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Fun Things to Do in Shanghai, China

I moved to China in March 2016 to work as an ESL teacher in a private school. I love to travel to new and exciting places.

Best Things to Do in Shanghai

Shanghai is the biggest city in China, with a population of more than 23 million people and a huge wealth of things to see and do. This makes it an incredibly exciting city to visit.

I visited Shanghai for just three days during a warm spring and managed to squeeze in a decent amount of sightseeing. This article contains information and ideas for anyone who is planning a trip of their own. I hope you enjoy it!

Shanghai is a vast metropolis, so there are plenty of activity choices and sightseeing opportunities to please everyone. Here are a few popular and fun ideas based on my personal trip to Shanghai:

  • Visit the Bund. It's one of the most famous areas in Shanghai.
  • Go to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower, where impressive views of the entire city stretch on for miles.
  • Shop on Nanjing Pedestrian Street.
  • Visit the historical Jing'an Buddhist temple.
  • Look around popular museums in People's Square.
  • Discover the secretive Propaganda Poster Art Center.
  • Have a coffee and look around boutiques in the French concession area.
  • Eat authentic Shanghai cuisine in popular restaurants.

Walk Along the Bund

The Bund, also known as Waitan (outer beach) in Mandarin, is an impressive spot to visit in both daylight and at night, though at night the views are more spectacular as the buildings are lit in neon lights of every color.

Shanghai has a rich global history, so the Bund is famous for its different architectural styles from all over the world. Different building styles from a mix of cultures and time periods run along the western side of the Huangpu River, with views of the famous skyscrapers in the financial district on the opposite bank.

Is it possible to visit Shanghai and not take this photograph?

A boat glides along the HuangPu river in front of the Lujiazui finance district skyscrapers. The tall tower with the two spheres is the Oriental Pearl Tower. Visit the Bund at night to see the lit towers changing colors.

A boat glides along the HuangPu river in front of the Lujiazui finance district skyscrapers. The tall tower with the two spheres is the Oriental Pearl Tower. Visit the Bund at night to see the lit towers changing colors.

See the Views of the Oriental Pearl Tower

The Oriental Pearl Tower is a TV and radio tower located in the Pudong district of Shanghai. It is easy to reach via subway; just get off at Lujiazui station and follow the walkways directly to the tower.

In total, China has five of the world's tallest buildings. The Oriental Pearl Tower is 468 metres high, and for a while, it was the tallest structure in China (the Shanghai World Financial Center and the Shanghai Tower later surpassed it.) The Pearl Tower has a viewing platform at the top as well as a slightly terrifying transparent additional viewing platform for those that don't mind heights. Views over the city stretch for miles in every direction, with the popular and well-known sites marked on the windows. Inside, in addition to the observatories, there is also a shop selling souvenirs and a revolving restaurant.

Note: Queue times for the Oriental Pearl Tower can be extremely long, so be prepared for this. When I went, the signs outside the tower stated a very reasonable one hour queue, but I soon discovered this wasn't true and had to wait an additional two hours before entering the tower.

Browse Nanjing Pedestrian Street

Nanjing Pedestrian Street is a bustling street full of worldwide brands and malls. Starting at People's Square and ending at the Bund, this street is a shopper's paradise and a great place to grab some food before heading on to other sights.

Nanjing pedestrian street

Nanjing pedestrian street

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Take a Trip to the Jing'an Temple

The Jing'an Temple is a large Buddhist temple. It feels quiet and peaceful within the temple grounds and seems a little out of place surrounded by the modern buildings and advertisements of Shanghai city. The Temple was originally built on a different site in 247 AD and was later moved to its new home in Shanghai.

Visit Jing'an if you are interested in Buddhism, or would just like to escape the busy streets in a beautiful setting. The scent of incense fills the air and people throw coins into the statue in the front square for good luck. Walk around the different halls to take in the architecture and the large Buddha statues.

Outside the Jing'an Temple and across the road is a small park with a completely different atmosphere. Here, there are street food venues and usually a busking musician or two.

Throwing coins into the statue is considered good luck.

Throwing coins into the statue is considered good luck.

Visit the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center

The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center is a collection of propaganda artwork from the days of Chairman Mao's leadership. Although slightly hard to find, it is a fascinating museum and well worth a visit.

The museum is located in the basement of a normal housing apartment block on Huashan Lu. On arrival, it's hard to tell there is a museum there at all, but standing by the apartments with a lost look on your face is enough to bring the gate guard over to hand you a small business card with a detailed map of which apartment to find. A short walk through the apartment complex followed by a ride in the elevator to the basement brings you to the museum. The whole experience of finding this well-hidden propaganda museum feels slightly shady and really adds to the experience.

The museum houses a collection of hundreds of genuine pieces of communist and anti-capitalist propaganda. There is plenty of explanatory English signage with the displays so is really a fascinating museum for anyone interested in Chinese history or propaganda artwork.

Unfortunately, photography is not allowed within the museum, but there is a small shop where it is possible to buy souvenir prints of selected artwork or original copies of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book.

The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center

The Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center

Have a Coffee in the French Concession

The French Concession was a foreign concession in Shanghai from 1849 until 1943. Nowadays, it is popular with tourists because it is a great place to see the French-meets-Chinese style. Small, flowery alleyways are full of street vendors and small gift shops as well as cafes and bars so is a lovely place to spend a few hours wandering around and exploring the little boutiques.

The French Concession

The French Concession

See the Museums of People's Park

Anyone with an interest in museums should pay a visit to People's Park. Not far from Nanjing pedestrian street and located on the subway line, it is pretty easy to find and is home to some interesting exhibitions. Get there as the museums open to avoid crowds.

Museums in the People's Park

  • Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall
  • Shanghai Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art

Thanks for Reading

Shanghai is such a big and exciting city, I'd love to visit again and see a few more of the attractions. Does anyone have any favorite places they like to visit in Shanghai?

© 2018 Yasmin Crawford-Hunt

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