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Things to do in Shangai. Featured photo by Romain Pontida

Shanghai has long been the gateway to China. Located on the Yangtze River delta, it is known as the city above the sea, the Paris of the East.

It is the largest economic and trade center in China, and one of the country’s biggest cultural centers. Though despite the ancient cultures we find in Beijing and Xi’an, Shanghai is a relatively young city, with a unique fusion of Eastern and Western cultures. So many places to visit in Shanghai China.

As China’s largest and richest city, Shanghai is a mega-metropolis which oozes an atmosphere on par with New York and Paris in terms of modernity; a bustling international hub with something for everyone.

Whether you’re in Shanghai for architecture, cuisine, history, shopping, or entertainment, this is a town that’s tailored just for you. The following are things to do in Shanghai for every interest – great ideas for your itinerary no matter what you like to do! The following is what to see in Shanghai.

Things to do in Shanghai …

For the History Buff

Although Shanghai doesn’t have a long history, many events in China’s modern history happened here. Many Shanghai places of interest are historical. 

In terms of Shanghai points of interest, you can visit the 400 year old Yu Gardens to experience the traditional side of the city, or walk along Xintiandi, Former French Concession, Nanjing East Road and the Bund to see the charming colonial parts. A city weekend Shanghai should include history.

In Shanghai, the old and the new buildings stand side by side in contrast. The Shanghai Museum has exhibitions ranging from beautiful clothing from the Chinese ethnic minorities, a Jade collection, antique furniture and calligraphy.

One of the top 10 things to do in Shanghai, the Jewish Refugee Museum shares the incredible story of about 20,000 European Jews that managed to escape to Shanghai just before the WWII started.

You can visit the 400 years old Yu Gardens to experience the traditional side of the city

Although Shanghai doesn’t have a long history many events in China’s modern history happened there.

You can visit the 400 years old Yu Gardens to experience the traditional side of the city

Photo credits from top: Shutterstock / xiquinhosilva / xiquinhosilva

For the Architecture Lover

Did you know that Shanghai is second in the world for Art-Deco style buildings?

If you enjoy architecture take a stroll along the Bund. Nanjing East Road and the neighborhoods around the Former French Concession are heaven for photographers. And one of my favorite Shanghai tourist spots. 

Even Prada recently got involved with a renovation project of an old villa house, now open to visitors if you manage to book your spot well in advance.

Start your walk around Huahai Road (also good for some shopping) and wonder into the roads nearby. There are a lot of cafes too, if you want to make a stop and do some people-watching. And wondering what to do in Shanghai.

Shanghai Skyline

HSBC bank building on the Bund

Photo credits: Shanghai skyline by xiquinhosilva. Financial Square by Dan Lundberg

For the Traveler on a Budget

There are things to do in Shanghai for every budget, but yes – it is a more expensive destination than other places in China. Nonetheless, don’t miss it!

It’s not difficult to explore on your own using the city metro system, but maybe consider taking a guided tour just for 1 day to get a better understanding of the city. You’ll figure out the most important Shanghai must see spots.

The city has a huge range of fancy hotels, but my advice – if you’re looking to cut down on costs, book a hostel instead of a 2-3 star hotel, as hostel staff  are more likely to speak English. Easier to ask Shanghai what to do!

For the Foodie

If Michelin thought Shanghai was a good enough place to start a guide here, who are we to argue! Shanghai places to visit includes food!

Chinese cuisine is very diverse, and you can find flavors from all around China – Sichuan spicy, Hunan savory and even Cantonese.

Of the best food places to visit in Shangai, the famous DinTaiFung dumplings chain has several stores in the city and there are also some cool vegetarian – Buddhist style – restaurants as well. Try the one next to Jing’an Temple for example – really nice and very fair prices!

If you would like to try some world renowned western food, Shanghai boasts well-known international chefs. Shanghai places to visit are restaurants. 

➡ Book a food tour. Don’t wonder where to go in Shanghai as they cover it for you!

If Michelin thought Shanghai was a good enough place to start a guide here, who are we to argue!

If Michelin thought Shanghai was a good enough place to start a guide here, who are we to argue!

Photo credits: Shanghai food market by ChinaClickGo.com. Food barrels by xiquinhosilva.

For the Party Animal

The Bund provides some beautiful views and there are several bars for those looking for things to do in Shanghai at night.

