Shanghai is not only the biggest city in China, but is perhaps also its beating heart, where a cosmopolitan backdrop collides with culture, history, and some of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. A view from the top of Jin Mao Tower or the Shanghai Tower is a must-do, where tourists can admire the vastness of the city.
Of course, a Shanghai cruise is about more than the city’s high energy or the beautiful architecture, ranging from art deco to Jesuit styles. It’s a cultural hub where travelers can experience art, food, museums, and historic temples one after the other. Before you board a cruise from Shanghai, you must explore everything the city has to offer. Explore the shops and stalls on Nanjing Road. Walk around traditional Chinese garden Yu Garden. Take a leisurely stroll along a riverside promenade called the Bund, then stop in for tea, cocktails, or a bite to eat before dancing the night away at one of the luxe dance clubs along the waterfront.
Shanghai is a highlight on any Asia cruise, so be sure to leave time to explore the city on your own or book a guided excursion to fully enjoy the affectionately nicknamed “Paris of the East.”
After a Burmese monk brought two jade Buddha statues to Shanghai, a temple was constructed to honor them. The Jade Buddha Temple was built and subsequently destroyed in the late 19th century. Luckily, the Buddhas made it out safely. Stop in the new temple, built in 1928, to see these enduring, significant cultural relics during your Shanghai cruise.
Animal lovers and kids will love the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, where hundreds of fish species and rare water dwellers live. Take an afternoon to tour the aquarium’s zones, which represent different parts of the world. There’s an Australia zone, a Polar Zone, a China zone, and several others. See emperor penguins, electric eels, seahorses, and many more endangered species.
This pedestrian-only shopping and entertainment district takes you back to the Shanghai of the roaring 1920s, where romantic European-style bars and upscale dining collide. Walk the tree-lined streets and enjoy the unique stone-gate architectural style called shikumen.
In Old Town, the traditional Yuyuan Garden is one Shanghai’s most enduring, special sights, dating back hundreds of years to the Ming Dynasty. In spring, magnolias and cherry trees bloom. The area is known for its teahouses, so stopping in for a tea break is a must. It gets packed by the afternoon, so plan accordingly.
Nanjing Road is where the shopping magic happens in Shanghai. It starts at the Bund and continues for over three miles of boutiques, department stores, and upscale brands like Tiffany & Co. It’s also a good spot for a bite to eat, where you can experience traditional Shanghai cuisine when you’re worn out from a day of shopping.
An early morning stroll here before coffee or breakfast is the best time to walk the Bund, where skyscrapers and colonial-style buildings rise on one side and Huangpu River views wait on the other. Starting your day here gives you time to quietly reflect and enjoy the atmosphere while locals and runners fly by you. When you’re tired of walking, head to a nearby cafe or one of the many boutiques the Bund is famous for.
Celebrate the Ming and Qing dynasties at the Shanghai Museum, where you’ll stand among historic bronze statues, preserved Chinese clothing and artifacts, jade, and curated collections of ceramics. Entrance is free, and the four floors of the museum are guaranteed to keep you busy and mystified for an afternoon. Shanghai Museum is an informative, easy way to learn the history and culture of the city.
Once occupied by the French in the mid-19th century all the way until the 1940s, the French quarter stands out from other parts of Shanghai. The colonial buildings will transport you to another part of the world, and the European-style villas seem like something out of a movie set. A walking tour, followed by some shopping, is a good way to take it all in.
A ferry ride across the Huangpu River is a cheap way to see more of Shanghai from a different vantage point. You’ll see skyscrapers like the impossibly tall Shanghai World Financial Center and the French colonial buildings of the French Concession in the distance, too.
As the third tallest skyscraper in Shanghai, the Jin Mao Tower has a reputation for having some of the best views in Shanghai. Head up to the observation tower to take in a panoramic scene of the city and the Huangpu River. From the 88th floor, the city will feel like it’s all yours.
Address: 11 Hankou Rd, WaiTan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Enjoy this relaxed beer and cocktail spot off the Bund, which even offers a Western-style menu for the homesick. A casual stroll along the Bund isn’t complete without a stop in at this no-frills, unpretentious microbrewery.
Address: Waitan, Huangpu, Shanghai, China
You’ll have to book months in advance to get a table at the ever-popular, experiential Ultraviolet, which appeals to all five senses through immersive music, video, and technology while you partake. It’s an avant-garde approach to dining, with 20 small courses and a feast for the eyes, too.
Fú Hé Huì
Address: 1037 Yuyuan Rd; 愚园路1037号, China
Vegetarians don’t have to worry about what they can partake in at Fú Hé Huì, which has a rare vegetarian-only menu. Stop in for lunch between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm, or come back for dinner at 5:30 pm. Private rooms and deluxe service mean that your meal at Fú Hé Huì is bound to be a unique experience.
Yang’s Fry Dumplings
Address: 97 Huanghe Rd; 黄河路97号, China
There’s usually a line here, and for good reason. Yang’s serves some of the best fried dumplings, shēngjiān, in Shanghai. Whether sesame-covered or filled with tasty pork, grab several dumplings to sample. Watch out for your shirt, though. These dumplings are famously juicy.
A major port city throughout history dating back to the Ming dynasty, Shanghai is the city that opened the doors of China to the world. Shipping and trading have been the major industry of Shanghai for centuries. The rise of communism in the mid-20th century shuttered Shanghai off as a global powerhouse, but today the city has reclaimed its place in the international stock exchange and has seen major economic growth.
With a population of nearly 24 million, Shanghai is currently one of the biggest cities in the world, and it strikes a balance between sheer size and its enduring cultural footprint with ease. Nicknamed the “Paris of the East,” Shanghai is both modern and delicate in some ways, a city of lights and centuries of rich history waiting to be explored.
Before you board a cruise from Shanghai, you’ll be welcomed to the unique glass terminal building, one of the most distinct cruise terminals in the world. It’s shaped like a bubble, making it hard to miss. Before you board, get in some quick duty-free shopping in the terminal or exchange currency if you haven’t yet. There are also plenty of restaurants for you to grab a quick bite at the cruise port as well.
There are plenty of ways to get around before you board your cruise from Shanghai, but it’s especially helpful if you already know a little bit of Mandarin. Sightseeing buses are popular with tourists, while city buses are best for locals who know their way around. It’s pretty easy to hail a taxi in Shanghai, and the fares tend to be affordable too.
Of course, Shanghai’s robust metro system is both fast and convenient. Entrances all over the city are marked with a red “M” sign. Getting to the Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal from the city center is about a 30-minute taxi ride, so be sure to leave a little extra time to get to your cruise ship.
Shopping in Shanghai is plentiful, from high-end boutiques selling designer wares to souvenir shacks selling authentic Chinese jade, wood carvings, and locally made goods. Knockoffs and designer lookalikes are all part of the experience here. Try your hand at haggling and bargaining when you’re shopping at markets and stalls like the ones along Qipu Lu, as haggling is practically a part of the culture in Shanghai. For books and art, try the shops along Fuzhou Road. There’s also an indoor market near the Science and Technology Museum if you fancy getting some shopping done after a day’s worth of museum tours.
The official currency is China is the Yuan (CNY), and you can exchange currency at banks in Shanghai as long as you have your passport. Currency exchanges are also popular. Keep a little cash handy or withdraw some from the ATMs scattered across the city, which typically accept Visa and MasterCard. Credit cards are more often accepted in Shanghai than other cities in China, but it’s wise to carry enough cash to cover tickets, admission, or taxi costs. Tipping isn’t widely practiced in China. You won’t have to leave a tip at bars or for your taxi driver, and most restaurants come with the service charge already included.