In the Former French Concession of Shanghai, you’ll find some of the most historic parts of the city. Tianzifang is one of those places. Also known as Lane 210, this bustling laneway is full of old shikumen buildings, which is a Shanghainese architectural style from the 19th century that combines both Chinese and Western elements. Tucked away off Taikang Road, Tianzifang is bursting with cafes, boutiques and other unique stores. This is a hot-spot for foreigners in the city, who love to spend hours here people-watching. Keep your eyes peeled for special workshops offered by famous artists, which tend to be a common occurance in this bohemian part of the city.
Walk into the Jing'an Temple
Once you step through the gates of the Jing’an Temple, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in time. With its name translating to ‘Temple of Peace and Tranquillity,’ this Buddhist temple is a bit of a respite from the otherwise boisterous Shanghai. First built in 247 A.D. beside Suzhou Creek during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China, the temple was moved to its current location on Jing’an Road in 1216. During the Cultural Revolution, this temple was turned into a plastic factory, but it was recently converted back. Marvel at the intricate carvings that cover the stairwells and internal walls of the pagoda, as well as the scale of the Buddha statue in the Precious Hall of the Great Hero.
Stroll around the Yuyuan Garden
Even though it’s located right in the middle of bustling Shanghai and the ever-crowded City God Temple, somehow a tide of peace and serenity washes over the Yuyuan Garden. Also known as the Yu Garden, this immaculate complex is the last surviving garden of the Ming Dynasty. This amazing garden is characterised by large ponds, intricate pagodas and its dragon walls, which encase the whole complex. Spend some time strolling through the maze-like gardens where you’ll discover many hallways that tell the history of the Ming Dynasty and showcase its magnificent Jade and sword collections.
Ride the roller coaster inside the Pearl Tower
What was once the tallest tower in Shanghai, the Pearl Tower is an iconic part of the city’s skyline. This Radio & Television tower was built in 1994 and became a symbol of China’s modernisation. Located on the tip of Lujiazui on the Huangpu River – opposite The Bund –this cultural landmark is not to be missed. Shoot up the elevator to the viewing levels of the tower for an amazing view of the city over the river. Now, you can also ride through the Shanghai skyline via virtual-reality rollercoaster. Zip around and across the city’s most iconic buildings in the Pearl Tower’s newest VR experience.
Take a trip on the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
While the Huangpu River separates the Bund from the Pudong District, not many travellers know that the quickest way to cross the river is to go underneath it. The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel stretches 646.7 metres underneath the great waterway, and not only lets you get to the other side quickly and easily, a ride through this special tunnel is an experience in-and-of-itself. The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is packed with multi-media artworks and displays, putting on a lightshow for commuters every day of the week. While it normally takes about three to five minutes to travel through the tunnel on the maglev train, you might want to ride it more than once to see all the details of the lightshow.
Things to do in Shanghai
Chinese New Year
Hands-down the most important cultural event of the Chinese calendar, you can bet that Chinese New Year celebrations go off in Shanghai. Every year between January and February, Shanghai is bursting with firework displays, red lanterns and dragon dances to celebrate this special time. Be sure to check out the traditional lantern parades at the Longhua and Jing’An temples.
One of the biggest music festivals in Shanghai boasting a range of local and international acts, the Strawberry Festival is one not to miss. Known for its experimental electronic and hip-hop artists, this festival takes place in May at the Shanghai Rugby Club.
Peach Blossom Festival
Once Spring hits Shanghai, the city bursts to life with pink peach blossoms. To celebrate this beautiful time of year, the city of Shanghai puts on a Peach Blossom Festival. The best place to see the blossoms is in the Nanhui Peach Blossom Village, just outside of Shanghai, but you can also spot them at the Shanghai Botanic Gardens or one of the city’s many parks.
One of the best times of the year, Golden Week is the Chinese public holiday following the first of October, the day when the People’s Republic of China was founded. During this time, many locals will leave the city, going back to their hometowns or taking a well-earned vacation. In Shanghai, this holiday period usually means lots of public attractions are open for free.
International Tea Festival
A celebration of China’s most beloved drink, Shanghai plays host to the International Tea Festival every May. This gathering of tea growers, traders and enthusiasts brings is full of tea tastings, expos and seminars on tea. Experience the elegant tea ceremonies at Songyuan Teahouse in Zhabei district, which is where this festival has its origins.
