Photograph by David Butow
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Young acrobats perform at the Shanghai Centre Theatre, on Nanjing Road West, one of the many performing venues in the city.

Photograph by David Butow

Shanghai Must-Dos

Our experts recommend the top attractions in and around Shanghai—with advice on how to get the most out of your visit.

The Bund
“No matter how many impressive skyscrapers are built around it, the Bund will always be Shanghai’s grandest and most venerable landmark.”—Sharon Owyang, author, Frommer’s Shanghai. Focal point of Shanghai’s distinctive skyline; west embankment of the Huangpu with elevated riverside promenade; European-style neoclassical buildings emit an unmistakable sense of glamour, heightened by its upscale shops, restaurants, and nightclubs.

French Concession
“Tree-lined streets, historic mansions, and art deco apartments all make this the most interesting of the colonial districts left in Shanghai and worth a day or three of exploring.”—Sharon Owyang. Perhaps the leafiest district in Shanghai; rows of plane trees give the illusion of tunnels over the narrower streets; Huaihai Road is the busy commercial thoroughfare, but a walk along Fuxing Xi (West) Road or any of its side streets can turn up tasteful shops and cafes.

“From art deco to the avant-garde, this complex squeezes China’s art world into a handful of charmingly decrepit warehouses.”—Matt Gross, “Frugal Traveler” columnist, the New York Times. Shanghai’s burgeoning gallery district; a fun place to spend an afternoon; art in leading galleries such as ShangART, Aura, and Eastlink becoming harder to afford, but plenty of reasonably priced items to be found in creative, crafty boutiques. 50 Moganshan Road.

Renmin (People’s) Square
Verdant park in the center of Shanghai; an informal activity center for locals at play and ground zero for the city’s most prominent museums: the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai Urban Planning Centre, and Shanghai MoCA. Don’t miss the lotus pond near the MoCA. People’s Square metro station.

“Night or day, the shape-shifting skyline is one of Shanghai’s major jaw-droppers.”—Damian Harper, author, Lonely Planet Shanghai. Pudong’s sci-fi spires give Shanghai its crazy, futuristic skyline; hotel action is particularly superb: get a drink on the 36th-floor lounge of the Shangri-La Pudong or rocket to the top of the 88-story Jinmao Tower. Tip: Ask your driver to take you through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. Lujiazui metro station.

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall
“Back to the future Shanghai-style: exultant visions of the Shanghai to come.”—Damian Harper. Museum features miniature replica of Shanghai today (ground floor) and a scale model of the city’s future (entire third floor); exhibits chronicle Shanghai’s colorful history. 100 Renmin Dadao; tel. 86 21 6318 4477.

South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market
Multistory building is a dream come true for frustrated design-your-own-wardrobe types; dozens of vendors offer an astounding array of fabrics; pick from existing patterns, or bring your own clothing, photos, or magazine tear-outs for new creations; shirts for as little as $5, a pair of pants $6, and a custom-made suit or wool coat $50 or less. 399 Lujiabang Road.

Taikang Road
“As voracious wrecking balls devour Shanghai’s traditional nongs (small lanes) and shikumen (stone houses), the old lanes of Taikang Lu (road) are defiantly thriving.”—Richard Baimbridge, Shanghai-based journalist. Pedestrian-friendly district; developed organically and somewhat chaotically; boutiques double as seamstress studios, such as L’Atelier Mandarine; also stores with high groove element including the T-shirt shop Shirtflag.

Yuyuan Gardens
“Unremitting tourist-flow aside, one of China’s finest looking classical gardens.”—Damian Harper. Pagoda-style pavilions, carp pools, and bamboo clusters scattered throughout classic Ming Dynasty garden; adjacent bazaar has good souvenirs; be prepared to bargain hard and elbow aside other tourists. Anren Road, near the Bund.

Experience a Whirlwind Look at Life in Shanghai Shanghai, China, is well known for its sprawling urban landscape, bustling streets, and iconic skyline. JT Singh explores the chaotic and vibrant street life in some of the city's most charming neighborhoods in this short film. The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.