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Well, well, well, if it ain’t Shanghai, China’s most populous city. It’s home to some 24 million people--registered, that is—spread out over 3,900 sq. meters (1,500 sq. miles) of beautiful, organized chaos.
A city like that’s just got to have a crazy amount of top-notch things to do to keep that many people wildly entertained and always coming back for more, right? Let’s check out my list of 25+ top touristy and awesome things to do in Shanghai:
Hop on a Huangpu River Cruise
First up? The best way to see Shanghai’s sprawling architecture and glorious cityscape—it’s the Huangpu River cruise. A round trip, panoramic cruise on the Huangpu river may just last 40-minutes, but it’s one of those kinda of trips you’ll undoubtedly remember for a lifetime. Catch sweeping views of Shanghai’s Bund in addition to the modern towers and landmarks of Pudong’s Lujiazui District. Plus, if you really want to elevate your adventure, how about hitching a ride on one of those massive dragonboat ships?
Directions: You can catch a normal 40-minute cruise on Huangpu River at the Shilupu Wharf, located on the promenade a few hundred meters south from the Bund. The closest attraction near the wharf is Hotel Indigo.
Hours: The cruise last 2 hours, from 7pm-9pm
Directions: Rides on the dragonboat ships depart from Qinhuangdao Road Cruise Dock in Yangpu.
Ride a Ferryboat
Don’t want to pay that much for a cruise? Well, why not hop aboard a Huangpu River ferryboat? For a measly 2RMB you can still enjoy a scenic 10-minute route between Puxi and Pudong or Hongkou and Pudong. Ferryboats are packed during the summer and holidays, but don’t worry, they run about every 10 minutes!
Directions: You can catch a ferryboat at several locations located along Huangpu River. The last boat departs at 11:20pm right next to Nanpu Bridge in Puxi, and at the Nanmatoulu Ferry Pier in Pudong.
Try an Afternoon Tea Set at Shanghai Intercontinental Wonderland
There's a newly built, fancy underground hotel in Shanghai. You must go there ... now! Pictures of Shanghai's Intercontinental Wonderland Hotel just don't do enough justice. Trust me, your jaw will drop too once you see it its large frame sticking out the side of a deep pit in the ground, and I guarantee you'll leave with at least 100 pictures. Yeah, that sounds about right.
Address: 5888 Chen Hua Road, Songjiang District, Shanghai
Directions: Take Subway Line 9 to Dongjing Station, then take a Didi or Taxi to the hotel.
*Note:* Honestly, you CANNOT get into the hotel for free, just to visit, or just to take pictures. You must have a room reservation or reservation for breakfast/lunch/dinner. Security will stop you at the entrance and there's no way to sneak in, so don't even think to try it. The cheapest set is the afternoon tea, which is either 388/488 (Sorry I forgot the exact price!) for 2 people.
How'd I get in? I called the hotel, spoke to a local gentleman at guest services, told him I really just wanted to take pictures and see the hotel. He gave in, sent me his personal number, and said to text him when I got up there. I could only arrive by taxi, and he'd give the taxi number to the security at the entrance to have them let me in. So I took the subway to Dongjing Station, hopped in a taxi, and made my way in. Crazy, right!?
Hit an Observation Deck
Did I mention that Shanghai is loaded with towering skyscrapers and iconic landmarks? In fact, Pudong’s Shanghai Tower currently withholds the record as the 2nd tallest building in the world. Most of the city’s tallest and most popular buildings—ie, Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC), and Jinmao Tower—are housed right next to Shanghai Tower too, and are equipped with observatories.
Oriental Pearl Tower: 160RMB / 8:30-21:30
SWFC: 180RMB / 9:00-22:30 (Last entry at 21:30)
Shanghai Tower: 180RMB / 8:30-22:00 (Last entry at 21:30)
Jinmao Tower: 120RMB / 8:30-21:30
Directions to All: Take Metro Line 2 to Lujiazui Station.
