Shanghai travel reminds me a lot of what it’s like traveling to cities back in America. This shouldn’t be surprising given the fact that Shanghai, China is by far the most westernized city in China I’ve traveled to. When compared to Wuhan and Beijing, Shanghai feels like a completely different country! The buildings are less spread out, the streets and sidewalks are well taken care of, and there is a magnificent skyline alongside the river that will remind you of New York City.
Shanghai is the largest city in China with a population of nearly 23 million (proper)! I’ve found a major lack of diversity in China, but in Shanghai, you’ll find people from all over the world, most being tourists.
The Bund and People’s Square
The stereotypical pictures of the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai are taken from a spot known as The Bund. It’s practically required to go here during your Shanghai travels. This is where you’ll find hotels filled with most of the western tourists. Just a short walk away sits the famous pedestrian shopping street known as Nanjing Road. In a way, it’s similar to New York City’s Time Square. There are a ton of flashing lights, every type of shopping you can think of, and people everywhere with their selfie sticks out. The street leads straight to People’s Square, another popular tourist destination that, just like Nanjing Road, is full of malls and people. And it just so happens to be a pretty place with one of the largest subway stops underneath.
As of last year, Shanghai has the second tallest building in the world simply called the Shanghai Tower. It adds even more character to the skyline, which can make it very tempting to cross the river and explore the Pudong District. But it’s not as impressive as its neighboring areas. You’ll be surrounded my awesome views, close-ups of the Pearl Tower and Shanghai Tower, and you can go to their observation floors. But other than these, there’s just not much else unique.
The French Concession
The French Concession is another great area that will really remind you of the Western World. From 1849 to 1943, the French occupied this area, using European architecture to create it. The area has gotten quite large today, and it stills has that European feel. Small and quiet roads guided by beautiful trees evenly spaced out snake their way throughout the district, and the large fences and mansions make for nice scenery when walking. You can also find a nice Mexican restaurant called Pistolera in the area. If you’ve been living in China for a while now, you know Mexican food is hard to come by. Pistolera is the perfect place to get your fix.
Zhujiajiao: Ancient Water Town
Because Shanghai is practically like any other Western city, the Shanghai travel list can end up containing some things you can easily do in your home country. That’s why I always recommend trying something different, especially food. So if you plan to travel to Shanghai, China, try a half-day visit to Zhujiajiao, China’s water town just outside of Shanghai.
The ancient water town was established over a thousand years ago and only has a population of 60,000 today. There are a ton of rivers, bridges, and nothing other than old buildings making up this small town. The buildings are so close together that instead of streets, you get interesting alleys that make you feel as if you have gone back in time.
It’s often difficult to find untouched areas in China. Even sections of the Great Wall have been restored. Zhujiajiao still has that authentic look, although recently, shops have begun taking over sections in order to make money off of tourists. I don’t know the future Zhujiajiao holds, but I’d like to think it’ll remain untouched and quiet.
How to get to Zhujiajiao from Shanghai
You can easily get to Zhujiajiao by booking with a Shanghai travel agent. But it’s so much cheaper if you take the bus yourself. There is an express bus at Puanlu near People’s Square that will take you straight there. It’s about an hour drive, a bus leaves every 30 minutes, and it cost 12 Yuan each way.
Puanlu bus station is simple to get to. Take metro line 1, 9, or 2 to People’s Square. Take Exit 1 and walk toward Ya’an Elevated Road. You can’t miss it because it’s, well, elevated. When you reach it, turn right (You’ll have to take the overhead pedestrian walkways). Walk underneath the elevated road for just a few minutes, and boom, the large bus station will be right there on your left. Most of the busses that go to Zhujiajio are pink, but not all of them! I find it easiest to just show them the chinese characters (沪朱高速快线) for the bus you want. I asked a security guard, and he pointed out the correct bus. The bus makes a few stops to drop off riders, but don’t get off until the very end.
There are so many things to do in Shanghai, and you can’t do them all unless you stay for weeks. So plan your Shanghai travel trip carefully.
Wondering if you should travel to Shanghai or Beijing? Check out my post about the differences between the two.