Shanghai – Best places to visit
to experience this amazing city
Shanghai is a super fascinating city to visit. It has a very special combination of traditional lifestyle and classical architecture on the one hand and super modern buildings and a technology-oriented lifestyle on the other hand.
In our Shanghai Travel Guide, we show you the best places to visit in Shanghai to experience both sides. We take you, for example, to the modern heart of the city, the Pudong District. But we also show you older districts, like The Bund and traditional gardens and temples.
Join us and discover this magnificent city.
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Are you thinking about visiting Shanghai?
Put your plans into action! Shanghai is worth an extended city trip. It offers a stunning mixture of modern spirit, tradition
In this blog post today, I want to share with you some of the most exciting places in Shanghai.
But before we jump right into my Shanghai Travel Guide for this fascinating place, it is really worthwhile having a quick historical summary.
A Brief History of Shanghai
After the first Opium War, China opened the city, located in the Yangtze River Delta, to Europeans and Americans for trading. Americans, the British, and the French had their own concessions – areas in the city. In the 1920s and 1930s, Shanghai had a reputation of being a city of glamour and extreme – a melting pot of business folks from all over the world. While in the late 1940s foreign businesses moved from Shanghai due to the Communist victory.
In the second half of the 20th century, Shanghai became the industrial center of China. It maintained to be the financial and cultural center – even in the times of the Cultural Revolution. The enormous development since the economic reforms in the 1990s is obvious today.
Today, Shanghai is the most populated city in China (24.21 million in 2017, no recent numbers available).
And the list of sightseeing attractions is long. Hope you find some inspiration from my favorite must-sees and tips below.
If you haven’t been to Shanghai yet, the city is easy to reach for all international travelers.
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They also include more images and more background information.
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When and How to get to Shanghai
The best time to visit Shanghai is during spring or autumn. During summer temperatures can easily reach 30+ °C along with high humidity. If you visit the city for the first time, my recommendation is to stay for 3-5 days.
Shanghai is easily reachable by plane or train. Shanghai Pudong Airport is for international flights while Shanghai Hongqiao Airport offers mainly domestic flights.
The fastest commercially operating train in the world
If you arrive at Pudong Airport, and you don’t mind spending a bit more (compared to a cab), take the Shanghai Transrapid (Shanghai maglev train). A ride on the fastest commercially operating train in the world is definitely a one of a kind experience. The maximum speed of the Transrapid is 431 km/h. It takes only 7-8 minutes to complete the 30km long distance between airport and Longyang Road Station. Watching the current train speed on display panels in each rail car is a cool feature.
At Longyang Road Station you can easily take the Shanghai Metro to reach the city center. Shanghai has the longest metro system in the world. Locations in the city are pretty well covered but the Metro network.
Good travel website with more practical info and travel tips: http://www.meet-in-shanghai.net
Shanghai – Ancient and Modern Highlights
A relaxing walk along the promenade
After taking a high-speed train into town, you might want to slow it a bit down. Let’s have a walk along the promenade ‘The Bund’ as our first stop in our Shanghai Travel Guide.
The Bund, meaning ‘Outer Beach‘, is a 1.5km long waterfront promenade in central Shanghai along the Huangpu river. It is one of the famous town’s landmarks and a very popular tourist destination. Take your time while walking along numerous historical buildings – hotels, banks, offices – of various architectural styles.
Not for nothing, The Bund is often referred to as ‘museum of international architecture’. In the 1940s, financial institutions from all different kind of countries were allocated there. It was the center of politics, economy, and culture.
Just to mention two famous buildings that are worth a closer look: The Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, which you might want to see from the inside to discover its beautiful wall paintings. Don’t forget touching the paws and heads of the lion statues in front of the building – it brings luck! And take a closer look at The Peace Hotel, today housing the Fairmont Peace Hotel. Its North Building, called Sassoon House, was one of the early skyscrapers.
Enjoy the unique view to the other side of the river with the skyscrapers skyline of the Pudong District. Especially, the night scenery with all the lights is a must see!
However, going to The Bund in the morning will definitely give you a less crowded experience.
Taking cruises (also night cruises) over the Huangpu river is also very popular and pretty nice.
