Top 10 things to do in Shanghai

Historic, traditional, sophisticated and ultra-modern, all at the same time, Shanghai is a shining city full of unique experiences.

Shanghai offers visitors a window on the past, present and future of China. It's the country's largest city and most potent global financial powerhouse. Set on the banks of a river and dotted with leafy-green parks, it's easy to dip in and out of the hustle and bustle of Shanghai as you explore. The architecture is fascinating, the shopping is epic and there are all kinds of food experiences to throw yourself into.

If you're wondering what to do in Shanghai for three days or more, our list of best things to do will help you plan your holiday.

1. Explore Yu Garden

For a small admission fee you can wander the paths of Yu Garden, which was built between 1559 and 1577 during the Ming Dynasty. The garden covers five acres and includes cobblestone roads, ponds, bridges, pavilions, extraordinary traditional architecture and the famous 'City God Temple'. There are shops and eating places within the garden, so it's easy to stay for hours.

2. Walk the FFC

The elegant streets of the Former French Concession (FFC) reveals the European side of Shanghai. Historic colonial buildings have been re-made as cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops, and the streets are beautifully softened and shaded by trees. This district is why Shanghai is sometimes called the 'Paris of the East'. Exploring the FFC is definitely one of the cool things to do in Shanghai. 

3. Stroll along the Bund

A top Shanghai attraction, the Bund is a wide promenade that runs for 1.5 kilometres along west bank of the Huangpu River. It passes 52 impressive colonial buildings and across the water are the city's famous skyscrapers. This romantic walkway is the perfect place to start exploring Shanghai; you'll find plenty of bars and restaurants as you go.

4. Day trip to Suzhou

Suzhou is called 'the city of Gardens', but there's one in particular you should visit - the Humble Administrator's Garden. Created during the Ming Dynasty and listed as a World Cultural Heritage site, it has water features, islands, bridges, forests, hills, pavilions, parlours and halls that cover 12 acres. Other sights to see in Suzhou include the Lingering Garden and Hanshan Temple.

5. Explore the Tianzifang laneways

Tianzifang has become one of the top Shanghai tourist attractions. It's a charming neighbourhood in the historic Former French Concession area, which is known for European architecture, small shops and narrow lanes. This is a cool place to explore with plenty of shopping, crafts, souvenirs, bars and restaurants to enjoy along the way.

6. Learn about Shanghai's urban development

The multi-storey Urban Planning Exhibition Centre on People's Square provides an entertaining and informative look at Shanghai's historic growth and future vision. Highlights include a large scale model of the central city showing existing and approved buildings, and a 360-degree virtual fly-through of the city in the future. Allow two hours.

7. Shop at Nanjing Road pedestrian street

Shanghai's original shopping street is now a bustling 5.5 km pedestrian-only retail bonanza. There are more than 600 businesses here, from high-end international fashion labels to traditional stores and specialty shops.

8. Visit Zhujiajiao, the Venice of Shanghai

An easy day trip from Shanghai, Zhujiajiao is a relic from the Ming and Qing Dynasties - a quaint little water town that’s built around and over tributaries of the Dianpu River. The town is full of historic homes, bridges and old stores, including a Qing dynasty post office. Finish with a stroll through Kezhi Garden, which has magnificent architecture and a charming courtyard.

9. Master the art of eating Xiaolongbao

Xiaolongbao are heavenly steamed dumplings with a soup and pork or crab roe filling. Found all around Shanghai, this signature dish comes with a vinegar and ginger sauce. You dip one in the sauce, place it on a spoon, open the top with chopsticks, slurp out some of the soup then eat the dumpling. Yum! Eating xiaolongbao is one of the best cheap things to do in Shanghai.

10. Get a birds-eye view of the city

Shanghai Tower is the second tallest building in the world. Each floor is rotated about one degree, giving the tower a distinctive twist. Located in the financial district, it has a brilliant sightseeing deck that's high on the list of Shanghai tourist attractions. It's 500 metres up with a lift ride of only 55 seconds.

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