Now, although Shanghai isn’t the capital (that honour goes to Beijing), it’s certainly the biggest city in all of China. This all makes it an epic place to explore, especially with a heap of the best things to do in Shanghai that are dotted all across the city.
Shanghai has pretty much everything you’d want from any global city. Think; amazing nightlife, absolutely tasty restaurants (always a big plus for us), stunning architecture (it’s a great blend of old and new) and a pretty amazing transport system.
This makes it a totally easy city to fall in love with, especially if you love a city break.
This is exactly why we wanted to share some of the very best things to do in Shanghai on your next trip. Yes, there’s a shed load of things to do, but as long as you plan well, you can see a hefty chunk of places.
Anyway, without rambling any more, take a look at some of the very best things to do in Shanghai on your trip. Have the best time.
1.) Yu Garden
Covering an area of 20,000 square km, the Garden of Happiness acts as an oasis of calm from the sometimes chaotic streets of Shanghai.
Now, I’m a fan of busy, manic cities but even I can appreciate a bit of escapism from the hustle and bustle. This is especially true in a city the size of Shanghai.
Also, as if that wasn’t enough of a lure, there are some parts of this garden that have been here since the 16th century!
Throughout this beautiful garden, you can find a shed load of traditional Chinese Pagodas, ponds blanketed with Lily pads, quaint bridges and a huge variety of trees, plants, and wildlife.
Just make sure to see the particular features, too. Like, the; the Kuailou Pavilion, the Wanhua Chamber, and the Jade Rock. It really is one of the best things to do in Shanghai.
2.) The Jade Buddha Temple
Located in the Anyuan Lu district, the Jade Buddha Temple is one of the most beautiful temples in Shanghai. Most of all, it’s known for its design and stunning golden statues that adorn the walls.
Looking outside, the exterior is made from traditional designs and a stunning amount of intricate detail. Honestly, if you’re a culture buff (like me), you’ll love it!
This all being said, the main attraction, however, is inside the temple and it is a large statue of a lying Buddha decorated with ornate jewels and fruits.
It’s one of the most sacred in the city and one of the best things to do in Shanghai when you want to explore the city’s temples.
Afterwards, take a trip over to Jin’an Temple, that’s perched in the city, too. Both a stunning.
3.) The Bund Promenade
Also known as Zhongshan Lu, walking the Bund promenade is easily one of the best things to do in Shanghai, especially in the early evening.
For me, this area has a distinctly European feel and has a plethora of English and French structures (which, when you find out more about the history of Shanghai starts to make sense).
Plus, if you’re looking for that ‘iconic’ photo of Shanghai, this is where you should explore, too.
Aside from the waterfront views, the Bund also has a heap of shops, restaurants, bars and galleries, too. It’s perfect if you’re looking to grab a bite to eat or to soak up that city view with a drink or two.
Afterwards, make sure to head to the French Concession, too. It’s a great place to explore.
4.) Longhua Temple
This temple complex is the most authentic and well-preserved Song Dynasty monastery in all of Shanghai.
The traditional architecture and design of this fantastic set of structures is typical of the Song era and features many pointed roofs and pagodas that are so unique.
The central attraction, however, is the towering six-tiered pagoda that rises above the surrounding buildings. It’s a stunner to see.
Afterwards, take a wander to Yuyuan Old Street and Garden Temple, too.
5.) The Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum stands as the most important source of ancient Chinese art in the country and is located in the immense People’s Square.
This domineering stone structure provides an insightful look at Chinese art through the ages and some of its artefacts date back to the early Chinese dynasties.
Separated into sections, you can see bronze creations, sculptures, ceramics, jades, calligraphy, together with prized furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
If you’re more into natural history, make sure to check out the Shanghai Natural History Museum, too. They’re both perfect places to explore and one of the best things to do in Shanghai when the weather takes a turn for the worst.
6.) The Oriental Pearl Tower
This iconic tower (that tall pink one in the photo above with two huge ‘balls’ in the middle of it) has a totally unique design and is one of the most memorable icons of Shanghai.
At a whopping 467m, this once stood as the tallest structure in all of China, too.
With 15 different observation decks and a revolving restaurant, the Oriental Pearl it’s a fascinating spot to visit in and of itself. Though, the real reason why you have to visit is for the absolutely epic views over Shanghai.
Remember, if you can, try to get up here just 1 hour or so before sunset! The views at this time are immense.
