Home to 23 million people, the great metropolis of Shanghai in east-central China is synonymous with excess, glamour, history, and neck-craning skyscrapers. Currently undergoing one of the fastest ever economic expansions, Shanghai is well on its way to becoming one of Asia’s leading business cities.
If you’re into architecture, you’ll be in your element, as this is a city that’s home to an astonishingly diverse array of styles – from art deco buildings to Jesuit cathedrals, and Buddhist temples to shíkùmén (stone gate) houses – not to mention the world’s second-tallest tower.
In spite of its size, the city isn’t packed with obvious tourist attractions, but there’s still plenty to see… Yu Yuan Gardens is unmissable, and a wonderful place to spend a few hours. Packed with waterways, temples, bridges, and rockeries, this botanical garden is a tranquil haven in the middle of the city – and it’s especially gorgeous in spring when the cherry blossoms are blooming.
Shanghai is a city that seems made for aimless wandering, and seeing the juxtaposition of old and new is particularly enjoyable. In The Bund, the city’s modern riverside hotspot, you can admire sensational views from towering skyscrapers, including the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower.
Or you might want to get a sense of history and lose yourself in the city’s old alleys. In Yuyuan Old Street you can browse tiny shops selling traditional Chinese goods, from porcelain to jewellery to rice paper sun hats. Afterwards, be sure to check out the mouthwatering street food carts here.
If you prefer fine dining to street food, you’ll be pleased to know that Shanghai received its own Michelin dining guide in 2017, and the restaurant scene here is exciting and varied.
For shopping, Shanghai is pretty much unbeatable (shopping is so popular here locals are called “little capitalists” by the rest of China!), and whether you’re into designer boutiques, vintage shops or bustling markets, there’s something for everyone.
To find out more about visiting Shanghai, check out this guide by Travel + Leisure.