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Best things to do in Shanghai

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Where in the world: Asia  /  China  /  Shanghai Region  /  Shanghai
Featuring a unique blend of Art Deco buildings, Buddhist temples, Jesuit cathedrals, Jewish synagogues, and landscaped gardens, the "Pearl of the Orient" offers some of the most rewarding activities in the Far East. To soak in China's unique cultural flavor, stroll along The Bund (Wai Tan) or roam among the displays that demonstrate the nation's philosophy and way of life at Shanghai Museum. Feel the pulse of the vibrant metropolis at Tian Zi Fang, a labyrinthine shopping district that houses numerous boutique shops, artist studios, bars, and restaurants. If you're traveling with kids, make sure your list of things to do in Shanghai includes a visit to Shanghai Disneyland or Changfeng Park.

Shanghai is best known for its Scenic Walking Areas, Observation Decks, and Gardens.

Top 15 things to do in Shanghai

1. The Bund (Wai Tan)

Stroll along The Bund (Wai Tan) to become one with Shanghai's bustling crowds and take in views of the city's glittering skyline. The buildings lining this waterfront walk represent a broad variety of architectural styles, such as Gothic, Baroque, and Beaux-Arts. Take photos at the flood-control wall affectionately called the Lovers Wall and in front of the famous skyscrapers, including the Pearl Tower, whose pillars and spheres pierce the sky.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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2. Oriental Pearl Tower (Dongfang Mingzhu)

Oriental Pearl Tower (Dongfang Mingzhu) both shapes the beauty of Shanghai's cityscape and offers visitors impressive views from its observation areas. Completed in 1994, the 468 m (1,535 feet) high tower features 11 connected spheres and contains a variety of attractions and activities inside its enormous columns and orbs, including a Municipal History Museum, observation decks, and an elegant 25-room hotel. Travel between levels in massive double-decker elevators, and visit the rotating restaurant in the second highest sphere.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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3. Shanghai World Financial Center

Standing at a height of 492 m (1,614 ft), Shanghai World Financial Center represents the second tallest building in mainland China to date. Completed in 2008, the landmark skyscraper contains first-class commercial centers, a luxury hotel, over 20 multinational business institutions, and exhibitions of art created from all over the world. Not only can the skyscraper withstand a severe earthquake, typhoons, lightening, and other hazards, but it holds the title as one of most ingenious modern architectural marvels. As you enter, check the vast map of the building to see what facilities you want to explore. You can also purchase a ticket to visit the sightseeing glass platform and hall.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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4. Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan)

Located in the city's center, Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan) displays a large collection of invaluable ancient Chinese art which demonstrates the nation's philosophy, wisdom, and way of life. Established in 1952, the round dome structure with a square base contains a total of three exhibition halls and eleven galleries. You can choose to inspect many major categories of showcased art, such as calligraphy, ceramics, furniture, paintings, and coins. Explore China's long history by examining over 120,000 items, which portray the country's long, colorful history and its relation to foreign countries. The museum issues 8,000 daily tickets free of charge and gives priority to the elderly and disabled.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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5. Yu Garden (Yuyuan)

Visitors flock to Yu Garden (Yuyuan) to wander the winding paths between lakes, over bridges, and through pagodas. This garden, built by an officer of the Ming dynasty in 1559, remains best known for its elaborate towers, pavilions, exhibit halls, and many water features. Stop at the tea house for a snack and to watch the fish, turtles, and tourists roaming different sections of the garden.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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6. Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road)

Explore one of the city's busiest shopping streets and commercial centers at Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road). Located between the Huangpu District to the east and the Jing'an District to the west, the largely pedestrianized road stretches a total of 5.5 km (3.4 mi). With over 1 million daily visitors, the highly commercial zone houses European-style restaurants, a century-old outdoor market, huge department stores, and traditional eateries. Inspect many remarkable places of interest during your stroll, such as the exhibition center, temple, and the hotel. During the Chinese New Year, the street becomes lavishly covered in lanterns and decorations, and it hosts majestic firework displays.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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7. Former French Concession

