By Khushboo Khanna
With borders finally open, now is the best time to invite your near and dear ones to experience the magic of this megacity.
If you’re hosting guests or plan on spending the holidays in Shanghai, heed Time Out Shanghai's top 15 recommendations:
The view of the Lujiazui financial district in Pudong from the Bund. Photo by Khushboo Khanna
The Bund or Shanghai Waitan is a picturesque waterfront area that has been designated a protected historical attraction. Colonial buildings from Shanghai’s past face mega skyscrapers on the opposite bank of the Huang Pu River, making for a memorable juxtaposition.
We highly recommend taking the Huang Pu River Cruise to enjoy the view. Plus, the good thing about going during Golden Week is being able to catch an annual light show. Tickets can be purchased on site.
Scale Shanghai's tallest towers
The view from the top of Shanghai Tower. Photo by Khushboo Khanna
Enter and enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Shanghai from some of the world’s tallest towers, which make up the city's majestic skyline.
Ride the world’s second fastest elevator to the 119th floor of the Shanghai Tower and/or attempt the harnessed skywalk at Jinmao Tower for an adrenaline rush like no other.
Explore ancient attractions
Yu Gardens by night. Photo by Khushboo Khanna
Dating back to the Ming Dynasty, Yu Garden or Yuyuan Garden carries very different vibes in the day and at night.
In the daytime, it is a zen escape in the middle of the concrete jungle. Two highlights here include the Exquisite Jade Rock, an important artifact that was meant to be gifted to the Huizong Emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty, and the City God Temple, a folk temple surrounded by teahouses and restaurants.
Come nightfall, the tourist attraction is lit up by lanterns and lights, taking on a different kind of charm. Stroll along the Old Street and pick up souvenirs, packaged tea and snacks from the Yuyuan Bazaar.
Bring along your passport, which might be requested at some ticketed attractions.
The Jade Buddha Temple. Photo by Khushboo Khanna
You could spend days — make that weeks — temple hopping in Shanghai, but some of the most resplendent ones include the gold-glazed Jing'an Temple, the Longhua Temple, the oldest temple in Shanghai; the Confucius Temple, which celebrates the great Chinese philosopher Confucius; and the Jade Buddha Temple with its two jade Buddha statues — one sitting and one recumbent.
See death-defying acrobatics
ERA2 - Spirit Of Shanghai. Photo via Shanghai Circus World
A captivating display of acrobatics and aerial stunts, Era2: Spirit of Shanghai features six highly coordinated, mastered acts. One involves roller skating and BMX (Bicycle Motocross) while another sees multiple artists on a balancing beam that is only 20 centimetres wide!
Taking place at the Shanghai World Circus, the exciting performance runs twice a day on most days, at 2 PM and 7:30 PM. Keep your phones charged and cameras ready!
Tianzifang is a maze we don't mind getting lost in. Photo via Dianping
A lively tourist area boasting over 200 small businesses, such as cafés, bars, souvenir shops, craft stores, design outlets, teahouses and more, Tianzifang strives to preserve the charm of Shanghai’s old shikumen buildings while catering to contemporary cravings.
Try the 'longest French fries' in the city, stock up on your supply of teas and White Rabbit candy, and discover other Shanghai memorabilia in this labyrinth-like enclave.
Drink in glitzy Xintiandi
Xintiandi by night. Photo via official website
Xintiandi, which literally translates to 'New Heaven and Earth,' is a fashionable pedestrian street can be thought of as the upmarket version of Tianzifang in that shikumen-style buildings were also restored and transformed into novel restaurants, cafés, stores and bars.
Renowned chefs and brands, especially in the fragrance and cosmetics industries, often choose to open their restaurants and flagship stores in this stylish lifestyle hub.
Visit the 'Happiest Place on Earth'
Shanghai Disneyland. Photo via Dianping
Covering 963 acres, Shanghai Disneyland is the newest and the second largest Disney Park in the world. It features seven themed areas — namely Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, Adventure Isle, Treasure Cove, Gardens of Imagination, Mickey Avenue, and Toy Story Land — and is also home to the largest Cinderella Castle with a real ballroom that hosts events and weddings, sometimes with Disney princesses in attendance.
