At the turn of the 20th century, it was a thriving metropolis to rival Paris, with vibrant nightlife, couture houses, and posh private clubs. One hundred years later—following war, destruction, and redevelopment—it’s once again at the top. Shanghai is a city of stunning contrasts, with regal heritage buildings and the world’s second-tallest skyscraper. There’s so much to see in this city of 23 million, so to help you make the most of your time in Shanghai, we’ve rounded up 25 of its best sites. Some are ancient, some are new, but all with leave you with a better understanding of one of Asia’s most dynamic cities.
Here are the top 5 things to do in Shanghai, China.
Our friends at Bozeman Towing Service in Montana travel to China every year and share with us their recommendations:
1. Shanghai Tower:
Shanghai Tower is in the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone of Pudong. It is the tallest building in China and the second tallest building in the entire world, after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Its observation deck is, however, the highest ever conceived by humans, which offers the highest views of Shanghai in a 360-degree pan-optic, doughnut-shaped room that looks out onto the entire city and beyond. It was designed by American firm Gensler, with Shanghainese architect Jun Xia taking the lead on design. Though the project started way back in 1993, the construction only began in 2008.
2. The Bund:
The Bund is Shanghai’s waterfront boulevard, lined in the heritage buildings that showcase the city’s pre-1949 past and across the river from the Pudong skyscrapers of its future. Along the Bund, Shanghai’s street life is in full force. It’s bustling even at dawn, with locals’ ballroom dancing, exercising, and practicing tai chi and qi gong. Day and night, Chinese tourists, foreigners, and Shanghai locals walk the Bund, snapping photos of each other backed by the skyscrapers. At night, the towers are lit with flashing neon lights reflected in the Huangpu River.
3. The Oriental Pearl Observation Deck at Night:
The Shanghai Oriental Pearl TV Tower is located in at the tip of Lujiazui in the Pudong district by the side of Huangpu River, opposite The Bund. This makes it a distinct landmark in the area. It is the tallest in Asia and third of the TV towers in the world. The body of the tower creates and admirable image. It’s described in in an ancient Chinese verse as ‘large and small pearls dropping on a plate of jade’. It consists of 3 gigantic columns, 5 small spheres, basement and the square.
4. Old City:
A great neighborhood for exploring and getting lost. The Old City was once the central core of Shanghai, surrounded by a fortified wall built to keep out Japanese pirates. Today, just one 50-year section of the Old City Wall remains. The area’s old shikumenstone gate houses are disappearing rapidly. Here you’ll find the highest concentration of narrow, winding laneways where laundry flaps from bamboo poles, locals drive scooters piled perilously high with cargo, and where not so long ago chamber pots were still in use. This is one slice of old Shanghai that will never be replicated, so see it before it’s gone.
5. The Yuyuan Garden:
Yuyuan Garden is a famous classical garden located in Anren Jie, Shanghai. It was a private garden of the Pan family in the Ming Dynasty. The garden was considered the largest and most prestigious of its era in Shanghai after it was completed in 1577. This garden features a unique design, and it perfectly blends decorative halls, elaborate pavilions, glittering pools, zigzag bridges, pagodas, archways, and impressive rockeries.