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Visiting Shanghai for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do


Visiting Shanghai for the First Time? Here's What to See and Do

Shanghai is one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in China, so there’s plenty to see and do. But, while exciting, the city can also be overwhelming for first-time visitors. See below for a list of must-dos and must-sees for your first visit to Shanghai.


See the city highlights

Cover more ground on an organized tour.

Start with a guided tour to see the city’s main attractions in a short period of time, all with the benefit of insightful commentary. Choose a hop-on hop-off bus tour, a coach tour, bike tour, or walking tour to visit must-see sites such as the Bund, Yuyuan Garden, the Jade Buddha Temple, and Xin Tian Di in the former French Concession.

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Explore the Bund

See the sea.

Shanghai’s iconic waterfront strip is a must-see destination. Stroll along the promenade to enjoy views of the heritage landmark buildings and the futuristic skyscrapers across the river. Visit in the early morning to see locals practicing tai chi, then come back at night for glittering views and lively nightlife. You’ll find options for everything from fine dining to classic jazz to swanky rooftop bars.

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City tours of Shanghai can help you see more of the city in less time, ideal for first-timers. Photo: Qilai Shen / Viator

Visit a Pudong skyscraper

For bird's-eye views.

Lujiazui in Pudong is home to the tallest and some of the most iconic buildings in Shanghai, including Shanghai Tower, the World Financial Center, Jin Mao Tower, and the Oriental Pearl Tower. Visit one or more of these skyscrapers and take in panoramic views from their observation decks.

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Explore a water town

Escape the hustle and bustle.

A popular day trip out of Shanghai is to visit one of the ancient water towns nearby, such as Zhujuajiao, Tongli, and Nanxun. These charming, historic towns are built around a complex and picturesque network of canals and waterways, offering a contrast to the urban sprawl of Shanghai.

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Water towns such as Zhujiajiao are popular Shanghai day trips. Photo: Qilai Shen / Viator

Cruise the Huangpu River

Get a new perspective on the city.

The Huangpu River cuts through Shanghai, separating Pudong from Puxi. Set sail on a sightseeing cruise and enjoy a different perspective of both the Bund and the skyscrapers of Pudong. Cruises last from 30 minutes to more than three hours, and can include lunch, dinner, and live entertainment.

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Sample the local cuisine

Unmissable foodie experiences.

No visit to Shanghai would be complete without trying the cuisine. Must-try local dishes include soup dumplings (xiao long bao), fried dumplings (sheng jiang bao), different types of noodles, and fresh seafood. Explore restaurants, markets, and food stalls on your own, or go off the beaten path on a guided food tour.

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You can't miss the foodie scene in Shanghai. Photo: Qilai Shen / Viator

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See all Shanghai tours
1,610 tours & tickets
Things to do in Shanghai
See all things to do in Shanghai
Shanghai Neighborhood Guide
6 Must-See Shanghai Neighborhoods and How to Visit