Welcome Trekkers to Shanghai, China’s largest city, which is a hub of activity, culture, and commerce. With a population of over 24 million people, it’s one of the most populous cities in the world. Shanghai is a city that’s rich in history and culture, with influences from the Ming Dynasty to the European colonial era. The city’s architecture reflects its diverse history, with traditional Chinese temples and modern skyscrapers standing side by side.
For travelers, Shanghai offers an exciting mix of attractions, from historic landmarks to world-class museums and art galleries. You can spend your days exploring ancient temples, strolling through manicured gardens, and shopping in the city’s bustling markets. At night, the city comes alive with a vibrant nightlife scene that includes everything from rooftop bars to jazz clubs.
Despite its modernization and cosmopolitan vibe, Shanghai remains deeply connected to its past. Visitors can still catch a glimpse of the city’s traditional way of life in the narrow alleyways of the Old Town or by taking a walk along the Huangpu River. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or modern living, Shanghai has something to offer.
In this article, we’ll explore ten of the top things to do in Shanghai, providing a guide for travelers looking to experience the best that this city has to offer. So, let’s take a closer look at some of the most exciting and fascinating things to do in Shanghai.
1. Visit the Bund
The Bund is undoubtedly one of Shanghai’s most iconic and picturesque locations. Located along the Huangpu River, this famous promenade stretches over a mile long and features stunning views of the city’s towering skyscrapers on one side and the historic buildings on the other. The Bund has been a symbol of Shanghai’s heritage for over a century and is a must-visit attraction for anyone traveling to the city.
The Bund is home to a collection of over 50 historic buildings, which reflect the city’s colonial past. The architecture ranges from neoclassical to Art Deco, with buildings dating back to the late 1800s. Among the most notable structures are the Customs House, the former headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and the Peace Hotel, which has been a landmark in Shanghai since 1929.
In addition to the stunning architecture, the Bund also offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the river, take in the view of the Pudong skyline, and watch the boats sail past. It’s a popular spot for locals and tourists alike and is especially beautiful at sunset when the city lights up and the buildings are illuminated.
One of the best ways to experience the Bund is by taking a guided tour. Tour guides can provide visitors with an in-depth history of the area, pointing out the most important buildings and sharing interesting anecdotes about the Bund’s past. There are also many restaurants, cafes, and bars in the area where visitors can enjoy a meal or a drink while taking in the stunning views.
Overall, visiting the Bund is a must-do activity for anyone traveling to Shanghai. It’s a perfect blend of old and new, offering visitors a glimpse into Shanghai’s rich history while also showcasing the city’s modern skyline.
2. Explore Yu Garden
Yu Garden, also known as Yuyuan Garden, is a classical Chinese garden located in the heart of Shanghai’s Old Town. Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, Yu Garden is a popular attraction that draws in visitors from all over the world. The garden covers an area of 2 hectares and features a collection of buildings, rock formations, water features, and lush greenery.
The garden’s layout is based on traditional Chinese landscaping principles, with winding paths, bridges, and pavilions arranged to create a sense of harmony and tranquility. Visitors can stroll along the garden’s paths, admiring the beautiful architecture and taking in the peaceful atmosphere. Highlights of the garden include the Exquisite Jade Rock, a uniquely shaped rock formation that is said to bring good luck to those who touch it, and the Heralding Spring Hall, a stunning three-story building with a panoramic view of the garden.
In addition to the garden itself, Yu Garden is surrounded by a bustling marketplace that’s filled with food stalls, souvenir shops, and traditional Chinese handicrafts. Visitors can sample local delicacies such as xiaolongbao (steamed soup dumplings) and mooncakes, or browse the shops for traditional Chinese tea sets, calligraphy brushes, and silk clothing.
Visiting Yu Garden is a great way to experience traditional Chinese culture in the heart of Shanghai. The garden’s beauty and tranquility make it a popular escape from the bustling city streets, and it’s a great place to relax and unwind. Whether you’re interested in history, architecture, or simply want to enjoy a peaceful stroll, Yu Garden is a must-see attraction in Shanghai.
3. Take a trip to the Shanghai Tower
The Shanghai Tower is a 632-meter (2,073 ft) skyscraper that dominates the city skyline. Completed in 2015, it’s the second-tallest building in the world and a must-visit attraction for anyone traveling to Shanghai. The tower’s observation deck, located on the 118th floor, offers incredible panoramic views of the city and is a popular spot for visitors to take in the breathtaking scenery.
The observation deck of the Shanghai Tower offers visitors an experience like no other. The deck is located on the highest occupied floor in any building in the world, and the views are simply stunning. From here, visitors can see the sprawling cityscape of Shanghai, with its towering skyscrapers and bustling streets stretching out as far as the eye can see.
The observation deck is designed to provide visitors with a unique and immersive experience. There are interactive exhibits that showcase the history and culture of Shanghai, as well as multimedia installations that highlight the city’s landmarks and attractions. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of dining options, including a café and a restaurant that offer breathtaking views of the city.
