Shanghai skyline at night

Top 12 BEST Things to Do in Shanghai, China

This mini travel guide provides you with a list of must see places and wonderful attractions in Shanghai, China. We’ve put together a list of the best things to do, when to visit and where to stay in Shanghai to make sure you have an awesome time.

Shanghai is the biggest city in China and one of the busiest cities in the world. Shanghai is known as the “Never Sleep City”, although you will often see locals walking around in their pyjamas. Some even claim that Shanghai doesn’t even sit.

Content

  • Best Things to Do in Shanghai
  • Where to stay in Shanghai
  • When to visit Shanghai
  • How to get to Shanghai
  • Tips

1. Walk along The Bund

Part of The Bund in Shanghai

The Bund is a historical and cultural waterfront street with a variety of distinctive modern and historical buildings. The promenade runs along Huangpu River and you can look across the river to see the skyline of the financial district.

Whether you go at night or during the day, you will be able to enjoy the most famous views in Shanghai. The building lights turn on shortly after dark and watching the 1.5 km road suddenly light up is quite something.

Another popular option is to take the Huangpu River cruise, which operates at night and during the day.

Address: Zhongshan East 1st Road

2. Go shopping on Nanjing Road

Lots of shop signs lit up at night on Nanjing Road, Shanghai

Nanjing Road Walkway is one of the must see spots in Shanghai. It is a total of 1033 metres long and not far from The Bund. There are some symbolic buildings on the walkway, such as Wing On department store, which opened in 1918, and Sincere Company, which opened in 1917.

Aside from the shopping, there are also lots of great restaurants and street food. There are also lots of chances to take some stylish photos.

Address: Nanjing Dong Lu, Huangpu Qu

3. Go up Oriental Pearl TV Tower

A man sitting on the glass floor at Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Shanghai

468 metres tall, but the Oriental Pearl Tower is not the tallest building in Shanghai, and does not have the highest viewing deck. It does, however, have the best viewing deck, with a glass floor circling the entire building. The tower is also the most well recognised building in Shanghai, and for a record, it houses the world’s highest indoor roller coaster!

Address: No. 2, Lane 504, Lujiazui Road

Buy tickets online

4. Visit Tianzifang

Artwork in Tianzifang, Shanghai

Tianzifang has also been called The Soho Of Shanghai. It is trendy art area with different styles buildings. You can find many bars, restaurants, galleries, art studios and boutique shops.

Address: No.210 Taikang Road, Huangpu District

5. Visit Shanghai Disneyland

Snow White's 7 Dwarfs walk the parade at Shanghai Disneyland in China, with Cinderella Castle in the background

Shanghai Disneyland is the 6th Disneyland Resort in the world. Being just one park makes it the largest Disneyland park in the world. You can go for the day, but if you plan to go on every ride, you might need a bit longer. No matter if you’re a child or adult, everybody loves Disneyland. You shouldn’t miss it if you go to Shanghai!

Address: Chuansha New Town, Pudong New Area, Shanghai, China

You can buy tickets in advance for a discount.

6. Visit 1933 Old Millfun

View of different levels of 1933 Old Millfun in Shanghai

1933 is an old slaughterhouse that has been renovated into an art and entertainment space with some shops and cafes. The stylish and outstanding historical building is popular for its Basilica style and attracts visitors looking to take some stylish photos.

Address: No.611, Liyang Road, Hongkou District

7. Visit a Dog Cafe

A man feeding many dogs and a cat at a dog cafe in Shanghai, China

Dog cafes are very popular in Asia and there is one inside 1933 Old Millfun called Canil. After a busy time exploring, this place provides a nice break. The sell hot and cold drinks, including beer. You can easily forget you are in the middle of Shanghai. You can read more details about the cafe and our experience here.

Address: Canil, Shop 1-318, Third Floor, 1933 Old Millfun, Building 1, 611 Liyang Lu, Hongkou District

8. Visit an Animal Cafe

A domesticated racoon eats food out of someone's palm

This is less of a cafe and more of a “2 hour play session with animals, with a drink included”. They have more than 20 different types of animals; from cats and rabbits to alpacas and a micro pig. Lizards and snakes to a raccoon and some animals that we don’t even know the name of.

