Shanghai Travel Guide

China  
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Best Things To Do in Shanghai

Shanghai is overflowing with things to do. Your challenge will be to prioritize the city's attractions and accomplish all of your goals in the limited time you have here. Should you want a glimpse of Shanghai's past, hurry over to Longhua Temple and Zhujiajiao, a traditional water town with numerous canals and bridges. But if you're itching to see what's on the horizon, head to the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center or to the river's edge at the Bund to admire the futuristic skyline. Just don't forget to pay homage to the city's commercial gods (or "retailers"), who have set up shop along Nanjing Road

How we rank Things to Do

Updated August 31, 2017

  • #1
    The Bund
    View all Photos
    #1 in Shanghai
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Shanghai's picturesque waterfront, known as "the Bund," is where you'll find those classic skyline photo ops. With the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center and other skyscrapers standing across the Huangpu River, the view (on a clear day) stuns. And behind you, gorgeous European-style buildings housing restaurants and shops (Nanjing Road is just around the corner) line the waterfront boulevard, affording plenty of activities.

    ...Read More »
  • #2
    Shanghai Museum
    View all Photos
    #2 in Shanghai
    Museums, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Museums, Sightseeing, Free
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located on the People's Square near Nanjing Road, the Shanghai Museum is hard to miss thanks to its distinct architecture (a circular building atop a square foundation) and remarkable size. And you really shouldn't skip this historical gem. Frequently called one of the best museums in China, this expansive museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts (more than 1,000,000 to be exact) that chart the nation's history. Highlights include ornate calligraphy, exquisite jade carvings, thousand-year-old bronze works and traditional Chinese garb. 

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  • #3
    Zhujiajiao
    View all Photos
    #3 in Shanghai
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    Half Day to Full Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Located 29 miles west of downtown lies the Venice of Shanghai, Zhujiajiao. This ancient water town saw its heyday during the Ming Dynasty, when its success as a commercial hub resulted in the construction of its picturesque waterways. The area remains composed of numerous canals with bridges connecting visitors to scores of charming narrow streets. Expect to find tiny cafes down back alleys, friendly boatmen offering rides and hole-in-the-wall shops selling souvenirs. Though recent visitors found strolling Zhujiajiao lovely, reviewers strongly suggested visiting during the week, as the big weekend crowds can hinder the experience.

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  • #4
    Shanghai World Financial Center
    View all Photos
    #4 in Shanghai
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Resembling a gigantic bottle opener, the Shanghai World Financial Center stands as one of the world's tallest buildings, glittering majestically on the skyline. Competing with the Oriental Pearl TV Tower for the best bird's-eye views, this structure touts an array of digital Shanghai depictions that illustrate the city's rapid evolution. And that's just at the bottom floor. Take the 49-second elevator, which is one of the fastest in the world, to the 94th and 97th floors where you'll be treated to a jaw-dropping urban panorama. However, the true highlight is on the 100th floor. Here, the Sky Walk – the world's highest observatory – allows guests to marvel at this Chinese metropolis from 1,555 feet above ground

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  • #5
    Yuyuan Garden
    View all Photos
    #5 in Shanghai
    Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Monuments and Memorials, Parks and Gardens
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    Dating back to the 16th century, the 5-acre Yuyuan Garden is the city's most revered green space. The garden took nearly 20 years to completely construct and was initially intended to be the private garden for Ming-dynasty official Pan Yunduan and his family. However, the garden ended up taking some hits, enduring both British occupation during the Opium Wars and again by the French during the Taiping Rebellion. Despite the turmoil, the garden remained largely intact and is today a beautiful retreat loved by many. Here, you'll find six main scenic areas and 30 pavilions outfitted with ornate structures like decorated bridges and colorful pagodas as well intimate enclaves that are divided by "dragon walls" (partitions with stone dragons lying on top). Highlights include the Heralding Spring Hall, the Jade Magnificence Hall and the Lotus Pool. 

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  • #6
    Longhua Temple
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    #6 in Shanghai
    Churches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    As Shanghai's oldest and largest religious complex, Longhua Temple is a natural tourist attraction, drawing droves of travelers. The temple was built in the 10th century and is named after the pipal tree where Buddha is said to have reached enlightenment. It's staggering seven-story pagoda is easy to spot, though much more lies within. Take time to explore the five main halls each filled to the brim with ornate sculptures, including numerous buddhas. Also take time to marvel at the more than 14,000-pound bell located in the bell and drum tower near the entrance. And if you're visiting Shanghai in the spring, expect hordes of peach blossoms to make appearances in your photographs. Unfortunately, the most photogenic point of the property, the pagoda, is not open for exploration. 

    ...Read More »
  • #7
    Jade Buddha Temple
    View all Photos
    #7 in Shanghai
    Churches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Churches/Religious Sites, Monuments and Memorials, Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    One of the city's most popular attractions, the Jade Buddha Temple impresses visitors with its legion of statues. The temple was originally built to house two jade statues brought in from Burma. But over time, its collection of ornate statues grew, subsequently drawing crowds in droves. While you should definitely pay homage to the jade buddhas, there are other figures that merit your attention. In the Grand Hall, three golden Buddhas represent the incarnations of Buddha (past, present and future), while the Heavenly King Hall features four heavenly kings surrounding more buddhas, acting as divine protectors. There's also the Hall of the Reclining Buddha, which houses the second jade buddha statue, carved from a single piece of white jade. It's also worth noting that the temple is one of Shanghai's few active Buddhist monasteries, so many monks call this place home. 

    ...Read More »
  • #8
    Shanghai Maglev
    View all Photos
    #8 in Shanghai
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    Less than 1 hour
    TIME TO SPEND

    It's simple: The Shanghai Maglev is one of the fastest passenger trains in the world. Traveling at about 270 miles per hour, this train is the adult equivalent of the theme park ride, especially since it is also very convenient. Passengers on board the Shanghai Maglev are blasted between downtown and Pudong International Airport in about 7 minutes. This 18-mile ride is quite a trip. Plus, there's a museum dedicated to exhibiting the history of the train and the engineering feats required to construct it. You'll find the small museum at the Maglev Longyang Road Station, where the train stops in the city. That said, most visitors recommend the train for more practical purposes.

    ...Read More »
  • #9
    Oriental Pearl TV Tower
    View all Photos
    #9 in Shanghai
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND
    Sightseeing
    TYPE
    1 to 2 hours
    TIME TO SPEND

    As Shanghai's most recognizable landmark, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower occupies a prominent place on the city's landscape. Standing tall in the Pudong district, the structure features one revolving restaurant, three legs, 11 spheres and multiple observatory levels. The most thrilling viewpoints are from the "Space Module" – the highest observation deck, sitting a staggering 1,148 feet above the ground. The Shanghai Municipal History Museum also resides here and merits a quick visit.

    ...Read More »
  • #10
    Nanjing Road
    View all Photos
    #10 in Shanghai
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND
    Shopping, Free, Neighborhood/Area
    TYPE
    2 hours to Half Day
    TIME TO SPEND

    Whether or not you have money to burn, consider visiting Nanjing Road to witness the hustle and bustle of Chinese commerce. The Shanghai equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue, Nanjing Road stretches six miles total and boasts retailers from all over the world in addition to local shops and department stores. In the daylight, you'll admire the graceful architecture of the surrounding buildings. At night, you'll marvel at the illuminated logos and brand names that line the avenue.

    ...Read More »

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