City guide: Shanghai

One of the world’s most populous cities and the gateway to China.

Shanghai’s rise as a booming international hub came with massive urban renewal. Dozens of skyscrapers popped up over the past 20 years, creating a modern skyline. Traffic-packed six-lane highways carry motorists through and around the city. The modernity contrasts with undeveloped areas of the city that harken back to simpler times. Outdoor markets, street vendors and ancient temples serve as time capsules to the way Shanghai once was.

The city’s port has long made it an economic powerhouse for China. Today it’s one of the Asia-Pacific region’s primary trading and shipping centers. And it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the world—apart from the global recession of 2008 and 2009, it has recorded double-digit growth for the last twenty years. The three largest industries are financial services, retailing and real estate.

Getting to and from the airport

Shanghai Pudong International Airport is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of the city center. The Shanghai Maglev train is the most efficient way to get downtown. The futuristic high-speed magnetic levitation line reaches speeds of 430 km per hour. It takes less than eight minutes to get from the airport to the central Longyang Road Station, which connects to the Shanghai metro. A one-way fare is 50 yuan (US$7 using the exchange rate US$1 = 6.92 CNY). Shuttle buses are also available, and taxis can be found at all terminals. They are highly regulated and always metered; you’ll be greeted in Chinese and English. A one-way trip from the airport to downtown will set you back about 150-200 yuan (US$21.65-$28.90).

Getting around Shanghai

Many visitors get around the city by taxi; Shanghai has 45,000 of them. Hail one from the street or ask staff at any major hotel or restaurant to call one for you. If you travel by car, always leave extra time to get to your destination because you’re likely to be caught in a few traffic jams.

Public transport is inexpensive and relatively efficient. Use the interactive route map at as a guide. Signs are written in English and Chinese, and maps are posted in stations and cars. A one-way fare ranges by zone—it’s 3 yuan (US$0.43) for a short distance and up to 10 yuan (US$1.45) for distant destinations. Buy tickets from station vending machines.

Where to stay

For luxury and upscale hotel options, try Sofitel Shanghai Hyland (505 Nan Jing Road East, Shanghai 200001; Ph: 86-21-63515888), Fairmont Peace Hotel (20 Nanjing Road East, Shanghai 200002; Ph: 86-21-61386888), Radisson Blu Shanghai Pudong Jinqiao (No. 2 Lane 2449, Jinhai Road, Shanghai 201209; Ph: 86-21-20537666) or Courtyard Shanghai Xujiahui (100 Hongqiao Road, Xuhhui District, Shanghai 200030; Ph: 86-21-61292888).

Midscale options include Courtyard Shanghai Xujiahui (100 Hongqiao Road, Xuhhui District, Shanghai 200030; Ph: 86-21-61292888), Holiday Inn Express Shanghai Jiading Industry Park (No. 268 Huiyuan Road, Shanghai 201807; Ph: 86-21-67078111) and Ibis Shanghai Lianyang (300 Fang Dian Road, Shanghai 200135; Ph: 86-21-61055555).

Things to see and do 

Get oriented in the vast city with a stroll along the Bund. The picturesque waterfront promenade offers a classic photo op of a skyline dominated by the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Shanghai World Financial Center, the city’s two tallest landmarks. The area is crowded and touristy, but that’s all part of the charm. It’s worth a visit at night to see colorful city lights take over the sky.

Just off the Bund is Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s premier shopping street with over 1 million visitors each day. From the Bund it runs west to Jing’an Temple. The road’s history dates back to the 1840s when Shanghai became a port after the Opium War. Stores range from international brands to luxury retailers and traditional establishments selling silk, jade and embroidery.

The Shanghai Museum is one of the best in the city. Located in the People’s Square, the museum focuses on ancient Chinese art. It’s divided into 11 galleries and three exhibition halls and holds over 120,000 works. Visitors will find it nearly impossible to see everything. It’s best to select a few galleries to cover. It’s open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.

Yuyuan Garden is a spectacular oasis within the city limits. The five-acre area contains classical Chinese pavilions, rockeries, ponds and sculptures. Opening times change with the season, as does the small entry fee. Come on a weekday to avoid the crowds. The Yuyuan Bazaar borders the garden—the narrow streets are a great place to pick up some souvenirs.

Where to eat

Jade Garden serves a wide selection of contemporary Cantonese cuisine. The large dining room can seat over 350 people, but the place still fills up, so it’s best to make a reservation. Most diners are here for the dim sum. Succulent dishes like shrimp dumplings, roasted pork, steamed buns and Chinese pastries will tempt you to return for a second meal. Find it at 1121 Yan´an Middle Road, JingAnSi, Jingan Qu, Ph: 86-21-62485155.

M on the Bund is a tried-and-tested favorite. What it lacks in innovation, it makes up for in classically delicious dishes—an eclectic mix of European, North African and Australian flavors. Plus, the art-deco dining room with a terrace overlooking the Bund seriously dazzles visitors. The venue is perfect for a spot of afternoon tea. If you’re having a full-fledged meal, consider the homemade tortellini, crispy suckling pig or the hot-house smoked salmon. It’s at 20 Guangdong Road, WaiTan, Huangpu Qu, Ph: 86-21-63509988.

Sushi Oyama is an extremely popular restaurant, so be sure to book ahead. It adheres to the Japanese omakase concept of a chef-selected set menu. Dishes change daily depending on the seasonal availability of fresh fish, which is shipped from Japan. Knowledgeable staff dressed in kimonos offer impeccable service. At 800 yuan (US$115.78) for the set menu, it’s not the cheapest option. But it’s an experience not to be missed. Find it at 20 Donghu Road, HuaiHai Lu XiDuan, Xuhui Qu, Ph: 86-21-54047705.

Scena serves up picture-perfect Italian dishes—and they taste good, too. The menu at the Ritz-Carlton Pudong’s flagship restaurant offers simple pizza, pasta and meat options. At most tables, you’ll get excellent views of the Shanghai skyline from 52 floors up. It’s at Century Avenue, LuJiaZui, Pudong Xingu, Ph: 86-21-20201717.


Stay in the know,
even on the go

Never want to miss a thing?

We'll get you the latest news, trends, insights and BCD news right in your inbox.