This is the ultimate Shanghai 50 things to do Bucket List! Often travellers in China skip Shanghai or only spend a day or so in the Chinese metropolis as they believe there is less to see and do than in Beijing or Chengdu. However, there are so many things to do and see in Shanghai! Whether you happen to be working here as a teacher or are here for just a few days, here is a list of 50 things to do and see in Shanghai. How many will you be able to tick off your ultimate Shanghai bucket list?
- Must-see Tourist Things to do and see in Shanghai
- Activities to do in Shanghai
- Museums in Shanghai
- Nature in Shanghai
- Art in Shanghai
- Markets in Shanghai
- Food & Drink to try in Shanghai
- Day Trips from Shanghai
Must-see touristy things to do and see in Shanghai
Visit the highest observation deck in the world
Whilst Shanghai may not have the tallest building in the world, it does have the highest observation deck in the world!
Head over to the Shanghai financial district and get ready for a trip into the sky. The Shanghai tower is Shanghai’s tallest building. The Shanghai tower lift takes just under a minute to transport you to 500m above the ground! Aim to arrive at the Shanghai tower around late afternoon. Stay a while to watch the sunset over the Chinese metropolis and then watch the night awaken as the city lights glisten below.
A visit to the Shanghai Tower is a fantastic thing to do in Shanghai.
Admire the Yu Gardens
Yuyuan means the Garden of Happiness. If there is only one paid attraction you visit in Shanghai, make sure it is the Yu Garden. The gardens were built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty. The Yu Garden is spread over an area of 2 hectares and each section is separated from each other by a dragon. the dragon walls are beautiful as well as intimidating. Yet the centrepiece of the Yu Garden is the Jade Rock. This huge boulder weighs an impressive 5 tons. Legend says the jade rock was intended for the emperor in Beijing but the boat carrying the rock sunk. Yet is was salvaged from the Huangpu River and has stood proudly in the Yu Garden since.
You cannot visit Shanghai without visiting the green oasis of Yu Garden.
If you were forced to draw a dot on where the centre of Shanghai is on a map, you would pick People’s Square. The beating heart of Shanghai is People’s Square.
People’s Square used to be a horse racing course owned by the Shanghai Race Club. After the establishment of the People’s Republic of China the area was completely transformed.
At the start of the millennium, museums such as the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre and the Shanghai Museum were built on People’s Square. Every weekend hundreds gather to see the marriage market in People’s park.
You cannot visit Shanghai without adding a trip to People’s Square to your things to do in Shanghai list.
Oriental Pearl Tower
Shanghai’s most iconic building is the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower. You simply must add seeing the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower to your ultimate Shanghai bucket list!
The Tower is located in Pudong Park in Lujiazui the financial district of Shanghai. The Oriental Peal Tower is 468 meters high and is China’s second tallest TV and radio tower.
The various pearls of the tower have different functions. One of them holds a sightseeing floor with the rotating restaurant whereas another contains the Shanghai History museum.
You must see the Oriental Pearl Tower whilst you are in Shanghai!
Walk down the East Nanjing Road
There is a Chinese saying which translates into ‘you have not ever been to Shanghai unless you go to the Nanjing Road’. The East Nanjing Road is the busiest street in Shanghai. It is very commercial and very busy. Yet you must go and see the neon lights.
Enjoy the Bund Siteseeing Tunnel
The Bund sightseeing tunnel is a slightly bizarre thing to do in Shanghai. The tunnel connects the Bund to the Lujiazui Finance centre of Shanghai.
The Tunnel is just 650m long and goes underneath the Huangpu River. What makes it bizarre is that the way visitors navigate the tunnel is by sitting in driverless carts whilst surrounded by special visual effects on the wall. The journey takes 3-5 minutes and visitors can ‘marvel’ at the unusual visual and audio effects in the tunnel.
Visit a Shopping Mall
You cannot visit Shanghai without visiting one shopping mall. The shopping malls in Shanghai are humongous! They are full of brands over several floors and contain many chain restaurants. See how the Chinese embrace capitalism.
Some of the biggest shopping centres are Cloud 9, Shanghai International Commerce Center Park and Bailian Jinshan Shopping Mall.
