What to See in Shanghai
There are hundreds of things to see in Shanghai, from cutting-edge ultramodern superstructure to ancient relics of the past.
Shanghai’s attractions are varied and individualistic – one just as interesting as the other – so the problem that visitors may have here is not boredom from the lack of things to do, but rather panic from not having enough time to see all of its attractions in one visit.
Listed here are some of the best attractions in Shanghai in terms of popularity and visitors’ ratings.Read More
First National Congress of the Communist Party site
Receiving millions of visitors since it first opened to the public some 50 years ago, The Site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China is a renowned and significant historical attraction in Shanghai. The two-storey building marks the birth of the Communist Party in China, where the party’s first-ever national congress was held back in 1921.
The living room on the first floor where the congress was held is just as it was back then, while the exhibition hall upstairs features more than a hundred historical artifacts from that era, from documents to photographs. Also featured is a lifelike waxwork depiction of the congress in progress, with Chairman Mao Zedong, founder of the PRC, addressing the attendees.
- Opening Hours: Daily except Monday & Thursday, 09:00-17:00
- Location: No.76 Xingye Road (next to Shanghai Xintiandi)
Jade Buddha Temple
Located in the western part of the city, Jade Buddha Temple is Shanghai’s most celebrated temple. It was first built in 1882 to house two jade Buddha statues - the Sitting Buddha and the Recumbent Buddha - brought all the way from Burma and these are not just rare cultural relics but also precious works of art. Both statues are carved from white jade – one portraying the Buddha in a moment of meditation and enlightenment, and the other portraying his peaceful state when he left this earth. Ancient paintings and Buddhist scriptures also grace the halls of the temple.
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:30-17:00
- Location: 170 Anyuan Road
The tallest in China, the second tallest in Asia and the third tallest in the world, Jinmao Tower is considered by many as the beacon of Shanghai, the focal point which many treat as a sort of navigational tool when negotiating the city’s corners and streets.
Combining traditional Chinese elements and gothic influences in its architecture, this imposing structure is one of the city’s most prominent landmarks, towering above the rest. Within are retail shops, restaurants, offices and the world’s highest hotel, The Grand Hyatt, as well as a viewing platform on the 88th floor, where visitors can get panoramic views of the city.
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:30-21:30
- Location: 88 Century Boulevard, Pudong
Located at the southern part of the city, Longhua Park is home of the ancient Longhua Temple, the Longhua Pagoda and is the location of the Evening Bell-Striking Ceremony. Longhua Park has beautiful peach blossoms in spring. With a history spanning over 1,700 years, the majestic Longhua Temple is the oldest temple in Shanghai. Its courtyard follows the principles of ancient Buddhist symmetry, in line with the traditional Chinese concept of beauty.
The three-storey Bell Tower houses a copper bell, rung every 31st December in the Evening Bell-Striking Ceremony, welcoming in the New Year. Standing in front of the temple is the seven-storey Longhua Pagoda, with a distinctive Song dynasty design. During springtime when the peach blossoms are in full bloom, thousands throng this place to enjoy its calming beauty.
- Opening Hours: Daily 07:00-17:00
- Location: 2853 Longhua Lu
Old City God's Temple
Situated in the heart of the Yu Yuan Gardens bazaar area, Old City God’s Temple stands proud as a legacy from the Ming dynasty. The head of the county then, Zhangshouyue, had built a temple and dedicated it to the local city god.
The temple has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since then; it was last rebuilt in 1926. During World War II, the local merchants had built the New City God’s Temple in the Foreign Concession district. The original temple is now known as the Old City God’s Temple, to differentiate it from the new one.
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:30 -16:30
- Location: Fangbang Zhong Road (Souht of Yan’an Road)
Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Perhaps the most outstanding and instantly-recognisable structure dominating the city’s skyline, the futuristic-looking Oriental Pearl TV Tower is an infamous symbol of the city and one of the tallest buildings in Asia. Consisting of 15 spheres placed at different heights, the design of the whole building is said to symbolise pearls of differing sizes falling onto a jade plate.
There are six high-speed elevators within the building’s columns to take visitors to one of the viewing platforms for a bird’s-eye view of the city. The building’s lighting is computer-controlled, switching into different colours depending on time of the day and weather conditions.
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:00-21:00
- Location: 1 Century Avenue, Pudong
Qibao Ancient Town
Located in the heart of the Minhang district, Qibao Ancient Town is a national heritage with a history spanning over a thousand years. Built during the Song dynasty, the quaint town is filled with ancient buildings and old bridges over flowing rivers, which gives it a certain rustic charm.
