what to do in shanghai

Shanghai is the biggest city proper in the world (at least that’s what ‘uncle Google’ tells us). It is also one of the biggest economic, financial and trading centers in Asia. If you’re doing any business in China, there’s a high chance that you’ll end up going just there. Or, that it will at least be your point of entry since one of the three main international airports in China is in Shanghai (aside from Beijing and Shenzhen). Have you ever wondered what to do in Shanghai during your business trip, when you have one or two days free to spend in Shanghai? Here are some ideas…

For those feeling lazy…

If the jetlag gets to you (there’s 8h time difference between China and, let’s say, UK) and you don’t feel like doing much, there are still a few ways to lazy around that can result in having some nice memories from the place (and a few nice pics for FB).

  • The Oriental Pearl Tower – it’s one of the most characteristic buildings in Shanghai. The tower is located in the Pudong district, close to the river. The sphere at the top is a view deck providing you with a chance to capture an outstanding panorama. If you’re not in hurry, and prices don’t hold you back, having a dinner in the restaurant at the top of the tower, might be a wonderful, and quite spectacular pass-time. You can get there by subway line number 2 (taxi will most probably take a lot of time). Just get off at the station called Lujiazui (exit 1). You’ll see the tower right away.what to do in shanghai
  • Pudong District – financial and trade center of the city. It’s also a place of numerous architectural wonders. Some of the most famous skyscrapers in the world are located there – for example, the Shanghai World Financial Centre which has 118 floors and looks like a giant beer opener. Stroll through the district, between the gigantic buildings, is an adventure of its own. You can get there by subway. Get off at Lujiazui or Dongchang Rd. (line 2).what to do in shanghai
  • The Bund – it’s a pedestrian area which runs along the Huangpu River. It’s a perfect place for an evening stroll. After the sunset, all buildings around (including sky-scrapers in Pudong) are lit but a myriad of colorful neon. Shanghai during the day is OK. In the evening, it’s mesmerizing. You can get there by subway – line 2 (get off at East Nanjing Road). From there you’ll need to walk for around 5 min.what to do in shanghai
  • Tianzifang – it’s a maze of narrow alleys lined by art’s and crafts shops, boutiques, coffee shops and restaurants. The area is located in French concession district so it features European style architecture. It’s a wonderful place for a stroll or dinner. You can also try some types of Chinese street food there. It’s a good place also for those looking for souvenirs. You can get there by subway line 9 (get off at Dapuqiao station). Tianzifang is just across the street from the subway exit.
  • Yu Garden – it’s a complex of pavilions and gardens that date back to 1577. It’s a perfect place if you’d like to escape the noise of the concrete jungle and relax in a more traditional environment. There’s also a very famous dumpling shop in there. Some even claim that it serves the best dumplings in town. You can get there by subway line 10 (get off at Yuyuan Garden).

What to do in Shanghai if you’d have some more time…

For those who already concurred jetlag and have more energy to spare there are a few options of a whole day trip outside the city.

  • Zhujiajiao Water Town – visit in China doesn’t count if you haven’t seen at least one of the water towns. Lined with canals, old buildings and picturesque bridges are perfect tourist destination (especially for those craving some Chinese traditional scenery in the background of their pictures). Zhujiajio might not be the biggest one of those towns, but it’s one of the closest to Shanghai, which makes it a perfect destination for those with limited free time. It’s located 50km from the city center. There is public transportation, but if you’re not familiar with China, it might be difficult to navigate. The easiest way is to get a taxi there (it would cost around 200 RMB one way). Or you can opt to buy an organized 1-day trip with a private guide.
  • Hangzhou – the old capital of China. Prized for the West Lake and old architecture. If you have a whole day or two to spend, going there might be a nice idea (fast train from Shanghai takes around 40 min). You can simply stroll around the lake, sit in one of the restaurants or coffee shops providing you with exceptional views, take a boat ride, climb the hills surrounding the lake (there’s a wonderful view from the top and it’s quieter than the area close to the Lake.) Nice place to visit is also Hefang Street – an old merchant street providing an abundance of shops (mainly with silk, tea, and handicrafts).

Transportation tip

Many times in this text, I mentioned using the subway. In most cases, it truly is the easiest and often the fastest way to travel around Shanghai (taxis tend to get stuck in the traffic and scam drivers are not that uncommon). To make traveling easier I suggest getting yourself Shanghai Public Transportation Card (especially if you make repeated trips to the city). It’s a prepaid card which could be used on subway and buses. You just need to scan it when you enter/exit the station. The card can be purchased at the Pudong Airport (in the same place, where they sell Maglev tickets). The card itself costs 40 RMB + the amount of money you’d like to supercharge it with.

The author of this post is:

My name is Agnieszka. I come from Poland but since 2012 I’ve been working in China as a Medical English Teacher. This cultural transit gave birth to the idea of my blog GoForeign. If I were to describe the aim of this website, I would say it is to show what it means to be an expat in China and how everyday life looks from that perspective. There are a lot of things that are surprising, confusing or just funny. If you’re curious what happens when West meets East, feel invited – this page is for you.

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