Tianzifang is on many tourists’ things to see in Shanghai list. Tianzifang is a creative enclave. Historically Tianzifang used to be a residential area but it has been developed into an arts and crafts centre in order to showcase the traditional architecture whilst catering to tourists. Wonder down the labyrinthine streets and discover its boutique shops, bars and restaurants.
The view from the Bund in Shanghai is the best view of a city skyline in the world. Nowhere else in the world are you provided with a seemingly purpose-built promenade to show off the mega skyscrapers in the financial district across the Huangpu River.
The first time you see the view from Shanghai Bund you will feel dwarfed, inspired and that you have somehow entered a futuristic realm. Then you will look at the buildings on the bund or Waitan as it is known in Chinese (literally translates into outer beach) and see early 20th century architecture. The Shanghai bund boasts many historic buildings such as the numerous trading houses of France, the US, the UK, Japan and many more. There are also banks, consulates and several old club houses. Many of these now function as luxury restaurants for those that want to enjoy the view towards Pudong in style.
Yet you do not have to spend a fortune enjoying the view as the bund stretches 1.6km along the bank meaning there is plenty of space to find a gap and enjoy the view for free!
Even if you only have a quick layover in Shanghai, you must visit the Bund! This has to be on everyone’s bucket list!
Shanghai World Financial Centre
If you would rather see the highest point in Shanghai rather than be on it, consider visiting the Shanghai World Financial Centre. This is the second highest building in Shanghai.
The Shanghai World Financial Centre is nicknamed the bottle opener due to the apparent hole towards the top of the building.
The Shanghai WFC costs about the same to visit as the Shanghai Tower but attracts slightly fewer crowds. It is even possible to stay in the Shanghai World Financial Centre at the Park Hyatt Hotel.
Add the Shanghai World Financial Centre to your list of things to do in Shanghai if you don’t fancy battling the crowds on the Shanghai Tower.
Jing ‘An Temple
You must add a visit to the Jing ‘An temple to your list of things to do in Shanghai. Jing ‘An means temple of peace and tranquillity. This Buddhist temple is surrounded by shops and malls but within the courtyard you may find a little slice of peace in the busy shopping district. There is plenty of delicious vegan food to try at the temple. There are 4 floors of vegetarian floor in the golden pagoda. On the ground floor is simple Buddhist cuisine at a very reasonable price given its central location. The further up the building you go, the most expensive and exclusive each venue becomes.
If you only have time to visit one temple whilst you are in Shanghai, make sure it is the Jing ‘An Temple.
Visit a haunted house in the French Concession
Whilst wondering around the French concession is a wonderfully uplifting thing to do in Shanghai, delve a little deeper into the history of one of the building and you will find a darker story. On the corner of Wukang Lu not far from the Shanghai Library are the Normandy Apartments.
The beautiful Normandy apartments look so pretty in the sunshine, no one would guess their dark secrets. Many tourists walk to the centre of the zebra crossing opposite the buildings for that iconic Instagram shot. Yet there are sinister secrets within the building.
At the start of the 20th century, all of Shanghai’s rich and famous wanted to live in the Normandy apartments. Yet by the 60ies, most of the movie stars had departed the building. Only a few remained such as Shangguan Yunzhu. Shangguan was no longer in the limelight. The actress was branded as a reactionary and her films was seen as ‘poisonous weeds’. Unable to cope any longer she ended her life by jumping from the 7th floor of the Normandy Apartments.
This is not the only suicide committed at the Normandy apartments. Indeed, some locals nickname the Normandy apartments as ‘the diving board’. During the Cultural Revolution, many enemies of the state and intellectuals sadly took their lives here. The Normandy apartments hide its dark secrets well behind its perfectly manicured facade. You must add visiting the Normandy Apartments to your list of things to do in Shanghai.
Jin Mao Tower
The Jin Mao Tower is the oldest of the mega Skyscrapers in Shanghai. Jin Mao is the third tallest building in Shanghai only to Shanghai Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center in Shanghai. The beautiful building is best admired from across the river on the Bund or from above through the Shanghai tower observation windows.
