As someone who has never visited China before, it’s a good idea to break it up into digestible pieces. And, grab a travel buddy! Be prepared to plan it out so you don’t miss any important parts of the journey. China is enormous…The sheer vastness of this country is intimidating and kind of makes you scratch your head thinking how it survived for so long throughout history as such a large, somewhat united (? too strong of a word?) landmass! Anyway, I think if one wishes to explore China it’ll take a lot of time and patience. Top Things to Do in Shanghai

We visited Shanghai, a city regarded as modern and rich with history. These are the top places that we visited. Here’s my vlog if you’d like to see the highlights! And blog post of day by day events!

Top Things to Do in Shanghai

1. Picture Spot: The Bund

First off, what is The Bund? Which SIDE of The Bund does one stay on? That was the question we had in our minds as we tried to figure out what exactly is THE Bund. Is it the river itself? Or is it just a general term for the area around the river? Is it the financial district on the right side of the river (if one were to look at it from a top down view) or the left side? Anyway, which ever WAY you look at it, you can bet that staying on the opposite side of the metallic-pink Oriental Tower is the most scenic way to view The Bund. Ultimately choosing a hotel/accommodation on the opposite side of The Bund is the best way to go (I took the picture below from our hotel room!). Choosing one that is walking distance to the river was the most convenient for us and it also happened to be walking distance to the East Nanjing Road subway station which we took to get all over Shanghai (transfers required, of course).

The best time to go to The Bund is on a clear day. It apparently doesn’t happen all too often due to pollution or weather conditions. If you can stick around at night, the buildings have lights that flash and dance around a bit. Subtle but nice to see. Good for instagram.

the dazzling nighttime cityscape at Shanghai on The Bund

Shanghai Bund at night

2. Eat Dumplings: Xiao Long Bao

Xiao Long Bao originated in Shanghai. When in Shanghai, eat as many dumplings as allowed… well no, but that was my mantra! There are several places to get xiao long bao of different varieties:

  • Yu Yuan Garden – there’s a giant soup dumpling here that is as big as my hand (or maybe even my face, but I have a small face). They even serve the giant xiao long bao with a straw. And it’s pretty tasty!
  • Din Tai Fung – I think the best Din Tai Fung is in Taiwan (which makes sense because this largely successful restaurant chain originated in Taiwan). However, I had to try DTF in Shanghai because there were literally two of these in the Shanghai area. They even have black truffle dumplings, hairy crab dumplings (which they even advised on the restaurant menu to not drink certain things with this fishy tasting dumpling), and black squid ink dumplings! All of these types we do not have in the American versions of DTF.
  • Nan Xiao Guan – This is also a chain throughout Shanghai. They offered five different types of dumplings!
    soup dumplings at nan xiao guan in disney town

    Nan Xiao Guan in Disney Town. Six Different Types of Xiao Long Bao

3. French Concession and Xin Tian Di

Streets with high tea restaurants with outdoor seating and high end shopping stores. The history behind French Concession is quite interesting; the European and Asian influences in this area are apparent. Xin Tian Di is a busy shopping and dining district. Also, a great place to get milk tea boba (or pearls, depending on where you’re from).

Circular plating structure at High tea in Xian Tian Di

High Tea at Cobra Lily in the French Concession

4. Shanghai Disneyland?

I think if one has ONLY been to Disneyland, I wouldn’t suggest throwing them into SHANGHAI Disneyland… This isn’t actually my top recommended thing to do… but if one is curious about how we spent our time at Shanghai Disney, check out this blog post.

Also, here’s my vlog of Shanghai Disneyland if you’d like to experience the nice parts! 

shanghai disney castle

5. Starbucks

The largest Starbucks in the world (as of the writing of this post) is in Shanghai!  It was also very accessible by subway for we had to walk  just a bit from the subway station. There was a line for us to even get in the door! The line wasn’t all too long on a weekday, just around 20 minutes. After walking through giant doors, you are immersed in a modernized factory/store/coffee/tea shop-all-in-one! It’s busy and buzzing inside with mechanical processes happening all around you. There are coffee beans moving through translucent pipes in the ceilings at a conveyor belt-like speed from a central unit in the back. There’s a windmill-like machine sorting and sifting through coffee beans. There’s a massive canvas bag of coffee beans trickling bean by bean into a large filter. It’s laid out as if it’s a museum, but quite compactly packed with people sitting and enjoying coffee and pastries. We never found a place to sit. It’s like people are just sitting there to pass the time!


shanghai starbucks largest in the world


What’s my favorite place? That has yet to be determined. It was a great trip overall.