Shanghai’s rise as a tourist attraction has been recent. It is one of China’s major cities and one known around the world for being a financial center. Thanks to a growing reputation as a travel hotspot, more people are heading off to the Chinese locale than ever.
In 2019, it was reported that 7.29 million travelers visited Shanghai. The number of visitors is sure to grow in the future as the Chinese city continues to increase its tourist attractions.
Whether you are a history buff, culture vulture, or nightlife lover, Shanghai has something to offer you. Don’t miss out on Shanghai and these five neighborhoods.
Former French Concession
If you are looking for the coolest part of Shanghai for accommodation, then look no further than the Former French Concession. Although the name may sound weird for a neighborhood, the area was, at one time, a French colonial part of Shanghai. In fact, it was a French colonial area up until 1943 as World War II raged in the Far East.
The neighborhood is great for culture vultures seeking the opportunity to see France’s influence on east Asia. You can view that influence on the area’s architecture while strolling down the street. Of all of Shanghai, the Former French Concession has a very European vibe with its tree-lined streets and spacious buildings.
You will find cool cafes, restaurants, and bars in the neighborhood. There are also small shops down the little alleyways that wander off the main street.
Best place to stay in Former French Concession
Capella Jian Ye Li. Address: China, Shanghai, 建国西路480号 邮政编码: 200031.
Intercontinental Ruijin. Address: 118 Ruijin 2nd Road, Huangpu, 200020 Shanghai, China.
First-time visitors to Shanghai should opt for accommodation in Xujiahui. The neighborhood is centrally located, making it easy to reach other parts of Shanghai. The city is well-serviced by the metro system. Staying in Xujiahui means you can reach the other must-visit parts of Shanghai quickly and easily thanks to the metro.
Xujiahui is home to a variety of shopping centers. You can find both western and Chinese brands at these shopping malls. China’s major cities are not known for its green space, but Shanghai has one of the best parks of the country’s big cities. Xujiahui Park is a relaxing spot to spend a few hours of the day or go for a much-needed walk or jog.
Sports fans can watch the Chinese Super League soccer club Shanghai SIPG on a visit to the Shanghai Stadium. The venue is located in Xujiahui and offers you the chance to experience a sporting event with thousands of local fans. Of course, Xujiahui has a large number of hotels and Airbnb locations. You should be able to find a place to fit into your travel budget.
Best place to stay in Xujiahui
Courtyard by Marriott Xujiahui. Address: 100 HongQiao Road, Xuhui, 200030 Shanghai, China.
Travelers on a budget or backpacking around Asia should base their Shanghai stay in Jing’an. Although it is considered a budget-friendly neighborhood, Jing’an has its own cool, hipster vibe. While the Former French Concession is the coolest place to stay, its prices are not hip. Jing’an’s accommodation prices are a nice compromise for travelers wanting a cool area to stay but also needing to stay within their budget.
You will most likely see a number of expats on the streets of Jing’an. The neighborhood attracts expats and many call it home. There are also a variety of expat-owned businesses to explore. While the Former French Concession has a high concentration of European-style architecture, you will find some inspiration on the buildings in Jing’an.
Even if you don’t stay in Jing’an, it is a great destination during a vacation to get a taste of home. The international vibe can be felt and it can be comforting at times. Jing’an Park is another popular green space in the city. You can take a break from Shanghai’s hustle and bustle.
Best place to stay in Jing’an
Hotel Kevin’s Old House. Address: No.4, Lane946, Changle Rd, Jingán, 200040 Shanghai, China.
Travelers seeking a neighborhood that is close in proximity to Shanghai’s main tourist attracts should book accommodation in People’s Square. The area is centrally located making it possible to reach other parts of Shanghai conveniently. You can connect to public transport to other parts of the city quickly and easily from People’s Square.
Shanghai’s main waterfront area, known as The Bund, is situated in People’s Square. The Bund is a popular tourist spot and offers relaxing walks. The Bund is great at night as you can see the lights of Shanghai’s skyscrapers brilliantly lit from the waterfront.