Admire Shikumen architecture at Xintiandi
Xintiandi is the perfect place in Shanghai to admire traditional Shikumen architecture.
Shikumen architecture began to appear in the mid of the 19th century as a product of combining Chinese and Western architecture styles. One of the best places to see this architectural style is at Xintiandi. Xintiandi is divided into two parts: the Southern Block and the Northern Block. Whilst the South Block mainly consists of modern architecture, the North Block retained the old Shikumen architecture style.
Activities to do in Shanghai
Ride a Tandem Bike around Century Park
Rent a tandem bike in Century park for a fun way to see the park. It costs just 10RM to enter Century park in Pudong. The vast park is home to flower fields, a huge lake and even a theme park! Given its huge size, a tandem bike is the best way to weave your way through the crowds around the lake and over the fields.
You can hire a tandem bike for an hour or longer if you choose. If you have never attempted to ride on a tandem bike it may take a few minutes for you to work on your balance with your cycling partner. After a couple of times of putting your foot down to stop you from collapsing you will get the hang of cycling on the tandem!
A wonderful time to visit Century Park is springtime. You can see beautiful pink blossom canopies around the lakeside. Riding a tandem bike in Century Park is a fun thing to add to your Shanghai Bucket List.
Bouldering by the Bund
There are a few places to boulder indoors in Shanghai, yet if you would like to boulder outside check out the West Bund boulder area. You can boulder right next to the mighty Huangpu river.
Enjoy a working your way up and around the routes next to Shanghai’s main waterway as vessels pass you whilst you climb. With routes for all abilities this is the perfect place to try bouldering in a casual setting. Just be aware that a few of the climbing holds are a little lose. Make sure you test them before you trust all of your weight on the holds!
Ride on the Maglev
If you fly into Shanghai International Airport the chances are fairly high that you will ride on the epic Maglev. The Maglev, a shortened form of magnetic levitation, is a high-speed train which operates from Shanghai international airport to Longyang Road in Pudong. The journey of 30km takes just 7 minutes and 20 seconds to complete! The train can reach speeds of 350 km/h (217 mph) in just 2 minutes. It is fascinating to go so quickly, and you must add riding the Maglev to your list of things to do in Shanghai.
Sing at KTV
There are many KTVs around Shanghai, especially in the Japanese area. Sing karaoke loudly and slightly out of tune with your drunk companions until the break of dawn.
You simply must go to KTV during your trip to Shanghai! Just don’t plan to do too much the following day as may have a slight hangover…
Rent an OFO or MoBike
You cannot visit Shanghai without hopping on either an OFO or MoBike. OFOs and MoBikes are public share bikes. You can rent them, hop on to your destination then leave them when you arrive. It is that simple. Once you have used them you will wish that every city on the planet had these super healthy and environmentally friendly mode of transport.
Did you know that China’s second largest library is in Shanghai? A staggering 24 stories high (106m) this colossal building is full of books.
Museums in Shanghai
Propaganda Poster Art Centre
The Propaganda Poster Art Centre is one of Shanghai’s best museum and must be on your ultimate Shanghai Bucket list!
This quirky museum is randomly housed in a residential apartment. The entrance is not clear but once you have arrived at 868 Huashan Lu speak with the security guard. They will give you a small map which will help you find the entrance.
Once you have located the museum you step inside a world of posters. These posters specifically depict Mao Zedong’s rise and fall. There are over 5,000 propaganda posters in the Propaganda Poster Art Centre. Many of the items have been rescued from recycling centres and bins. You can find posters from the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 to the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970s.
The posters are displayed in chronological order allowing you to see the changes of political messages over time. There are helpful descriptions which help explain the symbolism in the images. The Propaganda Poster Art Centre is truly is fascinating.
You cannot take any photos inside the museum but there are prints available at the gift shops as well as some lovely posters from Shanghai’s nostalgic twenties.
The shanghai poster art museum is an incredible quirky history lesson and must be on your ultimate Shanghai bucket list. If you only have time for one museum whilst you are in Shanghai, make sure it is the Propaganda Poster Art Museum!
The Shanghai Museum must be on your Shanghai Bucket list!
