Top 9 Things to Do in Shanghai

A lot of travelers end up in Shanghai at the end of a group tour, especially those who visit the Yangtze River and the Three Gorges Dam, or on a business trip and aren't sure what to do with themselves when they're free. Here are some suggestions to fill your time - you might even end up extending your stay!

01 of 09

Walk in the Former French Concession Area

Former French Concession Area in Shanghai
bricoleurbanism/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

The former French Concession is a lovely part of Shanghai because, despite the fact that you're in the heart of a city with a population exceeding twenty million, it feels like you're just in a local neighborhood. The French imported plane trees in the early 1900s and these trees still line both sides of every street in the area. These days, old villas and lane houses are being renovated and turned into lovely shops and homes. It's fun to wander the less-congested streets and watch old folks chatting on the sidewalks and vendors market their wares.

02 of 09

Bund Walking Tour

© 2007 Sara Naumann, licensed to
Zhongshan East 1st Rd, WaiTan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200002

The Bund is Shanghai's most famous landmark. You might have buzzed in and out of a fancy dinner in one of the renovated buildings but take a morning to really enjoy the area and peek inside some of the buildings. A great way to visit the Bund on a nice day is to be dropped off at the Fairmont Peace Hotel (formerly the Cathay Hotel) and walk south, ducking into buildings along the way.

Not to be missed:

  • A walk through the renovated Fairmont Peace Hotel (at night, don't miss a stop at the Jazz Bar
  • The HSBC Building's fully restored lobby
  • Brunch or a drink at M on the Bund 
  • The former Shanghai Club (now Waldorf Astoria) and the Long Bar
  • Strolling along the far side on the promenade next to the Huang Pu River
03 of 09

Yu Garden and Bazaar

Yu Garden, Shanghai
Afriandi/Getty Images
Yu Yuan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200085

While kitschy, the Yu Garden area is a fun place to explore. The whole area around the gardens has been renovated in traditional style Chinese architecture with curving tile eaves that make you feel like you've finally found "Chinatown". Wander through the lanes and alleys and find everything you might want to take home as souvenirs from silk pajamas to chopsticks. Eventually, you'll come to the Huxingting Tea House that supposedly inspired the design in the famous Blue Willow china pattern. Across the way is the entrance to Yuyuan Garden itself where you can follow crowds through a classical Ming garden.

04 of 09

Moganshan Road Art District

People at ShanghART art gallery, Moganshan Road, Shanghai, China, Asia
Karl Johaentges / LOOK-foto/Getty Images
50 Moganshan Rd, Putuo Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200085
+86 21 6276 9932

If you'd like to see what's happening on the contemporary art scene in China, take a taxi to Moganshan Road near Suzhou Creek. Once just factories and warehouses, the area is now a thriving art colony full of galleries of all sizes. There's a café near the entrance to the lane where you can have a nice coffee once you've seen the scene. Not to be missed:

  • Art Scene Warehouse
  • EastLink Gallery
  • Shanghart


Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09

Sundowners and Snacks at the Glam

People walking on the Bund promenade in a sunny day, Shanghai, China
Matteo Colombo/Getty Images
China, Shanghai Shi, Huangpu Qu, WaiTan, Guangdong Rd, 20号近外滩 邮政编码: 200002
+86 21 6350 9988

After fronting the crowds on the Bund promenade - it's a rite of passage - there's nothing more relaxing than slipping up to the seventh floor of 5 on the Bund where the Glam sits and looks out over the Huang Pu. Open at 5 pm for cocktails, you'll likely be one of few inhabiting the place during weekdays and you can relax with your friends ​or your guidebook, and take in the view. You'll see the sun (if you're lucky) bouncing hot pink off the Oriental Pearl Tower across the river.

06 of 09

Xin Tian Di

xintiandi shanghai
Getty Images / IMAGEMORE Co, Ltd.
Huangpu, Shanghai, China, 200085

Xin Tian Di is a restaurant, bar, club development that utilizes Shanghai's traditional shikumen architecture. Shikumen buildings are recognizable by the gray and red brick facades, numerous ornamental front gates and low two to three story heights. Originally built by the thousands in rows for middle-class Chinese, these classic Shanghainese houses are being destroyed and replaced by modern skyscrapers. Enjoy the restaurants and shopping, but don't miss the small free-entry museum that educates visitors on what life was like in the lane houses of the past.

07 of 09

Birdseye View - Visit a Skyscraper

China - Urbanism - World Financial Center in Shanghai
Ryan Pyle /Getty Images
Shang Hai Huan Qiu Jin Rong Zhong Xin, LuJiaZui, Pudong Xinqu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200120

The Shanghai World Financial Center (or SWFC) is Shanghai's tallest building (for now) as well as China's (for now). There are multiple viewing platforms, one of which has a glass floor. Beware if you have vertigo! It's quite a fun experience to see Shanghai from so far above but it is rather pricey. If you just want to go up high, try the Jin Mao next door. At 88 floors, its remarkable architecture is recognizable on a clear day from all over the city. Enjoy great views over a cup of coffee or a cocktail in the Grand Hyatt hotel (inside the Jin Mao). You can do the same from within the SWFC's resident hotel, the Park Hyatt, but they have a table charge in the lounge.

08 of 09

Tianzifang and Taikang Road Art, Cafe and Shopping District

Taikang Road Art Centre.
Richard I'Anson/Getty Images

If you're in the mood for some shopping but are tired of touts shoving fake watches in your face, head to Taikang Road. A walk down the road lets you see local Shanghai life at its best: street vendors selling pancakes and fruit, kids scampering about and women hanging up laundry. Then find alley 210 and wander down the lane. It's full of shops and cafes selling everything from traditional Chinese qipao dresses to funky silver jewelry.

Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09

Top Activities for Kids in Shanghai, China

shanghai disneyland resort
Photo by Sara Naumann. All rights reserved.

With the opening of Shanghai Disneyland Resort, entertaining kids just got a little easier. But there are plenty of non-Disney activities for kids in Shanghai. From great museums and kids' play areas to just wandering through Shanghai's many parks, you'll find it easy to entertain your big and small kids in Shanghai.

Back to List

From Bazaars to Bars: The Top 9 Things to Do in Shanghai