With 23 million inhabitants, Shanghai is the largest city by population in the world, and with a finger in every pie, it combines commerce, culture, and business in a celebration of glamour, history, and excess that you’ll find difficult to leave. Lying in the east of China by the Yangtze River Delta, Shanghai was an important shipping and trading town for many centuries before rising to become a hub of finance and success in the 19th century.
There’s a sense of purpose in Shanghai that’s contagious; whether it’s the multi-layered history evidenced by the wealth of different architectures, cuisines, music, nightlife, and culture, or the steady advance of commerce and technology, there’s something in Shanghai for everyone.
A waterfront street that provides excellent views over the river to Pudong, and down to the old Customs house and other colonial buildings, the Bund was once home to many foreign trading houses. Today it affords visitors a variety of architecture from Gothic roofs to Baroque columns, interspersed with fashionable restaurants and bars and bustling with the life of Shanghai.
This carefully composed 400 year-old oasis of tranquillity is full of attractive and historic features, including exquisite pavilions, courtyards, and bridges, as well as many cultural artefacts in the form of beautiful calligraphy, sculptures, paintings, and much more.
Housing a collection of more than 120,000 artefacts dating from the Neolithic Age to the Qing Dynasty, Shanghai Museum is often labelled the best museum in China. With 11 state-of-the-art galleries arranged around an airy atrium, the museum provides a user-friendly experience in English and Chinese, making it easy to enjoy the extensive catalogue of artistry ranging from ceramics and bronze to furniture and coins.
Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre
This futuristic building contains an array of fascinating exhibitions around urban development, belying its slightly dry name; the highlights are a huge scale model of Shanghai in 2020, and a display on future forms of transport, including magnetic levitation and light-rail stations.
Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower
This vertigo-inducing building is composed of three massive columns which start deep underground, supporting a total of 11 spheres. There are three observation levels, the highest at a staggering 350 metres, offering views over the city; it also houses a shopping mall, exhibition facilities, and a revolving restaurant for a delicious meal with a 360 degree view of Shanghai. Together with the Nanpu and Yangpu bridges, the tower forms part of a massive image of two dragons playing with a ball, a symbol of Shanghai’s forward-thinking and inclusive ethos.
Shanghai Urban Historical Development Museum
This exhibition, housed in a showroom at the bottom of the Oriental Pearl Tower, is dedicated to teaching visitors about Shanghai’s history from the opening of the port in 1843 to the communist take-over in 1949. Using a variety of media, including dioramas, life-sized walk-though exhibitions, films, photos, and paintings, the museum captures the richness of the city’s history with unerring accuracy.
Jade Buddha Temple
This active Buddhist temple housing 70 Zen Buddhism monks is famous not for the building itself, but instead for what lies within it: two exquisite statues of Shakyamuni Buddha crafted from white jade, one seated and 2m tall, and the other reclining.
For shopping, eating, and entertainment in Shanghai, look no further than Xintiandi, whose name translates as ‘New Heaven and Earth’. A car-free zone, this area contains a shopping mall, cinema complex, bars, restaurants, and cafes, as well as restored traditional shikumen houses for a taste of authentic China.
Former French Concession
Also known as the ‘Paris of the East’ the former French Concession affords visitors a pleasant walk through charming colonial era buildings that were home to the wealthy French residents of Shanghai pre-World War II, now augmented with fashionable boutiques, bars, and restaurants.
Zhujiajiao Water Village
Sitting on the south-western edge of the city, Zhujiajiao is the city’s best preserved water village. It started out as the site of a village fair 1,700 years ago, and from 1573-1617, during the Ming Dynasty, grew into a prosperous village. Replete with signs of its long history, it serves today as a peaceful spot to contrast the bustle and rush of the city proper.
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
Containing a staggering 10,000 species of marine creatures, the Shanghai Aquarium is a fantastic experience for children and adults alike. Each ocean of the world is represented in captivating subaquatic scenes; you can walk through the underwater glass observation tunnel with sharks and fish swimming just feet away.
The Shanghai zoo is home to 6,000 residents, including 600 rare and endangered animals; see pandas, golden-haired monkeys, and south China tigers, as well elephants, giraffes, polar bears and a host of birds.
Continuing a 700 year-old tradition begun in the Han Dynasty in the annual harvest celebrations, the Shanghai acrobatic show features spectacular feats of skill, strength, and daring in a must-see performance.
Huangpu River Cruise Tour
See the city from a different perspective as you sit in comfort on a cruise boat, the colonial grandeur on one side and the striking high-rises of the modern city on the other. As well as being the city’s shipping artery to the East China Sea and the mouth of the Yangzi River, the Huangpu River divides Shanghai into east and west, old and new.
Maglev Train Experience
When travelling to or from Pudong airport, why not make the journey at a staggering 268 mph in the first commercial magnetic levitation train in the world. The 30km journey takes only 7 minutes and 20 seconds and connects the airport to a convenient transport hub where you can transfer to continue your trip into downtown Shanghai.
Experience the hidden delights of Shanghai from the sidecar of a vintage motorcycle, seeing sights that the tourist tours simply can’t access. See the true Shanghai, in all of its contrasting glory, in a personalised and unique tour of this eclectic city.
Discover the city at a leisurely pace, in a fun and environmentally friendly way; cycle though the charming former French Concession and the see the sights you would otherwise miss.
Visit a peaceful massage parlour in the former French Concession for a 60 minute reflexology session. Part of the school of traditional Chinese medicine, reflexology dates from the 2nd century BC and is believed to enhance all the functions of the body by balancing the forces of yin and yang; benefits include boosted immunity, improved circulation, and an increase in overall strength and vitality.
Private Cooking Class
Learn the secrets of the popularity of Chinese cuisine from professional chefs in a fully equipped cooking studio, and take home the ability to cook several authentic and delicious Chinese dishes.
Private Calligraphy Class
Originating in China, calligraphy is the art of forming characters with ink and brush, and is an honoured artistic practice throughout eastern Asia. Our experienced instructor will teach you the correct posture and brush-handling techniques, beginning with simple strokes and progressing to full characters and words, such as your name.
Private Tea Ceremony
The Chinese tea ceremony is a millenniums-old practice focussed on appreciating and exploring the qualities of tea; not related to religion, the ritual runs deep in the cultural subconscious of China, and has inspired songs, poetry, and art.