Shanghai is a city that reveals itself slowly, so it can take a while to see all of its charms. These top tourist attractions in Shanghai are a great place to start if you have only a few days to experience the city’s splendour. From iconic landmarks to floating towns, museums teaching the culture and history of Shanghai, beautiful green spaces and local hangouts, you’ll find something worth visiting around every corner of China’s biggest city.
Top Tourist Attractions In Shanghai
Shanghai’s Promenade: The Bund
Best known by its Anglo-Indian name of Bund (Wàitan), the Zhongshan Lu is a lovely broad promenade running along the west bank of the Huangpujiang River. It’s particularly popular among tourists – the area has retained a European feel, as it was once the location of the city’s International Settlement. This influence is particularly noticeable in the many old English and French buildings now serving as restaurants, boutique stores, galleries, and offices.
Always bustling, it’s a splendid place for a stroll day or night as you take in the Bund’s 52 unique buildings, constructed in a variety of styles including Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, Neoclassical, and Renaissance influences. The Bund is also home to what amounts to one of the world’s most impressive collections of Art Deco architecture.
Shanghai’s Oldest Green Space: Yu Garden
To the northeast of the old town and laid out in 1559 is the splendid Yu Garden (Yù Yuán). Also known as the Garden of Happiness, this vast green space covers an area of more than 20,000 square meters and consists of an outer and an inner garden.
The oldest section is the Outer Garden, with further changes being made in the 18th century when Sansui Tang, the park’s main hall, was added. This impressive building is one of the top tourist attractions in Shanghai which is notable for its lovely roof ornaments, figurative representations in bas-reliefs, and window openings, as well as its dragon-adorned walls.
The best-known building is the Hall of Spring, where the Company of the Little Swords (Xiaodao Hui) had its headquarters between 1853 and 1855 when it ruled Shanghai. Of great historical importance are the artificial rocks in this part of the garden, the only work of the master garden designer Zhang Nanyang that has been preserved.
The Oriental Pearl Tower
A must-visit while in Shanghai is the 468-meter-tall Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower (Dongfang Míngzhuta). It’s located in Pudong-Park on the east bank of the Huangpu River. In addition to its excellent views over the busy river and the new city, you’ll be rewarded with superb views over the historic Bund promenade.
Built in 1991, the tower takes its name from its 11 linked spheres of various sizes, the highest of which – the Space Module – contains an observation level at the 350 meter mark with a glass-floored outside deck. All told, the tower boasts 15 viewing areas, including the Sightseeing Floor and Space City, as well as a revolving restaurant with great views.
Other highlights include a lower level shopping mall, the Space Hotel offering rooms with spectacular views, and a fun virtual reality rollercoaster ride. Even if you can’t make it up the tower, you’ll enjoy viewing it at night when the whole structure is lit up as part of a fascinating light show.
Shanghai Maglev Train
Shanghai’s main airport, Pudong International Airport is located a fair distance from downtown Shanghai. Taking the Shanghai Maglev Train is the quickest way to get into town. Traveling at speeds up to 430 km/h (267 mph), the magnetic levitation train takes just eight minutes to make the 30-km (19-mile) journey to central Pudong. From there, visitors can transfer to the metro, bus or taxi to reach their final destination. When it was built in the early 2000s, it cost $1.2 billion to construct the maglev line. At that time it was the fasted commercial electric train in the world.
Anyone visiting Shanghai must visit at least one water town to make their time there complete. Zhujiajiao, located in a Shanghai suburb, is one of the best preserved water towns in the area, despite being 1,700 years old. Visitors simply must take a cruise on the canal, boating under 35 ancient mostly stone bridges lined with old-fashioned houses. Perhaps the most famous bridge is the 1571 Fangsheng Bridge with its five openings and eight dragons surrounding a pearl. Visitors also won’t want to miss the short North Street that is lined with Ming and Qing dynasty buildings. Also worth a visit is Kezhi Garden, Zhujiajiao’s largest memorial garden.
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