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What To Do In Shanghai On An Stopover


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Tomasina Lavigne



Welcome to the bustling city of Shanghai! Known as the “Paris of the East,” Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic metropolis with a rich history and a modern skyline that will leave you in awe. Whether you have a layover or a short stopover in this cosmopolitan city, there are plenty of things to do and see to make the most of your time.


The city offers a unique blend of traditional Chinese culture and Western influences, making it a captivating destination for travelers from all over the world. From iconic landmarks to charming neighborhoods, Shanghai has something to offer every visitor.


In this article, we will explore the best things to do during a stopover in Shanghai, highlighting the must-visit attractions and the local experiences that will immerse you in the vibrant energy of the city.


So, if you find yourself with a few hours or even a day to spare in Shanghai, here are the top recommendations to make the most of your stopover:


Exploring The Bund

One of the most iconic and picturesque locations in Shanghai is The Bund. Situated along the Huangpu River, The Bund is a historic waterfront area that showcases the city’s blend of different architectural styles.


As you stroll along the promenade, you’ll be greeted by grand European-style buildings on one side and the striking modern skyscrapers of Pudong on the other. The contrasting views create a captivating sight that perfectly captures the essence of Shanghai.


During your visit to The Bund, don’t miss the opportunity to take in the panoramic views of the city’s skyline from across the river. The best time to do this is in the evening when the buildings are lit up, creating a dazzling display of lights.


While exploring The Bund, make sure to visit some of the landmark buildings. The Shanghai Customs House, with its distinctive clock tower, is a must-see. Another notable building is the Peace Hotel, renowned for its Art Deco architecture and historical significance.


If you’re interested in delving deeper into Shanghai’s history, you can also visit the Shanghai Bund History Museum, where you can learn about the area’s transformation over the years.


After taking in the sights and architecture, consider taking a leisurely cruise along the Huangpu River. This will give you a different perspective of The Bund and allow you to appreciate the city’s skyline from the water.


The Bund is not only a visual feast; it is also a bustling hub of activity. You’ll find numerous restaurants, bars, and shops in the area, making it a perfect place to stop for a meal or some retail therapy. Don’t forget to try traditional Shanghainese snacks and treats from the local street vendors.


Exploring The Bund is a must-do experience when visiting Shanghai, as it brings together the rich history, breathtaking views, and vibrant atmosphere that make the city truly unique.


Visiting Yu Garden

No visit to Shanghai is complete without a trip to the enchanting Yu Garden. Located in the heart of the Old City, Yu Garden is a peaceful oasis amidst the bustling streets of Shanghai.


As you enter the garden, you’ll be transported back in time to the Ming Dynasty. The meticulously manicured gardens are filled with ponds, pavilions, and rockeries, creating a picturesque landscape that is perfect for a leisurely stroll.


Take your time to explore the various sections of the garden, each with its own unique charm. The Grand Rockery, towering at 14 meters high, is an impressive feat of landscaping. Climb to the top for a breathtaking view of the garden and the surrounding areas.


Another highlight of Yu Garden is the Exquisite Jade Rock, a rare stone that is said to have been discovered in Lake Taihu. It is believed to bring good fortune to those who touch it, so don’t miss the opportunity to place your hand on its smooth surface.


Within the garden, you’ll also find traditional Chinese architecture, including beautiful pavilions and halls. The Hall of Spring, with its ornate decorations and vibrant colors, is a striking sight.


After exploring the garden, make sure to visit the nearby Chenghuangmiao (City God Temple). This temple complex dates back to the Ming Dynasty and is dedicated to the deities of the city. Inside, you’ll find an array of shops selling traditional crafts, souvenirs, and local delicacies.


Yu Garden is not just a visual delight but also a culinary experience. In the area surrounding the garden, you’ll find numerous food stalls and restaurants offering authentic Shanghainese cuisine. Be sure to try the famous xiaolongbao, steamed soup dumplings filled with flavorful meat or seafood.


Visiting Yu Garden is like stepping into a different era, where tranquility and beauty prevail. It is an absolute gem in the heart of Shanghai and should not be missed.


Shopping at Nanjing Road

For all the shopaholics out there, a visit to Nanjing Road is a must during your stopover in Shanghai. Known as one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, Nanjing Road is a shopaholic’s paradise.


Spanning over six kilometers, Nanjing Road offers a wide range of shopping options, from luxury brand stores to local boutiques and department stores. Whatever your budget or taste, you’ll find something to suit your style.


