Welcome to Shanghai!
Locals of Shanghai, China, know the best paths are those that are less traveled--and they know where to find the hidden shopping spots and art galleries. Local and international flavors combine to help make this city a magical place, even outside of Shanghai Disneyland! Shanghai is a local’s best-kept secret and after you read this guide, you’ll be ready to visit this place as a worldwide local.
Shanghai at a Glance
Shanghai, which literally translates as “on the sea,” started out as a fishing outpost. The city is now one of the fastest developing cities in the world, with new infrastructure coming up every other day. The evident disappearance of the traditions that made Shanghai what it used to be doesn’t change the fact that the locals remain some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. There is so much the city has to offer, including but not limited to food, world-class futuristic architecture like the Shanghai Tower, incredible shopping, and nightlife that will make you relive your younger years.
The best and simplest way to get around Shanghai is by using the metro during the day and taxis at night. If you are feeling particularly adventurous, you can hire a shared bike (either a MoBike or an OFO).
Worldwide Local Tip: Road users here don’t generally pay attention to any traffic lights, so be keenly aware when cycling, since an accident will surely ruin your time in Shanghai.
Best of Shanghai Attractions
There are so many places to visit and experience in Shanghai. For example, the Bund is where you can get a fantastic skyline view of the Financial District; it’s even better at night when the skyscrapers light up and come to life. Other visits you may consider include the Yu Garden, Jing ’An Temple, or the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. If you are looking to avoid the tourist crowds while enjoying a day like a local, you can visit the Fuxing Park.
Worldwide Local Tip: To experience a taste of local Shanghai, visit the park in the morning to watch locals performing, doing Tai Chi, playing mahjong, dancing, playing cards, or flying kites. You can also find couples waltzing in the evening, enjoying the temperate Shanghai weather.
For the Art Lover
If art is your jam, lose the travel guide and get lost in the M50 Art District. Here, tucked away in an old textile industrial area, you’ll discover a contemporary art district. It is set among the backdrop of restored factories and is home to the infamous Shanghai graffiti wall. Here, you’ll find a thriving community of more than a hundred artists whose studios are open to the public.
Eating in Shanghai
The rapid development of Shanghai has led to the clearing of street food stalls. Not to worry, you can still get a taste of the city’s local noodle dishes, sauces, and dumplings. They can be found in hole-in-the-wall kiosks and mom-and-pop shops throughout the city, where the food is often better than in even the fanciest Shanghai restaurant.
Worldwide Local Tip: Shanghai has many tiny restaurants which have been operational for hundreds of years and are still serving authentic, traditional dishes like Ma Jiang mian (sesame noodles). Take time to visit one of them and chat up the locals, as this is where most of them eat.
A dish you must try for a real taste of the city is Xiaolongbao, broth-filled Shanghainese steamed dumplings. It’s custom to drink the soup either by a straw or use of a soup spoon and then eat the dumpling. You can partake in this top experience by enjoying these traditional steamed dumplings at Lin Long Fang, where it’s less touristy.
If you are a shopaholic, Shanghai has so many markets where you can get just about anything. Visit Tianzifang and get lost as you navigate the narrow alleyways between brick buildings where you can buy souvenirs. For beautiful flowers and garden furniture, visit Hongqiao Bird and Flower Market. Tickle your taste buds by learning more about tea culture and flavors in the Tianshan Tea Market. Better yet, visit the weekend Shanghai Marriage Market, located in People’s Park on People’s Square. You might just get lucky and land a life partner!
Worldwide Local Tip: You don’t need to carry cash because many places, including small shops, have a unique QR code scanned that directly links up with your bank account. You have the option of using either of the two popular cashless payment methods: WeChat or Alipay.
You can take a day trip to visit one of the neighboring waterside towns like Suzhou, Zhujiajiao, Hangzhou, or Xitang. If, however, you are short on time and wish to experience the serenity that comes with a lake town, you can visit Qibao--only 18 km and a metro ride away.
Shanghai After Dark
The nightlife in Shanghai is one that will leave you spoiled, with a plethora of choices. You can drink while overlooking the Financial District in one of the city’s famous clubs with the option of participating in a KTV (Karaoke), in a Japanese area of the city.
Worldwide Local Tip: Some clubs have tables set out for expats and depending on where you come from, you can enjoy free drinks.
Enjoy Your Visit!
With Shanghai changing every second, all the city’s best secrets are kept by the locals. Explore the city through their eyes, becoming a worldwide local, and you are bound to visit Shanghai over and over again.