7 Tantalizing Reasons to Visit Shanghai
Updated: Jun 17
Thinking about visiting Shanghai but not sure where to start or what it really has to offer? Shanghai is fascinating melting pot of foreign, private and state investment (approximately 1/3 each). It is a modern, bustling, coastal city that seems to sprout new attractions and buildings almost overnight.
Read on to discover why the glittering lights of Shanghai have so much gravitational pull, with some helpful tips to make the most of your stay.
1/ The Huangpu River
The city is essentially divided into half by the Huangpu River, with Puxi area, (the more established, historical part of town) in the west and Pudong, (the newer part), in the East. So a ferry crossing is a great way to get a flavour of the river and surrounding city as well as travelling to the east/west parts of the city. Booking a river cruise is highly recommended, especially at dusk, when you can experience the vibrantly lit river and surrounding architecture (the Chinese love their lights and they pretty much lead the world in this form of technology). Most cruises last around 90 minutes.
Tickets for river cruises can be purchased at the kiosks on the Bund (Puxi), at 2 East Zhongshan Road, and East Nanjing Road.
For more cruise options, you may visit: https://www.viator.com/Shanghai-attractions/Huangpu-River/
Top Tip: take a walk along the Bund once the sun has gone down for a free, bedazzling experience of the light displays across the river.
2/ The biggest, the best and the fastest.....
Shanghai boasts the second tallest building in the world, (just pipped to the post by Dubai's Burj Khalifa). The Shanghai Tower is a 128 story, 2073 ft tall sky scraper in Pudong. It holds the world record for the highest observation deck at 1847 ft. You can't miss it from the Bund, it's nestled in the dramatic, almost futuristic skyline of Pudong.
Shanghai is also home to the most coffee shops compared to all other cities in the world. This fact surprised me because China doesn't have a widespread coffee culture yet, tea is still the nation's favourite. However, when you think per capita, with approximately 23 million residents, it makes the ratio even- out a little. One of these coffee shops is none less than the world's largest Starbucks! The Starbucks reserve is situated in the Jing'an District on the West Nanjing Road. Don't confuse it with the little off-shoot Starbucks, (like I did, which are only a few hundred meters from the actual roastery and reserve). In the reserve you will observe the roasting and sorting of the beans. It is also a good spot for lunch, offering a wide selection of pizza, salads, hot meals and sandwiches.
For the world's fastest land transport, Shanghai also wins the prize for the Maglev, (high -speed magnetic levitation trains) who's top speed reaches 430 Kph.
3/ Things to do for kids!
This city has museums and art galleries, aquariums a - plenty, not to mention Disney Land out on the Chuansha New Town district, not far west of Pudong international airport. Disney Land aside; the following attractions come enthusiastically recommended for family trips:
Science and Technology Museum
Located: close to Century Park in Pudong, take line subway line 2.
Entry fee: adults: 60 RMB
Lots of. mini areas with small science experiments. Will keep your kids busy for 2-3 hours at least.
Natural History Museum
Located: In the Jing'an district of Puxi, take subway line 13.
Entry fee: Adults: 30 RMB, children: 12 RMB
Wonderful life-size displays of extinct and living species from different parts of the globe make this is a memorable thing to do for a family day out.
Haichang Ocean Park
Located: south of Pudong international airport, a 20 minute walk or 10 minute shuttle bus ride from the Lingang Avenue subway stop on line 16.
entry fee: starts at $64 per person, you may find better deals on Klook APP.
Newly opened in 2018, this provides a fabulous family day out featuring rides, simulations, dancing killer whales, orca and dolphin shows, mermaids and more.
Located: on the People's Square in the Huangpu district. Take subway lines 1,2 or 8.
The museum hosts galleries filled with ancient Chinese art, sculpture, jewellery, furniture and textiles, from all of the dynasty eras.
Located: Huayaungang Road, Puxi
Entry fee: adults: 229 RMB, children above 100 cm: 199 RMB
This indoor, borderless digital emersion experience displays cutting edge, interactive light technology. Fun for the all the family.
Zhongshan Park and Century Park
Zhongshan Park: located in the Changning district, subway line 7
Century Park: located in Pudong, take subway line 2, Yanggao South Road Station
If you are feeling a little tired from walking or site seeing, the parks are the perfect places to kick back for a chilled hour or so. Zhongshan Park has very pleasant green lawns and an area for children's rides. Century Park has different themed areas such as the bamboo forest, bird island, fountains, a children's park and entry is free.
Top Tip: Zhongshan Park has a small fair-ground area. You can buy a token card at the kiosk with a deposit of 10 RMB and each ride is 10 RMB.
