12 Reasons Shanghai Became My Favorite City

Shanghai China

“You’d better hurry!” said the concierge.

We’d just returned to our hotel after a day of sightseeing in Shanghai. We wanted to see the Bund at night, but had just been informed that the lights go out at 10:00 pm. Prompt.

With a mere 15 minutes before lights-out, we took a right turn out of our hotel and sprinted down the alley with several blocks to cover to reach the Bund. Not an easy task for a woman with a foot-long titanium rod in her leg and a repaired diaphragm, but I’m nothing if not tenacious.

The Bund at night is just one of the marvels of Shanghai during my Viking River Cruise “Imperial Jewels of China” tour.   With a population of 24 million, it’s  the third most populous city in the world. China is an epic trip, and while sites like the Great Wall and Terra Cotta Warriors are Bucket List worthy, Shanghai, the stunning hotbed of growth, culture and diversity, was my favorite. The sparkling city exudes a vibe of vivacity and an interesting juxtaposition of ancient traditions and spectacular modern architecture.

1.  Walk the Bund during the day.

Shanghai China

The heart of Shanghai is the Bund, an upscale riverside boardwalk with colonial-era buildings on one side that have a distinctly old European flavor. Lined on the other side of the Huangpu River is just the opposite – a sci-fi looking skyline.

2.  Now go back and stroll on the Bund at night.

Shanghai China

Yes, we did make it before the lights went out, with 5 minutes to spare. It was probably the most amazing five minutes in Shanghai. Across the river, the uniquely-shaped high rise buildings were lit up in a dazzling array of neon colors.

3.  Wander around the Yuyuan Gardens

Shanghai China

Yuyuan Gardens is an extensive Chinese garden in the northeast of the Old City of Shanghai. Located in the center of Old Shanghai, the rambling gardens are saturated with traditional pavilions, winding paths, towers, grottoes and ponds dating to the Ming Dynasty.

4.  Stop for the bell show in Old Shanghai.

Shanghai China

On one of the narrow alleys in Old Shanghai, is the shop which has bellowing bells at various times of the day. You’ll hear it before you see it. Follow the sound and take a few minutes to listen to the way bells were played in ancient China.

5.  Wander the backstreets to find souvenirs.

Shanghai China

Away from the bustling crowds, tucked into the alleys from Old Shanghai to the Bund is where you’ll find the best bargains. From silk and textiles, Chinese lanterns, fans, handmade dolls, or a propaganda poster, you can find just about anything.

The Bazaar in Old Shanghai is also a great place to find traditional hand-made souvenirs as well as the ubiquitous touristy gadgets. The vibrant bazaar dates back to the Ming Dynasty,

If you prefer more upscale shopping, head over to Nanjing Road, a six-mile string of international retailers, local shops, and department stores. Reminiscent of New York’s Fifth Avenue, it’s a crowded area, and though bargains are scarce, the frenetic atmosphere alone is worth the venture.

6.  Sample authentic Chinese street food.

Shanghai China

Shanghai is the nation’s food epicenter, so don’t miss the street food. It’s delicious. Some specialties include sheng jian bao (pan fried dumplings), chai pan wonton, cong you bing (scallion pancakes), tofu flower soup, guo tie (pot stickers), stir-fried noodles, kebabs, and man tou (steamed buns). Spicy, sweet, oily, and pungent, there are so many choices, so be prepared for sensory overload! The best thing to do is try a very small sample of a very lot of foodstuffs.

7.  Visit the Shanghai Museum.

Shanghai China

Located in the center of Shanghai in People’s Square, Shanghai Museum is considered one of China’s first world-class modern museums. It’s filled with more than 120,000 pieces of ancient Chinese paintings, sculptures, furniture, calligraphy, bronze, textiles and coins. There are live demonstrations of styles of ancient art-making such as painting and textiles.

8.  Marvel at the renowned acrobat show.

Shanghai China

The classic Shanghai Acrobatic performers are considered amongst the best in the world. The show is popular with tourists and sells out fast. We were mesmerized by the death-defying feats and spectacular lighting. In fact, I was so spellbound, I actually forgot to take photos of some of the acts. I don’t remember that ever happening!

9.  Ride the Maglev.

Shanghai China

Photo by orangebrompton

The Maglev, the fastest train in the world, hits a maximum speed of 267 mph – twice the speed of the average roller coaster, and does it without touching the tacks, using magnetic levitation technology.

10.  Get a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Shanghai China

Photo by D.H. Parks

Shanghai is a vertical city, so climb to the sky for an eye-popping view. Just opposite the Bund, the 1,535 foot high, pink spherical Oriental Pearl Radio Tower is one of the most recognized landmarks. The Pearl has an upper observation platform that includes an outside area with a 1.5 inch glass floor. The other building for observation is the modern twisting Shanghai Tower, which as of 2015 is the world’s tallest building (by height to highest usable floor – 127) with the world’s highest observation deck.

11.  Eat French fries with a view.

Shanghai China

One of my weaknesses is French fries, and along with ice cream, I try to find them in every country I visit. We hit the jackpot in finding a tiny-but-charming café with a third-story balcony offering an impressive view of the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Bund. Add a steaming mug of cappuccino…..heaven!