At the core of this old town is the Qibao Temple, said to contain the seven treasures from where the town derived its name. Carrying visitors back through time with its original architecture and age-old traditions, the town is home to the Qibao Shadow Play, an ancient folk art, and the annually-held Festival of Cricket Culture where you can witness the fiercest crickets (the insect, not the sport) battle it out.
- Opening Hours: 24 hours daily
- Location: Minhang District
The perfectly-symmetrical Shanghai Museum houses over 120,000 cultural artifacts and period pieces, as well as a collection of more than 200,000 books on Chinese art and history in its massive library.
Its three world-class exhibition halls host exciting exhibitions throughout the year, and its 11 state-of-the-art galleries feature impressive permanent collections that include paintings, ancient calligraphies, bronze and jade collections, ceramics, old coins and over 100 pieces of furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties. The building itself is a work of art, incorporating the ancient Chinese principles of Feng Shui, and is said to resemble an ancient Chinese cooking pot from a distance.
- Opening Hours: Daily 09:00-17:00
- Location: No. 201 Renmin Avenue
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium (Shanghai Haiyang Shuizu Guan)
Shanghai's newest attraction, the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, is the city’s biggest and best aquarium - and Asia's largest. Located next to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the attraction boasts state-of-the-art facilities, 28 exhibition areas and over 10,000 marine life exhibits originating from all corners of the world such as sharks, jellyfish, turtles, lionfish and sea otters, as well as some rare and endangered species.
Its main feature is a massive observation tunnel made of shatterproof glass, from where visitors can watch the sea creatures swimming above and all around them. For the more adventurous, arrangements to swim with the sharks can be made.
- Opening Hours: Daily 09:00-18:00 (last ticket sold 17:30); July-Aug: 09:00-21:00 (last ticket 20:30)
- Location: 158 Yincheng Bei Lu, Pudong
Shanghai Urban Planning Hall
Despite its dull name, Shanghai Urban Planning Hall is anything but. A short walk across Renmin Square from the Shanghai Museum, this exhibition hall is a great introduction to the city of Shanghai. Forming its centerpiece is a vast scale model of the city which covers the whole of the upper floor, detailing current and future developments of the city.
Around the model are strategically-placed walkways from which to view the model at different angles. The five-storey exhibition hall also houses other urban-planning displays and interactive exhibits complete with audio-visual effects, presenting visitors with an excellent perspective of the city.
- Opening Hours: Mon-Thu: 09:00-17:00 (last entrance 16:00); Fri-Sun: 09:00-18:00 (last entrance 17:00)
- Location: 100 Renmin Boulevard, People's Square
Shanghai Wild Animal Zoo
The first national wild animal zoo in China, Shanghai Wild Animal Zoo is home to over 200 wild animal species from all over the world, including some rare and endangered ones.
A bus is available to take you around the zoo to watch giraffes feeding on leaves and lions stalking their prey. A Ferris wheel gives you a bird’s-eye view of the zoo and its surroundings, and electric power carts are available to take you around if you’re tired of walking.
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:00-17:00
- Location: 178 South Road, San Zao Town, Nan Hui
Stretching from Suzhou Creek to Jinling Lu along the western shore of the Huangpu River, The Bund is Shanghai’s most popular landmark. Providing a striking contrast to Pudong’s ultra-modern skyline, The Bund is characterised by a row of well-preserved colonial buildings lining its streets - especially along the western side of Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu - which have been converted into financial institutions, F&B outlets, hotels and administrative centres. Read More...
- Location: Along the western shore of the Huangpu River between Suzhou Creek and Jinling Lu
Yu Yuan Gardens
Located in the southwestern part of the city not far from the Bund, Yu Yuan Gardens was built some 400 years ago during the reign of Emperor Jia Jin of the Ming Dynasty. This classic attraction is a maze of pavilions, elaborate rock gardens, arched bridges and fish ponds, encased within an undulating dragon wall.
Highlights include the Yu Ling Long (Exquisite Jade Rock), one of China’s three infamous jade sculptures, and The Grand Rockery, a rock garden made of 2,000 tonnes of rare yellow stones pieced together using rice glue, built by an infamous garden artist from the Ming period.
- Opening Hours: Daily 08:30-17:00
- Location: 132 Anren Street
Dubbed ‘The Venice of Shanghai’, Zhujiajiao is an infamous ancient water town with a history of more than 1,700 years. Said to be the best preserved out of the four ancient towns in Shanghai, this cosy town is characterised by unique old bridges, sidewalks shaded by willow trees, old narrow lanes and little houses with their own courtyards.