The Shanghai Museum is on People’s Square in the heart of the city. There are over 120 000 pieces of Chinese history in the museum. There are collections of bronze, furniture, costumes, masks, calligraphy, jewellery and much more. You can spend hours in the free museum admiring all of the history.
The Shanghai museum is perfect if you don’t have time to go elsewhere in China as the pieces transport you across the Middle Kingdom through the ages.
Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center
The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre is one of Shanghai’s best museums! The museum takes visitors on a journey of Shanghai’s past, present and future over six stories. The exhibitions are dedicated to the urban planning and development of Shanghai. The highlight of any visit to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre is the large-scale model of urban shanghai. Only here do you truly appreciate the scale of the city and some of its iconic buildings.
A visit to the Shanghai Urban Planning Centre is a fantastic rainy-day activity.
Nature in Shanghai
Blossom Hunting in Shanghai
If your visit to Shanghai falls in springtime you will not struggle to see beautiful blossom trees across the Chinese metropolis.
Between the months of February and May, pretty pink and white petals spruce from the trees creating gorgeous blossom flurries when the wind blows through the city. Particularly good spots to spot blossom in Shanghai are Zhongshan Park, Fuxing Park and Century Park.
Experience authentic Chinese past times as you enter Fuxing Park. The Fuxing park is full of locals performing Tai Chi, playing mahjong, dancing, playing cards, flying kites, the list goes on. The park itself is quite beautiful, full of beautiful flower beds, a lake, fountains and covered pavilions. Fuxing Park was laid out by the French in 1909 and at the time was the largest park in Shanghai.
Head to Fuxing Park early in the morning to experience a taste of local shanghai.
Located on Changning Road in the Changning District, the Shanghai Zhongshan Park is one of the larger parks in Shanghai. With a huge 53 acres of gardens there is plenty of space to wonder, picnic, fly your kite or relax.
Zhongshan Park combines classical Chinese elements with English-style gardens. There are many beautiful sections to explore such as the Chinese Rose Garden, the Great Stone Bridge and the White Marble Pavilion.
Shanghai is very flat but there is a hill not too far from the centre. If you fancy enjoying nature on an incline head to Sheshan. Sheshan is a small hill which is surmounted by a catholic church. The Our Lady of China Catholic church, also known as the Sheshan Basilica, stands on the summit. The road to the top is supposed to represent the way of suffering. The path only takes around 10 – 20 minutes to walk from the base to the summit but it is nice to enjoy a slight incline in nature.
Art in Shanghai
China Art Museum
The China Art Museum is another museum which should be on your list for things to see in Shanghai. The China Art Museum building alone is worth the visit.
Originally the building which houses the China Art Museum was built for the Shanghai Expo of 2010. The huge red building housed the China Pavilion. This large building resembles a crimson graduation cap as you stand in front of it. Climb the flight of steps or cheat by using the escalator then enter the vast space inside. You continue climbing up the many escalators in order to reach the museum inside the top of the building.
The China Art Museum is interesting, but its contents are not as exciting as other museums in Shanghai. Surprisingly, there is not a huge amount of art inside despite its vast size, therefore, the exterior is far more interesting than the interior. If you have time pop inside as it is free to visit but otherwise just admire it from the outside as it is truly a very quirky masterpiece.
Power Station of Art
Another artistic gem has made it onto our list of 50 things to do in Shanghai. The Power Station of Art is, unsurprisingly, housed in a former power station.
The Power Station of Art is China’s first state-run contemporary art museum. The renovation of this building cost the Shanghai government a whopping $64 million. Now the building has been preserved and filled with unusual modern art.
Many exhibitions are free to visit and the views from the rooftop over the former Expo site are spectacular. Even if you are not interested in the art, the view from the top should be on your ultimate Shanghai bucket list.
M50 is the art district of Shanghai. M50 can be found in an old industrial estate on Moganshan Lu. The old industrial area has been completely transformed into a vibrant cultural space and now forms the artistic heart of Shanghai.
Enter the M50 complex and discover a labyrinth of quirky galleries and secret cafes await you. Whilst there are seemingly hundreds of galleries make sure you visit these four spots within the M50 area.
Island 6 is full of interactive experiences. There are certain art works that require user participation to be fully appreciated. Take a friend and laugh at some of the quirky exhibitions.
