Known as the Paris of the Orient, bustling Shanghai has transformed into a modern Chinese city that whimsically blends modern architecture with its historic culture. It’s one of the commercial, financial, science and technological power centers in China, yet still retains pockets of traditional mystique. This glamorous, vibrant metropolis boasts a wealth of attractions, but the following top the list of things to see in Shanghai.
1. The Maglev Train
One of the first things to see in Shanghai if you fly in is the maglev Transrapid train. It uses magnetic levitation to whiz passengers friction-free from the Pudong International Airport to the city center at a speed up to 430km/h. The 30 km trip takes only eight minutes. It’s a swift, smooth and silent ride that is a fitting introduction to this modern cosmopolitan city.
2. Nanjing Road
When it comes to retail therapy, Nanjing Road has historically been the place to visit. The pedestrian road continues to be a marketplace hub for anything you might be after, from art to antiques to budget-friendly souvenirs. You can find silk goods, jade and embroidery along with the world’s top designer brands. Constructed during the 19th century, the road is a cornerstone of Shanghai’s vibrant commercial life. Be sure to sample some dumplings when you’re out on a shopping spree.
3. Oriental Pearl Tower
One of the dominating structures in Shanghai’s modern skyline is the Oriental Pearl Tower. It was built in 1995, and at 468 meters high, it’s the highest TV tower in Asia. Its various spheres are said to resemble pearls dropping onto a jade plate. There’s a revolving teahouse and observation platform in the top “pearl” offering an amazing birds-eye view over the Bund and Pudong New area of Shanghai.
4. The Bund
The celebrated Bund is Shanghai’s scenic promenade on the Huangpu River. It is famous for the elegant array of historic buildings in a range of architectural styles that are situated on it. This includes the Waldorf-Astoria Shanghai Hotel, the Asia Building, the Customs House and the Union Building. As one of the premier tourist sections of the city, you have to take a stroll down the Bund when in Shanghai. In the early morning, you can see many people doing tai chi exercises here.
5. Yu Garden
Located in the old section of Shanghai, Yu Garden is known as the “Garden of Happiness” for its tranquil setting and beautiful landscaping. Construction began in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty. Situated on roughly five acres, the traditional garden is the ideal place to wander around to be immersed in Chinese garden architecture. Check out the dragon walls, water features, towers and pavilions.
6. Confucius Temple
Also known as the Wenmiao Temple, Shanghai’s Confucius Temple celebrates the great philosophical Chinese sage. An ancient architectural complex originally built in 1368, the temple is a unique construction with carvings and courtyards that have been carefully preserved. This serene setting is the perfect place to escape from the bustle of the city.
7. Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum is a world-class venue devoted to ancient Chinese art. Located on Nanjing Road, the museum is the ideal place to see ancient Chinese bronze art, ceramics, jade, calligraphy and more. Learn about China’s unique dynasties by checking out the museum’s famous collections.
8. Longhua Pagoda
With its gardens and courtyards, the majestic Longhua Pagoda is a temple that replicates architecture of the Song Dynasty. The complex sits on 20,000 square meters, so there’s lots of ground to explore. The stunning carvings of the interior and exterior will leave you spellbound. For a taste of traditional Chinese culture, this is definitely one of the top things to see in Shanghai.
9. Jinjiang Action Park
Although Shanghai boasts many historic and cultural attractions, it also features some contemporary ones too. For a bit of scenic fun, ride the Ferris wheel at Jinjiang Action Park to soak in the surrounding views of the city. If you’re traveling with children in Shanghai, this central amusement park makes a fun diversion.
10. Zhujiajiao Town
An ancient water town in the Qingpu district of Shanghai, Zhujiajiao was established roughly 1,700 years ago. Many historical buildings can still be seen on the rivers and canals of the town today. With its 36 scenic stone bridges reflecting in the waterway, this part of Shanghai retains an aura of the old world charm. There are lots of quaint shops, restaurants and teahouses to explore around here.
Located in the French Concession part of the city, Tianzifang is a renowned arts and crafts center today. Its narrow roads, alleyways and corridors are home to throngs of shops, galleries, and cafes that attract tourists and locals alike. If you enjoy poking around craft shops and teahouses, Tianzifang is one of the things to see in Shanghai.
12. Shanghai Grand Theatre
When visiting Shanghai, be sure to catch a performance at the resplendent Shanghai Grand Theatre. There are about 6,000 performances annually here including symphonies, ballet, Broadway musicals, Chinese opera and more. The building alone is worth a visit, set in a prime location around People’s Square. Get tickets to a show and then enjoy some of Shanghai’s celebrated nightlife afterward.