The town’s bridges are perhaps its most striking feature. Each with a distinctive character of its own, there are roughly around 36 bridges in this town in different shapes, sizes and of different material, from wood and timber to stone and marble.
- Opening Hours: 24 hours daily
- Location: Qingpu District
The Pudong District
Officially known as Pudong New Area, Pudong is a district in Shanghai located on the eastern side of the Huangpu River. Characterised by futuristic-looking skyscrapers which won’t look out of place in a sci-fi movie, Pudong has become the symbol for the new and modern Shanghai. Since its first development in 1990, Pudong has emerged as China’s main financial, economical and commercial centre.
Enjoying a sub-provincial administrative status, the district denotes Shanghai’s vast growth in economy, commerce and modern technology.
Divided into four main parts – Lujiazui Finance and Trace Zone, Jingiao Export Processing Zone, Waigaoqiao Bonded Zone and Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park Zone – Pudong’s Waigaoqio Bonded Zone is China’s biggest free trade zone, while Jinqiao Export Processing Zone is a prime industrial area in China.
The Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, located at the western tip of the district, is designated to be modern China’s new financial hub since its conception, leading to several landmark buildings being built within the area to raise its image. Aside from being a major commercial and financial hub, Pudong has increasingly become a popular destination for tourism in China. Pudong’s skyline is one of the most photographed panoramas in China, with the unique skyscrapers being the main attractions for visitors to Shanghai, who are intrigued by their innovative designs and unconventional beauty. Some of China’s best hotels are also said to be centred within the Pudong vicinity. Other than the distinctive skyscrapers, Pudong also has a wealth of other attractions. From parks to museums, the district literally has everything for everyone, regardless of whether your interest lies in culture, history, technology, nature or shopping.
There are about fifty-three protected historical attractions in Pudong, such as the former residence of Zhang Weitian, the tombs of the martyrs of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom and the ancestral temples of Wu. Other noteworthy attractions include the Jinmao building, the tallest building in China and the third tallest building in the world, the intriguing China Sex Culture Museum, the educational Shanghai Municipal History Museum, and the Century Park and Century Avenue, cited as the Asian version of Champ Elysees.
Shikumen are Shanghai’s traditional townhouses – usually two or three storeys - built in the late 19th to early 20th century as Chinese settlements in the Western quarters. Possessing a unique architectural style which is a blend of Western and traditional Lower Yangtze design elements, Shikumen made up 80% of the housing settlements back in those days.
Today, the proportion has dwindled to a much lower percentage, but such houses can still be found in areas such as Xintiandi, Dunrenli, Mianyangli and Jixiangli.
In every shikumen settlement, the houses are connected to each other terrace-like with straight, narrow alleys in-between, called lòngtang. A stone arch marks the entrance to each lòngtang, and a tall brick wall marks the entrance to each house – which is where its name came from; ‘shikumen’ literally translates to ‘stone gate’ in Chinese. The history of shikumen settlements can be traced back to the 1860s. Back then, due to the advancement of the Taiping Rebels eastwards which had led to several vital towns being conquered, people from affected towns migrated to other parts of China, including Shanghai.
To accommodate the high influx of refugees, local merchants had invested in proper housing for these people, and in order to efficiently use the limited land available, terrace-style houses with narrow alleys in-between were built. Living conditions were quite rough in those days, with fights out in the streets happening on a daily basis as well as theft and vandalism, so high brick walls were built at the entrance to each house as a means of protection during this critical period of social upheaval. Xintiandi is a popular tourist area in Shanghai where these kind of settlements can still be found. Also a well-known dining, shopping and entertainment district, the buildings here consist of restored traditional shikumen which have been converted to cafés, restaurants, bookstores and art galleries, creating a romanticised atmosphere of old Shanghai.
The Shikumen ‘Wulixiang’ Exhibition Hall in Xintiandi offers a glimpse into the past when shikumen settlements were still in abundance. The building itself is a restored shikumen built in the 1920s. There are seven exhibition ‘halls’ within – the sitting room, the study, the elderly people’s room, the master bedroom, the daughter’s room, the son’s room and the kitchen. Aside from showing visitors how a typical shikumen looks like inside-out, the building also displays the development process and progress of the Xintiandi shikumen-restoration project. What’s interesting is that all items on display in the house – from cooking utensils to ashtrays – are all genuine articles from those days.