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Shanghai is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities I have ever visited. When I first arrived in mainland China, I was absolutely shocked at how manicured and beautiful the large cities are (I've so far visited Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Suzhou in mainland China). The roads are lined with flowers, trees, grass, and all kinds of foliage and it is all very well maintained and extremely beautiful. The architecture is really just incredible. China really seems to love pushing the envelope when it comes to architecture and the accompanying lights that adorn said architecture. The city is really a treat for the eyes and is at its most stunning at night when everything is lit up and you can fully appreciate the architecture in all its glory.
All of this being said, there isn't a whole lot to actually do in Shanghai unless you're eating or shopping. During my first visit last November, I had a free day between work and decided to venture out into the city to see what it had to offer. I actually had a pretty difficult time finding things to do and since that visit, I haven't really done much on free days other than sleep or catch up on things back home. This is honestly a bit disappointing to me, but I haven't felt compelled to see anything other than what I will mention here.
Pudong can be found on the "other side" of the river from the rest of Shanghai. When you're looking across the water at the Pearl Tower and surrounding buildings, you're looking at Pudong, which is essentially the financial district of Shanghai. Really, there's not much here other than some malls and the three tallest buildings in the city. It's not quite worth the trip unless you're already staying on this side of the river, but it sure is pretty to look at!
The Yuyuan Bazaar was actually something I found by mistake because it's directly outside of the Yu Garden. If you want to visit someplace with traditional looking buildings and what you probably think of when you think of China, the Yuyuan Bazaar is a fun stop. It's full of bustling shops and restaurants and has a beautiful huge koi pond. It's definitely a massive tourist trap, but don't worry, it's full of Chinese tourists too!
The Yu Garden is hands down my favorite attraction in Shanghai and one that I always recommend to friends and colleagues. It's the most beautiful traditional Chinese garden and I honestly could spend hours getting lost inside. Admission during low/high season is ¥30/40, which is about $5-7 and it's completely worth it.
The garden is huge and winds around for quite a long time. It's full of traditional looking temples, bridges, beautifully intricate carvings, walls, doorways, windows, and ponds and water features full of koi fish.
I visited on a cloudy, rainy day and while the garden was full of people, it was still peaceful inside - especially compared to the extremely busy Yuyuan Bazaar just outside the walls. Once inside, it's so easy to forget you're in the middle of a massive metropolitan city with huge skyscrapers and a visit is one of the best ways to decompress after a long week.
Tian Zi Fang
A coworker recommended we check out Tian Zi Fang and I really enjoyed it. Tian Zi Fang is a collection of old houses that have been converted into both low- and high-end shops, galleries, studios and restaurants in the French Concession neighborhood of Shanghai.
You'll wander through many small alleyways and see all kinds of shops, foods, and people while visiting. If you're shopping for gifts to bring back home, I would definitely recommend stopping here, because it's full of souvenirs and interesting items. Honestly, even if you're not shopping for anything, it's still worth a visit just for the novelty.
Perhaps the most famous vista in China can be seen when looking across the Huangpu river at Pudong while walking along the Bund. Located in the heart of Shanghai, the Bund is a walkway along the river with many restaurants and shops running alongside it. If you can, try to visit on a clear night, which will make it much easier to take photos and take in the view.
BONUS: Ride the Maglev
The Shanghai Maglev train is a comically excessive addition to Shanghai that cost $1.2 billion to build and is currently the world's fastest train in regular commercial service. The Maglev runs from Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) into Shanghai city center (which is honestly not close to anything) in 8 minutes and 10 seconds most of the day and in only 7 minutes and 10 seconds during special operating hours. The max speed for the 8 minute ride is 301 km/h (187 mph) and the max speed for the 7 minute ride reaches 431 km/h (268 mph). If you can, try to catch the quicker ride, which runs from 9:00AM–10:45AM and 3:00PM–3:45PM each day.
Shanghai is a gorgeous city and if nothing else, it can truly be described as a feast for the eyes. No matter where you look, there's something unique and interesting and I am so impressed each time I visit. I honestly believe that you can catch most of the highlights in a day or two, but I like to run through things quickly, so take that for what it's worth. Enjoy!
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Just a girl with a full-time job and a full-time obsession with traveling. It's best to LiveTraveled.