4/ High and low- end shopping options
The first department stores opened on East Nanjing Street in the 1920's and on a public holiday the street will become a sea of people. It is this street that helped Shanghai get its reputation as the country's most fashionable city. Amy Lin's Pearls can be found on West Nanjing Road. For other higher- end shopping venues, try Shanghai Museum's art store for books, prints, ceramics, scarves and bags. Nuomi on Xinle Road is a Shanghai- based brand for organic cotton and silk outfits and jewellery fashioned from recycled materials.
If you're looking for quirky crafts, art and boutiques, look no further than Tianzifang in the French Concession. This delightful little carved out area of narrow, crooked alley ways is fabulous for those souveniers and gifts, traditional and modern alike. Likewise in Pudong, the Xinyang fashion and gifts market next to the science and technology museum sells tons of merchandise and fakes, from ornaments to suits, etc.
Top Tip: There are often outdoor markets for hand-made goods in various locations in the city, attended by sustainable and eco-friendly product vendors, and promoted by Shanghai's sustainability platform: Boomi.
5/ Food and drink
So this topic maybe more for the western food- deprived, longer-term western expats than the fleeting tourist, but Shanghai offers a very welcome refreshing plunge into world cuisines that are much scarcer in other Chinese cities.
A couple of choice recommendations:
The Central Perk Cafe- 160 Harbin Road
This is a fun, unique replica of the cafe in the show: 'Friends'. It had a very reasonably priced and vegetarian-friendly menu, and 'Gunther' will bring you your coffee.
Laowai Street, (foreigner street).
A little further out of town to the West, toward the Hongqiao Airport, this street is dedicated to an eclectic mix of restaurants, representing different global cuisines. It's the place to be on a Friday night for a relaxed, bonne vivre - feel with live music, happy hour deals a-plenty and great food to satisfy any palate. We have personally tried the Greek restaurant and the Indian and both hit the mark for authenticity and flavour.
The local, Shanghainese cuisine is rather sweet and consists of a lot of fish and seafood and includes the original fried (shengjian) and steamed (xiaolongbao) dumplings.
For Chinese food, try:
Lost Heaven on East Yan'an Road for folk cuisine from southwestern China.
For spectacular views of the Bund:
Mr & Mrs Bund- French cuisine at East Zhongshan Road.
M on the Bund for dishes like crispy pork and chicken tagine or afternoon tea
For a classy, cocktail- fuelled evening, (the chance would be a fine thing), and dreamy views of the bund: The Captain on Fuzhou Street, Puxi.
Honestly, though, the Bund's scope for eateries is eclipsed by what's on offer in the French Concession . For noodles, Indian, mediterranean, fusion food, Asian, American, tapas and French- style cafes and patisseries, not to mention the foreign- invested coffee shop chains, the French Concession has the lot.
Thanks to international schools in the area, the newly- developed Pudong also has a vast foreign investment in hospitality and a plethora of great options for eating out.
6/ The eclectic influences
Shanghai, (meaning 'on the sea'), has long been a significant trading port. In 1842, the British opened their concession and modern Shanghai arrived. The French and the Americans quickly followed the British and the port became the most powerful in the nation. The city became liberated from foreign oppression, (slavery and the likes) by the communist party in 1949 and the splendour was largely replaced by bland landscape of factories. In 1990 the Pudong area on the East of the river was newly developed and is now an incredible icon for modern China, a commercial mecca for the Chinese.
As cities go, I have never felt safer in one, especially after dark. For a city of this size (approximately 23 million people) it is very safe. Crime against women is extremely low and the main areas to watch out for are petty pick-pocketing in crowded areas, and scams. Make sure to take only licensed taxis. Security checks on the subway are consistently thorough but the metro gets super crowded and can be a frustrating way to travel with young children. Walking and taxis may be the better option for young families.
Shanghai emits an invigorating and inspiring aura. You will leave Shanghai feeling a mixture of enchantment from wandering the leafy French Concession and awe from the dazzling lights and heights of the views from the Bund. And if you're an expat in China, you'll be planning your trip back...
Top Tip: places to stay We can recommend: City Go (French Concession), the Westin on the Bund and Blossom House, (the Bund) the Golden Tulip, (Hongqiao).
iconic Bund, pearl tower, handbag etc, boat trip
pudong vs puxi
places to stay- city go, serviced apartments, westin, blossom house, golden tulip
french concession- tainzifang
quirky cafes- friends cafe
parks century park, zhongshan ark, peoples square
nat. history museum, science and tech museum
food- french concession pain au chaud, tim horton,s starbuscks reserve, liquid laundry,