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Bund Sunset | ©ビッグアップジャパン/Flickr
Bund Sunset | ©ビッグアップジャパン/Flickr

Why Everyone Should Visit Shanghai At Least Once in Their Lifetime

Picture of Rachel Deason
Updated: 6 February 2017

Many people visit Shanghai as part of a business trip or as a stopover to flashier cities like Beijing, but Shanghai is worthy of more than just a few days of halfhearted travel. Sure, the city is great in 48 hours, but when people take the time to view Shanghai as its residents do, they come away with stories and memories that will have them raving about the city for years to come. Here are just a few of the reasons you should give Shanghai a chance.

It’s Paradoxical

When people think of Shanghai, they picture it as only the glitz and glamour, with many even accusing it of not being the “real China.” Not only is Shanghai as much a part of the “real China” as anywhere else, it also has rural areas and cheap, down-to-earth amenities. One great thing about Shanghai is that you can always go cheaper and you can always go more expensive. It’s easy to find a full meal for RMB10 ($1.46) without sorting through the garbage. Conversely, acclaimed restaurants like Ultraviolet, which serves up a 20-course menu that starts at RMB3000 ($437) per person, offer big spenders an opportunity to ball out like only Shanghai’s nouveau-riche know how. Additionally, old Shanghai and new Shanghai come to play in unique and exciting ways throughout much of the city, from half-demolished lanehouses in front of shiny skyscrapers to industrial-era factories converted into art spaces.

The Nightlife is Dynamic

Shanghai is home to countless remarkable nightlife spots that make for guaranteed good nights out. New York may hold claim to the title “City that Never Sleeps,” but Shanghai gives it a run for its money. There are bars for every possible niche you can imagine. Fascinated by speakeasies? Shanghai has them in spades. Want to spend no more than RMB100 ($15) to get stupid drunk with your friends? Just go to Perry’s or Helen’s or Window’s or even the convenience store down the street. Not only does Shanghai have a bar or club for everything, new ones pop up every day. You always have the opportunity to be one of the first people to try what may become a world-famous nightlife spot.

There are Cities Within the City

If, for some mysterious reason, you get tired of Shanghai itself, go to one of its nine mini-towns that are modeled on places like Great Britain, Sweden, Italy, Germany, and Spain. You can practically do a whole world tour without stepping outside of the city. Of course, when the towns’ real estate failed to attract buyers, these little cities within a city became ghost towns, making them characteristically Chinese – as much as they try to be otherwise. Spend a day by Shanghai’s very own Lake Malaren, or take some photos of wedding-gown-donned brides and their grooms to be with British cottage architecture as the backdrop.

You Don’t Have to Learn Chinese to Get By

Worried about not speaking the language when you visit a new place? You don’t have to worry in Shanghai! Due to its history of multiculturalism and rising wealth, many Shanghainese speak enough English to ensure that your Ni hao! and Xie Xie are all you need to get by. Even large international cities like Beijing require at least a pocket dictionary in order to navigate. All signs in Shanghai are written in Mandarin and English, and the street posts are cleverly marked with block numbers and the cardinal directions, so you never have to get lost (unless that’s what you want to do).