Try out Bar Rouge for full panoramic views, but if you want a classier experience, try Mint or Vue Bar on top of the Hyatt on the Bund.

If you’re looking for something less fancy, try Donghu road or Wuding Road for some local bars, or Found 158 with bars and restaurants as well.

There is a big Jazz scene in Shanghai, and Pearl, JZ club and House of Blues are great venues to catch live band performances.

For the Artistic Soul

M50 is the main area for galleries in Shanghai, located in north Jing’an district. Lots of local and foreign artists have their galleries here, and you can easily spend an entire day. There are many Shanghai tourist attractions here.

If museums are more your thing, try Rock on the Bund or the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), but make sure to check if they are exhibiting when you visit. The Power Station of Art is also a good option to look out for.

M50 is the main area for galleries in Shanghai.

Things to see in Shanghai includes the M50 art zone – ChinaClickGo.com

For the Shopaholic

Great shopping ranks among the top things to do in Shanghai. If you want a dress or suit made, the South Bund Fabric Market is for you – make sure to bargain!  Places to go in Shanghai includes incredible shops.

Other great things to buy are silk clothing, scarves or quilts. Pearls and cashmere are also very affordable so make sure to check out the markets and ask for a good price! This is a must do in Shanghai. 

Most people speak English well enough, though if not they will show you the prices as numbers on a calculator. Some great things to buy in Shanghai.

➡ Book a Shanghai shopping tourLook for shops on the Shanghai attractions map.

There are plenty of options for great shopping in Shanghai.

Shopping in Shanghai.

Photo credits: Taikang road – ChinaClickGo.com. Shopping street by xiquinhosilva.

The Best Time to Visit Shanghai

The best times to visit Shanghai are March–May (spring) and October–November (autumn). Shanghai tourist places are less crowded then.

This is when the temperature is most comfortable, though note that there are many public holidays and festivals during spring, so Autumn is a better choice if looking to avoid the crowds. Especially if visiting Shanghai attractions top 10.

Summer in China runs from late June through to late September, and is peak tourist season. Note that it becomes very hot and humid at this time of the year, with frequent downpours of rain. Winter gets incredibly cold which can make city exploration less pleasant.

Do your best to avoid local holidays, like Labor Day (May 1-3) as the city’s main tourist sites are overrun with local tourism and hotel rates will skyrocket. Shanghai is a business-centric city, so keep in mind that hotel rates usually drop over the weekends.

Search for Cheap Hotels in Shanghai



Booking.com

 Most Popular Shanghai Tours

Whether you’re interested in a classic tour or you’re searching for a unique experience, you can find a variety of options on ChinaClickGo.com.

Their team has personally tested great tours and activities all over Shanghai and listed them all in one place so that you can build your own ideal trip. There are food tours, night tours, walking tours, bike tours – jump on over to find things to do in Shanghai based on your interests.

Search Popular Shanghai Tours

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; a website dedicated to opening your eyes to the wild & natural world.

Committed to bringing you the best in adventure travel from all around the globe, there is no mountain too high, and no fete too extreme! They haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on their list.

If you enjoy getting social, you can follow their journey on FacebookTwitterYouTubePinterest and Instagram.

Photo credits for Pinterest images: CC via Flickr by xiquinhosilva and  Romain Pontida.

    40 Comments

  1. So much to learn about Shanghai in this post! I had no idea that so many Jewish refugees ended up here, and neither did I know about all the art deco architecture! I have not visited but this has given me a different idea of Shanghai – will need to do further investigation!

    • Glad we could give you a little bit of an introduction and overview to some of Shanghai Sarah! It’s an incredible city, so I’m psyched that we could inspire you to think about a trip. Let me know if you have any questions at any stage as you research further :)

  2. Hi Meg,

    Shanghai looks like it has much to offer all types of travelers. I would dig the food scene and also seeing the history of the area. I have only laid over a few times – once overnight – on trips back to NYC. Next time I see a trip around the city to enjoy the place a little bit more. Also cool to know it is the Paris of the East. Super neat. Fabulous post.

    Ryan

    • Hi Ryan, so glad you enjoyed the post! Can definitely recommend organizing a longer layover on your next flight through. I think you would really love the city if you’re interested in both history and food.

      Happy holidays! Hope you have the chance to explore Shanghai sometime soon!

