Also known as Paris of the East, Shanghai is one of the best cities in China. Shanghai is often overlooked and is usually just a stopover for most travelers. It looks like there’s not much to see and do since it is full of tall buildings. However, there are a lot of things to do in Shanghai. You can easily spend a week here and not be able to explore everything this city can offer. Here are 25 things to do in Shanghai that you should not miss.
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Many people assume that Shanghai is expensive. From my experience, I did not find China as expensive as I thought it would be. The hotels, train tickets, and food were much affordable compared to my trip to Japan. Here is an estimated cost of travel in China for a month.
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1. Spend A Day in Shanghai Disneyland
Shanghai Disneyland should be in your top things to do in Shanghai. It is the first Disneyland park in Mainland China. It is also the biggest Disney resort in Asia. If you are a big Disney fan, you’ll surely enjoy a day in this park. This place is perfect for huge Disney fans.
Meet your favorite Disney characters and take photographs with them. Watch the beautiful parade and see your favorite characters perform. Eat cute Disney themed snacks and lastly, end the day by watching the beautiful fireworks show before leaving the park. If there is only one ride you can do in Shanghai Disneyland, I highly recommend you do Soaring or if you’ve been to the US parks then the Pirates of the Carribean ride should be your top priority.
2. Stay in Shanghai Disneyland Hotel
Your Disney adventure in Shanghai is not limited to Shanghai Disneyland. You can stay in Disney-themed rooms at Shanghai Disneyland Hotel. There are several benefits for guests of Shanghai Disneyland Hotel too.
You can enjoy their free shuttle bus from the hotel to the park. Another advantage is that you can also enter the park one hour earlier which is perfect. You can start their famous rides without waiting in line since you are already inside before the park officially opens to other guests.
3. Or stay in Toy Story Hotel
Shanghai Disneyland Hotel is very elegant, but if you are traveling with kids, Toy Story Hotel is perfect for you. Each room in this hotel is themed after the Toy Story movies and this is perfect for fans of the movies. Guests can also meet and take photos with Woody and Jessie at the entrance of the hotel.
If you are a big fan of Beauty and the Beast like me, you must watch their musical show in Shanghai Disneytown. It is a must-watch for Beauty and the Beast fans. Even those who are not a big fan would still enjoy this musical. They will be speaking in Mandarin though and the songs are all in Mandarin as well. It is still a great experience and definitely one of the top things to do in Shanghai.
After a long flight, you finally arrived at your destination. You’re excited and cannot wait to explore but you have several big luggage. You can take public transport but a better option is to just have a private transfer from the airport to your hotel or Airbnb.
It is perfect especially if you are traveling with a big group. It is much affordable and you can even split the cost so you can save more money. The best part about it is that you can comfortably travel from the airport to your hotel without the inconvenience of taking public transport with your luggage.
The airport luggage service is amazing and perfect especially if you will arrive really early or will depart really late in the evening. We arrived at 8 A.M in Shanghai and our hotel check-in is not until 3 P.M. We want to explore already so instead of bringing our luggage with us around, we delivered it to our hotel instead.
On our last day, our flight was at 11 in the evening. We have to check out by noon so we also delivered our luggage to the airport so that we can still explore without bringing our luggage with us. This service makes it more convenient for us and we really love using this service.
Things to do in Shanghai
I noticed that every time we travel, we would always take a boat tour or cruise. We also did it on our Singapore trip and on our one week in Japan trip. It’s a great way to explore the city and the view is really beautiful too. You can see the historic The Bund on one side and the modern Pudong at the other side. You can take a cruise at any time of the day but it is best at night time where the lights make the view more beautiful.
If Paris has the Eiffel Tower and Tokyo have the Tokyo tower, Shanghai has the Oriental Pearl Tower. It is the most iconic landmark in Shanghai. You can go up to the observatory deck of this tower and see the beautiful 360 degrees view of the city. It is much better to go at night time since the lights make it more beautiful.
If you go up the Oriental Pearl Tower, the view is mostly tall buildings. However, if you go up the Shanghai World Financial Tower instead, then you can see the view of Pearl tower. I highly recommend SWFT over the Pearl tower since I personally think that the view is more beautiful here than in Pearl tower.
10. Jin Mao Tower
If you want to see the view of the city from above but want a more affordable option, Jin Mao Tower is a perfect choice. It is one of the tallest buildings in the city too.
11. Yuyuan Garden
If you got tired and bored of seeing tall buildings and skyscrapers in Shanghai, a visit to Yuyuan garden is perfect for you. It is one of Shanghai’s five classical gardens and if you can only visit one, I highly suggest you visit the Yuyuan garden. The traditional Chinese architecture in this garden is beautiful and it’s great to see some greenery for a change.
