Raevian and I visited the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai recently. It is hard to put a finger on the culture of Shanghai, with its eclectic mix of modern skyscrapers, traditional Chinese architecture and beautiful neoclassical buildings. After going through various reviews and best prices of hotels in Shanghai, we decided to stay at the classy Sofitel Shanghai Hyland due to its convenient location.
This is a vibrant city where East truly meets West.
Below is a list of 12 things to do in Shanghai that will give you a sense of this unique amalgamation of two different cultures. Enjoy! 🙂
1. Visit The Bund
The Bund is a riverside area in Shanghai where you can see beautiful neoclassical buildings and revel in the view of Shanghai’s iconic skyline across the river. We arrived just before sunset and the colonial-style buildings were covered in a gentle orange glow from the setting sun.
It was beautiful.
As night fell, the skyscrapers across the river lighted up to form a dazzling skyline. As there were many tourists jostling to take pictures, we had to take many shots before getting a good shot of the skyline.
But our efforts were worth it, as we managed to capture the skyline in all its glorious beauty.
Directions to The Bund: From the East Nanjing Metro Station, walk for about eight minutes. Click here to see the map.
2. Revel in the Old World Charm of Shanghai at East Nanjing Walking Street
East Nanjing Walking Street is a vibrant stretch of street that houses many restaurants and shopping malls housed in neoclassical architecture. This place resembles the golden days of 1930s Shanghai – the “old Shanghai” image typically depicted in movies and literature.
Raevian was in heaven here as there were many shopping malls along the street.
We had fun taking a tram ride along East Nanjing Walking Street. The ride cost us just 5 RMB and we were able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the bustling street while giving our legs a good rest.
Directions to East Nanjing Walking Street: this vibrant street is located at East Nanjing Metro Station.
3. Food Hunting
No trip to Shanghai would be complete without trying the large variety of delicious food available. From the world-famous Beijing Roasted Duck at Quanjude (Purple Mountain Hotel) to mouthwatering street food to quaint cafes to the BEST dumplings in the world at Jia Jia Tang Bao/ Xiao Yang Sheng Jian, we were spoilt for choice. Watch this space for our next article on Things to Eat in Shanghai!
4. Visit The French Concession – Xintiandi / Fuxing Park / Sinan Road / Shaoxing Road / Tianzifang
Vienna Cafe at Shaoxing Road
The French Concession is an area in Shanghai that was under the French Government’s control between 1849 and 1946.
This is a large area that consists of Xintiandi, Fuxing Park, Sinan Road, Shaoxing Road, and Tianzifang. From the heavily gentrified district of Xintiandi to the European-style Fuxing Park to the plane-trees lined Sinan Road and Shaoxing Road to the vibrant enclave of Tianzifang, there were just so much to experience! Raevian and I took about two days to fully explore all these areas, and it was time well spent.
Xintiandi – This is the heavily gentrified district of the French Concession, and is the most expensive place to live in China. The place is popular with tourists because it has many art galleries, cafes, and restaurants.
Fuxing Park – This popular residential park has various European influences and has a unique and vibrant atmosphere.
Sinan Road – This road is famous for its century-old plane trees. It also houses the former residences of Sun Yat Sen and Zhou En Lai, prominent figures in China’s modern history.
Shaoxing Road – This is a 450 metres stretch of road where you can find cafes, art galleries, book stores, and clothing stores. But it is best known as the Publishing Street, as it houses some of the city’s most famous publishing houses like Shanghai People’s Publishing House and Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House.
Tianzifang – This is a lively enclave that has many traditional shikumen buildings. Walking along the narrow alleys, we discovered a tidy sprawl of bars, cafes, restaurants, crafts shops, art galleries, and street food vendors.
Directions to The French Concession
Xintiandi – This district is located near Xintiandi metro station on Line 10 (purple line).
Fuxing Park – This popular residential park is a nine-minute walk from Exit 6 of Xintiandi metro station (light purple line). Click here for directions.
Sinan Road – This road is a six-minute walk from Fuxing Park. Click here for directions.
Shaoxing Road – This road is a twelve-minute walk from Sinan Road.
Tianzifang – This vibrant enclave is a short ten-minute walk from Shaoxing Road.
5. Jing’an Temple
Jing’an Temple is located at Jing’an Temple metro station. It was first built in 247 AD beside the Suzhou Creek, and subsequently relocated to its current site in 1216. The temple was indeed majestic, but the entrance tickets were extremely pricey at 100RMB. We decided to just take a few photos outside the temple.
6. Visit Lujiazui – Oriental Pearl Tower / Apple Store / Supertall Skyscrapers
Oriental Pearl Tower
Flagship Apple Store at IFC Mall
SWFC (Left), Jin Mao Tower (Middle), Shanghai Tower (Right)
Lujiazui is the bustling business district of Shanghai. It was inspiring to visit the place which embodies China’s status as a global economic powerhouse.
We tried to get a good shot of the Oriental Pearl Tower from the elevated walkway between Super Brand Mall and Lujiazui train station. This was an uphill task as there were MANY people walking along the walkway. But our efforts paid off and we managed to capture a decent shot of this iconic building.
And of course, I HAD to visit the flagship Apple Store at IFC Mall. I love Apple products (I have a Macbook Pro, iPhone, Apple TV and various old iPods), and unfortunately there are no official Apple Stores in Singapore.
Therefore, I was excited to visit this Apple Store which is Shanghai’s first official Apple store. It also happens to have the world’s longest genius bar!
And last but not least, we made our way to the three awe-inspiring Supertall skyscrapers of Shanghai – SWFC, Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Tower. SWFC is currently the tallest structure in China and the second-tallest building in the world.