Ride Disney’s fastest roller coaster, the Tron Cycle; shop and dine at Disneytown; and experience Disney's hospitality by spending the night at one of two hotels, the Disney Resort or the Toy Story Land Hotel.
Download a queuing app to cut down on waiting times for rides. You can also hire a photographer at the Disney shop at the entrance of the park to follow you around for a day, guaranteeing photographic souvenirs!
Indulge in retail therapy
Florentia Village Shanghai. Photo via official website
In a city replete with shopping malls or streets, there's something for everyone, whether it's East Nanjing Lu for high street brands or Longemont Mall by Zhongshan Park for more casual threads.
Meanwhile, sprawling outlet malls such as Florentia Village, Shanghai Village and the Bailian Outlets Plaza bring luxury goods to the masses at more affordable prices — think discounts of up to 70%.
But if bespoke apparel is more your bag, visit the South Bund Fabric Market, which is famous for tailored suits, dresses, and other custom fits at unbelievable prices. Remember to bring your bargaining skills to the table!
Ride a fast, floating vehicle
The Shanghai maglev. Photo via Canva Pro
The Shanghai maglev (short for 'magnetic levitation') is the world’s first commercial high-speed train that fully opened to the public 19 years ago in 2003. German technology allows them to reach incredible speeds of up to 431km per hour — that's five times faster than a cheetah.
You can ride the maglev to Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Longyang Lu station or vice versa in less than eight minutes!
Shady Wukang Street and its plane trees. Photo via Dianping
Originally called Route Fergusson, Wukang Street aka Wukang Lu is always a good idea, and makes for an afternoon well spent, especially if you enjoy photographing street life.
Stretching for 1.17km, Wukang Lu is replete with Art Deco and Renaissance architectural influences, making it a treasure trove for history buffs. In addition to being lined with historically protected buildings, the streetitselfhas been recognized as one of China's National Historic and Cultural Streets.
Join a walking tour to explore this part of the French Concession. Not only will a local historian explain the street's history, but you'll also gain insider knowledge of standout eateries and boutiques.
Chocolate fountains for the win. Photo via Zotter Chocolate Theatre
A smaller replica of the original Zotter Chocolate Theatre in Austria, this family-friendly food museum is always a ton of fun.
Discover Austrian chocolate culture and take a deep dive into the brand's origin story while also nibbling on chocolate — dare you sample all 150 kinds available? There's even a mixing bar where you can customise your own chocolate. 10/10 recommend!
Immerse yourself in Chinese culture
Yu Gardens is home to many teahouses. Photo by Khushboo Khanna
An ancient tradition spanning millennia, tea culture is part and parcel of Chinese history. Experience a tea ceremony by visiting one of various tea houses in Shanghai; Yu Gardens is a good place to start looking. Advance reservations are often required.
Alternatively, you could visit a Chinese spa to discover traditional health and wellness services, like hot stone and essential oil massages. A particularly novel experience is ear cleaning, which involves a whole set of specialised tools.
The promenade at West Bund is mostly pet-friendly. Photo by Khushboo Khanna
Worth visiting year-round, West Bund is an integral part of Shanghai’s cultural fabric. Designed as a river-facing cultural corridor sprawling over 10,000 sqm, it boasts museums, art galleries, lecture halls, performance facilities, meeting rooms, and historic landmarks.
West Bund also happens to be one of Shanghai’s most popular pet-friendly picnic spots. After an action-packed itinerary with your guests in Shanghai, it might be a good idea to spend a lazy afternoon here.
Step into mind-bending art works
Art experiences by teamLab Borderless are always great for the 'gram. Photo courtesy of Khushboo Khanna
teamLab Borderless specialises in immersive art that is open to individual interpretation. The brand was founded on the idea of connecting art with the masses and designing collective experiences.
Some experiences include the Memory of Topography (through October) and Flowers in Layered Ultrasubjective Space (until November). Visit while they last!
We hope this list helps you experience the best this city has to offer. Happy National Day Golden Week!