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Best Things To Do If You're Shanghaied In Shanghai

By Edited Aug 26, 2015 8 14

Arriving in Shanghai, you could be forgiven for thinking you've been warped into some strange city in the not so distant future. If you find that you're the kind of person who loves architecture, then you'll be totally in your element as you wonder the streets looking at the ultra modern (and sometimes a little strange) buildings that adorn the new Pudong District and take a step back in time as you marvel at the old buildings in the old Huangpu District. You can fly around the city underground on the very efficient and convenient Metro (Shanghai's version of  the Subway in America  or the Underground in London)but Shanghai is very much a city that deserves to be walked, as much as possible. Being shanghaied in Shanghai is actually an experience that will bring all your senses to life.

Why Shanghai Is So Amazing

Bund Bank buildings

Whilst Shanghai's famous counterpart, Beijing, holds claims to many of the worlds most famous tourist destinations and of course the 2008 Olympics, Shanghai really doesn’t scrimp on the"wow factor". There are more than enough sights, sounds, smells and tastes to enliven your senses. The more of this city that you can traverse by foot, the more you can absorb yourself within the Shanghai  culture and really begin to notice why the Shanghainese are so proud of their vibrant city. Shanghainese are the most friendly and helpful hosts you are likely to meet and for those of you that are unable to speak Chinese, in Shanghai it is not such a big problem. Unlike many other cities in China, the number of people in Shanghai that can speak some English, appears high.


Shanghai World Financial Centre

Not To Be Missed

The whole city of Shanghai is alive with colour, and there is no better way to take it all in than strolling along The Bund at night. With the old architecture beautifully lit up behind you, you can look across the Huangpu river at the World Financial Trade Centre and its surrounding buildings. The easily recognizable Oriental Pearl Tower stands tall and proud, looking like a huge spaceship has just descended into the city. What you are actually looking at is the Lujiazui Skyline and it is one of the most unusual and stunning skylines that you can find anywhere in the world

You're Going To Need A Place To Stay


The Pacific Hotel
If you want to base yourself in the absolute best place to take in all the sights, atmosphere and enjoy having the convenience of the metro at your doorstep, then you will be best advised to stay in Peoples Square. Boasting 3 metro lines, all situated within the Peoples Square station, you can get to pretty much anywhere you want with ease. Staying in Peoples Square, will also give you the option to walk to many of Shanghai's main tourist destinations by foot. The Bund, Nanjing (Shopping) Road and Yu Gardens are all within walking distance. There are many hotels scattered around the square and it really depends on your budget as to which one you choose to stay in. If you are looking for a mid priced hotel, The Pacific Hotel is fantastic. It's nowhere near as expensive as many of its neighbours and it actually offers soft beds, which if you've ever been to China, you will know are as rare as hens teeth. With a distinctly European style, The Pacific Hotel is steeped in Shanghai's history . It's extremely old but gloriously decorated and oozes personality. It's clean, comfortable and best of all, Location, location, location! The Metro runs a direct line to  the Peoples Square station from Pudong Airport and as you step outside of the station, the Pacific Hotel stands right before your eyes, like a glimmering oasis after your tiring travels.

Garden of Peace or Happiness

Theoretically this next place sounds like a tranquil place to relax, but in all honesty, this is China and that is not likely to happen! Yuyuan Gardens (Garden of Peace or Happiness) is actually one of Shanghai's biggest attractions and you will be just one amidst the masses but definitely don't let that deter you. If you feel like trying some local cuisine, check out the famous Nanxiang Baozi (Steamed Buns) Restaurant and try the pork and crab roe soup dumplings. How do you find this restaurant? It's really very easy, just look for the long queue of people, you can't miss it.

It is also here with in Yu Gardens, that you can wander around the markets and find many “Chinese Style” gifts BUT be sure you get ready to partake in the famous Chinese sport of “bargaining” and be ready to bargain hard. This is a humongous tip for you...The sellers will always start at a very high price. You can then in turn offer them around half of their asking price. Follow this up with the usual haggling period whilst you try to compromise on a price. If you think they are being particularly stubborn and you both can't agree on a final price, you can always try walking away. It is almost a given that they will call you back to accept your offer. For those not used to bargaining it can feel awkward at first but it is the way it's done here and the sellers always start their prices high for this reason. It can sometimes be hard to find so-called “Chinese style” gifts to take home for friends” but I can guarantee that this is the place to pick them up.

The Oriental Pearl Tower
Coffee Break

After all that shopping and bargaining, sit yourself down in Starbucks for a coffee and a well-earned rest. Starbucks are to Shanghai what Pubs are to Ireland, there is literally one on every corner, except... strangely enough, not with in Pudong airport.

A Concession For French People?

Another interesting place that is not always mentioned in the travel guides is Tianzifang. I stumbled upon this by accident one day when I took myself on a lone walking tour around the French Concession. I felt like I'd struck gold, stumbling unplanned into this interesting maze of art and craft shops, stylish boutiques and eateries. It's easy to spend a few hours meandering around. To walk around The French Concession and Tianzifang can take up at least ½ of your day but it's an area of Shanghai that I go back to again and again. Tree lined streets, beautiful old historic buildings and a plethora of interesting boutique style shops and cafes.

