Shanghai, a huge metropolitan with so much to see. If you ever want to visit Shanghai, you’d be wise to plan beforehand, unless you have unlimited time and money. For this list, we’re looking at attractions, sites, neighborhoods, and areas of Shanghai that travelers absolutely must visit in this unique Chinese city.
Zhujiajiao Water Town
Undeniably one of the most interesting neighborhoods in Shanghai, if not all of China, Zhujiajiao is covered in water and steeped in history. Located on the outskirts of the city, this town was founded some 1700 years ago but its roots date back to thousands of years earlier. Once a central hub for the trading of goods, the area has evolved into more living testament to the past. Thirty six time-worn stone bridges crossed the waterways, which are still navigated by locals on boats. Walk the streets and marvel at the countless historic buildings or hire a boat for an entirely different perspective. Just be sure to try some of the delicious food on offer.
Shanghai Science & Technology Museum
Fun for the whole family but equally of interest to adults traveling solo, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum in the city’s Pudong district is one of China’s most visited museums, and for good reason. Sure, not every exhibit is focused on cutting-edge tech but it offers a wide variety of subjects to explore, ranging from animals and geology to space navigation and robotics. Even if you aren’t particularly captivated by pop science, the building’s incredible eye-catching architecture is reason enough to visit, especially when you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Shanghai Maglev Train
In many cities, public transportation is a purely utilitarian consideration particularly for travelers who are simply trying to get from one site to the next. Shanghai’s Maglev Train, however, is an attraction in its own right. A magnetic levitation train, hence the name, it cost a whopping 1.2 billion dollars to build
but as a feat of futuristic engineering, it appears to be worth every penny. It tops out at 236 miles per hour and takes you from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to Longyang road station a distance of roughly 19 miles in just eight minutes. If you’re flying into Shanghai, you don’t even need to go out of your way to ride it. It’s a logical step on your journey to the city center.
As with the Science and Technology Museum, visitors will quickly be drawn to the Shanghai Museum, thanks to the unique design of the building. Once inside, however, you’ll soon forget the outside world as you become engrossed in the rich history of China. There are entire sections dedicated to the likes of calligraphy, ceramics, jades and coins from the Silk Road. With over 120,000 pieces on display, the Shanghai Museum is a truly immersive journey through China’s past. Honestly the biggest downside to the museum is that it simply offers too much to see in one visit. Depending on how long you’re in town, you may want to pop in twice.
Shanghai is a city with a lot of history to appreciate but the business district is where its modernity shines. If you’re into high-end eating, hotels and rooftop bars, this is the place to be come evening time. Of course, that sort of travel is not for everyone but what should attract all visitors to Lujiazui is the skyline. Shanghai’s business district is famous for its iconic skyscrapers many of which have observation decks. The trinity of main attractions includes the Oriental Pearl Tower, the World Financial Center and the Shanghai Tower, each of which have at one time held the title of highest building in Shanghai.
Shoppers rejoice! This is the street you’ve been looking for. Mostly closed to cars so that pedestrians can move from store to store without a care in the world, Nanjing Road has earned itself a reputation as the number one shopping street in China. Along the roughly three and a half miles of road, visitors will find all manner of shops ranging from historic specialty shops to the huge multi-level shopping malls. Of course, you don’t become the top place to shop the country without the biggest high-end and luxury brand boutiques in the world. And Nanjing Road certainly delivers in this regard. Shop or window shop, either way it’s an experience worth having.
Propaganda Poster Art Center
Shopping is all well and good but for an experience truly unique to Shanghai, you’ve gotta head to the Propaganda Poster Art Center. This one-of-a-kind museum is home to an impressive collection of authentic propaganda posters dating back to communist China’s Maoist period. Occupying just two rooms in the basement level of an apartment building, it’s owned and operated by Mr. Yang Pei Ming who’s made it his personal mission to preserve these historic works for future generations. Stop by and then enjoy the rest of the day exploring the artsy enclave of Shanghai.
Considering it’s one of the busiest cities in the world, Shanghai can be a bit overwhelming to navigate. At some point during your visit, you’re gonna want a change of scenery. Next up, the Yuyuan garden. Also simply known as Yu Garden this five acre plot of land was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1559. Over the centuries, it’s gone through numerous instances of destruction and periods of decay but today it’s a pristine national monument open to the public. Aptly named the garden of happiness, this oasis even when crowded is a serene slice of ancient China in an ultra busy modern city.
Jade Buddha Temple
No trip to Shanghai is complete without a visit to a temple and if you’re gonna see just one, there’s arguably no better choice than this iconic landmark in the Putuo district. Though by no means the oldest temple in the city, this active monastery draws countless visitors every year to walk among the monks and local worshipers. Step on to the 77 acre grounds and you’ll almost immediately be filled with a sense of awe and wonder. There are over 200 rooms and halls containing statues, scriptures, paintings and relics. In the Grand Hall, you’ll find three golden Buddhas among numerous others but the dual star attractions are the two Buddhas, each carved out of solid white jade.
They say that the best way to get to know a city is to simply walk around. And nowhere is this a more enjoyable experience in Shanghai than on the promenade along the embankment known as the Bund or also known as Waitan. The city’s waterfront is a major destination for travelers so much, so that it’s become fairly emblematic of the city and a great source of local pride. Simply walk along the promenade and soak in the beauty and history on display. It’s been labelled the Museum of Buildings and it’s easy to understand why. On one side of the Huangpu river are European-style architectural marvels from years past and on the other loom the city’s futuristic skyscrapers. The Bund is a must visit, day and night.
What do you think? Did I miss a top attraction in Shanghai that should be on this list? Be sure to comment below!