Explore the European-style, tree-lined avenues which house a variety of modern restaurants, cafes, concept bars, breweries, and art galleries at Former French Concession. Although the concession came to an abrupt end in 1943, the prominent residential and retail district still remains a popular tourist destination and one of the rare centers of Catholicism in China. Go on a walking tour to learn about the history of the charming streets and to discover cultural and religious buildings built by the British, Americans, Russians, as well as the French. In addition to visiting the high-end designer stores and high class restaurants, you can also find markets where you can bargain for cheaper prices.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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8. Jin Mao Tower

Jin Mao Tower represents a landmark skyscraper and an architectural marvel reaching a staggering height of 420.5 meters (1,380 ft). With 88 stories and 5 additional floors in the spire, the building employs advanced engineering systems to diminish the destructive effects of typhoons and earthquakes. Explore the structure's many leisure, residential, and business facilities, including shopping malls, nightclubs, restaurants, a luxury hotel, and commercial offices. For that remarkable panoramic view of the city, visit the Skywalk--an indoor observation deck reached by two express elevators.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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9. Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

Examine ancient buildings with a rich cultural background divided by stone bridges and numerous rivers at Zhujiajiao Ancient Town. Established some 1,700 years ago, the town contains historic attractions ranging from 5,000-year-old archaeological sites, to Qing dynasty rice shops, spice stores, banks, and post offices. Go on a gondola ride to cruise down the narrow canals and experience China's well-preserved heritage scattered along scenic riverbanks. Be sure to sample some local cuisine, especially dishes prepared with lotus roots and green soybeans.
Suggested duration: 5 hours
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11. Jade Buddha Temple

An active Buddhist monastery, Jade Buddha Temple contains many rare cultural relics and works of art. As you enter the peaceful Grand Hall, notice many different statues adorned by precious metals. For a symbolic fee, you can enter the temple's northern section to observe the main attraction, two jade statues of Buddha--a sitting and a recumbent one--each decorated with emeralds and agates. At the temple's eastern end, you can find a restaurant serving tasty local dishes for a moderate price.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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12. Tian Zi Fang

Part of the French Concession area, Tian Zi Fang has transformed from a traditional residential area into a modern arts and crafts enclave. Supported and swarmed by young designers, trend setters, and expatriates, the labyrinthine district houses numerous boutique shops, workshops, studios, bars, and restaurants. The area blends Shikumen buildings with British- and Spanish-styled castles, traditional Chinese meals with international flavors, and the eastern culture with a western charm. A lot of boutiques and galleries offer a variety of handmade novelty souvenirs for sale, arrive early to purchase them, as such limited editions sell out quickly.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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13. Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou

Listed as a World Heritage Site, Humble Administrator's Garden represents one of the city's most famous and largest gardens. The garden was built during the Shaoxing period and endured constant change throughout history, usually under private governance. Covering an area of 51,590 sq m (555.310 sq ft), the maze-like site contains numerous Ming-style elaborate pavilions, courtyards, and bridges, which connect islands and pools. You can explore three sections of the garden, where you can behold many natural and cultural landmarks. Also, attend the frequently held floral exhibitions, where you can learn much about plant life and see examples of bonsai trees, lotuses, and other flowers.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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15. Huangpu River

One of the Yangtze's most significant tributaries, Huangpu River remains a key player in Shanghai's shipping industry, as well as a major point of interests for visiting tourists. The river splits the urban sprawl into the eastern (pudong) and western (puxi) sections as it winds its way for 113 km (70 mi) through the city before emptying into the sea. River cruises make extremely popular methods for sightseeing around town--hop aboard a tourist-oriented excursion for a look at famous city landmarks from the water. Note the differences in architecture between the west bank's European designs and the east's towering skyscrapers. Marvel at the bridges that span the waterway, or make your way to the mouth of the river to admire the blending of distinct waters as they enter the ocean.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
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