The Chronus Art Centre
One of the largest galleries within M50 is full of very weird and wacky exhibitions.
The M50 graffiti wall
The M50 graffiti wall spans the southern edge of the complex and as the name suggests is covered in graffiti. You cannot easily find street art or graffiti in Shanghai, so the vibrant colours are a feast for the eyes in the sometimes rather grey metropolis.
If you enjoy street art you might enjoy this post about street art in Warsaw.
You can easily spend a morning wondering around the maze of M50 and discovering the unusual shops and interesting art. M50 is part of Shanghai’s edgy subculture, making it a very quirky thing to do in Shanghai.
Jing’An Sculpture Garden
The Jing’An Sculpture Garden is a lovely hidden green spot. In the heart of Shanghai’s upmarket shopping district of Jing’An lay several very interesting sculptures. The Jing’An sculpture park is home to many beautiful works of art. You can find an array of sculptures from giant musical instruments to a stag with butterfly antlers. Red cows lie in a field opposite the humongous fox on top of an old container. Hardly surprising how many animal sculptures can be found in the Jing’An sculpture park as the park is next to the entrance of the Natural History Museum.
Jing’An sculpture park is the perfect place to bring a picnic and stay a while admiring the unusual artwork. Bring your camera and see why Jing’An Sculpture park is a very instagrammable and quirky place to visit in Shanghai.
For more quirky inspiration check out this post about Quirky and Unsual Things to do in Shanghai.
Artsy West Bund
The West Bund is one of Shanghai’s new art areas. Less gritty than M50, the West Bund feels more manicured and is now a hub of culture, art, fashion, media and innovative design.
The new art centre is situated on the site of a former airport. Inspiration has been drawn from the history of the area as the green park beside the art centre is called ‘Runway park’
The area is fascinating and makes our list of 50 things to do in Shanghai as it is well on its way to completing its aim of competing with London’s South Bank for a place on the world’s best artistic river bank list.
Markets in Shanghai
Hongqiao Flower Market
Step into a world of colour and intense floral scents at the Hongqiao Flower Market. The Hongqiao Flower market is full of colourful blooms, pretty garden furniture, quirky succulents and rainbow coloured plant pots. For those with hay fever, take a strong antihistamine before as the air is thick with strong floral scents.
The Hongqiao Flower market is quite large full of flower stalls and little shops you will probably want to spend an hour or so here. Enjoy exploring the market and taking lots of photos as the Hongqiao Flower market is very Instagram-friendly.
Not many tourists find their way to the Hongqiao Flower market meaning it will just be you, the locals and maybe a few expats who will be enjoying the Hongqiao Flower market.
Tianshan Tea Market
Tianshan Tea Market is a giant multi-level complex with thousands of varieties of tea on offer. The market hosts around 150 stalls. This is the place for tea enthusiasts to add to their Shanghai bucket lists.
You can sit down and try some of the brews or just wonder around.
While there is some expectation to buy something if you’ve sat for a long time, it’s not required. If you have decided to sit down some of the tea vendors will serve you tea as part of a gongfu cha style ceremony.
If you have found tea that you like you can buy some of the tea in round disks, but most will be sold loose.
Shanghai Marriage Market
One of the more unusual things to do in Shanghai is to visit the Shanghai Marriage Market in People’s Park on People’s Square.
Every weekend, parents and grandparents of single children or grandchildren gather to essential advertise the singletons. They advertise their children’s profiles on the ground or on umbrellas. This has happened every weekend since 2004.
Strangely the singles themselves are rarely there.
Visit the Shanghai Marriage market between 11:00 to 16:00 at the weekend see this bizarre market. The profiles are mostly in Chinese, but some are in English.
Who knows maybe you will find a match for yourself?
Food & Drink
Try Baozi and Xiaolongbao
Baozi is a doughy filled bun. The various fillings can include meat, fish and vegetables. There are plenty of veggie dumplings to try in Shanghai and they are normally prepared by being steamed.