  3. I didn’t realize it was the richest city in China. You had me at foodie ;) I’d love to feast there one day. I’m also a huuuuuge Art Deco fan and had no clue they had so many buildings made in that style. Just assumed it was one ultra modern city. Inspired to visit!

    • As a foodie and an art deco fan you would LOVE Shanghai! Glad we could give you some insight past the ultra modern face of the city. Hope you have the chance to travel soon!

  4. I’ve never visited Shanghai and had no idea there was so much to do. I would love to visit the Jewish Refugee Museum — who knew?! — and I think I would spend a fortune at the fabric market. So many unexpected treasures to experience there!

    • Glad we could give you a bit of an overview Lois! If you’re interested in Jewish history Shanghai has a very interesting past, it goes very much under the radar when people seek out destinations for Jewish history, and you could say is somewhat of a forgotten past. But the city hosted a large, vibrant community of refugees and the museum does a great job of preserving their heritage.

      Just remember to pack an empty suitcase so you can get everything home from the fabric market :D! Hope you have the chance to travel soon!

  5. I’ve wanted to go to Shanghai for awhile, but this really makes me want to go! I had no idea they had a Jewish Refuge Museum there or that was even part of their history.

    • Hope you have the chance to travel soon Marissa, it really is a fabulous city with so much to do. I was also surprised to hear that the city had such strong ties to Jewish heritage from WWII. The Jewish Refuge Museum is a really interesting stop and does a great job at making sure this part of their history is not forgotten.

  6. Love how you broke down Shanghai for the different personalities. At first I was like, ho hum, another booming metropolis but then when I saw the Jewish Refugee Museum, that looks interest. Also You had me at the Dumplings. I could just pull up a stool and start eating.

    • Thanks Eric! Yes, I find it easier to advise someone visit a place based on their interests / personality, as opposed to saying “I liked it, so you will too!”.

      It’s definitely easy to dismiss large cities these days, when it feels like each one is becoming a cookie cutter version of the next. But Shanghai is a truly unique place, and definitely worth the visit. There’s a lot going on once you look past the flashy modern cityscape, and the Jewish Refugee Museum is definitely a gem. As are the dumplings … I could easily eat my body weight in them!!

  7. To me Shanghai has always seems like a city of the future.In addition to the glitzy neon I would love to explore the hisotic districts and take in the art deco architecture.

    • It definitely pushes boundaries on what a modern city should be! Hope you have the chance to travel in 2018 :)

  8. I would love to visit Shanghai just for the food! The dumplings would be my first choice for sure. A food tour would be a great introduction to the cuisine of Shanghai. Your post has opened my eyes to what else there is to do in this lovely city!

    • OMG the food is a reason to visit in itself for sure! Best dumplings I’ve ever had! Agree that food tours are a really great way to get an overview of the cuisine, and I love them too as most also include an element of a historic walking tour as you’re making your way between stops.

      Glad we could inspire your wanderlust towards Shanghai!

  9. I haven’t spent any time in Asia but am always intrigued by Shanghai’s skyline. The architecture and shopping certainly have my attention, sounds like its a great destination

    • Shangahi would be a great introduction to Asia, with a little bit of everything in terms of culture, architecture, history, & food. Hope you have the chance to travel soon!

  10. Whenever I have considered China, Shanghai has always struck me as a nice stop-over. Maybe a few more hours here after reading this post would be a good idea. I would dig that 400 year old garden while those markets seem perfect for some window shopping. Did not know that Jews reached here and there was a Jewish museum. So a few hours here too, would be amazing.

    • If you can work Shanghai into an upcoming itinerary as a stopover you would have a great time :) There’s so much variety! Maybe you can organize an extended layover and spend a couple of days :)

  11. China is one of those countries I really want to travel to but keep putting off, Shanghai of course would probably be my first stop and I like how you’ve broke this post down for all the different types of travelers. Good to know that like most cities with a bit of nous it’s good for budget travelers like myself. In saying that, although I’m a budget traveler I love chinese food, and I can practically taste dumplings in my mouth hah.

    • Maybe you can make a resolution to make it happen in 2018! An incredible country, and Shanghai is one of the most interesting destinations. Glad you enjoyed the personality / interests breakdown. And yes, it can absolutely be done on a budget, and you can spend any extra money you have on dumplings :D

      Hope you have the chance to travel sometime soon!

