Travel Guide | Shanghai

48 Hours in Shanghai

Must See Sights for your Weekend in Shanghai

So, those who know me know that I am a very spontaneous traveler. I have had amazing opportunities in the past to travel on a whim. This past quarter at my university I was feeling totally overwhelmed by the immense amount of work I had signed myself up for and a little stir crazy. It was time for a new adventure, but where did I want to go? Then I remembered my uncle had been trying to get me to come visit him in China for the last couple of years that he had been living there. Perfect! A spring break trip to China! See what I mean about spontaneous? I wanted to go. I had planted the idea into my mind, I had to go. So I contacted my uncle and told him I wanted to come visit. It would only be for 8 days, but 8 days is better than no days! So it was set, China or bust.

Now I really had no idea what to expect for Shanghai. I had a very distorted view of what it would be like. Would it be ultra modern or would it be a city trapped in time? As I did more research I discovered that Shanghai is actually a center for luxury and glamour in China. My uncle described Shanghai as a young metropolitan center of fashion, style, and new money. I had no expectation of finding any similarities between California and China, but there in Shanghai I found them. Whether this is because of the Chinese copying American style, or whether it was because this world is just so much more connected than we think, I found myself feeling a sense of familiarity in Shanghai. The little shops and cafes throughout the French Concession, the mega luxury stores complete with flashing advertising screens in the city center, the ultra hip restaurants with eco designs along The Bund.

Now I wasn’t exactly in Shanghai for 48 hours, but I was determined to see other parts of China while I was visiting, so Shanghai was used as a home base, a place to go back to in between our travels. However, in total I did spend only about 2-3 days in Shanghai, therefore I was determined to see everything that could give me a true taste of the city. So, here are some of my cant miss sights from the Los Angeles of the East.

Nanjing Road 

Ok, so first place on the list, Nanjing Road. If you like shopping then this is certainly the place for you. Nanjing road is huge and one of China’s most famous shopping streets. It’s 3.4 miles long and has shopping possibilities for everyone. From the mega high end retail stores to the china only specialty stores.

There are also quite a few traditional buildings from the mid-1800s when Shanghai was a treaty port. One of these buildings, and in my opinion, the most beautiful is the Fairmont Peace Hotel. It serves as a landmark on Nanjing Rd and I highly recommend taking the time to roam through it’s palatial lobby and perhaps have a drink in their famous Jazz Bar.

shanghai street specifically Nanjing Road

The Bund

The Bund in Shanghai is a must-see. It is a mile long waterfront that has served as a symbol for Shanghai for hundreds of years. And for good reason. The views along the Bund are magnificent. You get a gorgeous view of the skyline across the river as well as a glimpse of the diverse architectural structures along the west bank of the river.



Shanghai Tower

Now this one is more of a see than a do depending on when you visit. Shanghai tower, at the time I visited was still closed to the public. It was still under construction waiting for its opening date in Spring 2017. However, despite the fact that you can’t go inside, just to stand at the base of the building is pretty remarkable. Shanghai tower is (newly) one of the tallest buildings in the world.

To do this you get to take a cute little ferry. across the water. The ferries go every 10 minutes or so and the journey only takes about 10 minutes. I highly recommend it because from the boat you get a pretty amazing view of the Shanghai skyline and of The Bund back on the other side.

Shanghai Ferry

Standing a whopping 2,073 feet tall, standing at the base of the tower you feel like an ant. In order to reach the tower, as well as the Jin Mao tower, you are required to cross the river to the other side.

Shanghai tower with girl in front of it
Jin Mao Tower

Jin Mao observatory looking down

Jin Mao Tower is a staple among the Shanghai skyline. It is the 3rd largest tower in China and the 18th tallest building in the world. Jin Mao houses a shopping mall, offices and the Grad Hyatt Shanghai Hotel. The real draw to the building though, is the observatory on the top floor from which you can look down all 88 stories of the hotel into the lobby. This was by far my favorite view, but of course the skyline looking out across the city is pretty incredible too.

Shanghai skyline with smog

The Night Lights 

Ok, a trip to Shanghai is really not complete without a night stroll to see the incredible city lights. There was something about the glowing neon and flashing screens all over the city that made me feel like I was in a city of the future. I would of course highly recommend taking the time to see The Bund at night as well as the spectacular Nanjing Road.

Shanghai skyline at night with night lights

Cherry Blossom Festival 

Now the Cherry Blossom Festival is something that’s only possible at certain times of the year (March & April), but I would highly recommend putting it on your do-to list if you are going to be visiting Shanghai in the Spring. The weeklong Cherry Blossom event in Shanghai shifts around from year to year, but usually occurs sometime between March and April. I went this past year at the end of March and I was just in time for the annual festival in Gucun Park. Shanghai’s Gucun Park is only about 30 min outside of the city center and is the largest park in Shanghai. Despite the large crowds and some of the more gaudy attractions in other areas of the park, the flowers were abundant and absolutely breathtaking.

Cherry Blossoms in Shanghai

Jing’an Temple

Jing'an temple in Shangai, buddha shrine

Last, but not least is Jing’an Temple. If you are looking for a buddhist temple that is right in the middle of the bustling city then this is the temple for you. A great place to catch your breath and relax within a huge city such as Shanghai. It is also a wonderful place to take in the contrast of architecture in Shanghai. The temple is beautiful with golden roofs and beautiful statues, and standing in the center courtyard, you can look up and see the magnificent main worship hall and directly behind it, a towering metal and glass skyscraper. The best part about this temple though, is that it still serves as an active monastery. While wandering the grounds, you can still see monks walking back and forth along the halls as well as hear the clanging of bells throughout the space. It’s the perfect place for a calming and spiritual break.

Jing'an temple hallwayShanghai was truly an incredible experience. Although it may not have been on your bucket list before , I highly recommend you add it now! Maybe you were worried that it would seem too foreign, I’m here to tell you it’s not! While it was foreign, it was also wonderfully familiar. If I had to do it again I would love to be able to go for a month and see more amazing sights. But for now here are the highlights of the beautiful city of Shanghai!

48 Hours In Shanghai

Lauren Mercier

university of california, Santa Barbara | 6 stories

Lauren is a California native who has a love for unexpected adventures, photography, and a well timed sunset. She has been to 16 countries on 4 continents and isn't planning to stop anytime soon! She recently graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara with a double degree in Acting and Communication.

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