Oriental Pearl Tower – From the elevated walkway between Lujiazui Metro Station and Super Brand Mall, you can get a great vantage point of this iconic attraction.
Apple Store at IFC Mall – IFC Mall is located just beside Super Brand Mall.
SWFC, Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Tower – These three towers are a short ten-minute walk from the IFC mall. Click here for directions.
7. Take a Ride on the Fastest Train in the World – Shanghai Maglev Train
Not many people are aware that Shanghai is home to the fastest train in the world – the Shanghai Maglev Train. This is a bullet train that runs between Pudong International Airport and Longyang metro station. We were deciding between the “Ordinary” and the “VIP” tickets and decided to go with the ordinary ones as the VIP tickets cost twice as much.
We were glad we did not splurge on the exorbitant tickets.
There wasn’t much difference between the two classes of seats, and because we took the train on a weekday afternoon, the train was largely empty. Therefore, we could pretty much choose where we wanted to sit, and it was an extremely comfortable ride.
And it was an extremely FAST ride too.
It seems I had only just settled down before I was getting up to alight from the train. And that’s because the fastest train in the world took less than eight minutes to travel the 30 km between its two stops.
8. Take a Romantic Stroll along the Riverside Promenade
When people think of Shanghai’s skyline, they often think of the view from The Bund, where you can see the Oriental Pearl Tower and the three Supertall Skyscrapers.
However, we were pleasantly surprised to see an equally stunning skyline of Shanghai from the Riverside Promenade.
We also found a whole chain of cafes, bistros and coffeehouses along the promenade, such as Häagen-Dazs, Starbucks, and Muskcat Coffee.
I held Raevian’s hand as we strolled along the promenade. It was hard not to feel the romantic vibe here – quaint cafes, an amazing skyline view, the cool night air, and of course, a beautiful girl by my side.
Directions to the Riverside Promenade: The promenade is a short seven-minute walk from Lujiazui Metro Station.
Super Brand Mall at Lujiazui
There are several places to shop in Shanghai. We visited various malls in East Nanjing Walking Street, as well as the Super Brand Mall at Lujiazui. These are typical modern malls where you can find international brands, luxury brands, as well as some local brands.
We also visited Qipu Road (a shopping complex with seven floors) and Dimei Mall/ Hong Kong Underground Street at People’s Square metro station. We discovered a sprawl of stalls selling clothes, bags, luggage, jewelry, shoes, cosmetics, toys, and knock off products.
Qipu Road – This complex is within walking distance from Tian Tong Metro Station (purple line 10).
Dimei Mall/ Hong Kong Underground Street – This underground mall is located at People’s Square station on Line 2 (green line).
10. Be Pampered with Luxury at Waldolf Astoria Shanghai Hotel
We were lucky enough to stay at one of the best hotels in Shanghai, Waldorf Astoria Shanghai. The hotel is situated conveniently along The Bund and is just a ten-minute walk from East Nanjing Walking Street.
As we stepped through the hotel’s classic revolving doors, we were in awe of the neoclassical splendor of the hotel. Greek Doric columns line the lobby and dazzling chandeliers on the towering ceilings lighted our path as we walked on the glossy marble floor.
We simply loved the hotel. The room was comfy and luxurious, and service was exemplary throughout our stay. This is definitely one of the best hotels we have ever stayed at! Click here to see the reviews and best prices of Waldolf Astoria Shanghai.
Directions: Take the metro to East Nanjing Road station on Line 2 (green line), go out from Exit 7, and walk for about fifteen minutes. Click here for directions.
11. Yuyuan Garden
Yuyuan Garden is an elaborate Chinese garden located in downtown Shanghai. Unlike other ancient towns we had visited, Yuyuan Garden had Ming Dynasty style buildings that almost seemed to be newly built. And that’s because the buildings had been restored relatively recently in 1961.
And being the greedy foodies we are, one of the reason why we wanted to go to Yuyuan Garden was because it houses the famous Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant, famed for its soup dumplings and super long queues.
Directions to Yuyuan Garden: The garden is located at Yuyuan Garden metro station on Line 10 (light purple line).
12. Visit the Ancient Water Town of Zhujiajiao
Many tourists lament about the lack of authentic Chinese culture in the modern city of Shanghai. However, unbeknownst to many people, there is an ancient water town with a 1700 year history located right in Shanghai.
This is the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao.
When I reached the water town, I was amazed that an hour bus ride could take me to such a different facade of Shanghai. The picturesque water town has many waterways, along with stone arch bridges and historical Chinese architecture.
And surprisingly, there were many quaint cafes here too. I can imagine it must be really nice to chill out in one of the cafes along the river.
After spending some time walking around the water town, we got hungry. We spotted street vendors selling onion pancakes and pork trotters and quickly bought some to fill our stomachs. After that, we rushed off to catch our bus back to Shanghai.
Directions to Zhujiajiao:
To reach this ancient water town, we took a train ride to Dashijie metro station on Line 8 (blue line), exited from Exit 3, and walked to the bus stop at 10 Pu An Road 普安路10号. See this map to get a clearer idea. Below is the landmark at the bus stop.
From there, we took the bus line Huzhu Gaosu Kuaixian 沪朱高速快线. The bus comes every 30 minutes and the trip costs just 12 RMB. You pay by metro card or in cash to the bus conductor after boarding. There are a total of six stops, and Zhujiajiao is at the last stop. The trip takes about an hour.
And that’s a wrap! We hope you found this article useful. Feel free to email us or leave your comments below if you have any other questions about traveling in Shanghai.
This article is part of our completely free and fantastic Ultimate Shanghai Travel Guide. Why spend days researching when all your holiday information is simply a click away? 🙂