Top Reasons to Visit Shanghai Over Any Other Chinese City

Reasons to Visit Shanghai are so many that even a thousand words will not suffice to elaborate the travel experience in this part of the world. However by means of the current write up, an effort will be made to enlist the best travel reasons to visit Shanghai.

Shanghai can do overnight, what it would take any other city to do over eons. Shanghai can leave you tempted with its fine gastronomy. Shanghai can leave you mesmerized with its rustic water towns. Shanghai can leave you in awe with its beautiful blend of eastern & western cultures. Shanghai can leave you fascinated with its wonderful shopping experiences. Shanghai can leave you impressed with its never-ending maze of lanes & incredibly well-connected metro lines. Visit this Asian city and you’ll come up with your own reasons to visit Shanghai.

Shanghai is a beautiful amalgamation of contrasts. It has concrete jungles coupled with lush green forests. If offers nominal & mouthwatering street food as against high-end fine dine restaurants. It offers the experience of strolling around at the perpetually overcrowded ‘Bund Promenade’ contrasted by dozing off in cozy lawn chairs. 

Well, the reasons to visit Shanghai just keep on increasing. Find out more aspects and rare destinations of this fancy but culturally rich Chinese city through the current article based on the first hand account of a Travel Blogger.

Reasons to visit shanghai

Shanghai is a beautiful amalgamation of contrasts. Photography by Marks Siegemund

Top Reasons to Visit Shanghai: Highlights

Before I dig deeper and you get an elaborate view of the top reasons to visit Shanghai, let us first understand this place from the point of view of a traveler. Here’s an overview of Shanghai that throws light on all the details that will prove beneficial to a visitor.

An Overview of Shanghai

Location East China
Language Mandarin
Currency Yuan
Climate Generally humid and moist
Best Time To Visit All months except June, July & August
Nearby places to visit Shengsi Island, Shanghai Film Park, Songjiang Qu, Holland Town
Food The unending options will leave you confused; vegetarians, it’s time to be adventurous. The street food is full of variety and is delicious.
Reasons to visit Shanghai

Put Shanghai on your bucket list of places to visit. You’ll be awe inspired. Photography by Mark Siegemund

Top Reasons to Visit Shanghai : Attributes and Travel Tips

Here are the top reasons to visit Shanghai and also why you need to put this place on your bucket list –

Reasons to visit Shanghai for connectivity Excellent internal transport. Nominal as well.
Reasons to visit Shanghai for food Super yummy street food. Large yet affordable variety.
Reasons to visit Shanghai for the coolest cafes Cute cafes are tucked in streets around Shanghai.
Reasons to visit Shanghai for rustic water towns They sell locally made goods and are beautiful.
Reasons to visit Shanghai for architecture An amalgamation of modern-vintage architecture.
Reasons to visit Shanghai for shopping A wide array of items can be shopped with bargaining.
Reasons to visit shanghai

Shanghai can leave you impressed with its maze of lanes & incredibly well-connected roads. Photography by Mark Siegemund

Effective Public Transport in and Around Shanghai

For a first time visitor, Shanghai can come across as incessantly hustling and bustling. The thought of getting lost in a city so big, where nobody speaks your language can most certainly be daunting. It would however be of some relief to know that things aren’t as bad if you’ve done your research.

It would be a good idea to carry a map of Shanghai around, for it will make navigating in a city characterized by complex mazes, alleyways and boulevards much simpler.

Talking about the means of transport, taxis are easily available and are generally affordable for short distances. If you’re someone who’d want to travel cheaper and get a real feel of the city, do not hesitate to hop on to a metro train.

Trains are clean, safe, cheap & fast. What’s more is that you wouldn’t have to go through the tedious task of trying to communicate in Mandarin as in the case of taxis. Shanghai is also extensively connected by private buses, and a list of routes is available online.

In case you’re someone who likes to go eco-friendly, Shanghai has dedicated cycle lanes and has a public bicycle mechanism to offer.