You will also find a healthy amount of nightlife around People’s Square. Bars and restaurants are popular places to visit around the neighborhood, especially near The Bund. A lot of Shanghai’s trendy spots are located near The Bund.
People’s Square is a great central location regardless of how many times you have been to Shanghai. Whether a first-timer or visiting with your family, People’s Square is a fun part of the city that offers you a taste of Shanghai’s fast-paced life.
Best place to stay in People’s Square
Waldorf Astoria on The Bund. Address: 2 Zhongshan East 1st Rd, Wai Tan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200333.
Pudong is a large area of Shanghai, however, in terms of travel, it typically refers to the region nearest the eastern banks of the Huangpu River. This area of Pudong is dominated by skyscrapers reaching toward the heavens.
The neighborhood has grown tremendously in the last 30 years. Up to 1990, it was mostly a rural area but in the last three decades, Pudong has grown into a major metropolitan area due to the number of residents living in Shanghai.
If you want a luxurious night out, head to the Jin Mao Tower. The 87th floor is home to the Grand Hyatt, where you can sip a cocktail while looking over the city. The Jin Mao Tower isn’t the only dominating skyscraper in the Pudong skyline. Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai World Financial Centre, and the Oriental Pearl Tower are all located in Pudong.
Pudong is the home of Disneyland Shanghai. It was the first Disneyland park on China’s mainland and the sixth park built by the company. There is nothing more magical for families than a trip to Disneyland.
There are more great family activities in Pudong, making it perfect for families on a trip to the city. The neighborhood has a variety of accommodation as well from five-star hotels to apartments.
Best place to stay in Pudong
Mandarin Oriental Pudong. Address: 111 Pudong S Rd, Pudong Xinqu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200120.
Hotel Fraser Suites Top Glory. Address: No.6, Lane 600 Central Yincheng Road, Lujiazui, Pudong, 200120 Shanghai, China.
Where travel critics stay in Shanghai
Want to know where travel critics from publishers like The New York Times, Frommer’s, Fodor’s and Lonely Planet stay in Shanghai? Check out our overview of all recommended hotels, hostels and B&Bs in Shanghai.
Pentahotel. Address: 1525 Dingxi Rd, Zhong Shan Gong Yuan, Changning Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200333.
URBN Boutique Hotel. Address: 183 Jiaozhou Rd, Jingan Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200333.
Bulgari Hotel. Address: No.33 North Henan Road, Jingán, 200085 Shanghai, China.
Best things to do in Shanghai
There are a lot of things to do in Shanghai and surrounding areas, including day trips, attractions, museums, sightseeing tours and many other activities. Here’s our list of 3 things you should definitely do when you’re in and around Shanghai:
Half-Day Old Shanghai Small-Group Bike Tour
In a small group, this bike tour (maximum 5 guests) takes you on a historical and cultural journey through the history of one of China’s most famous cities. See the Cite Bourgogne and Zhou Enlai’s residence and learn about the restored Shanghai Old Street. Price: $57. More info.
Authentic Local Food Tour in Central Shanghai
Make your way down the famous Yunnan Road, stopping at several restaurants that are local favorites. Try typical Shanghainese dishes such as scallion oil noodles, steamed buns, parched chicken, and soup dumplings with black vinegar. Price: $72. More info.
Shanghai Night River Cruise Tour with Xinjiang Style Dining Experience
Get the most out of your Shanghai trip by experiencing the combination of a Huangpu River cruise and a Xinjiang food experience. Price: $138. More info.
Deciding where to stay in Shanghai
As you can see, there are a lot of things to explore, and deciding where to stay in Shanghai is important. Whether you stay in Pudong, Jing’an, People’s Square, Xujiahui or Former French Concession, all those neighborhoods are in good locations. The atmosphere of the area, whether you travel for leisure or business, whether you travel with your family or friends, and proximity to the attractions you prefer to visit should probably be the deciding factors. Whatever your preference is, you’ll have a great time in Shanghai.