Shanghai Guide

Sunrise in Shanghai
Sunrise in Shanghai with Lujiazui financial district in the background

Shanghai is the largest city in China with 23 million inhabitants. It is also a global financial and business as well as the world’s busiest port. The literal meaning of Shanghai is “the city upon the sea”.

Located on the east coast of China, Shanghai is almost equidistant between Beijing in the north and Guangzhou in the south. It shares a border with the provinces of Zhejiang and Jiangsu. The city stretches along the Huangpu River, a tributary of the Yangtze River. The river splits the city into two parts: Puxi, located on the west side of the river, and Pudong, on the east side.

Shanghai has a subtropical climate with a very hot and humid summer and a cold winter. Therefore, the best time to visit Shanghai is during spring and autumn.


Shanghai was originally a small fishing village and became a city from the First Opium War in 1842. In the 16th century, Shanghai was surrounded by walls to protect the city from pirates. Before the first half of the 17th century, Shanghai population counted about 200,000 inhabitants.

The development of Shanghai began later in the 19th century after the Opium War and under European influence. The British, French and Americans were given concessions in the city so they could trade and do business in China. Beginning of the 20th century, Shanghai was the largest city the busiest trading centre in Asia. It was also famous for being the Sin City of Asia with its numerous brothels, opium dens, gambling clubs and organised crime.

Nowadays, the Former French Concession and the Bund bear witness to this European culture that has been influencing the development of the city for a century.

During the second half of the 20th century, Mao Zedong and the communist party isolated China and Shanghai from the rest of the world. Shanghai lost its economic strength, and it was only in the 90s that the city regained its position as China’s greatest city before Beijing and Hong Kong.

Places to visit in Shanghai

If you travel in China, you should definitely spend a few days in Shanghai. It is indeed one of the rare cities that is a perfect mix of ancient and modern, eastern and western influences.


This is the most famous image of Shanghai, the futuristic city skyline which is facing the old European style waterfront along the Huangpu River. Lujiazui contains the three highest skyscrapers of the city: the Jin Mao tower, the SWFC and the Shanghai Tower. It is also the largest financial hub in China.

Lujiazui skyline in Pudong
Lujiazui skyline in Pudong New District

The Bund

Facing Lujiazui, the Bund and its Art Deco buildings dating from the 19th and early 20th century contrast with the skyscrapers on the other side of the river. This waterfront is probably the most visited place in Shanghai.

The Bund waterfront along the Huangpu River
The Bund, waterfront along the Huangpu River in Shanghai

East Nanjing Road

It is another typical place in Shanghai. Not far from the Bund, East Nanjing Road is one of the world’s longest pedestrian streets and busiest shopping areas. It connects People’s Square to the Bund.

 East Nanjing road
East Nanjing road pedestrian street

People’s Square

People’s Square is the largest and most famous square in Shanghai. It includes the Shanghai Museum, People’s Park, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center and the Grand Theater.

Shanghai Grand Theater in People’s Square
Shanghai Grand Theater in People’s Square

Old Town and Yu Garden

Most of what used to be the core of the ancient city have been renovated but you can still get a feel of the old Shanghai. It is home to the Yu Garden, the City God Temple and renowned for its many art galleries.

Yu Garden in the old town Shanghai
Yu Garden in the old town of Shanghai

Former French Concession

It used to be a French territory from the middle of the 19th to the end of the World War II and is recognisable for its tree-lined roads and colonial houses.

Aerial shot of the Former French Concession
Aerial shot of the Former French Concession


Xintiandi is a popular shopping and entertainment area made of reconstituted Shikumen, the traditional red brick houses of Shanghai. It is now home to trendy restaurants, bars and shopping malls.

Xintiandi entertainment area in Huangpu district
Xintiandi entertainment area in Huangpu district

Are you planning to visit Shanghai? Here is a list of useful links related to travel in Shanghai: