Known as the Paris of the East, Shanghai is a stunning amalgamation of architectural styles - garish neon-lit skyscrapers intermingle with quaint Art Deco buildings and shikumen lane houses; chic cafes and restaurants weave between street vendors and classic gardens, offering photographers the ultimate range of subject matter and juxtapositions. We’re not talking about the typical Bund skyline or the neon-lit shopping streets along East Nanjing Road, taken from the same spot with a thousand other tourists around you - we’re talking about one-of-a-kind photos of the city that are worthy to be shared on social media. So if you’re planning a visit, make sure not to miss some of Shanghai’s most photogenic spots – some of which you have never even heard before! Read on for the best photo spots in Shanghai, China.
Views of the Bund
1. Books Over the Clouds
Perched on the 52nd floor of Shanghai’s tallest building, Books over the Clouds not only earns its title as the highest bookstore in Shanghai, but also scales new heights in terms of bookstore design. On one end of the bookstore, visitors can expect an atrium space featuring plenty of high tables with seats, accompanied by floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sweeping views of the sprawling city. Embedded within the pristine white shelves is a lovely coffee parlour dipped in Tiffany-blue, allowing shoppers to sit back and indulge in their books. As if these weren’t enough, a 52-meter (170.6 feet) long bar that looks out onto Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Jinmao Tower is positioned at the other end of the store to surprise visitors.
Books over the Clouds (Duoyun Bookstore)
Address: 501 Yincheng Middle Road, 52nd floor of the Shanghai Tower
Opening hours: 10am - 9pm (daily)
2. Flair Rooftop Restaurant and Bar
Shanghai is a city that looks amazing from above. Around sunset, hit one of the numerous rooftop bars for a view of the Lujiazui skyline in Pudong as the lights come on. Flair Rooftop Bar and Restaurant is a great place to start as it is the highest al fresco dining venue in China, which means it boasts panoramic views of the Bund and a particularly close view of Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Its menu is equally attractive - delectable staples from Japan, Indonesia, Vietnam, India, China, and Thailand are served tapas-style, while the raw seafood bar further enhances guests’ choices. Its signature spirits are a little pricey, and there’s a minimum spend for the terrace tables, but it’s still well worth coming here - at least for the Instagram-worthy photos of the city’s stunning skyline!
Address: 8 Century Ave, 58th floor of the IFC Tower
Opening hours: 5:30pm - 11pm (daily)
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3. Riverside Promenade
No trip to Shanghai is complete without an iconic Instagram shot of the Bund. However, instead of traversing through the jam-packed East Nanjing Road to the west waterfront of the Huangpu River, why not head to Riverside Promenade on the east bank of the river?
Also known as the Binjiang Avenue, the Riverside Promenade is a 2,500-meter (8,202.1 feet) green strip that runs nearly parallel to the Bund, which means it offers equally stunning waterfront views as compared to the west riverbank, except with fewer tourists (less photobombs!) and wider walkways. These walkways are lined with cafes and restaurants that provide the best riverside scenery, especially during sunset. As the dazzling neon lights of the skyscrapers and river cruises come on at night, the spellbinding skyline of the Bund makes taking a great shot almost effortless.
Address: Binjiang Avenue, near Lujiazui West Road (15-minute walk from Lujiazui metro station)
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
4. The Green Hill
Many of the industrial sites along the Huangpu River have been converted into public spaces, and The Green Hill is one of them. It is a former tobacco warehouse that has recently been re-designed and opened to the public for the Shanghai Urban Space Art Season (SUSAS) 2019.
Ever since its opening, locals and tourists alike have been flocking to the building to take photos. Its unusual stepped terrace structure already looks imposing on its own, not to mention that it allows an abundance of natural light to pour in, thus providing ideal lighting for those who pose on its giant white spiral staircase. The semi-circular skywalk on the fifth floor also offers expansive views of the river and is the perfect spot to photograph the iconic Yangpu bridge.
