Shanghai, China’s largest city, offers many exciting sightseeing opportunities for those unconcerned with having to deal with large crowds. Visit to Shanghai include a number of world-class museums and art galleries such as the Shanghai Museum and the China Art Museum, numerous lovely gardens and parks, and many fine old temples and traditional pagodas.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Shanghai is from October to November. This short autumn season boasts comfortable temperatures and lacks the crowds and rain showers of summer – the peak tourism season.
Top Places to Visit in Shanghai
1. Yu Garden
To the northeast of the old town and laid out in 1559, the splendid Yu Garden (Yù Yuán), also known as the Garden of Happiness, covers an area of more than 20,000 square meters and consists of an outer and an inner garden. The oldest section is the Outer Garden with further changes being made in the 18th century when Sansui Tang, the park’s main hall, was added (the building is notable for its lovely roof ornaments, figurative representations in bas-reliefs, and window openings, as well as its dragon-adorned walls). The best-known building is the Hall of Spring where the Company of the Little Swords (Xiaodao Hui) had its headquarters between 1853 and 1855 when it ruled Shanghai. Of great historical importance are the artificial rocks in this part of the garden, the only work of the master garden designer Zhang Nanyang that has been preserved.
2. The Jade Buddha Temple
In the Anyuan Lu district of Shanghai, the beautiful Jade Buddha Temple houses two Shakyamuni statues, which the monk Huigen brought with him from Burma. The present building, erected in 1928 to replace the original temple built in 1882, is divided into three halls and two courtyards and includes the splendid Hall of the Kings of Heaven (Tian Wang Dian), notable for its statues of the four heavenly kings and two Shakyamuni sculptures. Carved from white jade, one of these impressive statues stands nearly two meters high in the Wentang Main hall, where a collection of Buddhist manuscripts is also kept (the smaller statue is in the west courtyard). Also of interest is the charming Hall of the Great Hero (Daxiong Baodian) with its Buddhas of the Three Ages, along with 18 Luohan figures.
3. Longhua Temple and Pagoda
In a pleasant park in the southwest area of Shanghai, the splendid Longhua Temple remains one of the oldest religious sites in China. Built along with the nearby 40-meter-tall wood and brick pagoda around 242 AD, this important place of worship was destroyed and rebuilt many times through the centuries, with the present structure dating back to the 10th century. The site is still used for regular Buddhist ceremonies and consists of five large halls. Other highlights include the Bell Tower with an even older, two-meter-tall, five-ton bell from 1382 that is still used on special occasions; the Library with its old manuscripts and ceremonial instruments; and the impressive sight of some 500 gold-painted Luohan Buddhas.
4. The Shanghai Museum
Founded in 1952, the Shanghai Museum remains China’s most important museum of classical Chinese art. In a modern building that’s something of a work of art itself – its unique round top and square base encompasses traditional Chinese concepts of the earth – the museum’s four floors include impressive displays of bronzes and ceramics from prehistoric cultures to the 19th Century, ink drawings, calligraphy and seals, as well as large collections of art from ethnic minorities. It’s also home to large collections of jade, coins and furnishings from the Ming and Qing periods (1368-1912). Also worth a visit is the excellent Shanghai Natural History Museum, one of the largest museums of natural sciences in China.
5. Nanjing Road
Nanjing Road is the Shanghai’s principal shopping street, was constructed in the second half of the 19th century and runs from the Zhongshan Lu for several miles towards the west. Along this largely pedestrian-friendly street, you’ll find every conceivable type of consumer good from street vendors selling Chinese-themed souvenirs, to expensive boutiques selling traditional arts and crafts, as well as a number of large shopping malls and department stores such as the iconic Yibai and Jiubai. It’s also a busy entertainment district, home to many restaurants and cinemas, as well as a hub for street performances (it’s especially fun to visit during major holidays such as Chinese New Year when the street becomes a focal point for festivities and fireworks).