Before visiting Shanghai, one of the most westernized cities in China, I honestly didn’t have a clue about what there was to see or do there. That’s why I put together this list–to help you make the most of a 2-3 day stay in “The Pearl of the Orient”.
1. YU GARDEN + BAZAAR
The Yu Garden is one of the most beautiful natural spaces within a city I’ve ever seen. Maybe it has something to do with the focus on ‘feng shui’, but the masterful layout of the park makes the space unbelievable. Rounding each corner to see a different structure, pond, bridge, or elegantly carved statue, I wonder how it all fits into such a small city space. Trees and foliage are perfectly placed, making it seem like you’re not immediately next to the same area you started exploring in when you’re really only a few feet from it.
Surrounding the Yu Garden is a massive bazaar with everything from leather, handicrafts, trinkets, tea leaves, and all types of food. I’m not a shopper whatsoever, and even I had fun getting lost within the stalls and bartering with the locals. I scored some really unique Christmas gifts for family as well!
2. MAGLEV TRAIN
If you’re looking for a unique method of transport, take the Maglev Train from the international airport to Longyang Rd. Station, which is about a 25 minute drive from The Bund area of Shanghai. The Maglev turns a 40 minute drive into an 8 minute ride on a train that “floats” via magnetic field and travels at a speed of about 200 mph (with a maximum speed of about 270 mph). Once you get to Longyang Rd Station you can either get a taxi (make sure you have your hotel name and address written in Mandarin to show the driver) or have prearranged transportation to the tourist area of Shanghai.
3. ACROBATIC SHOW AT THE SHANGHAI CIRCUS WORLD THEATER
Going into this I will admit I wasn’t excited. I thought it would be extremely touristy (which it is), corny, and simply a waste of time. The facilities (such as the restrooms and the theater itself) aren’t in good shape whatsoever. It initially seemed low quality and just a ploy for money.
However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the show itself. The acrobats are really good–AMAZING actually. There are multiple jaw-dropping moments during the show and you might cover your eyes in fear of someone falling or some horrible accident happening. It makes it exciting and engaging, but the truth is the performers are all experts and very skilled at what they do. Plus, acrobatics is a large part of Chinese history and culture, so this moved an acrobatics show into a must-see in my book for any visitor to Shanghai.
4. LOST HEAVEN
Normally, I would save a restaurant for a food post about a destination, but in this case Lost Heaven is an attraction in itself. The vibe is unlike any other restaurant I’ve been before–it transports you into what I can only describe as “Tibetan dark fusion”. The decor is elegant and soulful while the food is spicy, flavorful, and very interesting to the palette. I’d definitely recommend making a reservation before heading there. It’s not far from The Bund either, so it’s in a great location near other sights you may be visiting.
5. OF COURSE, THE BUND
The Bund is the quintessential view of Shanghai–the area along the Huangpu River where everyone congregates and takes in the breathtaking views of the Oriental Pearl Tower and the modern side of the river as well as the European side against the backdrop of a sunset or lighted night sky. The history of the area and the wide variety of architecture is also extremely interesting, so make sure you either read up on it first or go with a knowledgeable guide who can help decipher what you’re seeing. Even if you don’t stay long, The Bund is one of those visuals that photos simply do not fully capture, and to see it with your own eyes is the only way.
6. FAIRMONT PEACE HOTEL
Let’s be honest, it’s a rare average joe who actually gets the opportunity to stay at the iconic Fairmont Peace Hotel on the Bund in Shanghai, with rooms starting at a nightly rate of about $400. However, even if getting to slumber in luxury isn’t in your near future, take some time to look around the hotel that is widely considered a masterpiece and a huge piece of Shanghai history. Not only is the lobby area and front facade a photo-op in itself, but the hotel is also home to a 20’s style jazz club that features the world’s oldest jazz band as well as an elegant outdoor restaurant and bar called The Cathay Room, which allows you to sit against the postcard backdrop of Shanghai. Reservations are recommended for both.
What’d I miss? Because I didn’t spend much time in Shanghai, I mostly saw the highlights and the must-sees. But I’d love to hear about any more off the beaten path gems you may have found while visiting the city that someone with a longer stay might take advantage of. Leave them in the comments!
CAITLYN WITHOUT A COMPASS