Start your shopping adventure at the eastern end of Nanjing Road, where you’ll find the famous pedestrian-only section known as Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street. This buzzing area is lined with stores selling clothing, accessories, electronics, and more. You’ll also find restaurants, cafes, and entertainment venues along the way.


As you stroll along Nanjing Road, don’t miss the opportunity to visit some of the iconic landmarks. The Shanghai No. 1 Department Store, a historic building that has been around for over a century, is worth a visit. It offers a wide range of products and a glimpse into the city’s shopping culture.


For luxury shoppers, make your way to the West Nanjing Road section, where you’ll find high-end designer stores, including international brands like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada. This section of Nanjing Road is also home to several upscale shopping malls, such as Plaza 66 and Réel Department Store.


But Nanjing Road is not just about shopping. It is also a vibrant street where you can experience the energy and diversity of Shanghai. Street performers and entertainers add to the lively atmosphere, and you’ll often find cultural events and activities taking place along the road.


After a day of shopping, take a break and refuel at one of the many restaurants or eateries along Nanjing Road. From traditional Chinese cuisine to international fare, you’ll find a variety of options to satisfy your appetite.


Whether you’re looking for high-end fashion, unique souvenirs, or simply want to immerse yourself in the bustling atmosphere, Nanjing Road is the place to be. Just remember to wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for crowds!


Enjoying the Oriental Pearl Tower

Rising majestically above the Shanghai skyline, the Oriental Pearl Tower is an iconic landmark that offers breathtaking views and a unique experience for visitors.


Located at the tip of Lujiazui in Pudong, this futuristic tower stands at a height of 468 meters and is renowned for its distinctive design, with its spheres and futuristic architectural elements.


One of the main attractions of the Oriental Pearl Tower is the observation deck, which provides panoramic views of Shanghai. Take the high-speed elevator to the upper sphere, where you can marvel at the city’s sprawling skyline, including the historic buildings along The Bund and the modern skyscrapers of Pudong.


For the adventurous at heart, the Oriental Pearl Tower also offers a thrilling glass-bottomed skywalk, where you can walk on a transparent floor and truly feel like you’re walking on air while taking in the stunning vistas below.


If you’re interested in learning more about the city’s history and technological advancements, make sure to visit the Shanghai History Museum and the Technology Museum located inside the tower. These exhibits showcase the city’s transformation over the years, from its humble beginnings to its status as a global financial hub.


For those seeking a unique dining experience, head to the revolving restaurant situated in the tower’s second-largest sphere. Enjoy a delicious meal while the restaurant gradually rotates, providing you with stunning views of the city from different angles.


Don’t miss the opportunity to capture some memorable photos of the tower from ground level as well. The surrounding Lujiazui area, with its modern architecture and the Huangpu River flowing by, offers a picturesque backdrop for your photos.


Whether you’re interested in the incredible views, the futuristic design, or the engaging exhibits, a visit to the Oriental Pearl Tower is an unforgettable experience that showcases Shanghai’s modernity and technological prowess.


Experiencing the French Concession

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the charm and elegance of the French Concession, a historical neighborhood in Shanghai that beautifully blends Chinese and European influences.


Originally a French settlement in the early 20th century, the area is known for its leafy streets, art deco buildings, and vibrant atmosphere. It is a favorite among tourists and locals alike, offering a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity.


Start your exploration at the iconic tree-lined avenues, such as Huaihai Road and Fuxing Road, where you’ll find a mix of upscale boutiques, international brands, quaint cafes, and art galleries. The area is perfect for a leisurely stroll, allowing you to admire the architectural beauty and soak in the ambiance.


One of the highlights of the French Concession is Tianzifang, a labyrinth of narrow alleyways filled with boutique shops, local artists’ studios, and charming cafes. This hidden gem is a haven for art enthusiasts and shoppers looking for unique souvenirs and handicrafts.


While in the French Concession, make sure to visit the Former French Concession, a preserved area that showcases the architectural heritage of the time. The area features beautiful colonial-era mansions, many of which have been converted into boutique hotels, restaurants, and art galleries.


For a taste of history, visit the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre, which displays a collection of rare and vintage propaganda posters from China’s past. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the country’s cultural and political history.


As night falls, the French Concession comes alive with its lively bar scene. Head to the trendy Xintiandi area, where you can find a variety of bars, clubs, and rooftop lounges. Enjoy a cocktail or two while immersing yourself in the vibrant nightlife of Shanghai.


The French Concession is not only about shopping and nightlife; it also offers plenty of culinary delights. Explore the local restaurants and eateries to savor delicious French pastries, Shanghainese cuisine, and international culinary offerings.


