City Guide: Shanghai
Shanghai is not only one of the largest cities in the world, it’s also a truly fascinating place with various spots that are worth seeing. In this extensive city guide, we’ll explain what really is a must see and what makes Shanghai worth visiting!
China truly is a special country and cities like Beijing really have a lot of culture as well. Shanghai on the other hand is somewhat different as the city has a much more modern feel and doesn’t come with all that many historic sights. Nevertheless, there’s a lot to see and I can just recommend browsing through this guide to get an idea of a somewhat crazy, yet interesting city!
The Bund and the Skyline of Shanghai
If there is one particular thing you will surely know about Shanghai, it’s the skyline. It’s a popular picture not only for tourists visiting China and seeing the skyline in a reality is truly fascinating.
Looking at the skyline at night is an even greater experience and I can just recommend doing so. Be aware that the skyline of Pudong can be seen from the Puxi (Western) side of Shanghai.
Watching the skyline, you’ll be standing right on The Bund, the most famous promenade in maybe all Asia. Located on the Hanpu River, you can not only enjoy great views here, but also have a leisurely walk along the water.
What’s interesting about the Bund is that you can not only see the skyline of Pudong, but you can also see the historic buildings on the Puxi side, which are some of the oldest in the whole city and make you feel like being an European capital like Paris or London rather than Shanghai.
There are several famous buildings right next to each other, so it’s recommendable to just have a walk for about two kilometers to see them all. That’s not a struggle at all anyways as there’s hardly any other place in Shanghai, where you can have such a nice walk!
Skycrapers in Pudong and the Century Park
While people are raving about The Bund and the incredible views of the Pudong skyline, not everybody actually makes it to the other side (either by metro or by car). This definitely is a mistake as the views from the Pudong side are great as well.
Furthermore, the promenade is much less crowded and way longer, so you can continue walking for several kilometers in a quaint and comfortable atmosphere further away from the street than on the other side.
In addition, you can get really close to some of the world’s largest buildings and even get on top of some of the buildings (for a fee) to enjoy a breathtaking view of the city.
Pudong otherwise mainly consists of business buildings as well as shopping malls, so it’s a really modern place and feels very safe. There’s also one further highlight a walk away from the main business center. I’m speaking of Century Park, which is the largest park in Shanghai.
While it feels a little fake, it’s a nice place to go for a run, enjoy some time by the water or just relax a bit after sightseeing. It’s also worth noting that the Transrapid from Pudong Airport goes to a station very close to the Century Park.
While not for everybody, taking the Shanghai once (even if it is just for fun) definitely is an experience as the train goes over 400 kilometers per hour!
Yu Yuan Gardens & Nanjing East Road in Shanghai
Further highlights are mainly located on the Western side of the river. One of the most famous spots are the Yu Yuan Gardens, which are embedded in a large historically re-built open are shopping centre.
The gardens themselves require an entrance fee and feel much more quiet. Nevertheless, they tend to get really crowded, which takes a bit away from the beautfy. Visiting is really enjoyable anyways, so definitely go there when visiting Shanghai!
Maybe no must, but also quite fascinating is Nanjing East Road, which is directly connected to the Bund (about three kilometers North of the Yu Yuan Gardens) and one of the most important shopping streets in all Asia.
Once again, this place is a bit crazy and get really crowded, especially at night, but it’s a pedestrian zone, has lots of shops and just feels a lot like crazy big city life – an exhausting, but special place!
French Concession and Tianzifang in Shanghai
Especially European tourists love visiting the French Concession, which somewhat has a more Western charm than other parts of Shanghai. I’m not really sure about that though as the whole area still feels very Chinese with light Western influences through some older buildings.
Generally, the area feels much more local and smaller as it’s far away from the skyscrapers of Pudong and other parts of Shanghai. Furthermore, there are definitely some highlights when it comes to historic buildings here, including what is now the InterContinental Shanghai Rujin.
In the French Concession, you can also find Tianzifang, which is an area consisting of lots of very narrow streets with lots of food and arts vendors. It’s a charming place at day and night, but also can get really busy.
If you are done with history and local charm, you may want to go to nearby Xintiandi, another rather modern area with local and Western influences. Here, you can find various large shopping malls, nice parks and much more. Generally, I’d say that the whole Xintiandi area might be the best place to stay for a trip to Shanghai thanks to its central location not too far away from everything (by Shanghai standards).
People’s Square and Jade Buddha Temple Shanghai
Obviously Shanghai has many more attractions, which I’d say are interesting, but no must visit. One of those is People’s Square, which has some monumental buildings and museums, but doesn’t really appel to me personally.
I’m much more a fan of the Jade Buddha Temple, which is located in the North-East of the city center and feels relatively historic (compared to other parts of Shanghai). I enjoyed strolling through the temple for about half an hour, but I’ve also seen much more interesting temples in places like Bangkok.
It’s worth noting that there are other interesting places close to Shanghai with a historic appeal, these are including Zhujiajiao and Nanxiang, which we are focusing on in additional guides!
Overall impressions of Shanghai
Shanghai sure is an interesting city, but it’s also a massive place. Visiting all important sights and getting a sense of the city can take about a week and even if you stay longer, there’s still more to say – not per se in terms of sightseeing, but more regarding the general life. While Shanghai isn’t my favorite city in the world, I’d definitely recommend visiting. I’d actually prefer visiting Shanghai over visiting places like Kuala Lumpur or Tokyo.
Do you have any questions about Guangzhou? Feel free to ask or share your impressions in the comments!