Most Convenient Mode of Transport is the Metro Average Cost: 3-7 RMB approximately

Travel tip for exploring around

Make sure you’re well prepared about the fact that Google is banned in China. Google Maps won’t be an option here. But hey, take this as an opportunity to indeed resort to a physical map. Grab a pencil and scribble on the places you’d want to see and routes you’d want to embark upon.
reasons to visit shanghai

Carry a map to navigate Shanghai better. Its a city characterized complex mazes and alleyways. Photography by Mark Siegemund

Availability of Super Delicious yet Nominal Food

Infused with good food in every nook and corner, Shanghai is every food lover’s paradise. 

While Shanghai boasts of some of the best Michelin Star restaurants in the world, nothing beats tracking down a street hawker by the road to get a taste of Old Shanghai.

What’s even better is that eating on the streets gives you the opportunity to get your food customized as per your liking. Something on the lines of, “Could you top my noodles off with more of that soya sauce, please?”  Or for vegetarians like me, “Could you not garnish my noodles with dried shrimps please?” 

Must-try dishes on the streets: Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings), You Tiao (Fried breadstick), Jianbing (Crispy Crepe), Tea eggs (eggs boiled in green tea and soya sauce), Con Youbing (scallion pancake) Average cost to fill your tummy on the streets: 10-20RMB approximately
reasons to visit shanghai

Xiao Long Bao – candy coloured dumplings. Photography by Matt Berkshire


reasons to visit shanghai

Youtiao – Fried breadstick. Photography by Son Liung


reasons to visit shanghai

Jianbing – Crispy crepe. Photography by Ana Fedora


reasons to visit shanghai

Tea Eggs – Slightly cracked eggs boiled in soy sauce and green tea. Photography by Bert


reasons to visit shanghai

Cong You Bing – Scallion pancakes. Photography by Angel Loo

Travel tip for food

Food in China almost always consists of fish sauce or dried shrimp/fish. If you’re vegetarian and particular about not wanting to consume anything in particular, make sure you somehow convey the same.

Quirky and Aesthetic Cafes

A perfect afternoon in Shanghai would involve aimlessly strolling around the tiniest streets of Shanghai. Although it might be tiring for someone who isn’t so much for walking kilometers, I can assure that it will be more rewarding than consuming.

You will be sure to come across the cutest of cafes tucked away off the bustling and noisy streets. Most of these cafes would be extremely hard to find, but that’s what adds to the beauty of it.

As a traveler, I’ve spent hours in Shanghai, sipping on hot coffee and nibbling on chocolate brownies as I struggle to make conversation with random Chinese strangers. What I mostly left these cafes with was a filled up tummy, a better Chinese vocabulary, and most importantly, a content me.

Must-visit cafes: Undefine, Moganshan Road; The Cottage Café, Taojiang Road; Green & Safe, Dongping Road. Average cost for a good coffee: 20-40RMB approximately

 Travel tip for conducting yourself in cafes

Instead of finding someone to chat with in a foreign land, invest time on yourself while visiting one of the above mentioned cafes. Enjoy your meal and take the experiencewith you.
reasons to visit Shanghai

Green and Safe Cafe. Photography by Yiqing Gao


reasons to visit Shanghai

Cottage Cafe. Photography by Kate


reasons to visit shanghai

Undefine Cafe. Photography by Jodie

Ancient & Rustic Water Towns

Shanghai’s vicinity has an abundance of tranquil water towns, each one claiming itself to be the Venice of the East. Characterized by ancient buildings, scenic bridges, narrow lanes & soothing waters, these water towns are perfect for a weekend getaway.

Instead of bumping into enormous crowds of people, you will be sure to collide into locals sipping tea, kids playing cards and villagers rowing boats.  

Be sure to eating some of the lip-smacking local delicacies in these ancient rustic towns. You won’t find them in the fine-dine and commercialized restaurants in Shanghai.

Water Towns in and around Shanghai: Xitang, Nanxun, Zhujiajiao, Fengjing Must-Do’s: Doing nothing and enjoying the calm

 Travel tip for ancient towns

Make sure you carry your camera at each of these places. Else, you’ll not be able to capture the beauty of these towns in your lens.


reasons to visit shanghai

The water town of Xitang. Photography by Dustin


reasons to visit shanghai

The water town of Nanxun. Photography by Kirsten


reasons to visit shanghai

The water town of Zhujiajiao. Photography by Stuart Campbell


reasons to visit shanghai

The water town of Fengjing. Photography by Lisa Browne

Appealing Vintage and Contemporary Architecture

Shanghai’s dramatic and rapid development over the past years has paved its way for the development of modern and contemporary forms of architecture.

