Shanghai: Ancient, Colonial, and Modern History all Packed into One BIG Metropolis

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shanghai travel

Explore China: Shanghai Travel Guide (2020)

Shanghai is a modern, international city, making Shanghai travel surprisingly easy. The city is China’s largest economic and trade centre, and also one of China’s cultural centres. A city with a mix of Chinese temples, architecture wrapped in colonial history and skylines that envelope China’s speedy and vast modernisation; if you’re after a more cosmopolitan, capital city kind of feel, Shanghai is the way to go.

Shanghai Travel: When to Visit Shanghai

The best time to visit Shanghai is in the Spring or Fall. Summer can be incredibly humid with temperatures reaching 86°F (30°C) daily. Winter doesn’t get as cold as Beijing further North in China, but nevertheless sees daily highs of only around 43°F (6°C) in January and February. Shanghai travel in April/May and September/October will give you the best experience.

It is also a good idea to avoid Chinese holidays such as the first week in May and October to avoid crowds.

How to Get to Shanghai

Shanghai has two international airports that serve multiple locations around the world. There are hundreds of flights in and out of Shanghai every day. The most popular is Shanghai Pudong Airport. 

From Beijing

Most people visit Beijing and Shanghai on a trip to China. Both cities offer something different, but both are massive, important cities in China. Beijing offers more ancient history and culture, and Shanghai offers an insight into China’s modernisation. Shanghai is also much more easier to travel to and around than Beijing. You will find more people speak English in Shanghai, and the city has certainly embraced western culture more than Beijing has. Beijing is chaotic and fun, Shanghai is multicultural and chic.

Shanghai travel from Beijing is simple. There are multiple flights throughout the day, but the easiest and quickest way is to get the fast train from Beijing. These are incredibly comfortable and take around 4 hours. You can get standard or business class.

Related: Beijing Travel Guide

Getting Around Shanghai

The most popular form of transportation in Shanghai, as throughout China, is via the app Didi. Didi is China’s Uber and works in most cities in China. The app is also available in English. If you don’t want to download the app, you can use metered cabs (make sure the meter is running) or the metro in Shanghai. The metro is vast and can look terrifying at first – but it is cheap and very convenient and comfortable.

shanghai travel
Shanghai Pudong International Airport

Shanghai Travel: What Not to Miss

This is certainly a city that never sleeps. It’s a bustling vibrant city with activities to keep you busy around the clock. Just make sure to get some rest in-between all of the fun!

The Bund

A stroll on The Bund is the best you will get out of Shanghai travel. The Bund offers incredible, unmatched views of the unique Shanghai skyline, home to some of the world’s tallest buildings. Taking an early morning stroll along here will give you the chance to appreciate this skyline when it’s not too busy!

World’s Tallest Towers

Head up one of the world’s tallest towers for unparalleled views over Shanghai. Make sure to do this on a good weather day, as it can get cloudy when you go that high up, and you’ll only want to go once (the tickets are expensive!)

shanghai travel

Shanghai Museum

Often called one of China’s best museums, at the Shanghai Museum you can see many examples of ancient Chinese artefacts and art.

French Concession

Home to Shanghai’s colonial architecture, chic cafes and cute restaurants, have a walk around the French Concession area and enjoy some shopping and a look at what the city has to offer in terms of modern art. This is also a popular area for nightlife amongst expats and locals.

shanghai travel

Fancy Dining

Shanghai is home to a lot of fine dining restaurants – many of them very high up! Treat yourself to a fancy dinner at the revolving restaurant in the World Financial Centre at the Oriental Pearl for a real treat.

Ride Along the River

Take a cruise along the river of an evening and let the Shanghai skyline do its thing.

shanghai travel
Shanghai Skyline at Night

What to Eat in Shanghai

Eating in Shanghai is one of the biggest ways you can get the most out of your Shanghai travel. Eating is a big part of the culture in Shanghai, and they have a few of their own distinct dishes that you must try.

If you can’t get used to Chinese food or need a break, Shanghai is home to some of China’s best foreign cuisine restaurants, and you can also find many cafes and restaurants around offering foreign cuisine. There is a big expat population in Shanghai that need to be fed! So no need to worry about being vegetarian or vegan, or having any other food requirements.

Dumplings

Xiaolongbao are the most traditional Shanghai dish. They’re soup dumplings with various fillings.

shanghai travel

Hairy Steamed Crab

The name says it all, really!

Hongshao Rou

Shanghainese braised pork – a delicious dish popular with Chinese and foreigners alike. An absolute must!

Shanghai is massive. Spend at least a couple of days here, and a week or two if you want to get a real feel for it. There are hundreds of chic cafes and restaurants to explore, as well as many roads to get lost down and find some hidden treasures.

Note: China is currently closed to foreign visitors (November 2020)

Zoe Stephens
Zoe is a freelance writer from Liverpool, UK. She spends her time travelling between China, where she is based, and North Korea, where she works as a tour guide for Koryo Tours. You can follow her journey and see her content from North Korea on Instagram (@zoediscovers) and YouTube. You can see more about her life stuck on Tonga on Instagram @ifyouwerestrandedonanisland.

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