The Green Hill
Address: 1426 Yangshupu Road, Shanghai, China
5. Wukang Mansion
It is not difficult to find colonial influences around the city, especially with its eclectic mix of British, German, and mainly French enclaves of architecture. Situated in the former French Concession, Wukang Mansion is a historic apartment building designed by Hungarian-Slovak architect László Hudec and completed in 1924. Its structure resembles the bow of a ship and looks like a giant vessel ready to sail. Set in the intersection of several roads, Wukang Mansion is indeed the best spot for a candid street photo. You may wish to take a stroll along Wukang Road as the other European-style buildings along the street are equally photogenic!
Address: 1850 Huaihai Middle Road, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China
6. Bridge 8 Art Space (1908 Granary)
Following the changing industrial landscape of Shanghai, many old factories and warehouses in the Changning, Xuhui, and Luwan districts were left vacant. Instead of being demolished, these abandoned buildings were turned into creative spaces like art galleries, architect firms, design studios, and more. Bridge 8 Art Space is one such example - it showcases a range of innovative exhibitions by international and local artists, not to mention that its rustic interior is perfect for photo-taking!
Bridge 8 Art Space (1908 Granary)
Address: 1247 South Suzhou Road, near Xinchang Road
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9:30am - 5pm (closed on Mon)
7. Casanova Italian Restaurant
If you think that photos of the city’s skyline taken from the Bund are too mainstream, here’s an opportunity to get up close and personal with the nightly lit Art Deco buildings along the Bund! Located at the topmost floor of No. 6 on the Bund, Casanova Italian Restaurant not only has an impressive Italian menu to boot but also has a reasonably good selection of wines and spirits. Most importantly, its front balcony tables offer spellbinding views of the stately architecture along the Bund, as well as the glittering skyscrapers that dot the skyline just across the Huangpu River.
Casanova Italian Restaurant
Address: 4th floor, 6 Zhongshan East Road, Shanghai, China
Opening hours: 12pm - 10pm (daily)
8. Old alleys (Longtangs) in the Huangpu district
Beneath the futuristic skyline of Shanghai lies a vast warren of crumbling lane houses in various states of repair. These lane houses are centered on a lane or several interconnected lanes that are usually just about wide enough to fit one car, and each lane is known as a longtang (sometimes also called a lilong). Simply put, a longtang is the loose equivalent of a hutong in Beijing. Built around the city in the early 20th century, these longtang houses were once home to about 60 percent of the city’s population. Over the years, they have become an integral part of the city as they bore witness to the lives of hundreds and thousands of Shanghainese. In other words, without walking through Shanghai’s longtangs, one cannot truly begin to understand the city. If you’d like to have a glimpse into the lives of the longtang residents, we recommend visiting any of the following streets: South Maoming Road, West Fuxing Road, Shanxi South Road, and Xinzha Road. As these buildings are still inhabited by citizens, do stay quiet and keep disruption to a minimum whilst trying to get a shot of the longtang! Dotted with colourful laundry and bundles of electrical wires, these charming alleyways are a sight you wouldn’t want to miss.
9. Duolun Road
Home to many Chinese literati and social elites back in the early 20th century, Duolun Road is a quaint piece of history worth a visit if you are in the city. Apart from a constantly evolving mix of cafes, art galleries, and museums, the cobbled street also houses life-sized bronze statues of eminent Chinese writers, as well as historic architecture of various styles. The nearby Luxun Park also serves as a good hideout for those who need some downtime away from the hustle and bustle of the city, not to mention that it is a great place to capture some elderly Chinese practising taichi or young children sprinting around.
10. Tian'ai Road
Long boulevards lined with leafy parasol trees are a common sight in the city. What sets Tian’ai Road apart from them is its heartwarming wall murals - lining the street are wooden frames containing 28 well-known love poems from China and around the world, where countless couples have scratched their initials to celebrate their love. A “love mailbox” can also be found near the road intersection, in addition to the cozy cafes peppered along the street. Capture the most romantic moments as you walk down Tian’ai Road, also known as the “Road of Sweet Love” when directly translated from Mandarin.
And the list goes on...
Anyone with a bit more time on their hands may want to venture out of town - the Qibao Watertown, located just 18 kilometres (11.2 miles) away from downtown Shanghai, offers something totally different: picturesque historical villages, beautiful ancient temples and fascinating folk activities like cricket matches and shadow play. If you are up for a challenge, you could even squeeze in a three-day trip to the Yellow Mountain - there is nothing more beautiful than nature itself, after all.
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