The city is now plagued with multifarious buildings characterized by modern designs. Take a walk along the waterfront of Huangpu River in popular areas such as the Bund, and you shall be surrounded with buildings that form the skyline and that act as hives of businesses and economic activities.

It would however, be unfair to neglect the antiquated and vintage forms of architecture that fortunately, continue to breathe in parts of the modern city.

Walk down Yuyuan Old Street (it has it in its name), and you’ll witness the old side to Shanghai. The 1933 Slaughterhouse that still holds it eeriness and speaks of its ancient history. The Longhua Temple which is also Shanghai’s oldest monastery and still preserves an architectural design from centuries back are must visits for people who like it archaic.

These contrasting but appealing elements are what make Shanghai a piece of artwork and hard to disfavor.

Must-see works of architecture in Shanghai: Heming Tower, Himalayas Art Centre, Oriental Pearl Tower Must carry item: camera

 Travel tip for contrasts in Shanghai

While getting amazed with the modern architecture of Shanghai, don’t ignore the vintage architecture in certain places. It adds to the overall aesthetics of the city.
reasons to visit shanghai

Heming Tower. Photography by Danny Byerley


reasons to visit shanghai

Oriental Pearl Tower. Photography by Fernando Obando


reasons to visit shanghai

Himalayan Arts Centre. Photography by Nastya Kuzmenko

An Absolute Shopping Paradise

Looking beyond mammoth malls brimming with Zara’s and Charles & Keith’s, Shanghai’s street markets wind endlessly and they’ll make sure you don’t leave empty handed.

From runway looks to high-street merchandise, shopping on these streets is defined by just one rule always drive a hard bargain.

Clothes fashionable and traditional, authentic handicrafts, shoes, bags, hats, souvenirs – Shanghai offers anything a shopper wants.

Must-visit sites for street shopping: Maoming Road, Xiangyang Road, South Bund Fabric Market, Tianshan Tea Market Must-carry: Money, patience, and bargaining skills

Travel tip for shopping

Make sure you’re accompanied by a local or are somehow equipped enough to make your way through the bargaining part of the shopping in order to not burn holes in your pockets.

As mentioned at the inception that the reasons to visit Shanghai are far too many. How about you plan a trip soon and add to the existing reasons. Shanghai will leave you awe struck as a traveler.

Reasons to Visit Shanghai

South bund Fabric Market. photography by Sa-No


Reasons to Visit Shanghai

Tianshan Tea Market. Photography by Nina H

Interesting Reasons to Visit Shanghai

Find a match at the Shanghai Marriage Market

If you like strange and weird stuff,  head to People’s Park in People’s Square in the very heart of Shanghai on any weekend between 12 pm to 5 pm. You’re going to find yourself walking on pathways lined by people sitting under colorful umbrellas depicting their biographies.

While most of the young people aka to-be-brides and grooms seem disinterested and unenthusiastic about the entire deal, parents & grandparents ardently discuss and advertise their children’s education qualifications, talents, hobbies, etc.

The Marriage Market traces back to times when marriages were traditionally arranged by the elders. Fortunately or unfortunately, this ritual is still faintly prevalent in Shanghai & try not to miss it.

Maybe,  you’ll be lucky to find a mate in Shanghai too 😉

Know Before You Go: The Marriage Market can be accessed from Metro Line No. 2, and by taking Exit Number 9.

reasons to visit shanghai

The Marriage Market. Photography by Hanh

Shanghai French Concession – Experience the European Culture

While not as unconventional and weird as the Marriage Market, the beauty of the French Concession resides in its simplicity & its classy European Architecture.

Once upon a time dedicated to the French, the area still finds itself lined with dense trees, iron fences, open air cafes. Although it is now popular with tourists and expats, it would be worth paying this French Town a visit.