Take the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
So, you want to get from Puxi to Pudong. You’re tired of the subway, a Didi is way too expensive, and you’ve already taken a ferryboat a million times and counting. I get it. Here’s a thought: Take a ride across Huangpu River using the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. There’s a tram that takes between 5-10 minutes to get to either side, and the tunnel offers a colorful light show that is not to be missed. At least, that’s what some will tell you.
Price: 50RMB one-way
Directions: The entrance is located right next to the People’s Monument on the Bund, and right beside Oriental Pearl Tower in Pudong.
Visit a Museum
Shanghai is packed with museums big and small. The most popular include Shanghai Museum, China Art Museum, Shanghai Science & Technology Museum, Propaganda Art Museum, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, and Shanghai Natural History Museum. Hey, you can’t just party all the time.
Shanghai Museum: Free / 9:00-17:00 (Closed Mondays)
China Art Museum (Pudong): Free / 10:00-18:00
Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (Pudong): 45RMB / 9:00-17:15 (Closed Mondays)
Propaganda Art Museum: 20RMB / 10:00-17:00
Shanghai Natural History Museum: 45RMB / 8:15AM-17:15 (Closed Mondays)
Take a Stroll Along East Nanjing Road
It’s arguably Shanghai’s most popular shopping street. It’s riddled with shops, stalls, food joints, neon lights, and tons of tourists at any given time of day. With that, be careful while taking in the sights; after all, you may encounter, or not even knowingly encounter, a bunch of shady characters, so be on the look out!
Directions: Hop on Metro Line 2 or Line 10 to East Nanjing Road Station
Watch Some Live Tai-Chi
Look up Shanghai on Instagram and you’ll eventually come across some awesome pics of locals practicing Tai-chi on the Bund and in front of Lujiazui’s skyscrapers. Those pics are real by the way, and you can find practitioners there dishing out moves just about every morning. It’s one thing to see an individual in action, but it’s a hell of an experience to watch a group of 10 practicing in unison!
Directions: Watch Tai-chi practitioners every morning at the People’s Monument on the Bund starting around 6am, weather permitted.
Enjoy Some Square Dancing
Square dancing is one of the best cultural activities to experience in China, even if you go just to watch from afar. Observe China’s 40+ year olds—men and women, by the way—don uniforms and carry out synchronized moves to lively music. It’s healthy, it’s energetic, it’s fun, and it’ll make you wish that someone brought it back to your home country.
Directions: I’d say the best place to watch square dancing in Shanghai is at Xujiahui Park at 6:30pm.
Visit an Ancient Water Town
Ancient water towns are the traditional landmarks of China. Shanghai’s got just a few—Zhujiajiao, Qibao, Fengjing, and Xinchang. Take a cruise through canals, munch on street snacks, buy souvenirs, and take in the beautiful cultural scenery.
Explore Jing’an Temple
You’re walking through downtown. There are modern buildings everywhere. There’s a ton of traffic and a bunch of reckless pedestrians at every turn. Suddenly, you look up and what do you see? A massive ancient golden temple, and it’s probably one of the most striking you’ve ever seen. This one’s a must do. Actually, everything on this list is a must do!
Directions: Take Metro Line 2 or Metro Line 7 to Jing’an Station.
Grab Drinks at a Rooftop Bar
No sprawling metropolitan city is complete without a few top-notch rooftop bars. Forget those cramped speakeasies and make your way up high above the city for drinks with friends. Some rooftop bars in Shanghai that I recommend?
Flair at Ritz-Carlton (Pudong)
House of Roosevelt
TOPS at Banyan Tree (Hongkou)
Char Bar at Hotel Indigo
Head to the Bund
Hands down, the most popular place to visit in Shanghai. Stunning architecture, tourists, promenades, monuments, ships, and incredible panoramic views of Shanghai’s modern high-rises and skyscrapers across Huangpu River. This iconic strip is Shanghai’s equivalent to Beijing’s Great Wall when you consider top ‘wow factors' in the region, and it’s accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Directions: Take Metro Line 2 or Metro Line 10 to East Nanjing Road. From there, head east towards Huangpu River.