The place is called 藦茜花园宠物主题咖啡厅&轰趴馆. It is a secret place. There is only a little bit of information about it in Chinese and this may be the only website with information in English; it is definitely the first. For more information about the experience and how to make a reservation, read this.

Address: 国順東路800号西樓2樓218b

9. Visit Yuyuan Old Street

Yuyuan Old Street on an overcast day

There is a private garden with more than 400 years history call Yu Garden in Yuyuan Old Street. You can pay to get into the garden. On the street, you can find it a very traditional old Chinese style street, there are lots of shops and restaurants. You can absolutely spend 2 hours to visit here!

Address: Houjia Road, Fangbang Middle Road, Huangpu District

10. Climb or ride up Yellow Mountains

View of Yellow Mountains in Huanshan

Yellow Mountains (Huangshan Mountain) were named after Huang Di (Yellow Emperor) in 747 AD. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous and beautiful mountain ranges in China. Each season brings its own speculator feeling to the mountains; autumn is the most popular because you can witness a sea of clouds

You can hike up Yellow Mountains as a long day trip from Shanghai by taking a 3 hour train to Huangshan North Railway Station. There are also lots of places to stay and a nice town centre in Huangshan if that sounds like too much for one day. And if a lot of hiking doesn’t sound enjoyable, then there is a cable car that can take you most of the way up, just be prepared to queue for a long time if it is a weekend or public holiday.

11. Eat Xiaolongbao

Three Xiaolongbao

Xiaolongbao is the most famous food in Shanghai and an absolute must try when you visit. There are lots of restaurant selling these steamed dumplings. Some have them as a menu item and for others, they only sell Xiaolongbao. The most popular two are Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (南翔饅頭店) and Yang’s Fly Dumpling (小楊生煎). Both of them have multiple restaurants in Shanghai.

12. Visit Suzhou

Looking down a canal in Suzhou with a path on the left and buildings on the right

Suzhou is famous for its world heritage gardens, canals and bridges. Every street in the town is picturesque and the quiet and relaxed vibe contrasts greatly with the busy city life in Shanghai. Because of the number of canals, it’s no surprise that Suzhou is often called “Venice of the East”. This town is also home to the “Leaning Tower of China” with Tiger Hill Pagoda.

You could easily spend a few days there or just visit for a day. There are plenty of beautiful places to visit and things to do in Suzhou.

Where to stay in Shanghai

Whilst The Bund is the centre, central Shanghai is very spread out. Looking at the Metro map, Line 4 roughly marks out the perimeter of central Shanghai. The best advice is to stay close to a Metro station and inside Line 4.

When to visit Shanghai

Weather-wise, the best time to visit Shanghai is either in spring or in autumn.

  • Spring (March to May) is warm.
  • Summer (June to September) is hot, humid and prone to typhoons, particularly in August.
  • Autumn (October to November) is cool and dry.
  • Winter (December to February) is damp and cold.

It it best to avoid the main Chinese holidays if you can. During these times flight tickets cost more, hotel rooms are in short supply and there will be a sea of people at almost every attraction.

  • Chinese New Year / Spring Festival (varies: 7 consecutive days in January or February)
  • Labour Day Holiday (May 1st – 3rd)
  • National Day Golden Week (October 1st – 7th)

How to get to Shanghai

Plane

Shanghai has two airports.

  • Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA)
    • Mainly domestic flights
    • Has a Metro station
    • Has a high speed rail station
  • Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG)
    • Mainly international flights
    • Has a Metro station
    • Shanghai Maglev Train is the express train to central Shanghai

Train

Shanghai has 4 train stations that are connected with other Chinese cities, as well as Hong Kong. All of them are also connected to Shanghai Metro and Hongqiao is connected to the airport.

  • Shanghai Hongqiao
  • Shanghai Railway Station
  • Shanghai South Railway Station
  • Shanghai West Railway Station

Tips

  • Shanghai Metro is the most convenient way to get around, just avoid rush hour on weekdays; 7:30 – 9:30 am, and 5 – 7 pm.
  • Some bars and clubs, especially “dive bars”, sell counterfeit spirits. They won’t just be watered down, but mixed with dangerous liquids. It’s best to avoid cheap spirits.

Thanks for reading

We hope you found this guide useful and now know what to do in Shanghai. Enjoy your holiday, vacation, mini break or gap year! And please share or save this list of things to do in Shanghai, China if you found it helpful.