What’s best is that life here goes by slower than in most of Shanghai. The joy would be in visiting this gem of a place, & simply doing nothing – a privilege in today’s fast-paced life.

Know Before You Go: The French Concession is extremely well connected and a number of metro lines (1, 7, 9, 10, 11) run through the area.

reasons to visit shanghai

A lane in the French Concession. Photography by Livia Triglia

 Witness traditional Chinese houses, boat rides & coffee shops at Zhujiajiao Water Town

Located around 48 kilometers from Shanghai, Zhujuajiao is an ancient, medieval and well conserved water town. Endowed with traditional Chinese houses, boat rides & coffee shops, Zhujiajiao almost looks like a painting.

Make it a point to head to the Fangsheng Bridge, which is apparently the largest stone arch bridge in Shanghai. Also, head to the ancient post office on Xihu Street. Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find some unusual stamps. 

Know Before You Go: There are tourist buses that will take you to Zhujiajiao from Shanghai and will cost about 10-15RMB.  In order to avoid the crowd, visit on a weekday.

reasons to visit shanghai

The Fangsheng Bridge. Photography by Kijkung

Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre: A storehouse of hundreds of posters from the Mao years

What comes to your mind when you think of China? A crowd of people clicking selfies? Communist propaganda? If it’s the latter, and if that’s of interest to you, you cannot not visit the Shanghai Propaganda Art Centre.

A storehouse of hundreds of posters from the Mao years, this is a must-see slice of China’s ancient past for every visitor to Shanghai. You could also own an original or copied poster by purchasing the same from the gift shop at the Centre.

Know Before You Go: The visiting hours are 10am to 5pm and it attracts an entrance fee of 25RMB.

Reasons to Visit Shanghai

One of the posters at Shanghai Propaganda Art Centre. Photography by David Dup

Even if you’re a Vegetarian, Visit the Meat and Seafood Markets

If you visit Shanghai and do not visit one of the many meat/seafood markets, your trip will be incomplete. No matter how disgusting you find it, and no matter how many times you find yourself going “ewww” and “yuck”, it’s going to be one hell of an experience.

I’m a vegetarian and I felt almost nauseous and sickened as I found myself surrounded by goat brains, duck tongues and pork lungs. I was scarred for my life but I definitely had a number of stories and photographs to share once I got back.

Know Before You Go: It will smell out here so vegetarians, take note.

reasons to visit Shanghai

While in Shanghai, do visit any of the seafood markets. Photography by Sandy

Top Tips for First Time Travelers to Shanghai

Now that you’re familiar with some of the best reasons to visit Shanghai, here are a few handy tips that will guide you through your trip –

Although completely safe for women, pick pocketing is widespread in Shanghai. Make sure you’re in charge of your belongings at all points.
Do not panic if when meeting a group of people for whatsoever reason, they start clapping on your arrival. This is an accepted and widely practiced form of greeting in Shanghai.
A transformer for electric devices might be necessary – China generally uses 220V, 50HZ
In order to communicate better and easier, download “Pleco” on your smartphones – one of the best Chinese language app for travelers.


reasons to visit shanghai

Shanghai is superb as travel destination. Plan a trip soon. Photography by Jose Manuel Garcia Sanchez

Travelling to China might come across as extremely challenging and daunting because of the stereotypes associated with it but it  isn’t as bad in reality. Take the leap of faith and you’ll be rewarded by the beauty and vibrant culture of the country.  Moreover, do pay a visit to Shanghai if you wish to have a wholesome and fulfilling trip. After all, Shanghai has something for everybody.

Happy wayfaring 🙂


reasons to visit Shanghai

Tarang Mohnot

Tarang Mohnot is a student of Economics and Sociology at St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai. Constantly trying to quench her thirst for travel, Tarang’s goal in life is to keep on getting her passport stamped over and over again. This implies that she wants to explore new destinations each year.

Resorting to a local inhabitant’s advice over Google searches, to physical maps over Google maps, to haversacks over suitcases, and to exploration over planning, Tarang hopes to visit places no one has ever been and to share her travel experiences with thousands all over the world – something her CV won’t ever tell.

reasons to visit Shanghai  reasons to visit shanghai