The Shanghai Tower is more than just a tower with an observation deck, though. The building is also an engineering marvel, featuring cutting-edge technology and sustainable design elements. It was designed to withstand the city’s typhoon winds and seismic activity, making it one of the most resilient buildings in the world.
Overall, a trip to the Shanghai Tower is a must-do activity for anyone visiting the city. It offers a unique perspective on Shanghai’s incredible skyline and is a testament to the city’s status as a global center of commerce and innovation. Whether you’re interested in architecture, engineering, or simply want to take in the view, the Shanghai Tower is an unforgettable experience.
4. Walk around People’s Square
People’s Square is a sprawling public space located in the heart of Shanghai. It’s a popular destination for both tourists and locals alike, and is home to several of the city’s most important cultural institutions. The square covers an area of over 140,000 square meters and features beautifully landscaped gardens, fountains, and a large open plaza.
Walking around People’s Square is a great way to experience the energy of Shanghai. The square is always bustling with activity, with people coming and going throughout the day. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the gardens, admiring the beautiful flowers and greenery, or sit and relax on one of the many benches scattered throughout the square.
One of the highlights of People’s Square is the Shanghai Museum, which is located on the southern edge of the square. The museum is home to an extensive collection of Chinese art and artifacts, including ancient ceramics, jade carvings, and bronze statues. The building itself is also an architectural marvel, with a distinctive design that combines traditional Chinese elements with modern construction techniques.
Another important institution located on People’s Square is the Shanghai Grand Theatre. This stunning building is a must-see for anyone interested in the performing arts, and hosts a variety of shows and performances throughout the year. The theatre’s distinctive design features a curved glass exterior that reflects the surrounding skyline, making it a popular spot for photography.
Overall, walking around People’s Square is a great way to experience the vibrancy and energy of Shanghai. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or simply want to people-watch, the square is a must-visit destination in the city.
5. Visit the Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum is a world-renowned cultural institution that houses one of the most extensive collections of Chinese art and artifacts in the world. The museum is located in People’s Square, in the heart of Shanghai, and is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history and culture.
The museum’s collection spans over 5,000 years of Chinese history and includes over 120,000 artifacts. Visitors can explore galleries devoted to everything from ancient bronzes and jade carvings to Ming and Qing dynasty furniture and paintings. One of the highlights of the museum is the collection of ancient ceramics, which includes stunning examples of Song and Tang dynasty pottery and porcelain.
The Shanghai Museum is housed in a distinctive building that was designed to reflect traditional Chinese architectural styles. The building features a circular design that symbolizes the ancient Chinese belief in the unity of heaven and earth. The museum’s interior is just as impressive, with spacious galleries that showcase the collection in a beautifully curated and arranged manner.
Visitors to the museum can enjoy a variety of educational programs and activities, including lectures, workshops, and guided tours. The museum’s gift shop is also a great place to pick up unique souvenirs and gifts, including reproductions of some of the museum’s most famous artifacts.
Overall, a visit to the Shanghai Museum is a must-do activity for anyone interested in history and culture. The museum’s collection is truly remarkable, and offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich and varied history of China. Whether you’re a seasoned art enthusiast or simply curious about Chinese history, the Shanghai Museum is an experience that you won’t want to miss.
6. Visit the Jing’an Temple
The Jing’an Temple is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Chinese culture and history. This ancient temple is one of the most important Buddhist sites in Shanghai, with a rich history that dates back over 800 years. Visitors to the temple can explore a range of stunning architectural styles, from the ancient Song dynasty pagoda to the ornate Qing dynasty halls.
The temple is located in the Jing’an District of Shanghai, and is surrounded by a tranquil park that offers a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. The temple’s main hall is particularly impressive, with intricately carved woodwork and stunning Buddhist statues. Visitors can also explore a number of smaller halls and shrines, each of which offers a unique insight into the history and culture of the temple.
One of the highlights of a visit to the Jing’an Temple is the opportunity to witness traditional Buddhist ceremonies and rituals. The temple is still an active place of worship, and visitors can observe monks and worshippers engaging in a range of activities, from prayer and meditation to chanting and incense burning.
The Jing’an Temple is also home to a number of important relics and artifacts, including an ancient sutra library that houses some of the oldest Buddhist texts in China. Visitors can browse the library’s collection and learn about the history and significance of Buddhist literature in Chinese culture.
Overall, a visit to the Jing’an Temple is a truly unique and immersive cultural experience. From the stunning architecture to the rich history and traditions, this ancient temple offers a fascinating glimpse into the rich and varied culture of China.
7. Take a Huangpu River cruise
A Huangpu River cruise is a popular activity for visitors to Shanghai, and for good reason. The Huangpu River is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks, and a boat ride along its banks offers stunning views of Shanghai’s skyline, including the towering skyscrapers of Pudong and the historic buildings of the Bund.
The cruise typically lasts around an hour and a half, and takes passengers on a leisurely journey down the Huangpu River, passing under several famous bridges and past a range of notable landmarks. Along the way, passengers can relax and unwind, enjoying the cool breeze and the stunning views of the city from a unique perspective.
