Top 20 Things to Do in Shanghai

Written by Vivian Updated Aug. 31, 2023

Shanghai is a multi-cultural city in China. With the influence of Western culture in the 19th century, mixed with Chinese culture in the south of the Yangtze River Delta (Jiangnan Culture), the city offers a great mix of old and new. Our picks of the 20 best things to do in Shanghai will illustrate the charming features of this city.

1. Stroll Along the Bund

The Bund is located in Zhongshan East 1st Rd. Visit the Bund to admire the Shanghai skyline with its unusual mishmash of architectural styles - modern skyscrapers juxtaposed with colonial-era buildings. A night walk provides an unbelievable spectacle with the buildings' lights shimmering on the Huangpu River.

2. Check out the Skyline from the Shanghai Tower Observation Deck

Shanghai Tower is the second tallest building in the world and the tallest in China, standing at 632 meters (2073 feet) with 128 stories. One of the most awe-inspiring features of Shanghai Tower is its observation deck on the 118th floor, known as the "Top of Shanghai Observatory". From here, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire city including landmarks like the Bund and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.

3. Wander the Streets of the French Concession Walking down the French

Concession's tree-lined avenues, you get the sense of being in both the past and the present, and also East and West. The district is filled with a mix of European-style villas and apartment buildings, traditional Chinese lane houses (known locally as shíkùmén), charming boutiques, upscale shops, trendy bars, cafes, and art galleries.

4. Observe Shanghai from the World Financial Center

With a height of 492 meters (1,615 feet), Shanghai World Financial Center offers a great spot to view the Shanghai skyline. Its 100th floor has a viewing lounge with a glass walkway which will give you a breathtaking experience.

5. Capture the View from the Oriental Pearl TV Tower

Oriental Pearl Tower – As the icon of Shanghai, there are always long lines to get in for sightseeing on national holidays. This 468-meter (1535-foot) tower has two highlight attractions: one is the 259-meter Transparent Observatory and the other is the 267-meter Revolving Restaurant, which is the perfect place to get the panoramic night views of prosperous Shanghai.

6. Admire the Old City at Yuyuan Garden and Bazaar

Located northeast of Shanghai Old Street and first built in 1559, Yu Garden (Yuyuan) is a Chinese classical private garden. It has been largely restored and now you can see its well-preserved wooden pavilions, bridges, rocks, and lovely potted plants.

Outside the garden, there is a bustling and vibrant marketplace located near the Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, China. This traditional bazaar is renowned for its variety of shops, delicious food, and stunning Chinese architecture.

7. Experience Magic at Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disneyland is located in Chuansha New Town. Nothing beats the fun of Disneyland. Enjoy the thrilling rides, watch spectacular shows, meet with Disney characters, and explore themed lands like Tomorrowland and Treasure Cove. Explore the magical world of Disney, with fun-filled rides and attractions for all ages.

Tickets for children under 3 years old or under 1.0 meters (about 3.3 feet) in height are free. People 65 years or older can avail of the Senior Citizen Ticket.

8. Visit Zhujiajiao Water Town

Located in Qingpu District, roughly 47 km from Shanghai Central. Enjoy the serene environment of this water town by taking a leisurely boat ride, crossing historic bridges, exploring local markets, or trying local snacks.

9. Stroll Around Historical Alleys at Tianzifang

Tianzifang, located within the Taikang Road district in Shanghai, China, is a historical and cultural enclave renowned for its intricate alleyways, traditional Shikumen-style architecture, and vibrant art scene.

10. Immerse at Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Museum

The Shanghai Urban Exhibition Museum, also known as the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, is located in People's Square, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China. The museum showcases the evolution of Shanghai city and plans for the future.

11. Cycling around the Old Street in Shanghai

Take time out for a day trip to explore modern Shanghai. Spend a half day strolling around Shanghai by bike. You will see the most famous Shanghai highlights in rapid succession, sky-scrappers on the Bund, romantic French-style buildings in the Former French Region, traditional Shanghai architecture -Shikumen in Xintiandi, and prosperous commercial Nanjing Road.

12. Enjoy Performances at the Shanghai Circus World

Shanghai Circus World is a large indoor circus located in Jing'an District of Shanghai City. It is situated opposite the Zhabei Stadium to the south and Guangzhong Park to the north.

The 100-minute show "ERA Intersection of Time" is a must-see. The show combines Chinese history, martial arts, and incredible special effects throughout the unique spectacle. It is entertaining and suitable for all ages. 