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The Sightseeing Tunnel
Underwater to the skyscrapers of the Pudong District
You can take a ferry from The Bund to the Lujiazui area of the Pudong District. Or you might prefer going by a high-tech underwater subway through The Sightseeing Tunnel. The tunnel is 646.7m long. In unmanned compartments, you get to the other side in a few minutes.
An entertaining LED light show and sound effects make it more fun (and a little more expensive) than taking a ferry.
Entrances are a bit difficult to find: 300 Zhongshan East First Road (Puxi); 2789 Binjiang Road (Pudong).
Tickets: One-way 50 CNY (~ 8 USD / 7 EUR). Round trip 60 CNY (~ 10 USD / 8 EUR) Prices 2018.
Open: 8:00 – 22:30 (May – Oct); 8:00 –22:00 (Nov – Apr)
Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Spheres like pearls
Leaving the Sightseeing Tunnel, the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower is within walking distance.
The construction of the broadcasting and sightseeing tower began in 1991 and was finished in 1994. With 468m it was the tallest building in China from 1994 to 2007. Today, it is the 3rd tallest building in Shanghai.
The tower comprises 11 spheres in total. You find the highest of the three main spheres at 350m height – the ‘Space Module’. At 259m to 267m the second main sphere provides three levels – with a rotating restaurant on the top level and sightseeing floors with transparent glass floors on the lower levels. In the lowest of the main spheres at 90m, you can enjoy a roller coaster ride inside ’Space City’. The design of the tower is actually inspired by a poem about the sound of a Chinese string instrument – like ’big and small pearls falling on a jade plate’.
A visit to the Municipal History Museum of Shanghai in the basement of the tower is like a journey through time. The exhibition comes with beautiful details, like e.g. an ancient tea house scenery. As opposed to the glory of the modern skyscrapers of the Pudong District, this museum reminds its visitors of the ancient glory of Shanghai.
Tickets: Municipal History Museum 35 CNY (~ 6 USD / 5 EUR). Various combo tickets, e.g. a ticket for Space Module, upper sphere, lower sphere, and Municipal History Museum 220 CNY (~ 35 USD / 28 EUR). Children below 1m free.
Open: 8:00 – 21:30
Shanghai World Financial Center
Have a drink in the sky
Now, the next stop of our Shanghai Travel Guide takes us even higher!
With 492m the Shanghai World Financial Center is the 2nd tallest building in Shanghai. Its construction started in 1997; reaching 2007 its final height. It accommodates offices, stores, a hotel, and meeting rooms.
The building has three observation decks. The highest one is on
MTake a break, and enjoy a refreshment in the bar on the observation deck on
Tickets: Access to 100th, 97th, 94th floor 180 CNY (~ 29 USD / 23 EUR). Children between 100-140cm 90 CNY (~ 15 USD / 12 EUR).
Open: 08:00 – 23:00 (admission 22:00)
Good website with more info about Shanghai World Financial Center: http://thetowerinfo.com/buildings-list/swfc/
If you love exploring Asia, you will also like our Ultimate Hong Kong Travel Guide.
Hong Kong – a City between Western and Asian Culture
Shanghai Tower – the sky is the limit
With full speed into the sky
Now, let’s reach for the sky! The tallest in Shanghai – the Shanghai Tower that opened in 2016. It is also the tallest building in China.
It was actually designed as one of three adjacent skyscrapers – together with its sister towers Jin Mao Tower (opened in 1999) and Shanghai World Financial Center (opened in 2008). Today, the area around the three buildings is a center of tourism and modern lifestyle.
With its 632m and the highest observation deck on the 121st floor at 561m, the building is very impressive.
If you like going fast, also in vertical direction, the elevators are made for you. The speed of the elevators is up to 74km/h!
You also find the highest hotel in the world between 84th and 110th floors.
What is special about the Shanghai Tower is the different kinds of green architecture elements that were used during construction. For example, it captures rainwater and recycles wastewater. And its glass facade with a 120-degree twist reduces wind loads so that less amount of structural steel material was needed for construction.
Tickets: Access to the Sightseeing Deck 180 CNY (~ 29 USD / 23 EUR). Children between 100-140cm 90 CNY (~ 15 USD / 12 EUR).
