20 things to experience in Shanghai
Not only is Shanghai the largest city in China but it’s also one of the largest cities in the world. It’s an important business center but perhaps more notably a favored tourist destination. You don’t want to miss out on the sights, foods and fun this city provides travelers, so book your flight and find a hotel in Shanghai so you can finally have your dream vacation.
1. The Bund
A gorgeous riverfront boardwalk many frequent for its view of the city and striking skyline that makes for a great photo op is the Bund. Walking along here you’ll see the likes of famous Shanghai skyscrapers and other buildings across the Huangpu River, like the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center. Past visitors agree strolling along this waterfront is best done at night when it’s less crowded and you’re under the glow of lights from all the buildings.
2. Eat Xiaolongbao
It’s easy to say all dumplings are alike, but there are specific distinctions throughout Chinese culture. And the Xiaolongbao is Shanghai’s very distinctive and popular version. Traditionally prepared with bamboo steaming baskets, the dumplings are usually stuffed with pork and served with a ginger-type vinegar for dipping. Most travelers say avoid the high-end restaurants and go to the local holes-in-the wall for the best Xiaolongbaos in Shanghai.
3. Shanghai World Financial Center …toilets
When you see a skyscraper resembling a massive bottle opener, then you know you found the Shanghai World Financial Center. It’s not only one of the world’s tallest buildings but also one of the best bird’s-eye views of this city. Need to use the restroom? Stop off at the 94th floor for the world’s highest-altitude restrooms – 1,388 feet. Then head up to the 100th floor for another record – the world’s highest observatory and its glass-walled walkway. There is an admission fee. (Around $15)
4. Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom
A great attraction for kids, the Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom offers live displays where the insects live in different environment like water and rainforest. In addition to insects, there are amphibians like Chinese alligators and tree frogs… and oddly, goats. To parents, it may feel like a hodge-podge (not to mention the Looney Tunes statues outside), but kids will revel in the interaction with the insects and animals.
6. Yuyuan Garden
At times, visitors feel overwhelmed from the buildings, loud sounds, various smells and packed streets of Shanghai. Go to Yuyuan Garden and find some tranquility in this little hidden treasure in the center of the city. Take your time to experience the decorated bridges and the Chinese pagodas and spot all the stone dragons around the garden. Don’t miss the Lotus Pool, a breathtaking and peaceful spot where you can meditate and relax. There is an admission fee for the Garden.
7. Jade Buddha Temple
Another Shanghai spot giving off a serene atmosphere is the Jade Buddha Temple, built between 1918 and 1928. All kinds of figures and statues reside in this temple, but none are more special than the two cultural jade Buddhist statues. You will marvel at the temple’s centerpiece, is the 1.9m-high (6 feet) pale-green jade Buddha carved from one piece, but unfortunately photographs are not permitted. The Temple is a popular stop for tour buses, so be prepared for crowds. There is an admission fee.
8. Shanghai Sidecar Tours
For a unique experience to see the bustling streets of the city, try taking a Shanghai Sidecar Tour. Zip around Shanghai’s neighborhoods in motorcycle sidecars driven by expert, English-speaking guides. Tours are tailored around centers of interests or Shanghai history and can range from 2 to 4 hours depending on what you want to learn. Depending on the tour, expect to pay extra for things like GoPro camera renting, video editing and burning to DVD. Tips are encouraged.
9. Nanjing Road
A vacation isn’t a vacation unless you get to shop. And the place to do it in Shanghai, and really all of China, is Nanjing Road. Hundreds of businesses line this 3.4-mile long street, including high-end fashion stores, traditional Chinese stores, specialty shops and common American fast food chains. This spot is always busy and full of people, so be prepared to walk briskly through crowds. At night the neon signs make this Shanghai street sparkle like the Las Vegas strip.
10. Get a Chinese Massage (owww!)
There’s really nothing like a great massage while on vacation, right? Well, at some of the best places for massage in Shanghai, you can get one… intense… massage. If you’re looking for a soothing massage, there are several to choose from throughout the city. However you’re in China, so go with the traditional therapy for tackling muscle pain, but it’s not for the weak at heart. What’s the saying? No pain. No gain. In the end though, you are gonna feel refreshed.
