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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Top Things to do in Shanghai

Traveling to Shanghai is always an amazing experience. Being one of China's largest cities, there are so many cool places to explore. This vibrant city is filled with sights, attractions, history, restaurants and so much more! I am sharing my top picks for first-time visitors in Shanghai.

This was my second time in Shanghai and this time I wasn't traveling in a larger group, so I had full control of my itinerary (my first time in Shanghai was back in November 2016). Traveling with just my boyfriend, we were able to plan out our top sights. We had so many places we wanted to visit, but only so little time (about 3 days). 

Below I've included some of my top 11 things to do in Shanghai over three days.

1. Yu Garden

Dress: Liz Claiborne 
Heels: Zara

The Yu Garden is a classical Chinese garden dating back to the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty. It is on about 5 acres of land in the middle of the city and was intended to be a private garden for PanYunduan and his family. It is now open to the public and filled with beautiful scenery, ponds, rockery, pagodas, pavilions and bridges.

I visited the Yu Garden during my first visit to Shanghai back in 2016, but I wanted to go back here to experience the beauty of the garden again. Last time the garden was packed with tourists and it was difficult to fully experience how magnificent this garden is. This time we went on a week day during the off season, so we did not have large hoards of tourists blocking the amazing views. 

2. Oriental Pearl Tower

The Oriental Pearl Tower is Shanghai's most recognizable landmark along the Huangpu River and one of the best places to get a 360 view of the whole city.  The tower has many levels and multiple observation decks so plan about two hours to go through the entire tower. One of the levels even has an arcade and a virtual rollercoaster.  My favorite level was the one with a glass floor so you can see the city below you...can be scary!

3. The Bund

Top: Zara
Skirt: Chicwish
Heels: Zara 
Necklace: JCrew

The Bund is a picturesque waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River and it is the best place to get that classic Shanghai skyline. To the west of this stretch are buildings of various architectural styles, including gothic, baroque, and neoclassical styles. This stretch of buildings is often referred to as "the museum of buildings".  The Bund can get very crowed in the evenings, especially after working hours, so the best time to get pictures without crowds of tourists is in the morning. 

4. Nanjing Road

This main shopping street of Shanghai has been designated a pedestrian-only street filled with retailers from allover the world as well as local shops. It is equivalent to New York's Fifth Avenue or Chicago's Michigan Avenue. I recommend seeing it both in the day time and at night time. During the night time the shopping street is illuminated with colors signs of all the retailers and stores. I did not do any shopping on Nanjing road since most of the stores were the same as back home, but it was still cool to see with all the lights in the evening.

5. Old City Shanghai

Jiuqu Bridge 

If you want to get that old world feel of Shanghai, then the old city area of Shanghai is where you need to go. This part of the city has traditional Chinese buildings, typical Chinese eateries, a bazaar and gardens. The bazaar surrounds the beautiful Yu Garden and has many narrow alleys with small souvenir shops. I was told by my friend from Shanghai, that if you walk across the zigzag Jiuqu Bridge, can prevent troubles and bad luck. I walked through the bridge twice for good measure! 

6. Shanghai Museum

Located in the center of Shanghai in People's Square, the Shanghai Museum showcases ancient Chinese art and artifacts. The museum is filled with beautiful ceramics, paintings, furniture, calligraphy, ancient sculpture, jade, and coins. I loved seeing the beautiful ancient Chinese ceramics as well as some of the traditional clothing.

7. Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

The museum is a great place to visit if you have kids, with it's interactive exhibits. They have a little bit of everything here, from nature, animals to technology. It is interesting to walk through, but this place is a bit old and dated.  It still was a cool place to see and learn some new facts and admission is only 45 RMB (about $6.50 USD as of Dec 2018).

8.  Huangpu River Cruise

The Huangpu River is the largest river passing through the city of Shanghai and divides the city into two sections: the Pudong (east) and the Puxi (west). The boat ride allowed us to see the distinctive contrasts between the classical European buildings and soaring modern skyscrapers from both sides of the River.

9. Visit an ancient Water Town (Tongli)

Shanghai has many ancient water towns to visit and they are reputed as “the Venice of China”.
We did a full day a full day tour of the ancient water town of Tongli. It took about an hour to get there from downtown Shanghai and it was a great day trip away from the noisy city. The town is filled with picturesque waterways, bridges, gardens, and local shops. Like most major tourist areas, visit during the week, as the large weekend crowds can hinder the experience.

More photos from my trip:

View from our hotel room (Hyatt on the Bund)

Hot pot dinner at Haidilao Hot Pot (it was delicious!)

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