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The Top 10 Things to Do in Shanghai

Shanghai, China's largest and most prosperous city, exudes an atmosphere of self-confidence and vitality. For those reasons alone it's worth a visit. Unlike places featuring ancient, imperial, or scenic attractions, Shanghai has its own unique and spectacular range of more modern highlights. Below are the top things to do in Shanghai.

1. Admire the classic skyline at the Bund

top things to do in shanghai: The BundThe Bund

The Bund is undoubtedly on the top of list of things to see in Shanghai. The Bund displays Shanghai's classic skyline views of colonial architecture and skyscrapers along the 500m wide Huangpu River, which dissects the city into two.

You can stroll along the Bund, or take a Huangpu River cruise to enjoy the city skyline. The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel offers a unique but pricey way to cross the river.

Insider tips: If you are looking for a special way to admire the Bund, a private convertible jeep ride is recommended. 

2. Enjoy green spaces at Yuyuan Garden

top things to do in shanghai: Yuyuan GardenYuyuan Garden

Not far from the Bund, Yuyuan is the most revered and the only surviving Ming Dynasty garden in Shanghai.

It has become a city highlight due to its beautiful scenery, characterized by decorated bridges, colorful pagodas and intimate enclaves separated by "dragon walls" — partitions with dragon decorations on top.

Insider tips: It is a beautiful garden but is often crowded with people. Your tour will be enriched if you have a tour guide to explain some of the garden’s history. See how to arrange your day trip in Shanghai including Yu Garden.

3. Sit inside a revolving restaurant at The Oriental Pearl TV Tower

The Oriental Pearl TV TowerThe Oriental Pearl TV Tower

On the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, not only do you get to enjoy sitting inside a revolving hotel in this revered and outstanding land mark, but you also get to see Shanghai metropolis from a "Space Module" — the highest observatory level set at 350 meters (1,148 feet) above the ground.

The attractive building has 3 legs, 11 spheres and 15 observatory levels.Get to know the city via the various artifacts exhibited at the Shanghai Municipal History Museum located in this building.

Insider tip: This attraction is often crowded with tourists, especially during weekends and holidays. It is not unusual to queue for 1–2 hours. Try to arrive early.

4. Bird's-eye view the city from the Shanghai Tower

top things to do in shanghai: the Shanghai TowerThe highest building is the Shanghai Tower.

The Shanghai Tower, the highest building in China and the second-tallest building in the world, is an increasingly popular place to admire a bird's-eye view of the entire city of Shanghai. Another draw is that it has the fastest elevator in the world, which will take you up to floor 119.

Many of our Shanghai tours include the Shanghai Tower instead of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower because it is taller but has a shorter queue. See one of our sample itineraries to discover how to visit it in a convenient way.

5. Walk and Shop along Nanjing Road

top things to do in shanghai: Nanjing RoadNanjing Road

Famous Nanjing Road is an equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue. Get a taste of bustling Chinese commerce where retailers from all over the world display their products on streets.

Tourists admire the different buildings with attractive architecture. Looking down is also interesting: learn the city's construction history from the attractive 37 Manhole Covers.

Nanjing Road features historic Chinese sculptures at the "Golden Belt". Read more on Shanghai Shopping — Top Places to Shop for Souvenirs.

6. Stroll around in a Watertown — Zhujiajiao

top things to do in shanghai: Zhujiajiao Water TownZhujiajiao Water Town

Zhujiajiao Water Town is one hour from central Shanghai. You can choose to stroll around by foot to admire the numerous fascinating canals, bridges and architecture in this old water town in Shanghai.

Alternatively, you can take boat or ferry rides. The shortest ride takes you up and down the main canal in the middle of the town while the longest takes you around the town and back.

A 2-day Shanghai and Zhujiajiao tour is perfect for those who want to see modern Shanghai as well as a traditional ancient town.

Insider tips: If you have more time, we recommend Nanxun and Tongli, which are a bit further away but are less commercial and less crowded. The detailed information about the Top 10 Ancient Water Towns Near Shanghai will help you to make a choice.

7. Enjoy exhibits at Shanghai Museum

top things to do in shanghai: Shanghai Musuem

Located on the People's Square near Nanjing Road, the "glassy" Shanghai Museum has a large collection of rare cultural relics — over 120,000 pieces. An example of artifacts include over 400 beautifully decorated bronzes.

Some exhibits have English descriptions, including the Ancient Ceramics, Ancient Bronzes, and Ancient Sculptures. Read more on Shanghai Museum.

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall is a great visit if you want to learn about modern Shanghai and see how the city will look like in 2020. 

8. Take a Relaxing Walk in Tianzifang/Xintiandi

top things to do in shanghai: TianzifangTianzifang

Tianzifang is a tourist shopping and café area in Shanghai in the old French quarter. It’s good for souvenirs and unique cultural shops that sell products relating to tea therapy.

Xintiandi, compared to Tianzifang, is a better-known redevelopment within the French Concession that is used for shopping, gourmet restaurants, and luxury stores.

Insider tips: Tianzifang and Xintiandi are similar. Both feature shikumen (traditional residences with gates and courtyards) and are favorite places to go for many young tourists and expats in Shanghai. Whereas Xintiandi was renovated on a grand scale, Tianzifang was renovated on an ad-hoc basis.

Due to this, Tianzifang has a lot more character. It is truly a haphazard labyrinth of narrow alleyways and shikumen. Residents still live in the apartments above the shop units.

9. Have Fun at Disneyland Park

Shanghai DisneylandShanghai Disneyland Park

Shanghai Disneyland Park, the first Disney theme park in mainland China, blends the magic of Disney and unique cultural elements of China. There are six themed lands in the park.

On entering the park, you will be captured by the feeling of being in another world with countless excitements and adventures. It is a good place to visit with family and friends to spend a whole day or two days.

We'd be glad to arrange for you a Shanghai family tour including Disneyland.

10. Take a ride on the Maglev — the world's fastest train

top things to do in shanghai: The Shanghai Maglev

A ride in the Maglev train from Pudong Airport to the city center is a perfect way to feel super-modern Shanghai.

At 431 kph (270 mph, twice the speed of a theme park roller coaster), this air-conditioned, super-clean, magnetically-levitated train covers 30 km (19 miles) in only 8 minutes, though you hardly feel you're moving!

Visit the Maglev Museum to understand the engineering feat and its history. Address: Maglev Longyang Road Station, floor 1. More on the Maglev.

Shanghai Tour Recommendations

Our guests had a great time in shanghai. Discover the highlights of Shanghai with us including where to take the best photos.

Beyond the glass and steel of Shanghai's commercial persona, the city also boasts a vibrant cultural scene. You can find some ideas from our spotlight experiences that range from a Shanghai local food hunt to a jeep night tour.

Just tell us what you want to experience and we will tailor-make a tour for you.

  • 2-Day Shanghai Classic Tour is best for 1st time visitor. Follow the insider's route to see the sites that are difficult to find by yourself and save time and energy with our private transfer.
  • 5-day Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Watertown Tour is a perfect blend of modern and traditional culture. Discover the secret to Shanghai’s development and enjoy rich cultural experience in Hangzhou and Nanxun. 

Our Shanghai tours can be customized to suit your travel needs in regard to dates/times and what you want to do.