Shanghai Layovers: 5 Absolute Must-Do’s

Calligraphy, shopping & The Bund…what you’ve got to check out in Shanghai if you have a few hours to spare.

Shanghai has always exuded glamour throughout vigorous Chinese history, dynasty after dynasty. Today’s Shanghai captivates even more international travelers who are either stopping by for business or spending a few leisurely days.

If you’ve got simply a few hours to spare, here are some sights you definitely shouldn’t miss!

1. Visit the Shanghai Museum.

201 Renmin Ave, Huangpu, Shanghai, China (map, website)

Right next to People’s Square, Shanghai Museum was originally founded in 1952. It boasts a vast collection of ancient Chinese art, which was halted during the Cultural Revolution in 1966, then rebuilt in 1996. What you see today is still one of China’s most renowned modern museums showcasing pieces from the bronze age on the first floor that mostly derived from the Xia, Shang & Zhou dynasties. Up on the second floor, you can see large collections of ceramics and porcelain from the imperial times. Back in the day, ceramics and porcelain workshops were typically reserved for the Emperor who would export numerous of them internationally as diplomatic gifts.

On to the third floor – my favorite: the calligraphy section embroidered with infinite scrolls of beautiful Chinese characters. If you’re a geek of the Chinese language, then you’ll be here for hours like I was!

Shanghai Museum
Photo: Wendy Hung

2. Grab a meal at Xintiandi 新天地.

Huangpu, Shanghai, China (map)

Although on this rainy day in Shanghai, no one was people watching at sophisticated outdoor cafes in Xintiandi. On any other day, this area is where to go for a modern meal. Xintiandi in Chinese means ‘New Heaven and Earth.’ It’s an upscale area that the government has redeveloped from traditional stone warehouse gate architecture. This is where you should go for nightlife, a nice meal, or to splurge on name brand shopping.

3. Shop in Tianzifang 田子坊.

DaPuQiao, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China (map)

Tianzifang is one of the most popular places to shop in Shanghai. The labyrinth of vintage alleys off of 泰康路 or Taikang Road was built in the 1930s. In 2006, the Chinese government wanted to redevelop this local area, but many artists such as Chen Yifei 陈逸飞 had studios here, so they asked the government to preserve the traditional 石庫門 Shikumen-style of architecture, which is the stone warehouse gate that travelers can still see today as they browse and shop ’til they drop in this district. Today’s Tianzifang has more than 200 cafes, shops, art galleries, and design studios.

4. Don’t miss Yuyuan 豫園.

218 Anren St, Huangpu, Shanghai, China (map)

If it’s your first time in Shanghai, you wouldn’t want to miss out on Yuyuan. It’s an area encompassing the gorgeous Chinese garden situated next to the City God Temple. The Yu Garden was first built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty. Surrounding this area today are tons of famous restaurants, endless lines of shops. Although this area is filled with tourists, as someone who’s been to this city quite a few times before, I still find myself here whenever I’m in Shanghai. Even in the rain and at night, it’s still quite a sight.

5. Check out The Bund/Waitan 外灘.

Huangpu, Shanghai, China (map)

Waitan, or The Bund, refers to the waterfront area along the west bank of the Huangpu River. From here, you can capture the best view of Pudong’s skyscrapers including the Oriental Pearl Tower, On a nicer day, I highly recommend grabbing a cup of coffee in a restaurant in Waitan and just taking in the breathtaking view.

Shanghai Waitan China
Photo: Wendy Hung

Wendy Hung

CEO, FOUNDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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