There are various types of Baozi. The traditional bun is known as a mantou, which looks more rectacular. The sizes of the Baozi can also vary with Dàbāo (大包) meaning big bun at around 10 cm across to Xiǎobāo (小包) which means small bun and measures just 5 cm wide. The Big Buns are normally purchased as take away items. The smaller buns are more commonly eaten in restaurants around China.
A typical Shanghai dumpling is the Xiaolongbao – which is a small baozi from which contains a broth. It is not uncommon to see the xiaolongbao being consumed by tourists with the help of a straw due to its juicy filling. There are those that actually claim this is not a baozi which is more bread-like and is a thin dumpling similar to a jiazi.
Whichever dumpling you go for, make sure you do not leave Shanghai without trying a Boazi!
Do you love instagrammable coffee shops? Do you need a nice strong coffee to fuel you as you tick off your Shanghai Bucket List? There are quite a few nice coffee shops dotted around Shanghai. One coffee shop that you must not miss is Café Undefine. Café Undefine is located in the artistic heart of M50. As you enter the coffee shops you are sheltered by dozens of fairy lights which form a canopy above you. Grab yourself one of the strongest americanos in Shanghai and find a comfy spot on the balcony. Sip on your delicious coffee and recharge your batteries for an hour or so. This is possibly one of the most instagrammable coffee shops in Shanghai.
Paloma Café, near touristy Tianzifang, is a wonderful white haven of industrial chic. Excellent coffee can be enjoyed here. The café is over two stories of an old brick building. Full of millennials on laptops this is an excellent place to work in a fantastic atmosphere with good coffee. The upstairs room is full of hanging lamps, artistic magazines and dark wooden floors. Another very instagrammable coffee shop to add to your ultimate Shanghai bucket list.
Get very Drunk in Japan Town
Japan Town is in Changning district not far from Hongqiao airport. Hop off at the either the metro station of Wening Lu or Loushanguan Lu and get ready for a big night out.
There are several all you can drink bars. At one of them such as you pay 40 yuan which includes all you can drink for two hours. The drinks of choice are Japanese beverages such as Japanese beer, Asahi and Japanese sake. Spend two (or four hours if you are feeling particularly daring) drinking sake and Japanese beer until it is time to head to KTV.
Have a drink overlooking the Bund
One of the best ways to enjoy the view from the Bund is with a beverage in your hand.
There are many roof top bars to choose from to admire the epic skyline. From the high-end luxury hotels such as the Hyatt to the Captain’s Bar which is the cheapest roof top bar on the Bund. Alternatively, just pop into a local family mart and buy an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink of your choice. Simply walk to the Bund and find a seat and sip on your drink whilst admiring the view alfresco style!
Enjoying a drink whilst looking over at the mega skyscrapers over in Pudong must be on your ultimate Shanghai bucket list!
Day trips around Shanghai
Thames Town is a very strange place in the South West of Shanghai. As you arrive you are greeted by a red telephone box. You can see brick buildings and a huge Christian church. Even the street signs are in English with names such as Cambridge Road. You question yourself whether you are still in Shanghai!
Even though you feel as if are thousands of miles away from the Nanjing Road and on the blustery British Isles you are still in Shanghai! Thames Town is of a couple of themed towns dotted around Shanghai. It does take a little bit more effort than some of the other places on this 50 things to do in Shanghai list as it does not have its own metro station. Get off at Songjiang Xincheng metro and hop in a taxi or onto a bus to get to Thames Town.
Embrace your inner Brit as you walk along the cobbled lanes in Thames Town and try to ignore the air conditioning units clinging to the brick buildings.
Thames Town is quite compact meaning you do not need long to see everything. So take your time, stop for a pot of tea and for a moment, you can forget that you are in Shanghai!
If you fancy an authentically Disney but distinctly Chinese experience, check out Disneyland Shanghai.
Disney ensured they hired a team of researchers in order to incorporate Chinese cultural elements into the Shanghai Disneyland park. For example, main street US was changed into featuring 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac represented by Disney characters. You also won’t find space mountain, jungle cruise or a small world as to avoid cultural imperialism.
Even the seating has been changed as Chinese guests tend to spend longer eaten than American patrons. The picnic areas are also better suited to extended families with grandparents.