Feel Inspired at the Jackie Chan Museum
Legendary, internationally known mega-martial-arts star Jackie Chan has got his own museum in Shanghai, highlighting everything from his personal life, career in the film industry, and stunt work, to props and memorabilia used on set, fan mail collections, and even charity work. There's no doubt you won't leave feeling absolutely inspired to take on the world after seeing all the work he's put in and accomplishments he's achieved.
Address: No. 88 Yunling Road (Closed on Mondays)
Walk Around Yuyuan Garden
You don’t always need to ‘shop-till-you-drop’ in a mall, especially in China. That’s what places like Shanghai’s Yuyuan Garden are for. It’s a traditional marketplace riddled with shops, boutiques, restaurants, street snacks, a garden, and enough places to snap enough Instagram pics to last a month. Even if you’re strapped for cash, Yuyuan Garden is a kind of place you should visit just to walk around and enjoy the sights.
Directions: Take Metro Line 10 to Yuyuan Garden Station.
Watch a CBA Game
Did you know that China has its very own China Basketball Association? I know, I didn’t either until I stepped foot the country. Shanghai has a team—the Shanghai Sharks—and they hold games at Yuanshen Stadium in Pudong. The games may not be as thrilling as its NBA counterpart, but they are definitely worth checking out.
Directions: Take Metro Line 6 to Yuanshen Stadium Station.
Website: Shanghai Sharks
Buy Tickets: 247tickets
Head to an Amusement Park
Shanghai? The happiest place on Earth? Nope, but close. Yep, Shanghai’s got a Disneyland. But that’s not all. If ‘kiddy’ rides aren’t your thing, then you check out Happy Valley, a thrill ride amusement park that gets a solid B+ in my book. Plus, when Shanghai gets scorching hot in the summer, head over to Maya Beach Water Park. Trust me, these are some great options!
Hit up Century Park
It’s Shanghai’s biggest park. No, it ain't Central Park size—of New York—but it minus well be the equivalent. It’s got gardens, ponds, forestry, statues, bridges, a soccer field, an amusement park, and large grass fields for picnics. What’s more, every evening around 6pm you can find tons of people walking, jogging, and cycling around the outer premises.
Directions: Take Metro Line 2 to Century Park Station.
Shop at a Fake Market
China, China, China. You can get just about everything you want here, some way or another. Fake Gucci handbags? Check. Knock off Nikes? Got em’. Counterfeit Adobe Photoshop software? Man, just where do they make this stuff!? Shanghai’s fake markets are some of the best places to pick up clothes, shoes, jewelry, tech, software, you name it. Just make sure your negotiating skills are up to speed before going!
Directions: Take Metro Line 2 to Shanghai Science & Technology Museum Station. The fake market is attached to the subway station.
Hitch a Ride on the Maglev Train
Shanghai’s home to the world's fastest, active commercial high-speed train. It can travel between Longyang Road Station and Pudong International Airport in a matter of minutes—around 8 minutes to be exact—at breakneck speeds. To be precise, that’s a span of 30km (18.6 mi) at a rate of 320km-431km an hour. Incredible, ain’t it?
Price: 50RMB one way / 80RMB round trip
Directions: Take Metro Line 2, 7, or 16 to Longyang Road Station in Pudong.
Hiking at Sheshan
Shanghai is a megatropolis sprawling with skyscrapers and densely packed buildings and concrete at every turn, so how does one escape for a little R &R in nature? Well, how about a hike at Sheshan National Forest Park, located in Songjiang District. Plus, the park sits directly across from Happy Valley Amusement Park!
Address: No. 9142 Qingsong Road, Songjiang District
Grab Brunch at Xintiandi
Eat, drink, and chill at Shanghai’s Xintiandi. It’s got restaurants, bars, a mall, and some architecture that’s heavily influenced by European aesthetic. It’s the perfect place to impress a date, but just be prepared to come out of the pocket a little.
Directions: Take Metro Line 13 to Xintiandi Station.
