Interested in futuristic cities? The definitely Shanghai should be on your list! A hectic city with plenty to see, it has become one of our top destinations in the world.

Historically, Shanghai has been a main port in Asia due to a favourable location. In the 19th Century, Shanghai became the most important centre of commerce between China and the Western world and a primary financial hub in the region.

This privileged position declined with the Comunist takeover in mid-20th Century. Fortunately, after an economic reform in the 90s, Shanghai was re-developed and is today one of the main financial cities in the World.

Shanghai is probably the most “westernised” city in Mainland China (this excludes Hong Kong, of course), but it still manages to keep Chinese tradition alive. From the tallest skyscrapers to European-style buildings from the 19th Century, from gigantic shopping districts to Buddhist temples and Chinese gardens, Shanghai has it all!

Below we tell you what you can’t miss when you visit.

The Bund

If you only had one day in Shanghai, this is where you would spend it!

The Bund is a waterfront promenade that runs along the western bank of the Huangpu river. The other side is framed by a line of European-style buildings from 19th Century which once housed the main financial institutions from Western countries.

This place is great for a stroll and the best place to see the modern skyline of Pudong. Great to visit day and night, but our favourite is at night, where you can see the light show from the different modern buildings across the river. Read more.

Pudong

On the other bank of the Huangpu river lies the main financial area of Shanghai.

Modern skyscrapers connected via walkways; luxurious shopping malls; businessmen from all over the world wearing impeccable suits discussing finance… This is what you can see in the Lujiazui area in Pudong.

The landmark buildings in this region include the Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Building, Shanghai World Financial Center and the newly inaugurated Shanghai Tower. All of them have observation decks. To help you decide, read this post about Shanghai skyscrapers and our personal recommendation.

Nanjing Road

This is the main shopping street in Shanghai. We read somewhere that it is the equivalent of New York’s 5th Avenue, but we wouldn’t go that far!

The most touristic one is East Nanjing Road, which runs east to west from The Bund to People’s Square and it is filled with shopping malls, stores, restaurants and people. All the international brands have a store on this road. At night, neon signs with Chinese characters illuminate the street. Read more.

You can also check out West Nanjing Road, on the other side of People’s Square.

People’s Square

A large public square that divides Nanjing Road, it is the site of Shanghai’s municipal government headquarters. Here you can find the City Hall, Shanghai Museum, Urban Planning Exhibition Center, People’s Park, among others.

Read more.

Yu Garden

Also called Yuyuan Garden, this is a big Chinese garden located in the Old City of Shanghai. It was first build in the 16th Century during the Ming Dinasty, but it’s foregone many reconstructions after being damaged several times.

It is a green oasis in the middle of the bustling city, with many courtyards, fishponds, bridges and pavilions. Read more.

Jade Buddha Temple

A bit farther away from the main attractions, this Buddhist temple is definitely worth a visit if you have the time. Besides being a beautiful yellow building, it houses two precious jade Buddha statues: the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha. These two cultural relics are carved in whole white jade and they were brought from Burma. Read more.

Xintiandi

A newly redeveloped shopping district, Xintiandi is the best place to see “shikumen”, traditional mid-19th Century Shanghai architecture that combines Western and Chinese elements. The stone houses were reconstituted and now house stores, cafes and restaurants. Read more. 

These are the places you should not miss if you go to Shanghai. We are sure there is so much more to explore.

If you have more days, you can do a daytrip to one of the watertowns around the city, like Zhujiajiao.

Have you been to Shanghai? Tell us about your experience!

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