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.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a booking using these links, we receive a small commission at no extra costs to you, which helps us maintaining this blog. Thank you for your support.

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 and history.

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.

Shanghai Travel Guide, the city of ancient and modern glory. The old town of Shanghai
Just strolling through the streets of Shanghai gives an impression of the ancient architecture combined with the modern way of life. We show you a lot more of these places in our Shanghai Travel Guide.

If you haven’t been to Shanghai yet, the city is easy to reach for all international travelers.

mundolore Shanghai mini travel guides and trip planner

If you prefer short bits than a long blog post, we invite you to hop over to mundolore. There we have all spots we are going to show you in our post, as individual mini travel guides.
They also include more images and more background information.

mundolore also offers a built-in free trip planner, so that you can easily plan your Shanghai sightseeing day-by-day.

mundolore Shanghai travel guide
In mundolore, you will find all the spots listed in this blog post, as individual guides. More details and more images are available per spot. You can also use mundolore to easily plan your trip.

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:

Shanghai – Ancient and Modern Highlights

The Bund

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.

A walk along The Bund,  a highlight in Shanghai
Beautiful architecture all along The Bund.

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.

Old Buildings on The Bund in Shanghai
Beautiful old buildings are located all along The Bund in Shanghai.

Must do

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.

Shanghai Skyline seen from The Bund
If you are strolling along the historical promenade The Bund, it is almost unreal to see Pudong, the modern heart of Shanghai, just on the other side of the river. This special balance is what our Shanghai Travel Guide focuses on.

Ease your sightseeing trip planning with our FREE
mundolore mini travel guides

mundolore mini travel guides, your sightseeing planning tool

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)

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Unmanned compartments bring visitors of The Bund to the other side of the river, including light show and music.
The Pudong District is the heart of modern Shanghai, located on the opposite side of The Bund.
The Pudong District, on the opposite side of The Bund, with its amazing architecture is the heart of modern Shanghai.

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’.

Must do

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

The Pearl TV Tower is a must in every Shanghai Travel Guide
The Pearl TV Tower is a great piece of architecture and should be part to any Shanghai Travel Guide. The History Museum of Shanghai in the basement is also worth a visit.

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 100th floor (474m) and provides a stunning 270-degree view. The indoor glass observation deck is right above the trapeziform hole of the building. The original design actually did foresee a circular shape rather than today’s iconic hole. However, locals including the mayor were against the design because they found that the circular hole is too similar to the icon on the Japanese flag.

A fantastic view from the Shanghai World Financial Center
The view from the Shanghai World Financial Center is just stunning.
View from the Shanghai World Financial Center at night
If you have the chance to stay longer and enjoy the night scenery, this amazing view of Shanghai awaits you. On the left hand side, you can see The Bund.

Must do

MTake a break, and enjoy a refreshment in the bar on the observation deck on 94th floor. The bar has a very relaxing atmosphere and lets you enjoy the city from above. Another must-do advice for this location, although it might sound a bit weird: go to the bathroom before leaving the bar! It would be a shame if you missed the bathroom with such a stunning view!

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:

Some impressions form the world Financial Center in Shanghai in the inside.
I have to admit, it is a bit of a strange feeling seeing Shanghai when in the bathroom. But it is for sure a one of a kind experience 😉.

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:

The Shanghai Tower, the tallest building in the city
The Shanghai Tower exceeds the 2nd tallest building, the Shanghai World Financial Center, by far.

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.

Yu 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 Yu Garden is a perfect example of traditional architecture
The Yu Garden is a peaceful and perfect place to unwind from the noise of the modern city.

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.

Must do

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

The Yu Garden is a wonderful place to take a rest and enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere
The Yu Garden offers various places to sit down and just enjoy the surrounding. Dragon and lion symbols and sculptures are incorporated all over the garden.

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

The Jing'an Temple combines tradition and modern lifestyle
The contrast between ancient and modern Shanghai seen from the Jing an Temple.
Inside the Jing'an Temple
Although the temple is open for visitors, religious life continuous.


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

Twin pagodas are very rare in China; usually you find single pagodas. That’s why I advise you to pass by the twin pagodas (Shuang Ta) in Suzhou. The Wang brothers built them 982 during the Song Dynasty. They designed the pagodas in honor of their teacher who helped them passing their exams as local officials. The beautiful twin pagodas are 30m in height, same in structure and form.

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).

Good website for more travel and tourism info for Suzhou:

Suzhou is just outside of Shanghai
There is a lot to see in Suzhou. Twin Pagodas are rare in China, and those in Suzhou are beautiful. Suzhou is easy to reach by train from Shanghai.

Visiting Shanghai?

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?

Do your sightseeing planning for a mega city within minutes!

With mundolore mini travel guides. We have all the above spots waiting for you as mini travel guides.

Your way to the best sightseeing planning tool starts here. You don’t want to miss it!

mundolore mini travel guides, your sightseeing planning tool