6 Things to do in Shanghai

Shanghai is unique among China’s cities – a true blend of western and eastern culture that you can’t find in the likes of Beijing or Guangzhou. It’s sometimes called the Hong Kong of the mainland, and given the city’s occupation by various nations after the Opium Wars, it’s unsurprising that it often feels like you’re not in China at all while visiting Shanghai. Below, you’ll find six things you must do while in Shanghai.

  1. Shop 'til You Drop

    Shanghai boasts one of China’s most vibrant and competitive shopping scenes, with everything from designer brands from around the world to local wares and antiques.

     

    For those interested in Chinese antiques and knick-knacks, Dongtai Road is a warren-like maze of shops selling all manner of curios and oddities. It’s a great place to sample traditional Chinese street food and get your haggle on with good natured vendors.

     

    If you’re after a new handbag or pair of designer jeans, Nanjing East Road is the place to be. This walking street is alive from dawn until dusk, and boasts major labels from all over the world. Around the corner on Nanjing West Road, you’ll find the notorious fake markets – where you’ll get an identical handbag with a slightly different label for a fraction of the price.

  2. Visit the Bund by Night

    A vestige of the British settlement of Shanghai, the iconic Bund district is packed with high end restaurants and night clubs set in the colonial architecture that the British favoured. Overlooking the river, the Bund is truly beautiful when it is lit up at night, but just as beautiful on a sunny summer’s afternoon.

     

    Some of Shanghai’s most prestigious hotels and restaurants are located in this glitzy section of the city, but it’s free to walk around and soak in the unique British feel that can’t be found anywhere else in China.

  3. Go Museum Hopping

    Shanghai boasts some of China’s most fascinating and comprehensive museums, and there really is something to cater to all tastes. Museum traditionalists will find that the Shanghai Museum offers one of the most complete collections of Chinese cultural relics, and language guides and signs are in English and multiple other languages (a rarity in other parts of China). With everything from jade to pottery to coinage to clothing to calligraphy, you can spend a day wandering the halls of the Shanghai Museum and still need to see more.

     

    If you’ve got the kids in tow, the Shanghai Museum of Science & Technology is a wonderfully fun day out. Exhibits range from the obvious animal and dinosaur exhibits to interactive ones that challenge children and adults alike to indulge their curiosity.

     

    The Shanghai Urban Planning Museum offers some fascinating insight into how the jewel of eastern China was designed, and also what is planned for its future. An intricate scale model of the city is the highlight of the museum.

     

    If China’s communist history interests you, the Propaganda Museum is an utterly absorbing couple of hours. Located in the basement of a residential apartment block, this personal collection of posters dates back to the colonial era and goes through the rise of Mao, the influence of Russian communism, and the rebirth of the country once it re-opened its doors to the world.

  4. Take in the art in M-50

    The M-50 district of Shanghai is where the city’s artists come together to showcase their work. Here you’ll find an enchanting blend of old world traditions and modern art existing side by side – sculpture, painting, calligraphy, and video art all co-existing in a melting pot for Chinese art.

     

    Artists are often on hand to discuss their vision, and there are coffee shops and souvenir shops nearby when you’re done taking it all in.

     

    Photo courtesy of Jo Sau

  5. People Watching in Fuxing Park and People’s Park

    Areas of greenery are something of a rarity in built up and industrialised China, but Shanghai has several oases of nature where you can escape from the hustle and bustle of city life and indulge in a little people watching. Fuxing Park, located just near the French Concession, gives an intriguing glimpse into Chinese life – especially among its older citizens. Want to see locals practicing Tai Chi or Chinese Opera? This is the place for it!

     

    People’s Park is where you’ll find the world famous ‘Marriage Market’, where concerned parents set up ‘stalls’ to advertise the hand of their single son or daughter. Here you’ll see photos and descriptions of the disappointing children who have yet to give their parents grandchildren, and see the fascinating process of parents negotiating a marriage for children who aren’t even present.

     

    Photo courtesy of Richard Moross

  6. Dine and Drink in the French Concession

    As an expat in China, there were few places more beloved than Shanghai’s green and idyllic French Concession. As its name indicates, this district of Shanghai was once administered by the French, and you get a real sense of that as you stroll its tree-lined streets and savour the smells of the countless cafes and restaurants that dot the area.

     

    Photo courtesy of Eduardo M.C.

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