Restaurants seating has been revised upwards after studies found that Chinese guests take longer over meals, and extensive picnic areas are better adapted to extended families with grandparents. Also, there is more live entertainment as many Chinese patrons prefer that to thrill rides.
If you love the castle and shows at Disneyland, the Shanghai park will not disappoint. The Shanghai Disneyland Castle is the largest in any Disney theme park. Also, there are more live shows and there is the longest parade out of all of the parks!
A day at Shanghai Disneyland is full of fun, music, rides and crowds. Yet don’t worry about the crowds as there is a handy app telling you the waiting lines at each ride allowing you to plan your visit accordingly.
A visit to the Shanghai Disneyland should be on your Shanghai bucket list!
Marco Polo wrote that Hangzhou “is without a doubt the finest and most splendid city in the world”. It is easy to see why Marco Polo fell in love with Hangzhou. The picturesque setting of the lake surrounded is surrounded by rolling hills. Beautiful bridges and gardens hug the lakeside. There are dozens of stories and legends which have inspired poets for centuries to visit Hangzhou.
Hangzhou is just one hour by fast train from Shanghai. If there is only one day trip from Shanghai that you manage to do, make sure it is Hangzhou. This beautiful lake should be on everyone’s bucket list.
Hangzhou was rated one of the best places to visit in China. Click here to see the full list of great places to visit in China.
Zhujiajiao is Shanghai’s best water town as it is the most preserved water town in the Shanghai area.
Zhujiajiao is a beautiful water town close to the end of metro line 17. The water town is a fantastic blend of beautiful architecture, talented artisans, quirky coffee shops and delicious food.
Enjoy taking photos of the pretty bridges spanning the canals and also pop inside the classical garden. In terms of what you can buy as a souvenir consider purchasing some beautiful bluish green china. This is typical of Shanghai Water towns. You must also enjoy a delicious meal by the Fangsheng Bridge which translates into the ‘setting-fish-free Bridge’. The Fangsheng bridge, built in 1571, is one of the longest and tallest ancient stone bridges in China.
If you have time enjoy a leisurely boat ride along the canal. Zhujiajiao is a magical watertown that must be on your things to do in Shanghai list.
Located in a suburb of Shanghai city, Zhujiajiao Water Town, aka Zhujiajiao Water Village, is well-known throughout the country, with a history of more than 1,700 years. Covering an area of 47 square kilometers (11,614 acres), the little fan-shaped town, being regarded as Shanghai’s Venice, glimmers like a bright pearl in the landscape of lakes and mountains.
Take Metro Line 17 and get off at Zhujiajiao Station; after arrival, walk north for about 15 mins to the town.
Longjing Tea Trails
Tea enthusiasts and nature lovers will love a trip to Longjing!
Nestled behind the hills surrounding Hangzhou’s legendary lake is longjing. Locals can be seen wearing straw yellow hats to protect themselves from the fierce sun are swiftly pick the green tea leaves from the bushes. You can try some of the Longjing tea in the village of Longjing. Longjing directly translates into Dragon’s Well which you can find in the village. Longjing is one of China’s most famous teas and something you must try whilst you are close to Shanghai. You can continue your tea trail adventure at the National Tea Museum. There is even free tea to try at the museum. After you have visited the museum head into the hills. The trail in the Longjing tea terraces is one of the best hikes in China. The smoggy cities of Hangzhou and Shanghai feel a world away up on the tea terraces.
You can visit Longjing as a day trip from Shanghai, but it will take around 3 hours door to door as once you reach Hangzhou you will need to jump on bus number 27 to get to Longjing.
We thoroughly enjoyed walking in Longjing and were happy to have ticked it off our ultimate Shanghai bucket list!
This is one of the best hikes near Shanghai. Check out this post for more inspiration on unmissable hikes in China.
Suzhou is one of China’s oldest water towns. Suzhou has over 2500 years of history. Explore Suzhou’s history by visiting one of its beautiful gardens, strolling along the canals and enjoying the Venice of the East.
The Classical Gardens of Suzhou are of great cultural significance. So much so that they were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the late nineties. There are over 60 classical gardens in Suzhou with the Humble Administrators garden being its largest and most famous.