Travel Tips

Shanghai Jiao Tong Ka

Travel Tip : If you're staying in Shanghai for at least a few days it's a good idea to pick up a Shanghai Public Transportation Card (Jiao Tong Ka). It is a rechargeable card that you can pick up from any service centre at a metro station in Shanghai. All you have to do is ask for a Jiao Tong Ka (is pronounced like this - jow tong car)  and hand over how much money you would like to top it up with. They will take 20 rmb out of that amount as a deposit to pay for the card and then show you the total balance that is on the card itself. The balance also shows when you swipe the card upon leaving a metro station. It is extremely convenient and saves you having to keep finding money to buy tickets and pay for fares. It can be used on all forms of public transport within Shanghai including Taxis, but be sure to show the taxi driver you will use your card before he flips his meter at your destination, otherwise he can only accept cash. Have a look at this list to see what your Jiao Tong Ka will cover.

  • Buses and trolleybuses
  • Metros
  • Ferries
  • Taxis
  • Tourist centers
  • Car parks
  • Airport maglev

It is absolutely the best way to travel around Shanghai.

Shanghai's Everlasting Impression

The Bund

If you're a little intrigued about how Chinese people (especially the older generation) spend their free time, head on over to Fuxing Park. Here you can see the locals enjoying all their favourite pastimes such as Kite Flying, Tai Chi, Dancing, Badminton, Singing and Playing Traditional Chinese Instruments with all of their friends. It's in these kinds of areas, like Fuxing Park, where you can really get a feel for the Chinese Lifestyle. The time-worn faces of the elderly, who have seen so much change in their country and city. Parents flying kites with children, grasping at valuable recreational time amidst their hectic daily schedules. Young couples, walking hand in hand, noticeably different to many young people in other areas of China, maybe because of the huge impact and large footprint that so many countries have left with in this city.

Shanghai is the largest city (in terms of population) in China and the world. It is putting its best foot forward and is a wonderful representation of modern China, showcasing to the rest of the world how you can incorporate ultra modern planning and forward thinking, whilst still preserving important heritage for everyone to see and enjoy. I have done a fare share of travel around China, Shanghai is one city I keep coming back to again and again.

Fuxing Park


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Mar 21, 2013 4:36am
That was brilliant, and loved seeing the little go girl. I had never heard of that until a friend told me about hers but it was call something pee wee or similar not sure now.
Great article so full of great information. You'll have to write one about your hometown now. To show the comparisons. congrats on your feature.
Mar 21, 2013 4:59am
Hey eileen, thank-you! That's a great idea about compiling some stuff for an article about my hometown. It's only a 2nd tier city nothing as big and bright as a "Shanghai" but lots of stuff here still. ;-) Isn't the little "Go Girl" great! How useful can you get! Thanks again.
Mar 21, 2013 4:41am
Great article, thanks for sharing. The part about bargaining is so true. I've never tried it myself but have seen it done by a friend. They really do call you back/come after you to accept your offer.
Mar 21, 2013 5:05am
Hi iamsy, yeah "bargaining - the biggest and most popular sport in China" :-) It's really scary when you start but it soon becomes like second nature because everyone does it, all the time.
I really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. Big thank-you!
Mar 21, 2013 7:07am
Now I want to visit Shanghai! Except for the toilet thing, it sounds very neat!
Mar 21, 2013 7:46am
I'm really happy you enjoyed the article about Shanghai. It really is worth a visit. Yeah unfortunately the toilet thing is just something you have to put up with if you visit China, but that's just one of China's quirks and in Shanghai... not as bad as many other smaller cities. Thanks for your motivating comment :-)
Mar 21, 2013 9:30am
China is still on my bucket list and Shanghai definitely. Well written article, so a thumb from me!
Mar 21, 2013 4:48pm
Hi claudslewis, thank-you for spending some time reading and commenting about Shanghai. I often think China is such a different place that everyone should have a look, just to see how unusual it is. Shanghai is more "normal" than much of China, which makes it a comfortable option when coming here, but highly worthy of a visit.
Mar 21, 2013 2:19pm
I did not know that about the hotel beds. Great information. Great article. Thank you!
Mar 21, 2013 4:52pm
Hiya KimChaos, yes it's an uncomfortable fact that it's almost impossible finding a soft bed here. I've slept on many beds that literally feel like you're laying on only a wooden board. I'm really glad you enjoyed the article. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and the extra time to comment.
Mar 27, 2013 3:22am
Excellent post and very informative. As a European Shanghai seems faraway but with all these momentous changes that took place during the last years it is certainly a place that steals our attention.
Mar 27, 2013 5:00am
Yeah Shanghai (on my first visit) really suprised me. I've been to a few big cities around the world, and I was most impressed at Shanghai's modernization, whilst still retaining it's heritage. It's really very impressive. It's quite an impressive feat to be a major player in amongst other big cities globally, whilst so much of China is still catching up!
Appreciate your comments very much. Thankyou!
Apr 2, 2013 4:08am
great city!
Apr 2, 2013 6:27am
That it is! Thanks for dropping by and commenting :-)
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