12.  Take a photo with a local.

Shanghai China

Everywhere in Shanghai, especially on the Bund, locals would ask if they could take their picture with us. Perhaps it was two blondes in the midst of a sea of dark hair, or maybe they were just friendly. Sometimes I’d have a baby thrust into my arms; other times it was a family portrait. One young man asked us to sing happy birthday on his video to his girlfriend. On another occasion, I pulled out a prop for a photo op, and within a few seconds, at least 50 Chinese had pulled out their cell phones. Click, click, click, click, they took photos of me holding the prop for around 20 seconds. Of course, I was glad to oblige and just stood there smiling. My proverbial 15 minutes of fame!


Shanghai stole my heart. I did not have enough time. That sci-fi skyline is burned into my memory, and if I could beam myself up (Scotty), that’s where I’d go.


Shanghai China


Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Viking River Cruises during her stay in Shanghai, but as always, the opinions, reviews and experiences are her own.



  1. My! I would love to experience that train – and that Bund view both at day and night is pretty impressive.

  2. I love your before/after day/night shots of Shanghai, and the overview at night of the city all lit up. Looks like you packed a lot in on your visit!

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      We sure did see a lot, but I would absolutely love to go back because there’s even more!

  3. Just goes to show you should always give a place a second change. I spent several weeks in Shanghai about 20 years ago and I never saw the sun shine… I can’t remember the season but it was obviously the wrong one. Because it rained or was foggy (and HUGE) I didn’t visit as much as I should have and now I can see I missed plenty! So maybe it’s time for a second visit…

  4. Shanghai is on our bucket list. We have always been a bit put off by the sheer size of the city. I am amazed that it is only the third largest city in the world. Where on earth are numbers 1 and 2?
    Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields recently posted…13 tips to make flying easier – or how to survive a long haul flight without going nuts!My Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      It is pretty big, but it actually feels very cozy and do-able. Especially in comparison to an even larger city like Tokyo, which was very intimidating to me when I was there.

  5. We are going to Shanghai in June and very happy to read this post and give us some ideas on what to see and do
    Lyn @ A Hole in my Shoe recently posted…Fun facts about Perth and Western AustraliaMy Profile

  6. We are thinking about one of the Viking China cruises for next year. I am guessing you recommend it young lady?
    Mike Hinshaw recently posted…Mardi Gras at the Beach!My Profile

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I highly recommend Viking, Mike. They really know how to do it. You get a great deal of luxury and extras like excursions, but at an extremely affordable price. It’s the only way to see China, which is logistically a challenge to get from place to place.

  7. Are you serious with that skyline!!!!! incredible! I can’t wait to go to Shanghai. The street food would be very interesting and would take a little bravery and a leap from my comfort zone. I wonder what the other side of the river looks like?
    oursweetadventures recently posted…Hiking Kotor’s Castle of San GiovanniMy Profile

  8. The Bund at night looks fabulous! I am a big fun of skylines and this one is one of the best ones! I bet street food was amazing! You cant go wrong with Chinese food in China :) But I love your little story about french fries haha So in what country did you found the best ones?

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I’d go back to the Bund any day! Shanghai is fabulous, and Viking really does it right. BTW, the best French Fries are definitely in the US!

  9. Love this! I’m so glad that you were able to make it to see the lights in time! Of course, one of my biggest draws to visiting Shanghai is the food! What was your favorite new find? Did you try anything “weird?”
    Rachelle recently posted…Yellowstone Opening Weekend: Old Faithful and BeyondMy Profile

  10. Daniela || Ipanema travels to says:

    I have never been to China… So much hope one day I will be able to visit this country.

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      There’s so much history and culture and fabulous places to visit. I hope you get there. Do consider Viking River Cruises.

  11. Shanghai looks fun to wander around. I like the high speed train. That sounds fun to ride.
    Wanderlust Vegans recently posted…We Received the Sunshine Blogger Award!My Profile

  12. There are many reasons to visit Shanghai The bund during the day and night seems like a highlight of the trip. How interesting the different architecture from opposite sides of the river. The acrobat show would be at the top of my list as well for activities. Thanks for sharing.

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      I was so fascinated at the acrobat show that I forgot to take pictures for part of it! Love, love, love the Bund!

  13. Beautiful photos. I’ve never thought about visiting Shanghai, but you certainly make a case for it. Thanks for sharing. Seems like a place to check out at least once.

  14. Even if Shanghai has never been on top of my list, I would love to visit it one day, I’ve gotten curious about it :)

  15. The Bund is definitely bucket list worthy, I have visited the Terracotta soldiers and the Great Wall, but the Bund is definitely up there with them! It was worth running for from the hotel to catch the light show at 10 pm. When I see the Bund, it reminds me of the Bond film, Skyfall, in which it features heavily, I think there was a Tom Cruise film filmed there recently too.

    • luggageandlipstick says:

      Lol, there was no way I was going to miss the Bund at night! We were quite a site, sprinting through the city! I’ll have to check out those movies again just to see the Bund!


  1. […] [9] Yuyuan Gardens is an extensive Chinese garden in the northeast of the Old City of Shanghai. [18] She still remembers the day she left her family to take the long-distance bus to the nearest city […]

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