Shanghai is a coastal city and is the largest city in China. The city is renowned for The Bund, or Waitan, a waterfront promenade in the city’s center with colonial-era buildings lining the way. Shanghai has a fascinating and futuristic skyline which can be viewed across the Huangpu River and includes the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai Tower. For fresh-air fun, visit the Yu Garden or Yuyuan Garden with its traditional towers, pavilions and ponds. The Chinese garden lies next to the City God Temple and is close to the Yuyuan Tourist Mart and Yu Garden Bazaar, popular places to buy souvenirs. The main shopping street of the city is Nanjing Road, which is considered to be among the world’s busiest shopping streets, which represents retailers from all over the world. Should you wish to get more in touch with the city and its residents, consider trying some of the best non-touristy things to do in Shanghai, China. Scroll below to see our top picks.
1. Browse the Wangshan Shanghai Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market
The colorful Wangshan Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market is the most popular of its kind in Shanghai due to the variety of items on sale, and the excellent prices. The market is located next to the Ximen second-hand goods trading market in the downtown Huangpu District of Shanghai. Visitors can browse or purchase a variety of beautiful flowers, as well as many pets, including rabbits, puppies, birds, turtles, fish and a selection of insects, including crickets.
Wangshan Shanghai Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market
Address: 417 Tibet Sth Road (Xizang South Road), near Dongtai Lu, Huangpu District, China
Opening hours: 10am - 6pm (daily)
2. Take in a show at The Pearl
The Pearl is an entertainment center located in Shanghai’s iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower. The theater hosts a number of live theater options, including country music and dance nights, stand-up comedy, burlesque shows, Frank Sinatra tributes, martial arts displays and the big band sound. The entertainment center has three full-service bar areas to relax with a drink during or after the show.
Address: 471 Zhapu Lu, near Wujin Lu, 100m to Sichuan Bei Lu (Line 10, Exit 2), Shanghai, China
Website: The Pearl
Opening hours: Doors open: 6pm; Show starts: 7:30pm
Price: 180 - 220 CNY (27 - 33 USD)
3. Enjoy a train ride through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Experience a multi-media train ride through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, which goes under the Huangpu River to the Bund and Lujiazui area of Pudong District. All six of the train’s compartments are completely transparent, giving a 360-degree view of the colorful effects playing out on the walls of the tunnel. The effects are backed by music from the six-channel surround sound system in the train. The journey takes between three and five minutes and is one of the most exciting ways to cross the Huangpu River.
Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Address: 300 Zhongshan East First Road (Puxi); 2789 Binjiang Road (Pudong), Shanghai, China
Website: Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
Opening hours: 8am - 10:30pm (daily)
Price: 50 - 60 CNY (7.45 - 9 USD)
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4. Visit the Shanghai Marriage Market
Many parents can identify with wanting to get the grown kids out of the house, but the Shanghai Marriage Market takes things a little further by sharing information about their children. The Shanghai Marriage Market is held in People’s Park every Sunday from 12 pm through to 5 pm, in the hope of finding the ideal mate for their daughter or son. Even if visitors aren’t looking for a mate, the market makes for a fun afternoon outing.
Shanghai Marriage Market
Address: People’s Park, Shanghai, China
Website: Shanghai Marriage Market
Opening hours: Saturdays and Sundays: 12pm - 5pm
5. Learn the history of the iconic blue Nankeen calico and buy items to take home
Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall offers a display relating to how Nankeen calico cloth is starched and then hand-dyed to a rich and beautiful shade of indigo. While you can learn how the cloth is created, you can also buy the textiles, accessories and clothing made from the cloth. For those who enjoy sewing their own clothing, this is a wonderland of fabrics to buy by length. The name Nankeen originates from China’s former capital, Nanjing, and the fabric is used for little girls’ dresses, slip-on shoes, mandarin collar shirts, hats and bags. The hall is located in a residential lane in French Concession, Shanghai.
Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall
Address: 637 24 Changle Rd, Shanghai, China
Website: Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall
Opening hours: 9am - 9pm (daily)
6. Experience the “ERA Intersection of Time” acrobatics show at Shanghai Circus World (from USD 46.0)
To experience incredible acrobatic feats, there is nothing quite like the “ERA Intersection of Time” show at Shanghai Circus World. The captivating performance combines martial arts and Chinese history, all backed by wonderful special effects and lighting. As you watch, you will experience China from the very beginning, up to what is a world superpower today. The show is truly spectacular, with its beautiful costumes and offers a deeper understanding of the country’s history and its culture.
Shanghai Circus World: ‘ERA Intersection of Time’ Show
Duration: 2 hours
Located in the Xuhui District, the French Concession was originally under the control of France from 1849 to 1946 when the Chinese government took it over. The area is now a vibrant shopping district and its streets are lined with leafy trees, European architecture and wrought-iron fences. There are many quaint boutiques and hidden cafes to visit as you explore the winding streets.
Private Colonial Walking Tour: Shanghai French Concession
Duration: 2 hours
8. View a colorful range of posters at the Shanghai Propaganda Art Center
The posters at the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center reveal a number of different styles and content. Early posters had a cartoon-like vibe. However, as the Korean war ended, more Socialist-realism influences were seen, with heroic workers in their idealized communities. In the 1950s, folk art painting became relevant and some posters relating to art school students became very powerful. Besides viewing the exhibits, there is a shop selling a variety of posters to take home.
Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center
Address: Huashan Lu 868, Room B-OC, Shanghai, China
Opening hours: 10am - 5pm (daily)
Price: 25 CNY (3.73 USD)
One of the best ways to experience the cuisine and culture of a city is to join a food walking tour of Shanghai. A professional guide takes visitors around the city, explaining the various delicious dishes, such as sweet roasted duck, street wantons or savory dumplings. Learn how to enjoy your breakfast or lunch in true Chinese style, while dining in family-run restaurants and viewing some of the best sites in the city along the way.
A Bite of Shanghai Small-Group Food Tour
Duration: 4 hours
Learn about the past and future of Shanghai by visiting the Shanghai Museum and the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. In the museum, browse many thousands of fascinating artifacts covering 5,000 years of the country’s history. Next, head to the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center to learn more about the past of the city, as well as plans for Shanghai’s future.
Shanghai 4-Hour Guided Museum and Urban Planning Private Tour
Duration: 4 hours
Experience Shanghai like a local
Take in all the less usual sights of this exciting city by experiencing some of the best non-touristy things to do in Shanghai, China. With our list above, you have enough options of things to keep you busy in this eclectic city.
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