11. Shanghai Marriage Market
Started in 1996, the Shanghai Marriage Market allows parents to advertise their single children by hanging paper “profiles” in a corner of People’s Park. Parents promote the typical achievements of their kids: education, work, age, etc. in hopes of finding that love connection. If both parents find a pairing that could work, they work on setting their kids up on a blind date. While remembering this stems from a more traditional time when parents arranged their children’s marriages, this is still a fun experience for visitors and something to share with your friends.
12. Shanghai Acrobatic Show
Nothing is more shocking or entertaining than a Shanghai acrobatic show. A popular show is ERA Intersection of Time. Performed at Shanghai Circus World, ERA is a story combining Chinese acrobatics, martial arts and dance, along with modern technology. The acrobats’ tricks and stunts keep you on the edge of your seat, while the music, lighting and sounds just intensify your overall experience. This is a must-see while in Shanghai.
13. Jing’an Park
Yet another peaceful getaway inside Shanghai, Jing’an Park is a green urban oasis in the middle of the bustling city. From small caves to picturesque waterfalls, this charming park was developed across from the Jing’an Temple, an ancient Buddhist temple. In the morning, Shanghai residents perform the beautiful art of Tai Chi here and gives you a chance to watch this peaceful ritual. Tip: Don’t confuse Jing’an Park with the Jing’an Sculpture Park, which is nearby.
One of the coolest areas of Shanghai, Tianzifang is an array of alleyways and stone architecture that feels a lot artsy and chic. It houses more than 200 small businesses from coffee cafes to art galleries and quirky fashion boutiques to one-of-kind bars. Make sure you take plenty of selfies when you visit, because the backgrounds will be uniquely Shanghai. Bonus: It’s right around the corner from the SML Center, the largest international shopping mall.
15. Shanghai Museum
Composed of 11 galleries on four floors, the Shanghai Museum celebrates 5,000 years of Chinese history. This place is big, and if you’re a history buff, it’s suggested you take a couple of days to tour its massive collections. Not a history lover? Choose an area or two of focus like the Jade or Ming dynasty furniture or traditional Chinese calligraphy. Fun fact: The top of the museum is shaped like an ancient Chinese cooking pot.
16. Oriental Pearl Tower
The Tower and it design harkens back to the 1980s, so it may feel out of date. So should you skip this venue? No way! With its noticeable purple design, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower consists of three main full-scope sightseeing spheres. The bottom sphere houses a VR Roller Coaster and futuristic space city; the middle sphere offers 360° view of the city while walking on transparent glass and a revolving restaurant; and the third sphere hasa 5D Cinema (not a typo) and old-school arcade with dozens of games.
17. Shanghai Maglev
Ever wanted to 18 miles in roughly 7 minutes? Here’s your chance. The Shanghai Maglev is magnetic levitation train that travels at lightning speeds, back and forth between the city and Pudong International Airport. The train hovers a half-inch above the track. Round trip costs about 80 yuan ($12). Shanghai Maglev currently the fastest train in the world, but China is working on one that goes 373 mph.
18. Shanghai Urban Planning Museum
One of the most impressive venues in the city is the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, which boasts five floors covering Shanghai’s urban planning history. Located in People’s Square, the museum’s largest attraction is a stunning model of the entire city. Throw in a Virtual World 3D tour and several interactive displays and you have the most unique museum in the city. Plus when you leave the museum, you’re greeted with “Old Shanghai Street,” a re-creation of 1930s Shanghai.
19. Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is one of Shanghai’s strangest attractions. Located beneath the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, you travel under the Huangpu River by train for the most psychedelic trip of your life. Compartments on the train are completely transparent, so you can see all around, and the sound system changes as much as the colors. It takes about 5 minutes to go through the tunnel, plus it’s a great chance for memorable vacation photos.
20. Grand Cinema
If you’re in Shanghai for an extended vacation, you might want a taste of homegrown cinema. The historic Grand Cinema is your best option for popcorn and a movie. It’s the pinnacle of lavish theater design – Italian marble and Art Deco fixtures dot the main lounge. There are six theaters, including one that tops out at more than 1,500 seats and two levels. There’s even a VIP room with 25 seats for groups or work teams and translation earbuds in some seats.