Photograph by Martin Puddy, Getty Images

 

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People walk near the Yuyuan teahouse in Shanghai, China.

Photograph by Martin Puddy, Getty Images

 

Discover the Best of Shanghai

Plan your trip to Shanghai with these top 10 tips.

Shanghai welcomes travelers with a stimulating pulse, sky-high buildings, rich cultural experiences, and food that will have you dreaming about it for months.

National Park

Moganshan National Park is a scenic mountainous region two to three hours from central Shanghai, offering spectacular hiking trails and cycling routes through bamboo forests and tea fields. Moganshan is lovely to visit year-round, but it makes for an excellent escape from Shanghai especially during summer months when temperatures in the mountains are significantly cooler than in the scorching city.

UNESCO Site

Known as one of the four most beautiful mountains in China, Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountain, boasts magnificent scenery with pine forests and granite peaks reaching high in the clouds. Huangshan was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990. Besides hiking up the mountain for majestic landscapes, don’t miss Huangshan’s hot springs and the ancient Hongcun and Xidi villages.

Cultural Site

Take a break from the busy streets and glitzy skyscrapers of today’s Shanghai and lose yourself for a moment in ancient China by visiting the 400-year-old Yu Garden in Shanghai’s central Huangpu District. The complex was a private garden in the Ming Dynasty and has today become one of Shanghai’s most famous sites. See exquisite Chinese sculptures, carvings, garden pavilions, pagodas, and pools. Yu Garden is surrounded by the bustling Yuyuan Bazaar with endless souvenir shops, teahouses, and restaurants.

Best Day Trip

The great traveler Marco Polo once described Hangzhou as "the finest and most splendid city in the world,” so making a day trip out to the neighboring Tea Capital of China would be a great idea during your visit to Shanghai. Hangzhou’s most famous landmark is the West Lake, renowned for its beautiful scenery as well as many culturally and historically significant sites. Be sure to head out from central Hangzhou for gorgeous rice terraces, lush forests, and excellent hiking trails nearby. Hangzhou is conveniently accessible by bullet train in only 45 minutes.

Most Iconic Place

As one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, Lujiazui is the glittering financial district with Shanghai’s famous skyscrapers, such as Shanghai Tower (the second tallest building in the world) and the iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Take a walk on the grand avenues and elevated walkways, ride up to one of many sky-bars for drinks with panoramic views, and enjoy world-class dining and shopping in extravagant shopping malls. Feel the incredible power, energy, and charm of today’s China to the full extent in Lujiazui.

Late Night

Entertainment can be found any day, any time, in any central area of Shanghai. But for the most iconic night out, head over to The Bund for some of the city’s most famous bars and nightclubs, many of which offer spectacular views and rooftops in the warmer months. When you get tired of dancing, try singing the night away at a KTV (karaoke) club, which is a popular pastime in China. Many KTVs are open around the clock, offer private rooms for both small and big parties, and include a wide range of Chinese and international songs for all guests to enjoy.

Historic Site

Known for being one of the most modern cities in China, Shanghai still offers a grand mix of old and new. Jing’an Temple is an enormous, shiny, gold-colored Buddhist temple situated right in the busiest downtown area by West Nanjing Road, offering stark contrast to the surrounding developed business district. The temple has a history of nearly 800 years and houses the largest jade Buddha statue in China.

Neighborhood to Explore

One of the most charming neighborhoods in town is the Former French Concession (FFC). Situated in central Puxi, the FFC is hugely popular particularly among foreigners and expats living in Shanghai, mainly for its excellent central location, relaxed vibe, interesting mix of old and new, and huge variety of cafés, restaurants, boutiques, and bars. To get the best of the FFC, walk along Anfu Road, Changle Road, Julu Road, Wukang Road, Wulumuqi Road, and Fuxing Road.

Rainy Day Spot

The Urban Planning Exhibition Hall is one of Shanghai’s most visited museums. It houses a large-scale model of the entire city of Shanghai, which makes it a great destination for visitors of any age. Find the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall at People’s Square in the heart of Shanghai. After your visit, jump on a hop-on hop-off bus that departs right outside for a lovely ride through the city’s central neighborhoods.

Know Before You Go

Although Shanghai is one of the most modern cities in China, be prepared for English not being too widely spoken outside of international hotels and popular restaurants. It might be helpful to write down a few basic words and phrases to carry with you in your pocketbook or smartphone, and when taking a taxi, make sure to have the names and addresses of your hotel and destinations written in Mandarin to show to the driver. Shanghai is generally a very safe city, but as you would anywhere, be mindful of valuables and pick-pockets in crowded areas. And do note that many international websites including social media sites are not accessible in China.