One of the highlights of the Huangpu River cruise is the opportunity to witness the famous “Bund Light Show,” a nightly display of lights and colors that illuminates the historic buildings along the Bund. The light show is a truly spectacular sight, and a memorable way to cap off a relaxing evening on the river.
Visitors can choose from a range of different boat tours, from luxurious private charters to budget-friendly group tours. Some tours even include dinner or a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, adding an extra layer of relaxation and cultural immersion to the experience.
Overall, a Huangpu River cruise is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Shanghai. The stunning views, relaxing atmosphere, and unique perspective make it a highlight of any trip to the city. Whether you’re traveling with friends, family, or alone, a Huangpu River cruise is a memorable and enjoyable experience that you won’t want to miss.
8. Check out the Shanghai Wild Animal Park
For those who enjoy getting up close and personal with nature, the Shanghai Wild Animal Park is a must-visit destination. Covering a massive 378 acres, this sprawling animal park is home to over 200 species of animals from around the world, including pandas, lions, tigers, and more.
The park offers a range of experiences for visitors, from traditional zoo-style exhibits to immersive outdoor habitats that allow you to get up close and personal with the animals. One of the highlights of the park is the bus tour, which takes visitors on a guided journey through the different animal habitats, offering an up-close look at the animals as they roam freely in their natural environments.
In addition to the animal exhibits, the Shanghai Wild Animal Park also offers a range of animal shows and performances, including acrobatic performances by monkeys, tigers, and other animals. These shows are both entertaining and educational, offering insights into the behaviors and personalities of the animals that call the park home.
For those who want to spend more time in the park, there are also a range of dining options available, including traditional Chinese restaurants and snack stands offering local favorites like steamed buns and roasted sweet potatoes.
Overall, the Shanghai Wild Animal Park is a unique and exciting destination that offers a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Whether you’re a nature lover, animal enthusiast, or just looking for a fun day out with the family, the Shanghai Wild Animal Park is sure to be a highlight of your trip to Shanghai.
9. Explore the French Concession
The French Concession is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the unique blend of Chinese and Western influences that make Shanghai such a fascinating city. This area of Shanghai was once a French colonial district and is now known for its beautiful tree-lined streets, historic architecture, and vibrant arts and culture scene.
One of the highlights of the French Concession is the architecture, which features a mix of Chinese and Western styles. The area is home to a number of historic buildings, including the former residences of wealthy Westerners and Chinese aristocrats. The buildings are a testament to Shanghai’s colonial past and offer a glimpse into the city’s history and culture.
In addition to the historic buildings, the French Concession is also known for its trendy cafes, bars, and boutiques. The area is a hub for creative types, with a range of galleries and performance spaces showcasing local artists and musicians. Visitors can also explore the area’s many shops and boutiques, which offer everything from local crafts and souvenirs to high-end fashion and designer goods.
One of the best ways to explore the French Concession is on foot, taking in the sights and sounds of the area at a leisurely pace. Visitors can stroll down the tree-lined avenues, admiring the historic architecture and stopping at one of the many cafes or restaurants for a cup of coffee or a bite to eat.
Overall, the French Concession is a vibrant and eclectic destination that offers something for everyone. Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, or simply looking for a unique and interesting place to explore, the French Concession is sure to be a highlight of your trip to Shanghai.
10. Visit the Longhua Temple
The Longhua Temple is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the history and culture of Shanghai. Located in the southern part of the city, this ancient temple dates back over 1,700 years and is one of the largest and oldest Buddhist temples in Shanghai.
The temple complex is an impressive sight, with its traditional Chinese architecture and beautiful gardens. Visitors can explore the different buildings that make up the complex, including the Mahavira Hall, the Three Sages Hall, and the Bell and Drum Towers. Each building is intricately decorated with carvings and sculptures, reflecting the rich history and tradition of the temple.
In addition to the stunning architecture, the Longhua Temple is also a place of great spiritual significance. Visitors can participate in Buddhist rituals and learn about the history and traditions of Buddhism in China. The temple hosts a range of events and ceremonies throughout the year, including the annual Longhua Temple Fair, which attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.
One of the highlights of a visit to the Longhua Temple is the opportunity to witness a traditional Buddhist chanting ceremony. The ceremony takes place several times a day, and visitors can observe the chanting and meditation practices of the monks in the temple.
Overall, a visit to the Longhua Temple is a unique and memorable experience that offers a fascinating insight into the history and culture of Shanghai. Whether you are a history buff, spiritual seeker, or simply looking for a peaceful and serene destination, the Longhua Temple is a must-visit destination in Shanghai.
Shanghai is a city full of incredible sights and experiences, with something to offer for everyone. From strolling along the Bund to exploring ancient temples and modern landmarks, Shanghai is a destination that is sure to leave a lasting impression.
Whether you are interested in history, culture, or simply enjoying the vibrant atmosphere of a bustling city, there are endless things to do and see in Shanghai. From the traditional to the modern, Shanghai is a city of contrasts and contradictions that is sure to captivate and inspire.
So why not book your trip to Shanghai today and discover all that this amazing city has to offer? With so many unique and exciting things to do, it’s no wonder that Shanghai is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations in Asia. So pack your bags, grab your camera, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in the heart of China.