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10 Facts Travelers Should Know About Shanghai

Shanghai... The Pearl of Asia, The Paris of the East... It's a city of youth, commerce, and an international beat that runs through each side street and riverwalk. Here is a list of 10 facts you should know before visiting Shanghai.

1. Shanghai Is the World's Largest City.

China is known for its crowds, and Shanghai is potentially the best example of this. Shanghai boasts a city proper population of 24 million people as of 2014 and is continually on the rise. Shanghai's many districts and extensive metro service are necessary to keep this thriving city running each day.

When the Chinese government set out to make Shanghai the New York of Asia, they certainly took the motto of "city that never sleeps" to heart. Not only is Shanghai the most populated city in all of China, it tops the list of world cities by population within an administrative area (city proper), and comes third in the world in terms of commuter zone population as well (metropolitan area pop. 35 million).

2. Shanghai Is a World Finance and Cultural Center.

The city has boomed in the last two decades thanks to China's desire to see it become an international center of finance and culture. Many business are taking off in Shanghai and offer new opportunities to China's growing middle class and foreigners looking to broach the Chinese market.

The city has seen a constant rate of growth and is the center for many international companies working within China. It has also become a hub of culture with notoriety in fashion, art, and design. Shanghai is also known as the birthplace of Chinese cinema, which is gaining popularity around the world.

3. Shanghai Is a Transportation Powerhouse.

The longest metro system in the world spreads beneath the city of Shanghai with 365 miles (588 km) of tunnels and track. The Shanghai metro has 364 stations spread throughout the city and connecting major attractions, making it easy to navigate for international visitors. Shanghai boasts the world's fastest train.

Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao international airports are also powerhouses of transportation, servicing 70 million passengers annually. Learn more about Shanghai's transportation systems here.

4. The Locals Speak a Dialect Called Shanghainese.

The dialect of Shanghai is known for its distinct pronunciation, which differs greatly from the standard Mandarin spoken in and around Beijing. The Shanghai dialect or Shanghainese is only 70% intelligible for standard Mandarin speakers. But not to worry, since Shanghai is such an international city a large proportion of the locals will have a strong command of English as well.

5. Shanghai Is the Most Attractive Mainland China City for Expats.

In 2016 Shanghai was named the most attractive city for expats for the fourth time in six years by International Talent Magazine. 48,000 expats were polled and asked to rank their city on categories such as living environment and policies for foreign professionals. Shanghai is home to over 170,000 expats as of 2015.

6. Millions of Travelers Enjoy Shanghai's Sights Each Year.


7. Shanghai Boasts Brilliant Downtown Nightlife and Night Lights.

Shanghai nightlife

Shanghai is famous for its iconic skyline. While the skyscrapers make for interesting viewing in the daylight, nothing beats a stroll down the Bund at night along the Huangpu River. This area is also well known for its nightlife and features many bars and nightclubs.

The French Concession on the same side of the river is also a popular place to go for trendy restaurants, dancing, and nightlife. Read more about the 12 Best Night Clubs and Bars of Shanghai in our recent article for more information.

8. Shanghai's Foreign Concessions Are Now Foreigner Attractions.

Changle Village, Jing'an, Shanghai

In the past, many sections of land in Shanghai were gifted to foreign countries as concessions.

The French Concession is the most well preserved and well known of these former institutions. Filled with European architecture and art deco styles, the French Concession is a popular place for tourists and locals alike.

Many areas in the city center were influenced by foreign planners and architects, which gives the city its unique international feel. Areas like the Concession and the Bund are still popular areas to find foreign expats who call Shanghai home.

9. The Best Times to Visit Shanghai are the Middle Seasons.

Peach Blossom in Shanghai

The best time to visit Shanghai is in the spring and autumn. Summers have temperatures in the 100 range (32+ °C) along with high humidity levels. Winter temperatures hover around freezing and it's damp.

The spring and autumn offer mild temperatures and cleaner air, which are ideal travel conditions in China. Visiting in the spring means prime viewing of Shanghai's many flower gardens and green spaces, which offer a brief respite from the built up feel of the city itself. Autumn offers mild temperatures with less humidity and rainfall to impede your excursions.

Of course, when traveling in China be sure to consult the calendar of national holidays to ensure your time is well spent.

10. Shanghai Is Now 144-Hour Visa-Free!

For citizens of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, et al. Shanghai offers a 144-hour (6 day) Visa-Free option for Shanghai and the neighboring areas of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. Travelers who wish to avoid the hassle of applying for a visa may choose this option so long as they are willing to limit their transit to these areas.

The Most Popular Souvenirs and Local Products Are...

Shanghai is most famous for it Silk, Antiques, Porcelain, Chinese Painting and Calligraphy. All of which make excellent gifts and souvenirs to help keep the memories of your trip alive.

Visiting Shanghai with China Highlights

If you are looking to experience the heart of modern China, let China Highlights help you plan a tour today!

  • Our Classic Wonders Tour provides 11 days of China's most popular destinations, including Shanghai.
  • For a shorter trip, consider our Golden Triangle Tour of China's top 3 tourist cities.
  • Interested in specific aspects of Shanghai life? We can help plan a custom tour of China's best sites with your unique needs in mind.