Suzhou is just 25 minutes from Shanghai’s Hongqiao train station meaning it is a perfect day trip from Shanghai.
If you would like to find out more about visiting Suzhou see our blog post here about our rainy visit to Suzhou.
Xitang is an ancient water town on the outskirts of Shanghai. It is said that Xitang’s history can be traced back to the Spring and Autumn period (approximately 770 – 475 BC).
The beautiful town is one of Shanghai’s most popular water towns given its impressive size and relative proximity to the centre. The water town is crisscrossed by a total of 9 rivers. There are many beautiful stone bridges which cross the water ways. Many tourists enjoy a boat ride down the many canals.
There are also a few temples and museums as well as many souvenir shops. It is best just to wonder around the water town rather than plan an exact route. Also do not forget to look up as you may just spot Tom Cruise jumping from the rooves. A few scenes for Mission Impossible III were filmed in Xitang.
At night the bars and night clubs come alive making for an odd ambience amongst the ancient architecture. Yet the locals do not mind as by midnight the night clubs close and tranquillity finally sets over the town of Xitang.
As the biggest water town near Shanghai Xitang must be on your water town bucket list!
Did you know there is an ancient water town close to the centre of Shanghai? If you don’t have time to visit one of the water towns around the city of Shanghai jump on the metro to Qibao and after a 10-minute walk you will arrive in Qibao Ancient Town. Just 18 km from the centre of Shanghai this is a perfect place to spend an hour or so to experience a taste of ancient Chinese water towns. Whilst this is by no means the most spectacular water town in China, it is one of the most accessible.
Walk along the streets and breathe in the delicious smell of ‘stinky tofu’. In fact, we found it fairly horrid and whilst we tried this delicacy, I actually held my nose haha! Normal tofu and veggie baozi can be found around the town if you prefer your food to smell a little well less ‘stinky’.
The ancient town’s layout consists of two broad waterways which are lined with houses and gardens. There is an elaborate pagoda at the Qibao Temple. For a true cultural experience, make sure visit the Shadow Play Hall to watch a shadow puppet performance.
There are plenty of Calligraphy and craft stores along the small lanes and alleyways of the Qibao Old Street area. Qibao is perfect to just wonder around and experience a taste of what old china must have been like.
Wuxi is just 45 minutes from Shanghai on the fast train making this a perfect day trip or weekend location to explore. Wuxi does not attract the same crowds as Suzhou and Hangzhou meaning you will not be constantly elbowing someone to get around the city. There are plenty of things to do in Wuxi.
Visit the Lingshan Buddha scenic area in Wuxi. Whilst the Lingshan Buddha may not be as old as the Leshan buddha, it is the tallest buddha in the whole of China. If you enjoy hiking, check out the Huishan forest park for lovely trails and pretty views over Lake Tai.
For more cultural experiences you can wonder through Huishan Ancient town or enjoy Nanchan Temple in the heart of the city. There is plenty of delicious street food to enjoy near Nanchan Temple.
Wuxi truly is an underrated weekend trip from Shanghai.
For the ultimate guide to Wuxi see this post about why Wuxi is an underrated weekend trip from Shanghai.
Nanjing is a fantastic city which is a perfect weekend trip from Shanghai. It is possible to do Nanjing as a day trip from Shanghai but with so many things to see in Nanjing we would recommend at least 2 days!
There is so much history to be found in Nanjing. Nanjing was one of China’s ancient capitals and also played an important role in the founding of the Republic of China.
Much of Nanjing’s history and beauty can be found on the Purple Mountain. The Purple mountain is home to Sun Yat-sen’s mausoleum as well as one of the Ming emperor’s tombs. Visit the Purple Mountain around springtime to enjoy the beautiful blossoms.
The Nanjing city walls are also very impressive. For a more sombre yet historically important activity, visit the Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders.
If you happen to be working in Shanghai, make sure one of your weekend’s outside of the city is spent in Nanjing.
How many can you tick off your Ultimate Shanghai 50 Things to do Bucket List?
Hope this Shanghai bucket list has inspired you to explore all that Shanghai and the surrounding area have to offer. How many of the 50 things to do in Shanghai can you tick off your bucket list?