Beginner's Guide to Shanghai, China

Updated: Apr 3, 2020

This city is one of the most visited cities in all of China. Why? Because of its diverse and modern culture, architecture, and cuisine. This city is a cross between Asia and Europe, with modern skylines and traditional back alleyways. Here is all you need to know for a quick getaway to Shanghai:

Where to stay

As close to the Bund as possible! If you stay here, you can walk nearly anywhere. I stayed in the Shanghai Blue Mountain International Youth Hostel and thought it was great location for all the things I wanted to do during my Shanghai visit.

Must see items in the city

1. The Bund

The most iconic skyline in all of China. Walk along the river to see the beautiful modern architecture of all the different buildings, and you can stop at several coffee shops or restaurants along the way. It truly is a beautiful sight since each building is so unique! Right below your feet you can also hop on the "Bund Sightseeing Tunnel" excursion, which is basically just the easiest way to cross the river if you want to go to the Pearl tower. But, they try to make it more interesting by adding lights and a story to listen to on your short journey!

Time to spend: 1-2 hours (if you're walking along the river for views)

Cost: FREE

2. Nanjing Road

A shopaholic's paradise! Malls and stores everywhere you look. The entire street is lined with designer shops, regular shops, restaurants, electronics stores, and anything you could imagine. If you love to shop, this is definitely the place for you! If you don't like to shop (like me!) it's still a beautiful street to walk down and grab a bite to eat while soaking up the busy Shanghai atmosphere.

Time to spend: 1-3 hours (depending on how much you like to shop!)

Cost: FREE

3. Yu Garden/Yuyuan Old street

This is a quaint, traditional paradise in the midst of a bustling city. The serene nature views, still water, and little alleyways makes you feel as if you've transported through time back to early China. You can find lots of food and souvenir shops in this area!

Time to spend: 2-3 hours

Cost: 40 RMB to enter the garden ($5.90 USD)

4. Yuz museum

I'm a huge fan of modern art, so this was definitely one of my highlights from my Shanghai visit. When I visited they had 2 main exhibitions: The Artist is Present and the infamous Rain Room. The Artist is Present was a collection of works promoting the idea that mimicking and copying was okay, and that's how people come up with their own artistic flow of ideas. The Rain Room has been presented at many museums all over the world, but it is exactly as it sounds: a room where it is raining. The catch is that when you step underneath the rain it stops raining right above the area you're standing. It is such a cool experience!

Time to spend: 2-3 hours

Cost: 60 RMB ($8.90 USD) for current exhibition, 80 RMB ($11.80 USD) for the rain room exhibition, or a combined ticket for 110 RMB ($16 USD)

Must try restaurants

1. Mr. Pancake House

This is one of the best breakfasts I've had since moving to China 6 months ago. They have fancy pancakes, like walnut banana with a sugar glaze, and other western breakfast classics like omelettes and eggs benedict. If you're looking for a good western breakfast during your stay, this is definitely the place!

2. Yang's Fry Dumplings

These dumplings are to DIE for. They are soup dumplings that are fried on the bottom, a Shanghai specialty. The sampler platter is the way to go. For 33 RMB ($4.90 USD) you get 2 crab, 2 shrimp, and 2 pork dumplings with a side of fish ball soup. Be careful biting into them, the soup inside is HOT!

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