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Shanghai Travel Guide

Shanghai is China's largest city. Discover essential Shanghai travel information: top features, popular attractions, best times to visit, tours...

Shanghai has a long history as a gateway to China on the Yangtze River Delta. It is the largest economic and trade center in China, and one of China's cultural centers.

Shanghai's colonial past is retained in the Bund and cosmopolitan air.

Shanghai is at the front line of China's economic development. The Pudong district's prosperous features are guaranteed to wow visitors.

Where Shanghai Is

Shanghai, a directly-controlled municipality and the largest city in China, is sandwiched between the provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. In the middle of China's coast, on the south of the mouth of the Yangtze, it is about 2½ hours by air from Beijing or Hong Kong.

Shanghai skylineThe iconic Shanghai skyline

Top Reasons to Visit Shanghai

  • Ancient reasons: Water towns, traditional gardens, and ancient sites.
  • Modern reasons: With some of the world's biggest buildings with observation decks and the Bund, Shanghai oozes an atmosphere of vitality and rivals New York and London for modernity
  • Cultural reasons: Shanghai is one of China's cultural hubs with its own cuisine, opera and dialect. It is an art, science and culture trendsetter where Western culture stemming from its colonial past, international connections, and large expat community and Eastern culture are fusing.
  • Ease of onward trips: Shanghai has two huge international airports from which you can tour the huge Yangtze Delta for 6 days visa-free.
  • More Reasons to Visit Shanghai>>

The Highlights of Shanghai: Top Things to Do

Modern Shanghai

shanghai skyscrapersShanghai skyscrapers

The skyscrapers in Shanghai and its spectacular skyline are the essence of modern Shanghai.

  • Stroll down the Bund promenade or board an evening cruise boat to enjoy Shanghai's classic skyline views.
  • Enjoy a panoramic view of the city from one of the world’s tallest buildings: the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, or the Shanghai Tower.
  • Take a ride on the world's fastest train –Shanghai Maglev Train– to experience the super modern Shanghai.

Ancient and Cultural Shanghai

Shanghai Yu GardenShanghai's Yuyuan classical garden

Despite being China's most outwardly modern city, Shanghai's other charm is its history.

  • Yuyuan ('Happiness Garden') houses a wonderful collection of classic traditional Chinese buildings and it is an oasis in the bustling city.
  • Jade Buddha Temple: This is a serene place in the bustling city with amazing jade statues, gorgeous buildings, and a lovely Chinese garden.
  • Discover the French Concession — walk among colonial architecture, shop, eat snacks, and enjoy modern art.
  • Experience old Shanghai at Xintiandi, a place that’s filledwith the historical and cultural atmosphere of Shanghai.

Although Shanghai is a very busy city with heavy traffic, the old part of the city has a lot of ancient and quiet streets, which you may walk or bike around to have a look at old Shanghai. 

Nearby Water Towns

Zhujiajia Water TownZhujiajiao Water Town

There are dozens of ancient water towns around Shanghai. It is enjoyable to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Shanghai and relax in a quiet water town.

  • Zhujiajiao Water Town: This is an ancient town endowed with waterways, ancient bridges, and traditional Chinese-style residences.
  • Zhouzhuang Water Town is a more famous but more commercial water town.

See the Top 10 Ancient Water Towns Near Shanghai — Which One to Visit?

Extension Tours to Hangzhou and Suzhou

Shanghai's 6-day visa-free policy makes it possible to visit Hangzhou and Suzhou without a visa. Hangzhou and Suzhou are quite different from the busy city of Shanghai— both of them are leisurely cities with beautiful scenery and ancient cultures. They are easily accessible by bullet train within 1 hour.

Our 5-Day Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou Bullet Train Tour will give you a starting point for what your trip could entail.

Good Times to Visit Shanghai

Tongli Water Town, near Shanghai Tongli Water Town is one of the water towns near Shanghai that our clients prefer.

Winter in Shanghai is windy and chilly, so to visit the water towns, enjoy the Bund and see the scenery during clear warm (or hot) weather, the period from March to the end of November is better.

To avoid crowds, heat and storms, avoid July, August and the first weeks of October and May.

See more on Shanghai Weather.

How to Get To and Travel Around Shanghai

Shanghai is easily accessible by high-speed train and flights from most cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu, Guilin, and Hong Kong.

Shanghai city is a transport hub for your excursion tours to Hangzhou, Suzhou, and Huangshan, taking half an hour to 3 hours by bullet train. See our Top 6 China Tours from Shanghai.

Shanghai boasts a highly-developed city transportation network. The Shanghai Metro, buses, and taxis offer convenient ways to go sightseeing in Shanghai. A private transfer, however, is more efficient and comfortable.

Where to Stay

The Bund, ShanghaiThe Bund, Shanghai

If you are looking to stay in the central area, the Bund and People's Square neighborhood is a perfect option. It is close to main attractions and is convenient for the subway.

Lujiazui is an area filled with high-end hotels and it is the first choice for business people.

Xujiahui is a blend of old and new Shanghai, where the accommodation options vary from international hotels to local hostels.

Tell us your preferences relating to accommodation, facilities, location, or beautiful views. Our specialists will give you recommendations accordingly.

Shanghai Nightlife

Shanghai jeep ride to see night viewA private jeep ride is a cool way to enjoy the night view in Shanghai. 

A night out in Shanghai will exceed all your expectations. The Bund is arguably the best place for night views in Shanghai. The colonial architecture comes to life in sparkling colored lights, as do the modern skyscrapers across the other side of the Huangpu River. A night cruise on the river is a great option to admire the skyline.

For art lovers, some cultural performances,such as an acrobatic show and Shanghai’s Peking opera, will provide a pleasant experience. For those seeking out fun bars and cafés, Hengshan Road and Xintiandi are ideal choices as they have a variety of nightclubs, discos, bars, and cafés. 

A private convertible jeep ride is the right option for those who want an exclusive night tour around Shanghai. See more things to do at night in Shanghai.


shanghai foodXiaolongbao (/shyao-long-bao/)

Shanghai's local cuisine is known for being red, shiny, and sweet. Sugar is an important ingredient in Shanghai dishes. Shanghai cuisine places an emphasis on retaining the original flavors of the raw ingredients.

The famous dishes includes xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) and braised pork. See the Top 10 Shanghai Dishes You Must Eat. Shanghai is a dining haven with a range of choices, from Michelin-starred restaurants to local restaurants and from vegetarian, Muslim, and Western restaurants to Indian ones.

We have handcrafted an exclusive experience — Shanghai Local Food Hunt. Your guide will take you to eat like a local and try authentic local snacks.


Shanghai is a shopping paradise. The main shopping streets, Nanjing Road and Huaihai Road, offer a plethora of international brand names. If fashion doesn’t interest you, try one of Shanghai's numerous flea markets in contrast with its magnificent shopping malls, department stores, and boutiques.

See more about Shanghai Shopping — Top Places to Shop.

Travel Shanghai Your Way!

Shanghai is such a large and complex city that going with a tour guide and driver to see Shanghai's modern wonders and classic side helps make your visit less stressful and more rewarding.

Our well-designed tour plans cover the highlights of the Shanghai area in ways that experience and customer feedback shows are best. They can all be customized to your interests and travel style.

Get Inspired?

Recommended Shanghai Itineraries

China Highlights customers, the Bund, Shanghai Tour the heights and highlights of Shanghai your way with us.

Need Help to Plan Your Shanghai Trip?

Just fill in a Create-My-Trip form with your interests and requirements or any rough ideas, and we will send you with our suggestions and tour recommendations. 

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