Shanghai is the shiniest gem in modern China’s jewel box. It’s a hip, contemporary city that’s charging into the future with all the energy of its famous Maglev train. Yet if you veer away from the sleek highways and glitzy shopping streets you can still stumble upon a more traditional Shanghai, with all its character and flavour. In the tiny back streets, wet-market vendors peddle their wares - buckets of bright green vegetables, fish flapping in shallow plastic bowls and heaps of crayfish crawling over each other.
Chinese Yuan (CNY)
Shanghai Daily: Local English-language daily
China Daily National English-language newspaper
Most offices are open Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm or 6 pm. Some bank branches open on Saturday mornings. Shopping centres and department stores are usually open seven days a week until 8 pm or 10 pm.
The Shanghai Tourist Information and Service Centre has branches throughout the city. Main branches can be found at:
Room 410, 2525 West Zhongshan Road
Tel: +86 21 6439 9806
1699 West Nanjing Road
Tel: +86 21 6248 3259
561 East Nanjing Road
Tel: +86 21 5353 1117
127 South Chengdu Road
Tel: +86 21 6372 8330
Zhengda Guangchang,168 West Lujiazui Road
Tel: +86 21 6887 7888
Shanghai’s most famous attraction is the Bund. This was where the colonial merchants of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries built the headquarters for their trading firms and banks. Still today, these vast, august edifices boom of power - but now the roofs are topped with the red and yellow flags of the People’s Republic and the buildings below house designer clothing shops as well as banking headquarters. Across the Huangpu River, there’s a greater transformation still. 30 years ago, this was sleepy farmland - now, Pudong is a booming financial and economic district. Just back from the waterfront lays the old city, a tangle of tiny lanes where the locals still live as they have for decades. Even in these traditional lanes, though, the wrecking ball is wreaking its havoc: walk around them now before it’s too late. Further west lays the French Concession, where large colonial houses are being rapidly converted into high-end bars and restaurants.
For shoppers, Shanghai is still a kind of heaven. Markets are regularly being uprooted and rehoused as part of the urban planners’ mission to make the city better and brighter than ever before. There are still fabulous deals to be had at the fabric market, wonderful trinkets and antiques in Dongtai Road and good-value custom-made furniture for those with a shipping crate to spare.
Shanghai really is a delightful city to explore. See skyscrapers alongside surviving colonial buildings, visit the Shanghai museum to get an insight into the city's past and just how rapidly it has changed within the last decade. Early birds must visit one of Shanghai’s many parks, where thousands gather daily for morning exercise.
The Bund / 外滩
Shanghai Disneyland / 迪士尼乐园
Tian Zi Fang / 田子坊
Nanjing Road Pedestrian / 南京路步行街
Yu Garden / 豫园
Maglev / 磁悬浮
Jin Mao Tower / 金茂大厦
Shanghai Circus World / 上海马戏城
Shanghai Ocean Aquarium / 上海海洋水族馆
Jade Buddha Temple / 玉佛禅寺
People's Square / 人民广场
Shanghai Science & Technology Museum / 上海科技馆
Xintiandi / 新天地
Shanghai World Financial Center / 上海环球金融中心
Bund Tourist Tunnel / 外滩观光隧道
Oriental Pearl TV Tower / 东方明珠
Shanghai Museum / 上海博物馆
The Chinese like to eat, and Shanghai is a city where this characteristic national trait finds its ultimate reflection. From chic and elegant international restaurants to local dumpling joints, Shanghai is where you can easily eat your way around the globe. Whether you like your portions exquisitely presented or prefer a tangled mountain of noodles, you will find it all here. A note on tipping: it’s officially prohibited in China. While it has become usual to tip tour guides on organised outings, it is not common to tip taxi drivers or the staff of bars and restaurants.
Crystal Jade / 翡翠酒家
M On The Bund / 米氏西餐厅
CHAR bar and grill & 恰餐厅
Guyiwan Wonton / 顾一碗馄饨·烧麦
Paradise Dynasty / 乐新皇朝
Pushi Xiao Dian / 蒲石小点
Coffee culture is not deep-rooted in Shanghai, however, dozens of coffee shops have sprung up all across the city in recent years. While locals tend to go for western coffee chains and bubble tea sold at hole-in-the-wall takeaway shops, foreign visitors may rather gravitate towards a traditional tea house and experience the Chinese tea culture.
Below are some of the best cafes in Shanghai, China:
Tian Zi Fang / 田子坊
Kommune / 公社咖啡
Antique Garden / 古董花园
Abbey Road / 艾比之路
Maya / 玛雅墨西哥餐厅
Yang's Dumpling / 小杨生煎
Baker & Spice
Some cities simply never sleep, and Shanghai is certainly one of those. In Shanghai, the party lasts till daylight - and then starts over. Like everything in Shanghai, the bar scene is developing fast with new venues opening every month. Gone are the grey days when fun was frowned upon as a bourgeois pursuit. Contemporary Shanghai is making up for lost time with everything from pulsating house music to sultry jazz.
And here are the best bars and nightclubs in Shanghai, China:
Cottons / 棉花酒吧
M Glam / 魅蓝
House of Blues and Jazz
Boxing Cat Brewery / 拳击猫啤酒屋
The Paramount / 百乐门
If you like things made to measure, Shanghai is a shopping Mecca. The Fabric Market has recently been pulled up from its down-at-the-heel roots and relocated to 399 Lujiabang Road. Meanwhile, Tai Kang Road features more upscale boutiques selling jewellery, pottery and leather wear, while Xintiandi has everything from clothes to cushions to cocktails. And then, of course, there’s the Bund.