Also, if you fancy a day trip from the centre of Shanghai, pop over to the picturesque town of Zhujiajiao.
It’s around 30km from the centre of Shanghai and easy to visit for a half-day tour.
7.) People’s Square
As the main square of Shanghai, this open space is hugely important and is a great location to start your tour of the city (though that is by no means essential to planning your itinerary, of course). In the centre of the square is the beautiful People’s Park dotted with fountains.
Surrounding this are are places like the Grand Cinema, the Shanghai Museum, and the Municipal Government Headquarters, too. Hence, this is exactly why I said it’s a great spot to start your tour of shanghai itself.
8.) Xujiahui Cathedral
Set within the grounds of a small park, this cathedral would look nothing like what you might expect to find in Shanghai. That being said, seeing it is easily one of the best things to do in Shanghai if you love to see a totally different side to the city.
For me, it’s such a contrast from the traditional Chinese architecture in Shanghai.
Built within 1911, this Romanesque structure (and it’s impressively domineering spires) serves as the main place of worships for Shanghais catholic contingency.
9.) Xintiandi district
Dubbed as the “New Heaven and Earth” (or so I was told), Xintiandi is a very popular entertainment district bang smack in the heart of Shanghai.
If you’re looking for dinner, drinks and a good night out in Shanghai, then this is where you should be! It really is one of the best things to do in Shanghai if you want a night on the town.
That being said, you can expect a more laid back vibe here rather than the upbeat Nanjing Road.
10.) Yangpu Bridge
This immense cable-stayed bridge spans the Huangpu River and is one of the longest bridges in the world with a total length of 8354m.
The Yangpu Bridge takes traffic from the Yangpu District to the Pudong region of Shanghai and has two sightseeing sidewalks for you to walk along. Though, it can be tough to walk in the heat of midday.
11.) Shanghai World Financial Center
The skyline of Shanghai is littered with huge skyscrapers though one of note definitely has to be the Shanghai World Financial Centre – which is one of the tallest building in the world.
There are of course a whole lotta reasons to take in the view of this incredible structure but if you head up to the 100th floor, there is an observation deck that offers one of the best available views of the city.
Again, that whole “1 hour before sunset” rule applies here. This is especially true to get some epic photos during the sunset hour.
Also, make sure to pop into the Flair Rooftop that’s perched ontop of the Ritz Carlton. It’s a stunner of a place for views (and cocktails), too.
12.) Shanghai Tower
Completing the trio of Shanghai’s immense skyscrapers, the Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in all of Shanghai and has one of the tallest (if not the tallest) observation deck in the world. Suffice to say, it’s something of a national landmark.
With its twisting design, this skyscraper is well-renowned across the globe for its amazing architectural design.
On the 121st floor sits that afore-mentioned highest observation deck in the world – a spot which provides 360-degree views of Shanghai. It’s easily one of the best things to do in Shanghai.
Afterwards, pop over for a special treat at Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, this Michelin Star restaurant is totally incredible; even if it’s a little pricey.
13.) Travel on the Maglev
Shanghai is bursting with modern technology and the Maglev train is a testament to this.
Travelling from the Airport(s) to the city centre, the magnetically levitated train (yes, you read that right!) glides along the track at an unbelievable 270mph and covers 19 miles in just 8 minutes.
The design and style of the carriages are second to none, and, seeing as this is the fastest commercial high-speed electric train in the world. There’s no easier way to travel within Shanghai.
14.) Nanjing Road
If there’s one place you need to head to for shopping in Shanghai (other than, perhaps The Bund), Nanjing Road definitely is the place.
Stretching for several miles and starting at the Zhongshan Lu intersection, Nanjing is pedestrian-friendly and features a mind-boggling amount of shops, too.
You can find street vendors, souvenir stalls, boutique clothing shops, several large malls, and a whole range of cinemas and street food, too.
Essentially, everything you could ever want to buy in the city can be found on these streets. Plus, it’s great to visit is at night. This is when Nanjing really gets lit up and bustling!
15.) Dongtai Road
Throughout this stretch of road, you will find a jumble of shops and stalls selling practically anything you can imagine – from books and antiques to metal teapots and even insects.
This street has it all and will provide a true slice of local life in Shanghai. This all makes it one of the best things to do in Shanghai.
Also, if it’s the old town you’re after, take wander around the area of Nanshi, too. It’s beautiful to see.