Experiencing the French Concession is like stepping into a different world within Shanghai. Its unique blend of history, architecture, shopping, dining, and vibrant atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking a glimpse into the city’s past and present.


Strolling through Xintiandi

If you’re looking for a charming and vibrant neighborhood to explore in Shanghai, look no further than Xintiandi. Situated in the heart of the city, Xintiandi is a pedestrian-friendly area that seamlessly blends traditional Shanghainese architecture with modern amenities.


Start your visit by taking a leisurely stroll along the narrow, leafy alleyways lined with beautifully restored Shikumen houses. These traditional stone-gate houses are a symbol of Shanghai’s architectural heritage and provide a glimpse into the city’s history.


As you venture further into Xintiandi, you’ll discover a fusion of old and new. The area is home to a mix of trendy boutiques, high-end designer stores, vibrant art galleries, and stylish cafes and restaurants.


One of the highlights of Xintiandi is the Shikumen Open House Museum, where you can step inside a restored Shikumen house and learn about the daily life of Shanghai’s residents in the past. It’s a fascinating opportunity to see how families lived in these unique dwellings.


Don’t miss the chance to savor delicious cuisine while in Xintiandi. The neighborhood boasts an array of international and local dining options, from Michelin-starred restaurants to casual street food stalls. Indulge in authentic Shanghainese dishes, try creative fusion cuisine, or enjoy international flavors – the choice is yours.


For the nightlife enthusiasts, Xintiandi offers a lively scene with its trendy bars, rooftop lounges, and clubs. Whether you’re in the mood for a sophisticated cocktail, live music, or a vibrant dance floor, you’ll find a venue to suit your taste.


Xintiandi is more than just a shopping and dining destination. It is also a hub for arts and culture. Explore the numerous art galleries scattered throughout the area, showcasing both local and international artists. You might even catch an exhibition or art event during your visit.


As you stroll through the neighborhood, take in the vibrant atmosphere, and engage with the local community. Xintiandi often hosts various events, such as food festivals, live performances, and cultural celebrations. Check the calendar to see if there are any special events happening during your visit.


Whether you’re seeking a unique shopping experience, delectable dining, cultural immersion, or simply a pleasant place to wander, Xintiandi is a must-visit destination in Shanghai. Its blend of tradition and modernity create a captivating ambiance that will leave you enchanted.


Sampling Local Cuisine

No visit to Shanghai would be complete without indulging in the city’s delectable local cuisine. Known for its diverse flavors and unique culinary traditions, Shanghai offers a wide array of tantalizing dishes that will delight your taste buds.


Start your culinary adventure by trying the iconic Shanghainese dish – xiaolongbao. These steamed soup dumplings are filled with flavorful meat or seafood and are a must-try delicacy. Take a bite and savor the burst of savory broth and tender filling.


Another popular local dish is “lion’s head” meatballs. These oversized meatballs, made from a mixture of pork and various seasonings, are cooked until tender and served in a rich, savory sauce. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this classic comfort food.


If you’re feeling adventurous, be sure to sample some stinky tofu, a pungent and fermented tofu dish that is beloved by locals. Despite its strong aroma, the crispy exterior and soft interior of the tofu make for a unique and delicious snack.


For a taste of Shanghainese street food, head to the local food markets and try items like shengjianbao, a pan-fried bun filled with juicy pork and a flavorful broth. These buns are crispy on the bottom and soft on top, offering a delightful contrast of textures.


Don’t forget to savor the flavors of Shanghainese noodles, which come in various forms. From the beloved “Yangchun” noodles with a light broth and tender meat to the hearty and savory Shanghai-style stir-fried noodles, there is a noodle dish to suit every preference.


For seafood lovers, Shanghai also offers a wide selection of fresh and delicious seafood dishes. From steamed whole fish with ginger and soy sauce to stir-fried shrimps with garlic, you can’t go wrong with indulging in the coastal flavors of Shanghai.


To complete your culinary journey, try the renowned Shanghainese dessert – the “Eight Treasures Sticky Rice.” This sweet treat consists of glutinous rice with a variety of fillings, such as red bean paste, lotus seed paste, and nuts, wrapped in bamboo leaves and steamed to perfection.


Whether you choose to dine in upscale restaurants, street food stalls, or local food markets, Shanghai’s vibrant culinary scene guarantees an unforgettable gastronomic experience. As you savor each dish, you’ll discover the rich flavors and culinary traditions that make the city’s cuisine so unique.


Exploring Tianzifang

Tianzifang is a vibrant and artistic neighborhood nestled within the streets of Shanghai. Known for its narrow alleyways, traditional Shikumen architecture, and thriving arts scene, Tianzifang is a must-visit destination for those seeking a unique and authentic experience.