Three on the Bund / 外滩三号
Tianshan Tea City / 天山茶城
Tian Zi Fang / 田子坊
M&M's World / m豆巧克力世界
Tian'ai Lu / 甜爱路
Joy City / 大悦城
Disney Flagship Shop / 迪士尼旗舰店
Nanjing Road Pedestrian / 南京路步行街
Xintiandi / 新天地
Shanghai Old Street / 上海老街
Best Time To Visit
Most of Shanghai attractions are city sights, so the change of seasons has little impact. However, given the weather, it is recommended to visit in spring or autumn, for winter might get too cold and summer too hot for comfort. There is also the possibility of typhoons during summertime and even early autumn.
Try to avoid Chinese public holidays such as between October 1st and 7th, during which the city could be flooded by local tourists.
For citizens of the following countries, a visa is not requested for short term stays:
- 90 days: Bosnia and Herzegovina, San Marino
- 60 days: Mauritius
- 30 days: Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Ecuador, Fiji, Grenada, Qatar, Serbia, Seychelles, Tonga, United Arab Emirates.
- 15 days: Brunei, Japan, Singapore.
Holders of passports issued by the following 49 countries do not require a visa for a 144-hour stay if they are transiting through Shanghai Airport. However, passengers need to provide a ticket showing their first destination, which should be outside China, nor could it be in the same country as the inbound flight.
- All European Union citizens, Albania, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Japan, Macedonia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Qatar, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, Ukraine, United States.
- Passengers who enter China via Shanghai Airport under transition condition cannot leave the area of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.
Internet Access and VPN in China
Due to the Internet policy of China, certain websites and applications are not accessible from the mainland, which includes those very commonly used in the west (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google, Skype and more). Some travellers have been able to gain access to those via a VPN service (installed prior to arrival in China).
Make sure you comply with local laws and regulations when deciding on whether or not to employ a VPN, and which one to choose (if you do, only use those explicitly allowed by the Chinese government, and only use them for authorised purposes to avoid any trouble). There have been reports of foreigners in China getting their cell service cut off in response to unauthorised use of VPN being detected; restoring cell service required a trip to the local police station where contents of the device were investigated and certain apps removed.
Giving that Google is banned in China, Google Maps might not be the most accurate and reliable source of information. Some local apps such as Baidu Maps and AutoNavi tend to work better than Google Maps.
Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Shanghai has two airports one of them is the international airport in Pudong, 35 km from the city centre.
From the Pudong Airport, the most enthralling way to travel is on the Maglev (the high-speed magnetic-rail train) to Longyang Road in Pudong. Purchasing a round-trip comes with a discount. There are an underground station and a taxi rank at Longyang Road for onward travel.
Metro Line 2 is available when departing or arriving at Pudong International Airport. Operating Time 6 am 10 pm and leaves every 8.5 minutes. Hotline: +86 21 6437 0000, www.service.shmetro.com/en
A taxi from Pudong Airport to the city centre takes up to an hour. Make sure you have your destination written in Chinese.
The airport has regular shuttle buses to many areas in the city and the major hotels have desks at the airport and will arrange the transfer.
Address: Shanghai Pudong International Airport
Phone: +86 21 96990
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport
Another airport called Hongqiao Airport, which handles domestic flights, lies 15 km from downtown.
Both Metro and buses run from this airport.
A taxi from Hongquiao Airport will take 30-45 minutes. Make sure you have your destination written in Chinese.
Hongqiao Airport has regular shuttle buses to many areas in the city. The major hotels have desks at the airport and will arrange the transfer.
Address: Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport
Phone: +86 21 96990
One of the best ways to travel is by the rapidly expanding Metro network, which is reliable, good value and easy to navigate (all directions are in English as well as Chinese).
You can buy your ticket at the ticket office at the Metro station or the automatic ticket selling machine.
Phone: +86 21 6437 0000
Buses are usually busy and the network can be complicated to negotiate for non-speakers of Chinese. The 911, which runs along Huaihai Road, can be useful.
Keep some loose change when travelling by bus, coins need to be placed in the slot at the entrance.
The traffic in Shanghai can be heavy, but taxis are easy to flag down. Be aware that most taxi drivers only speak Chinese and may not understand English. A great solution comes from a set-up called Guanxi: you text the English name of your destination to 885 074 and back it comes in Chinese characters. Just show your phone to your taxi driver.
You can also use taxi cab hailing service with WeChat or Alipay (like the Chinese version of Uber).
The main post office is at 276 Sichuan Bei Lu (between Tiantong Road and Beisuzhou Lu, but there are branches all over town. The Shanghai Centre branch (1376 Nanjing Xi Lu) and the branch at 212 Xinhua Lu have staff who speak some English. Post boxes are green.
Pharmacies are not hard to find in the city, just look for the green cross.
The Shanghai United Family Hospital and Clinics Pharmacy work 24/7, year-round. It is located at 1139 Xianxia Rd, Changning Qu, Shanghai (+86 21 2216 3900).
Parkway Community Pharmacy is an international standard professional pharmacy. Staff can speak English.
Address: 9-B101A, Green Garden 333 Bi Yun Lu, Shanghai
Phone: +86 21 3382 1382
Country code: +86
Area code: (0)21
220 V / 50 Hz, three-pin plugs