What to see in Shanghai

Though not the capital, Shanghai has long been viewed as the cultural city of China, at least as far as connection with the Western world is concerned. Even as Beijing tried to stem the tides of its pollution and brush up its look for the 2008 Olympics, Shanghai was already well-established as a city of international caliber and trade.

Shanghai Photos
This photo of Shanghai is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It continues to attract interest from around the globe, especially as more and more travelers turn to China for adventure and a glimpse into the past of this mystery of the Far East.

Of course, there is much to do in Shanghai and you could easily spend a day just getting lost in the old hutong neighborhoods, observing local life beyond the skyscrapers and fashionable corporate buildings. But there are some things you simply can’t miss.

The Yuyuan Gardens are a great place to get some souvenir shopping done but also get a taste of real China. As is the case in any Chinese market area, the garden shopping area is absolutely packed so make sure you have a strong reserve of patience before heading to this attraction. The wander through the gardens makes any aggravation worth it, however, as they are as lovely as they are peaceful.

You’ll also want to take a stroll along the Bund, the European-esque district along the Huangpu River. The architecture is beautiful and you’ll get a surreal sense of just how interwined Shanghai is with the West.

No trip to Shanghai is complete with a trip to the top of the Jinmao Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. Grab a seat near a window for a spectacular view of the entire city – you’ve heard China’s cities are massive, but you won’t quite appreciate it until you’ve seen it from an aerial perspective. Drinks are pricey here but it is worth the extra yuan to relax while you look out over Shanghai. It’s best to come here in the late afternoon. The view is especially lovely as the sun is setting, and it’s a great time of day for taking pictures. But then you can continue to sample the cocktail list once the skyline is lit up and you won’t want to miss that, either.

Pause for some good photo opps in People’s Square, which was once a racetrack used for recreational purposes by Shanghai’s wealthiest residents.

There is also plenty in the way of live performances to enjoy in Shanghai, including traditional Peking opera performances, live theater and other forms of music. Save some energy from your sight-seeing to get out and sample the great Shanghai foods, including savory hotpot, and get dancing for a night on the town. The beer in China may not be great but you’ll always find someone who is ready for a party.

The beauty of China’s cities is that there’s something for everyone, including those on a tight budget. A great meal of street food can be had for a mere few dollars and beers come just as cheap.