12. Explore the Former French Concession
If you are interested in arts and crafts, you would surely enjoy walking around the Tianzifang or the Former French Concession area. There are a lot of vintage shops here selling arts and crafts. It is different and unique from the usual tall buildings you usually see. Be careful when you visit here though since this place is famous for pickpockets. Always be alert of your belongings so you won’t lose valuables such as passports and phones.
This place reminds me of Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo. If you are a big fan of Hello Kitty and Sanrio, then this place is a must-visit for you. It should be one of the top things to do in Shanghai for Sanrio lovers.
Meet your favorite Sanrio characters and take photos with them. Enjoy the three whole floors that are Sanrio themed. Kids and kids at heart will surely enjoy this place.
Food Tour in Shanghai
14. Join a Breakfast Tour in Shanghai
I don’t know about you but breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I love starting my day by having a good breakfast. As much as I love the usual western-style breakfast which consists of pancakes, eggs, bacon, etc. Having a Chinese or eastern breakfast really excites me.
Join a breakfast tour in Shanghai is definitely one of the top things to do in Shanghai. It is also a great way to experience the old Shanghai and its culture. What I love the most about joining a food tour is that you are sure that you’ll sample the best dishes since there’s a knowledgeable tour guide with you.
15. There’s also an Evening Food Tour
If dinner is your favorite meal then you might prefer joining the evening tour instead. You can sample authentic Chinese dishes that were made by locals who are expert in cooking.
16. Have a Dinner at Oriental Pearl Tower
If you are looking for a unique dining experience that you don’t have back in your own country, then I suggest booking a dinner at the revolving restaurant at Oriental Pearl tower. It is a buffet dinner and you can also see the view of Shanghai from above while having your meal.
This restaurant also makes a full circle every two hours so you’ll see a 360 degrees view of the city from above while having your meal. You can only have this experience in Shanghai.
Another unique dining experience in Shanghai is the Huangpu Dinner Cruise. Have your dinner while you cruise the Huangpu river and see the beautiful scenery of the city. It will surely be a memorable experience for you.
18. Join a Bike Tour and explore Shanghai Highlights.
One of the things I like when visiting new places is to walk around and explore the city. Walking for so long can make us easily exhausted and make our feet painful though. A great alternative to walking around is to join a bike tour and cycle around instead of walking. It’s a fun way to explore the city too.
Experiences in Shanghai
19. Learn Calligraphy
If you are interested in learning the Chinese culture, a great way to do that is to join calligraphy class. I went to a Filipino-Chinese school when I was in elementary and high school and we always have a calligraphy class. It’s fun to learn how the locals use the brush properly and learn how to write Chinese characters.
20. Join Paper Cutting Class in Shanghai
If you are not into calligraphy, then try paper cutting class instead. You can learn more about this history of the art of Chinese paper cutting from local artists. You will also be able to take home your art and show it to your friends and family back home. It’s a great way to look back on your trip too. It will definitely be a memorable experience.
21. Learn How To Cook DimSum
Chinese cuisine is one of my favorites, they are so delicious, especially dim sums. If you love to cook, then you’ll enjoy joining this dim sum cooking class. You’ll learn how to make traditional Chinese dim sums such as xiao long bao, wontons and many more. It’s such a great experience.
22. Ride the Maglev Train
You can only experience the world’s fastest bullet train in China. You can travel from the airport to downtown in less than 10 minutes. It is such a cool experience and you should not miss this. This is one of the coolest things to do in Shanghai. The next Maglev train will be in Japan but it is not available until 2034 so if you get the chance to visit Shanghai, you must not miss this experience to ride the maglev train.
Day Trips From Shanghai
23. Take a Day Trip to Zhujiajiao Ancient Water Town
If you want a change of scenery from Shanghai’s tall buildings, I suggest taking a day trip to one of the water towns near Shanghai. Zhujiajiao Water town is the nearest ancient water town in Shanghai. You can easily take a day trip here. You’ll learn more about this history and culture of Shanghai and how the locals have lived before it developed into a metropolitan city.
24. Explore Suzhou
You can also take a day trip to Suzhou where you’ll see a much bigger water town. Aside from water towns, you’ll also be able to explore more classical gardens.
25. Visit Lake Tai
Aside from water towns, you can also take a day trip from Shanghai and explore the ancient villages in Lake Tai. You can see such a beautiful view of landscapes and nature. Learn how these ancient villages withstood the test of time.
The lake was actually formed by a meteor crash which happened thousands of years ago. It also used to be a hunting ground of bandits years ago. This is perfect for nature lovers and for those who want to take a break from the city.
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Thank you so much for your time to read this! Have you been to Shanghai, the Paris of the East? What did you think about this metropolitan city? Let me know your thoughts in the comments 🙂
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