We have had many friends and family members visit us here in Shanghai, and we’ve figured out there are some sites all visitors enjoy. So last spring, just after my mom and her friend visited us for spring break, a colleague asked for advice because her mom was also arriving in town; she wondered if I could share ideas with her and this list was born.
Here are my ideas for a week’s worth of Shanghai highlights that have appealed to our visitors. Of course, this is not an exhaustive list and there are many amazing things not represented here. But, if you’re looking for a starting point for an itinerary, either for yourself or for visitors, this might get you going.
Day 1: Register passports for your visitors with your local police station or, if you’re lucky, with your building management office (our management office offers a service where they take the passports over to the police station on our behalf, which is fabulous). Spend time exploring the Bund and then walk up Nanjing Road to People’s Park and wander around the park (Nanjing Road is also very fun at night when all of the neon lights come on). Hopefully it’s a sunny day and you can enjoy watching people dance, do tai chi, play mahjong and fly kites. The park culture in Shanghai is fabulous. Walk to Xintiandi and stop for a drink at one of the outdoor patios and then wander back to the Bund for dinner. One of our favourites is M on the Bund for great views and delicious food. Pop, just one building over, also has spectacular views and good food. Finish with a night cap at Cloud Nine in the Jin Mao Tower for gorgeous views from the Lujiazui side. When you’re up at Cloud Nine, don’t forget to stop one floor below to look down the inside of the tower. The vertigo-inducing layers of hotel floors stretching far, far below will yield some fantastic photos.
Day 2: Visit the ancient Qibao water town, accessed on metro line 9 (there’s a separate article about Qibao here: https://www.joyjunkieadventures.com/single-post/2017/09/14/Qibao-Watertown). Later in the afternoon stop for some shopping at the Science and Tech underground shopping mall (at the Science and Tech metro stop on line 2). If you’re looking for knock-off purses, clothing, shoes and anything electronic, you’ll find it here. You’ll also find silk robes, beautiful tea pots, lots of tailors, and a pearl market. There’s not much you can’t find at this market, but be prepared to bargain hard. Starting prices are often three or more times the price you should actually pay.
Day 3: Because we live in Jinqiao on the Pudong side of the river, we like to take a day exploring the local neighbourhood. There’s a beautiful old 17th century Taoist temple here, Shezhuang Temple, that dates back several centuries and features a fascinating story. The temple is named after a local official, Jin San, who once saved everyone in the area from starvation by diverting a boatload of grain from one of the canals. When his “crime” was discovered, he committed suicide because he was ashamed, but the local residents considered him to be a hero and built a temple in his honour. We like to visit the temple, along with a small lake nearby, have lunch, enjoy a foot massage and then enjoy a performance at Shanghai Circus World in the evening. This place puts on a wonderful show (one of the founders of the show used to be a Cirque du Soleil performer and you can definitely see the influence). http://www.shcircusworld.com/
Day 4: Explore the Tianzifang neighbourhood of Shanghai today (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianzifang) . The little alleys of this part of town are full of funky shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants. You can wander here for hours, taking photos and sampling snacks and unusual drinks like juice served in hospital IV bags (it’s true). There’s a restaurant called Kommune located in a courtyard amongst the shops and this is a great place to enjoy brunch or lunch. There’s also a cat café (Tono’s Cat Café) where docile Scottish Fold felines offer opportunities to enjoy some cat love alongside your cappuccino. For an unscale dinner, head to Char at the south end of the Bund and enjoy a night cap on the outdoor rooftop Char Bar for more beautiful views of the city at night.
Day 5: Wander all around the French Concession today, beginning with a visit to the Propaganda Poster Museum (http://www.shanghaipropagandaart.com/). From there, walk down Wukang Lu to Huaihai Road and continue on to Yongkang Lu to grab lunch and green tea in edible cookie cups at a café called Tea Funny (http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/venue/Restaurants__Cafes-Cafes/42306/Tea-Funny.html). Then it’s time to explore Yuyuan Gardens, a touristy but lovely collection of buildings built to mimic the complex that used to exist at this site in the old town (https://www.chinahighlights.com/shanghai/attraction/yuyuan-garden.htm). After dinner, seek out one of Shanghai’s most popular speakeasys, Speak Low (http://www.smartshanghai.com/venue/11327/speak_low).
Day 6: The Shanghai Urban Planning Museum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shanghai_Urban_Planning_Exhibition_Center) is a great stop to start your day. We spent almost two hours experiencing the exhibits and the stellar model of Shanghai, so if you’re starting your day later in the morning, this is perfect before lunch. As this venue is located at People’s Square, there are a lot of options for lunch, including local noodle and dumpling shops. Walk from here to Fuxing Park to experience a little more Shanghai park culture (take a kite if it’s a nice day) and stop by Sober Co., just at the edge of the park, to savour some unusual and delicious ice cream flavours or a yummy cocktail (or both!): http://www.smartshanghai.com/venue/14038/sober_company. Towards the end of the afternoon, head across the river to the mighty Shanghai Tower and catapult skywards in the one of the world’s fastest elevators straight up to the observation deck on the 121st floor. It’s nice to see the warm glow of late afternoon envelop the city from this vantage point, especially if it’s a clear day. You might even get lucky with a beautiful sunset. As the lights start to wink on all over Shanghai, you may find yourself sinking into a quiet, contemplative space before braving the elevator to hurl earthwards again.
Day 7:A river cruise is a nice way to see the city from the water, and if your guests want a relaxed experience on their last day in Shanghai, this is a nice option. You can do short cruises (30-50 minutes) or longer ones (up to 3 ½ hours), and you can do either a day or night cruise. All are good options, depending on the weather. Check out this site for more details: https://www.chinahighlights.com/shanghai/attraction/huangpu-river-night-cruise.htm. Afternoon tea at the Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund is wonderful (you can also arrange tours of the hotel in advance if you’re an art deco fan; we’ve done this tour and highly recommend it; https://www.fairmont.com/peace-hotel-shanghai/activities-services/peace-gallery/). And you could end your day with a food tour. There are two really good companies that offer a variety of food tour options in Shanghai, Unfood Tours (https://untourfoodtours.com/shanghai-food-tours/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIgsPR05-t3QIVUb7ACh0iKwZSEAAYASAAEgIrEvD_BwE) and Lost Plate Tours (http://lostplate.com/shanghai-food-tours/).
There are so many wonderful things not included on this itinerary but these are some highlights that have worked well for us in the past in terms of hosting friends and hitting a variety of different experiences in the city.
Happy hosting and happy exploring!
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