), shorter at only 180 minutes, is sure to provide any traveler with unique insight into Shanghainese culture. Not only will you get to visit a traditional Chinese medicine outlet, but you’ll also learn about ghost wedding rituals at Yu Gardens. Culture Shock tours are recommended for anyone who isn’t satisfied with a simple trip to the Bund. By traveling the city like its locals, you’re one step closer to understanding this paradoxical paradise.