Open: 08:30 – 22:00 (ticket sale stops at 21:30)
Good website with more info about Shanghai Tower: http://thetowerinfo.com/buildings-list/shanghai-tower/
Now, let’s change the perspective of our Shanghai Travel Guide and let’s continue with a more tranquil and traditional place, a wonderful garden.
Back to traditional Chinese Architecture
Shanghai and surroundings are the places to be if you are into the classical architecture of Chinese houses.
If that’s for you, you have to visit Yu Garden built in the Ming Dynasty, over 400 years ago. Pan Yunduan, a government officer, built the garden for his parents to enjoy in their old age. On 20,000 square meters, you find beautiful pavilions, bridges, archways, and pagodas. If you can avoid the weekends because it can be very crowded.
The garden is divided into six areas which are separated by tiled dragon walls ending with beautiful dragon heads. Don’t miss the most impressive one – the ’Dragon crossing the clouds’.
Another highlight is the famous Exquisite Jade Rock. It is over three meters high and has more than 79 holes. Burning a joss stick below the rock makes the smoke float out of the holes.
A building that you should visit is the Hall of Heralding Spring which was once a headquarter of the Small Swords Society in the Taiping rebellion in the 1850s. The aim of the Small Swords Society was to overthrow the Qing Dynasty. In the Hall of Heralding Spring, you find an interesting collection of artifacts from that time, including weapons and coins.
Though a bit touristic, it is fun to do some shopping at the Yuyuan Bazaar just next to the Yu Garden. You find a nice mixture of shops, restaurants and tea houses.
Tickets: 30-40 CNY (~ 5-7 USD / 4-6 EUR) depending on the season. Children below 130cm free.
Open: 8:45 – 16:15
Traditional and Modern at one Glance
Following Nanjing Road to the ‘Temple of Peace and Tranquility’
Do you like shopping? Or would you like to unwind in one of the amazing temples of Shanghai?
You can have both!
Nanjing Road is ‘the‘ shopping street in Shanghai. It starts at The Bund and ends at the junction of Jing’an Temple and West Yan’an Street. Dating back to 1845, when it was still called ’Park Lane’, it is the earliest shopping street in Shanghai. Today, you can spend quite some time in numerous shopping malls, stores, theatres and hotels on the 5.5km long street.
On the West Nanjing Road, the Jing’an Temple is located. A quite popular temple among tourists. The Buddhist temple has a remarkable history. It was built in 247 AD. It was originally located beside the Wuzong River, relocated in 1216 during the Song Dynasty, and rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty in the 1880s.
While the temple became a plastic factory during the Cultural Revolution, in 1983 it returned to a Buddhist temple.
Visiting the temple’s three halls and their courtyards and at the same time seeing the Shanghai’s modern skyscrapers on the horizon, shows impressively how history and modern spirit coexists in this city.
Tickets: Jing’an Temple 30 CNY (~ 5 USD / 4 EUR).
Open: 7:30 – 17:00
Beautiful gardens and more just outside of Shanghai
For everybody who has time to spend another day, my advice is to spend an extra day in Suzhou. It is about half an hour from Shanghai by train.
Suzhou was founded in 514 BC. With the building of the Grand Canal in the Jiangsu province, it became a commercial and cultural center. The town is rich in canals. It is famous for its water towns and its ancient Chinese gardens. There are about 60 gardens in the city. Nine of them are listed as UNESCO World Heritage. The earliest garden is thought to belong to the King of Wu (established between 770 – 476 BC).
Humble Administrator’s Garden
The Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuozheng Yuan) is one of the most beautiful gardens in Suzhou. It was built in the 16th century by an Imperial Envoy named Wang Xiancheng. It is a beautiful place for finding relaxation. Numerous little islands with lovely pavilions are connected by bridges.
Twin pagodas are very rare in China;
Tickets: Zhuozheng Yuan 70-90 CNY (~ 5 USD / 4 EUR) depending on the season. Children below 140cm free.
Open: Zhuozheng Yuan 07:30 – 17:00 (mid Nov – Feb); 07:30 – 17:30 (Mar – mid Nov).
So, do you already see yourself in all these wonderful places in Shanghai, visiting the traditional gardens, The Bund, or the modern architectures?
Which skyscraper observation deck will be your first to enjoy the city from above?
Want more information to ease the planning of your Shanghai trip?
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