  12. As a museum junkie, can’t wait to see the Jade Gallery at Shanghai museum. In the older cities in Asia, it is pretty common to see old and new buildings co-existing & that to me shows how the city has evolved over a period of time – evolution of society, culture & architecture is right in front of your eyes.

    • Definitely re the city evolving over time – I love how it’s plain as day for you to see too! The architecture is one of the most incredible things about Shanghai … and as a museum junkie you would love the options!

  13. I haven’t been to Shanghai Megan and this is an interesting read for me. I love how you’ve listed the activities for people with different interests, gives me and idea of what I can pick for myself :) I would love to try some experimental food when I’m there :)

    • Glad you enjoyed the post Medha, and the breakdown for different personalities and interests :) Definitely a good spot for experimenting with Chinese cuisine!

  14. I love how this itinerary is written. I would love the foodie, artistic soul and the history buff part of the itinerary. There’s so much to do in Shanghai. I never really thought of Shanghai as a budget place though. Although I’m not a budget traveler, good to know that you can take the metro and save some money on travel. I would probably spend the saved cash on food :P

    • Thanks Shruti! Definitely a lot to do for a range of different travelers – I like highlighting things to do based on different travel personalities, so that people can easily find stuff for their interests :)

      Definitely not as budget friendly as perhaps other parts of Asia, but there are always little tricks to saving money, and everything adds up! The metro being a great way to save on transport :)

  15. Wow, so much beauty and history there. I had no idea about those 20k Jews! Thanks for the tip about getting English staff at a hostel. I’ve run into trouble with that in the past. And I’ll definitely be gorging myself on those dumplings! That’s a really hard choice between festivals and a lack of crowds. Maybe I’ll just have to visit twice. I really hope my first time is in 2018.

    • Absolutely, Shanghai is an incredible place! Glad we could help you out with some ideas for things to do, and yes, really makes a difference when the staff can communicate directly with you.

      Visiting twice is a great idea :D Have a fabulous trip!

  16. That is a beautiful detailed guide on Shanghai. Indeed the city is for every type of traveller. I never knew that it is the richest city of China and is seond in the world for the art deco style buildings. Your post has inspired me to take a tour to Shanghai. Great pictures Meg

    • Thanks Suruchi, glad you enjoyed the post! Have an amazing time in Shanghai – let us know if you have any questions in the lead up to your trip :)

  17. Funny you mention Bar Rouge! My friends who just got married: a German and a Kiwi met at Bar Rouge in Shanghai! Such a coincidence that this spot is mentioned on this post!

    • Small world! Such amazing panoramic views there!

  18. I was in Shanghai for business maybe 15 years ago. I remember the foodie scene especially the huge tea house with a wide array of dumplings and the great shopping at the East side of the city. But didn’t know about the refugee history and the deco architecture!

    • Glad we could tell you a little more about Shanghai Carol, and that you enjoyed your first trip – OMG yes the food!!!

      Hope you have the chance to head back sometime, and can delve into parts of the city you missed on your first trip :)

  19. Shanghai is so high on my to go to list. Damn this guide is insane!! It’s on some Lonely Planet level, jam packed with info. You left no stone unturned. From the 400 year old garden to the food and the jazz clubs. Love the picture or the little bull. I’ve seen it before when I was researching New York’s bull. One thing really interesting is the Jewish Refugee Museum. I never would of thought of 20,000 European Jews heading there before world war 1.

    • Glad to hear that Christopher! And glad you enjoyed our guide on things to do in Shanghai!

      Fun fact, the bull in Financial square was installed by the same sculptor (Arturo Ugo Di Modica), who did the Wall Street Charging Bull in New York. So that’s why it looks familiar!

      Hope you have the chance to visit soon :)

  20. It looks like there is something for everyone in Shanghai. This is a really well-written guide, complete with tips for any type of traveler. Have you been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC? I am wondering how the Jewish Refugee Museum compares. The Holocaust Museum was absolutely intense, I actually had to have a good cry after leaving. You definitely got me with the dim sum, it looks like heaven!

    • There really is :) Thanks Jenn and Ed, so glad you enjoyed the guide! I haven’t been to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, but you should definitely be prepared for an emotional visit re the Jewish Refugee Museum. Dim sum afterwards would be a great way to reflect and decompress!

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