Top 5 Festivals in Shanghai
Given Shanghai’s extensive history and culture, there’s always something happening in this busy city. Whether it’s traditional Chinese holidays, like Chinese New Year of Golden Week, or contemporary music and arts festivals, you’ll almost always find a reason to go out and celebrate. Here are five major festivals that happen in Shanghai every year.
China Art Museum
What was the China Pavillion of the 2010 World Expo, the China Art Museum is located in a phenomenal, upside-down red pyramid. This impressive building itself is worth the trip to Pudong, where you need to ride a huge outdoor escalator to get to the entrance hall. Once inside, the museum’s collection includes both ancient and modern works of art.
Shanghai History Museum
Located beneath the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower, the Shanghai History Museum reflects the development of Shanghai and the surrounding areas. Dedicated to the city and people of Shanghai, this museum walks you through how the culture of Shanghai has changed over a period of 6000 years. Discover amazing artefacts, writings and photographs of this spectacular city at the Shanghai History Museum.
Ancient history buffs, this one’s for you. The Shanghai Museum tells the long-spanning history of China from its ancient empires to its modern-day politics. Boasting over 120,000 pieces, learn about the likes of the Ming Dynasty and the Silk Road through sculptures, ceramics, ancient coins and calligraphy.
Rockbund Art Museum
Located in a cool, 1930s Art Deco building in downtown Shanghai, right in the heart of the Bund district, the Rockbund Art Museum is a contemporary arts museum that features an ever-rotating series of temporary exhibitions. Featuring both internationally and locally-renowned artists, this awesome museum is free to enter.
Propaganda Poster Art Centre
Tucked away in the basement of an apartment building in the Former French Concession district of the city, the Propaganda Poster Art Centre features a range of communist propaganda posters that were used by the Party throughout the 20th century. Featuring both Chinese and Vietnamese posters, you can walk through this small museum in about 20 minutes.
Top 5 Museums And Galleries in Shanghai
As a city that’s more than 6000 years old, there’s so much to learn about Shanghai. Let the city reveal itself to you through one of its amazing art, history and cultural museums. Art buffs and history geeks, here are five museums you have to visit in Shanghai.
All dumplings are delicious, but this Shanghainese speciality might just take the title as the nation’s favourite dumpling. Hot and delicious, xiaolong bao are steamed dumplings filled with a pork soup. Pick some up in Shanghai at Jia Jia Tang Bao, close to the People’s Square.
Best eaten at Jia Jia Tang Bao, 90 Huanghe Rd, Huangpu Qu
Di Shui Dong Ribs
Spicy, meaty and delicious, these fall-off-the-bone ribs are succulent and tender. Prepared in the Hunan style, these cumin-spiced ribs are braised in soy sauce, making for a seriously delicious dish. True to its name, Di Shui Dong does an awesome rendition of these ribs.
Best eaten at Di Shui Dong, 2/F, 56 Maoming Nan Lu
If there’s one dish that the Chinese cook better than (almost) anybody, it’s eggplant. This braised version that you can find all over Shanghai is particularly mouth-watering. Stewed in shaoxing wine, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, sugar, chilies and sometimes even pork, you can pick up this Shanghai staple at La Gong Fu.
Best eaten at La Gong Fu, 57 Yajiazhai Lu, Changshou Lu
With its prime spot right on the sea, Shanghai is bursting with fresh seafood. One of its favourites? Grilled oysters. Every vendor on Shouning Lu has a slightly different take on the best way to prepare these. Try a few different varieties at Han Ji Shao Chao. They come with black bean sauce, chili oil and garlic or a French-style cheese sauce.
Best eaten at Han Ji Shao Chao, 26 Shouning Lu, Xizang Nan Lu
Unfortunately, this is no misnomer. Stinky tofu reeks, but it’s somehow still super delicious. Fermented tofu is deep fried and covered in soybean paste and red chili sauce, giving the a crispy coating to the sweet tofu. One of Shanghai’s favourite street snacks, pick up stinky tofu from a vendor on Yunnan Road.
Best eaten at Yunnan Nan Lu, Yan'an Lu
Food in Shanghai
Due to its location on the sea, Shanghai cuisine has many foreign influences, including the French and Taiwanese. It’s also got seafood by the bucket load. The result? Some seriously good fusion food and Chinese staples. Here are our picks for five foods to eat in Shanghai.