13. See Traditional Architecture at Zhujiajiao Water Town

Zhujiajiao Water Town is a quaint and lovely old town that is a 1-hour drive from the Bund, Shanghai. It has a completely different lifestyle from Shanghai, making it a great place for escaping the city’s hustle and bustle.

Going through the town’s small alleys to the end, you may see local people washing clothes on the river bank. You can also just linger at a coffee shop watching people go to and fro. The best way to view the water town is to take a gondola trip. Try to get there in the mornings, when there are not many visitors.

14. Ride a Huangpu River Cruise at Night

The Huangpu River Night Cruise is one of the best ways to witness the beauty of the city's combination of traditional architecture and modern skyscrapers, it offers breathtaking views of the mesmerizing skyline, especially illuminating the city's charm. Some highlighted sites include the Bund, a famous waterfront area, and Pudong.

15. Feast on Xiao Long Bao(Soup Dumplings)

Xiao Long Bao is a delicacy in Shanghai, a city famous for its culinary tradition. You cannot visit Shanghai without diving into the bustling food scene and trying the soup dumplings, locally known as Xiao Long Bao. Here are the top recommended places to feast on Xiao Long Bao in Shanghai.

Nanxiang Bun Restaurant (Nanxiang Mantou Dian)(南翔包子店)

Address: 85 Yuyuan Road, Jing'an District, Shanghai

Inside the historic Yu Garden Bazaar, lies the birthplace of Xiao Long Bao. Nanxiang Bun Restaurant has been serving these delicate dumplings for over a century, and their traditional recipe has remained unchanged.

Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包)

Address: 90 Huanghe Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai

Jia Jia Tang Bao is a must-visit restaurant for Xiao Long Bao enthusiasts. The soup dumplings at Jia Jia Tang Bao are handmade and filled with ample amounts of soup.

Din Tai Fung (鼎泰丰)

Address: Multiple locations

Although Din Tai Fung is a Taiwan-based chain, their spot-on Xiao Long Bao has won the hearts of people globally. Renowned for their 18-pleat dumplings, Din Tai Fung ensures consistent quality across all their locations.

16. Shopping on Nanjing Road

Nanjing Road is one of the world's busiest shopping streets located in the center of Shanghai, and it's split into two parts: East Nanjing Road and West Nanjing Road. Known for being a shopping paradise, you can find everything from large department stores and malls to traditional shops and stalls.

17. Visit Jing'an Temple

Jing'an Temple, literally translated as "Temple of Peace and Tranquility", is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Shanghai. The temple combines cultural, tourist, and religious interests in its architecture which dates back to the Western Jin Dynasty around 247 AD.

18. Take a Ride on the Shanghai Maglev Train

Running from 2003, the Shanghai Maglev Train is the world’s fastest commercially operating train, with a maximum speed of over 430 kph (267 mi/hour). The train runs very fast but passengers can barely feel it because it runs smoothly.

The maglev in Shanghai shuttles between the Pudong Airport and Longyang Rd. Station. With a distance of 30 km (18.6 mi), the journey only takes 7 minutes, making it very convenient for people to catch the plane or transfer to downtown. If you are really into trains or high-speed technology, don’t miss the Shanghai Maglev Museum. It is right below the Longyang Maglev Station and free of charge to visit with a Maglev ticket.

19. Dive into History at the Shanghai Museum

Shanghai Museum is a huge museum of Chinese ancient art. It houses 12 art galleries and over 120,000 pieces of precious collections, including bronzes, sculptures, seals, coins, paintings, jade, and more, some of which can be traced back to the Neolithic Period. It often cooperates with foreign museums and regularly holds special exhibitions. Luckily, it is free to visit.

20. Walk through the historical Jewish Refugees Museum

The Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum is a meaningful and evocative institution dedicated to commemorating and documenting the experience of Jewish refugees who found a sanctuary in Shanghai during the Second World War.

Through a visit, one can learn not only about the history of the Holocaust and the embracing nature of Shanghai but also celebrate the enduring spirit of humanity and the power of cross-cultural friendships in times of adversity.

Join in a Trip to Experience These Top Things in Shanghai

If you want to visit these attractions above or any other places you are interested in Shanghai, China Travel can tailor-make a tour based on your own needs and requirements, which will save your time, money, and trouble. Please feel free to contact us and tell us your tour ideas.

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