Window Shop at a Mall
Most items in Chinese malls are way overpriced, but I’d suggest visiting a mall in Shanghai anyway, just for … the experience. And why not? Check out what international brands are popular in the region. Observe the different layouts of stores and boutiques from the malls back in your home. Discover more about Chinese fashion and lifestyle. Ok, so it ain’t the most buzzworthy thing to do, but it will definitely give you more insight and things to talk about in regards to the culture. Malls in Shanghai that I recommend?
Grab a Cup of Joe at Starbuck’s Reserve Roastery
Shanghai’s got the world’s biggest Starbucks. You should see it; that thing’s got any and everything related to coffee and the Starbuck’s brand. It’s the ultimate experience for coffee lovers, but just expect to pay a little bit, scratch that, a lot more than your average Starbucks for just about everything inside.
Directions: Take Metro Line 2 to West Nanjing Station.
Get a Massage
Know why lots of people love China? No, not that. It’s got tons of cheap services. Take massages, for instance. You can find a massage parlor on just about every other block in Shanghai, from small mom and pop shops to large internationally recognized chains. My recommendation? NewStar Korean Spa. It’s 24/7 and you pay 98RMB for access to spas, saunas, and enormous, dark lounges filled with comfy chairs. You’ll have to pay extra for massages, but trust me, it’s worth it in the ultimate place to relax.
Eat & Drink at Laowai Street
There is a laowai, aka foreign’ street, in Shanghai. But don’t worry, you won’t just see foreigners there—yeah, who wants that anyways? Instead, do expect a long strip full of international restaurants and bars. This street is especially popular during sports matches.
Party at Found 158
Welcome to Shanghai’s most notorious place to party, whether for the pre-game buzz or after-hours drinks. Everybody in the city has probably paid a visit to Found 158 at some point, and if you’ve lived in Shanghai for a while, it’s likely that ‘going out’ means you know you’ll end up there one way or another. If you want to experience nightlife in Shanghai, this is a hotspot you’ll need to visit, especially on a weekend or holiday.
Address: 158 Julu Road
Hop On, or Off, a City Bus Tour
A city bus tour is one of the best ways to experience Shanghai. Shanghai’s got a City Sightseeing Bus Tour and Big Bus Tour, which will take you across town to see the city's best attractions. The cool part Is that they are remarkably cheap.
Visit a Zoo or Aquarium
Shanghai Zoo. Shanghai Aquarium. Shanghai Wild Animal Park. Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom. Chengfeng Ocean World. Yeah, enough said.
Shanghai Wild Animal Park (Pudong)
Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom (Pudong)
Chengfeng Ocean World
This is Shanghai, China’s biggest city. But wait, where’s the color? Where’s the art? Where’s the vibe? Or is it all just bricks and concrete? Nope. And that’s where Tianzifang comes into play. The Former French Concession area is an enclave of cafes, boutiques, craft shops, novelties, art galleries, restaurants, bars, lane houses, and cool looking architecture from various regions of the world.
Directions: Take Metro Line 9 to Dapuqiao Station.
See a Show
And I ain’t just talking about a concert or rave festival, either. Those are fun too, but remember, you’re in China. Why not catch a cultural show, like the Peking Opera? Or how about an acrobatic performance or Chinese circus? What about a musical or stage play? Shanghai’s got plenty of daily shows to choose from. So, skip the bar and grab some tickets!
Shanghai Disney Shows
Shanghai Peking Opera
Shanghai Acrobatic Show
Shanghai Grand Theatre
Discover Something or Somewhere Nearby
And finally, if Shanghai is too much to handle—if there’s some sort of inescapable void you’re experiencing from touring the big city, how about checking out some all-around dope sh** nearby? There are tons of cool things to see in Jiangsu Province, for instance, and most items I have listed are no more than 5 hours away by high-speed train. Check out my list of top things to do near Shanghai.
Well, there you have it! My list of the best touristy things to do across Shanghai. What do you think? Did I miss anything? Well, let the world know down below!
Travel Blogger. ESL Teacher. Optimistic Millennial Adventurer! -->