As you step into Tianzifang, you’ll be greeted by a maze of winding lanes filled with boutique shops, art galleries, cozy cafes, and hidden courtyards. This vibrant area is a haven for artists, designers, and craftsmen, showcasing their creativity and offering a glimpse into the city’s thriving art scene.


While exploring Tianzifang, take your time to wander through the narrow alleys and browse the unique and eclectic shops. From local designers’ clothing and accessories to handmade crafts and artwork, there is something for everyone to discover.


Art enthusiasts will be delighted by the numerous galleries scattered throughout the neighborhood. These galleries feature a variety of contemporary artworks, showcasing the talents of local and international artists. Take the time to appreciate the diverse range of artistic styles and perhaps even purchase a one-of-a-kind piece to bring home.


For a moment of respite, stop by one of the many charming cafes in Tianzifang. Sit back, relax, and enjoy a cup of aromatic coffee or a traditional Chinese tea while soaking in the artistic ambiance. The outdoor seating areas allow you to observe the bustling streets and immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.


While Tianzifang is known for its art scene, it is also a culinary destination. Indulge in a fusion of international cuisines, traditional Chinese dishes, and trendy street food. From cozy local eateries serving authentic Shanghai cuisine to trendy fusion restaurants, the dining options are diverse and enticing.


Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the hidden courtyards and traditional Shikumen houses within Tianzifang. These houses have been transformed into unique shops and art spaces, offering a glimpse into the traditional architectural charm of old Shanghai.


As the sun sets, Tianzifang transforms into a bustling nightlife hub. The quaint alleyways come alive with vibrant bars, live music venues, and rooftop lounges. Join the locals and tourists alike in enjoying the energetic and lively atmosphere that Tianzifang offers after dark.


Tianzifang is a place where culture, creativity, and history converge, making it a must-visit destination for those who seek an authentic and artistic experience in Shanghai. Take your time to explore every nook and cranny, and immerse yourself in the unique charm of this vibrant neighborhood.


Discovering Shanghai Museum

If you have an interest in Chinese art, history, and culture, a visit to the Shanghai Museum is a must. Located in the People’s Square, the museum is renowned for its extensive collection of artifacts that showcase China’s rich heritage.


The Shanghai Museum is home to over 120,000 pieces of ancient Chinese art, including bronze sculptures, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, jade, and more. The exhibits span multiple dynasties and offer a comprehensive view of China’s artistic and cultural evolution.


As you explore the museum, you’ll have the opportunity to admire the intricate craftsmanship and attention to detail displayed in each artifact. From delicate porcelain vases to ancient Buddhist sculptures, each piece tells a story and offers insights into China’s history.


One of the highlights of the Shanghai Museum is the collection of ancient Chinese bronzes. Marvel at the intricate designs and meticulous detailing of these bronze vessels that were used for rituals and ceremonies in ancient times.


Another must-see exhibit is the collection of Chinese calligraphy and paintings. Admire the grace and beauty of the brushwork, and learn about the history and significance of these artistic forms in Chinese culture.


The museum also boasts an impressive collection of jade artifacts, considered a symbol of nobility and immortality in Chinese culture. Learn about the different types of jade and their cultural significance as you explore this exquisite exhibit.


Aside from the permanent exhibits, the Shanghai Museum also hosts various temporary exhibitions that highlight different aspects of Chinese art and culture. Check the museum’s schedule to see if there are any special exhibitions happening during your visit.


Take your time to wander through the museum’s spacious galleries and soak in the knowledge and beauty that each artifact represents. The museum provides detailed explanations and information in both Chinese and English to enhance your understanding and appreciation of the exhibits.


Before leaving, be sure to stop by the museum’s gift shop, where you can find a variety of unique souvenirs and replicas inspired by the museum’s collection. It’s a perfect opportunity to take home a piece of Chinese heritage.


Visiting the Shanghai Museum is not just a chance to see remarkable artifacts, but also an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of China’s rich cultural history. Whether you’re an art enthusiast or simply curious about China’s past, the Shanghai Museum offers a fascinating and enlightening experience.


Relaxing at the People’s Square

If you’re in search of a peaceful and green oasis amidst the bustling city of Shanghai, look no further than the People’s Square. Located in the heart of the city, this expansive public space offers a tranquil retreat for both locals and visitors alike.


As you enter the People’s Square, you’ll be greeted by vast gardens, lush lawns, and vibrant flower beds. This beautifully landscaped area provides a perfect setting for a leisurely stroll or a peaceful picnic.


