Top things to do in Shanghai
Shanghai, our new favourite city! Lively, bustling and exciting, positively brimming with possibility, enthusiasm and a zest for life. Old meets new, ancient brushes shoulders with modern, high rises, sky scrappers and neon coexist with winding lanes, washing and lanterns. This, the most populous city in the world, is a whirlwind of activity, a verifiable feast for the senses, a city to embrace, explore and become immersed. Shanghai fulfilled all our expectations and more, we loved this place and can’t wait to return!
A melting pot of experiences
When considering our recommendation for top things to do in Shanghai, we have tried to come up with contrasting experiences. Of course, everyone should stroll along the Bund, it is in all the guidebooks for a reason! Prepare to be spellbound by the breathtakingly beautiful, ultra-modern and chic skyline of Pudong… We waited a while in subzero conditions to see the “lights” but it was worth it. The Pearl Tower is the jewel in the crown, proud, pink and commanding, we loved the World Financial Centre, fondly referred to as the bottle opener. The Bund is a great place for a stroll to people watch and get snap happy!
There’s art for everyone
If art is your thing you will be spoilt for choice. From the edgy, urban contemporary former factory space of M50, to the ancient masterpieces held in the Shanghai Museum. A foodies paradise, Shanghai is renowned for its culinary delights. A highlight of our trip was taking part in an UnTour food tour. This local led tour provided us with an opportunity to sample delicious eats at local, authentic places we would never have found ourselves. A chance to learn a bit of history, meet new friends and eat, eat, eat! Definitely one of our top things to do in Shanghai!
Check out our Top things to do in Shanghai, scroll over the image for more information.
This restored "Bazzar" is how we imagined old China to look… stunning architecture, beautiful shaped pavilions & lots of gold! Great place to see traditional handicrafts, don't miss the gorgeous Old Shanghai Tea house, light incense in the Temple of the Town and eat a steamed dumpling!
The French Concession
Waltz around the "Lanes" in this beautiful part of town, originally home to the French, has been tastefully renovated to allow visitors a glimpse into the past whilst offering a bohemian, arty feel. Lovely galleries, eateries and boutique shops within winding narrow lanes and alleys, beautiful!
M50 Art Space
An edgy contemporary hub, brimming with creativity, expression and a unique diversity of style. A great place to explore, this urban industrial art complex, a former factory site, offers a glimpse into the multifaceted city, that is Shanghai. See art from a different perspective, open your mind!
Prepare to be on the edge of your seat as you witness the incredible talent of Chinese acrobats! From motorbikes whizzing around an orb to stilted men somersaulting high into the air, then there's balance boards and stuff you would never have thought possible on a push bike. A great night out.
High speed, high octane modernity brushes against traditional, simplicity and Tai Chi. This, the world's most populous city is a powerhouse and force to be reckoned with. Expect the unexpected, go without preconceptions and prepare to be completely enchanted by this phenomenal city!
Allow yourself to be transported in time as you glide through a phenomenal collection of exquisite Chinese Art. From ancient bronzes, to sculptures, calligraphy, ceramics and paintings. Lose yourself in a wealth of masterpieces. Want to see the highlights? Definitely hire an audio guide.
A trip to Shanghai is incomplete without a stroll or river cruise along the famous Bund promenade. The Bund side offers a glimpse into Shanghai's heritage, dominated by Western style architecture. Across the river, it could be Gotham City! Our favourite skyline of the world, see it at night!
Take a Food Tour
What better way to sample the delights of Shanghai's renowned culinary scene than with a food tour? Eat like a local in places you would never have chosen, go authentic, learn something new and do something different. We recommend UnTour Food Tours, a great experience and delicious!
Take a moment to relax in these fengshui gardens, showcasing ancient Chinese landscaping architecture and design. Hidden alcoves, stunning rockeries, pools, shady spots and pavilions. A beautiful space to contemplate life and be at one with nature. Oh and check out the gigantic koi!
So, Shanghai is certainly an impressive city and not to be missed when visiting China. To make life easier for yourself we recommend a couple of invaluable apps.
Download pleco, an excellent offline translator app.
Consider waygo , a visual translator app which allows you to scan/translate. Useful for deciphering menus, you get 10 complimentary scans daily.
Download the Shanghai Subway app, this, for us was an invaluable tool. The subway is fantastic. Signs are in English, as are announcements on the train. It’s cheap, fast, punctual and safe. Be aware most lines finish by 10.30pm.
Above all allow yourself plenty of time to really experience this eclectic city. With so many top things to do in Shanghai, it’s easy to rush from one area to the next. We took great pleasure in our unscheduled, spontaneous stops. Watching children throwing autumnal leaves in the air, giggling with delight as proud parents captured the moment. Standing to watch elderly folk dance the night away in the wide boulevards. Being photographed with the locals, smiling obligingly wondering where our faces might end up! Shanghai is fast moving, vibrant and positive. Take the time to standstill occasionally, you’ll be surprised what you notice!
Buy Lonely Planet Shanghai here.
What will your top things to do in Shanghai be? We hope our post has proved useful if you are interested in taking a food tour, read our detailed review here.
In addition, if you are interested in the different types of posts we write, takealookaround our site.