The centerpiece of the square is the iconic Shanghai Museum, a must-visit destination for art and history enthusiasts. The museum’s distinctive bronze-colored circular dome adds to the charm of the square and makes for a striking backdrop to your relaxation time.


The People’s Square is also home to several other notable landmarks, including the Shanghai Grand Theatre, the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, and the Shanghai Art Museum. These architectural marvels showcase modern design and cultural highlights, adding to the allure of the area.


Take a moment to sit on one of the benches scattered throughout the square and observe the locals going about their daily activities. Enjoy the serenity of the surroundings as you watch children playing, people practicing tai chi, or couples taking romantic walks.


If you fancy some cultural entertainment, check out the schedule of events happening at the People’s Square. You might come across open-air performances, art exhibitions, or even traditional Chinese music and dance recitals. These events add a touch of vibrancy to the already lively atmosphere.


As you relax at the People’s Square, you’ll also find a variety of snack vendors and refreshment stands. Treat yourself to a traditional Chinese snack like jianbing (savory crepes) or grab a refreshing drink to quench your thirst while you enjoy the surroundings.


For a more immersive experience, consider renting a paddleboat and taking a leisurely ride on the nearby lake. This peaceful activity allows you to enjoy a different perspective of the square and adds a touch of adventure to your relaxation time.


Whether you’re seeking a quiet moment of solitude or looking to observe the vibrancy of Shanghai’s daily life, the People’s Square offers a peaceful escape from the bustling cityscape. It’s a place where you can unwind, recharge, and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature and culture.


Taking a River Cruise on Huangpu River

A river cruise along the Huangpu River is a must-do activity for visitors to Shanghai. This iconic river separates Pudong, with its futuristic skyscrapers, from the historic buildings of The Bund. A cruise along the Huangpu River offers breathtaking views of the city’s contrasting architectural styles and allows you to witness the dynamic energy of Shanghai.


As you embark on a river cruise, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the Shanghai skyline. Marvel at the modern architectural wonders that define Pudong, including the Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai Tower, and Jin Mao Tower. The gleaming structures light up the night sky, creating a dazzling display of lights that reflects on the river’s surface.


On the opposite side of the river, you’ll see The Bund, a historic waterfront area lined with majestic European-style buildings. Admire the grandeur and elegance of these architectural gems that once housed banks, trading houses, and consulates.


While taking in the views, be sure to notice the vibrant activity on the Huangpu River itself. Witness large cargo ships and sleek river cruisers navigating the waterway, creating a fascinating juxtaposition between the old and the new, the local and the international.


For an even more enchanting experience, consider taking a Huangpu River cruise in the evening. As darkness falls, the buildings on both sides of the river light up, illuminating the night sky in a symphony of colors. The reflection of the lights on the water creates a magical and romantic ambiance that is truly unforgettable.


Many river cruises offer onboard dining options, allowing you to enjoy a meal against the backdrop of the Shanghai skyline. Savor delicious local cuisine and raise a toast to the beauty of the city as you cruise along the river.


As you disembark from the cruise, take a moment to explore the waterfront promenade on The Bund. Here, you can continue to enjoy the stunning views, go for a leisurely walk, or find a spot to sit and reflect upon the mesmerizing experience of the river cruise.


A river cruise on the Huangpu River provides a unique perspective of Shanghai’s skyline, allowing you to witness firsthand the city’s blend of old and new. It’s an experience that captures the essence of Shanghai’s captivating charm and leaves you with unforgettable memories.



Shanghai, with its vibrant energy and unique blend of tradition and modernity, offers an array of captivating experiences for those on a stopover. From exploring iconic landmarks like The Bund and the Oriental Pearl Tower to immersing yourself in the rich history of Yu Garden and the French Concession, Shanghai has something to offer every visitor.


Whether you choose to shop along the bustling Nanjing Road, relax at the People’s Square, or indulge in the local cuisine, each experience will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the city’s culture and charm.


For art lovers, a visit to Tianzifang and the Shanghai Museum provides a glimpse into China’s rich artistic heritage. And for a truly memorable experience, a river cruise along the Huangpu River offers breathtaking views of Shanghai’s skyline, showcasing the city’s architectural marvels.


As you explore Shanghai, take the time to engage with the locals, try new flavors, and embrace the vibrant atmosphere that permeates every corner of the city.


Whether you have a short stopover or a longer layover, Shanghai will captivate your senses and leave a lasting impression. Immerse yourself in the culture, indulge in the cuisine, and embrace the rich history of this cosmopolitan metropolis. Shanghai awaits, ready to offer you an unforgettable experience.