Some might argue that Shanghai is overhyped, but the reality is that this international, cosmopolitan, multicultural metropolis is far superior to Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, or any other place in China you can think of. The city is better than the rest not only because of its glitz and glamour; the combination of modern, high-end facilities with historical buildings and down-to-earth amenities makes Shanghai unique and constantly exciting. Below, we list out 10 reasons (and believe us, there are more) for why Shanghai is in a league of its own.
1. Skyscraper Capital
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Lujiazui is an emblematic statement of the city’s industrial and economic status in the country. The financial district is home to man-made marvels: futuristic glass-windowed skyscrapers. One of the more recent and attention-grabbing additions to the district is the Shanghai Tower, which holds the title of world’s second-highest building at 632 meters. Basically, if Shanghai was a basketball player, it’d be Yao Ming. (Fun fact: Yao was born in Shanghai.)
2. Dominating Disney
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Shanghai is home to the only Disney Resort on the Chinese mainland – and it is much newer and more exciting than the park in Hong Kong. Located in the suburbs of Pudong, the renowned theme park stretches across 3.9 square kilometers, with an assortment of rides and attractions that can take more than a day to fully explore. It is also still expanding, as its eighth themed land, City of Zootopia, is currently under construction. Sorry South China folk, if you want to visit Mickey Mouse and the gang while the borders are closed off, you’ll need to take a trip up here.
3. Epic Huangpu Views
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Aside from a bird-eye view from the 121st floor of Shanghai Tower, the most iconic view of the city is arguably seen at the Huangpu River. The 113-kilometer long river flows north through of Shanghai and divides the city into two – historical Puxi and modern Pudong. While tourists usually crowd on Puxi side and take in the colofully illuminated skyline of Lujiazui, locals often enjoy a stroll along the quieter Binjiang Jie on the Pudong side, appreciating the breeze and the buildings along the Bund.
4. Never-ending Nightlife
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New York is not the only city that never sleeps: Shanghai provides a nightlife scene to match. Shanghai is where anything and everything is possible – ranging from chic bars, luxurious rooftops, hidden clubs and epic jazz performances. While Guangzhou has to name its party location (seriously, it’s called Party Pier), it doesn’t matter where you are in Shanghai, you’re bound to find a great place to let loose. By the end of the night, you can pop by the convenience store down the street for one last brew and banter with that random group of strangers doing the same thing. Otherwise, go indulge in some midnight yexiao (夜宵), while other spots like Hotpot-favorite Haidilao and Cantonese Bifengtang are also friendly zones for late-night feasting.
5. Hangin’ in Tianzifang
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Shanghai is not just a city filled with futuristic glamour. Areas such as the former French Concession still show the remnants of traditional Shanghai. Tianzifang is an alleyway, presently comprised of diminutive boutiques, cafes, design studios, art galleries and trendy restaurants. The distinctive scenes and unique architecture best demonstrate the city’s historical events, reflecting the fusion of Chinese and European styles. Spend a few hours getting lost in this maze of authentic features and creative expressions, many of which make for very Instagram-worthy pictures.
6. Art Museum Galore
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Another possibly underrated highlight of the ’Hai is the bevy of sprawling world-class art museums and galleries. These previous concrete industrial sites have been transformed into edgy rustic museums such as the West Bund Museum, Yuz Museum and Long Museum, which exhibit a mix of contemporary works and classical antiquities.
7. Shop Til You Drop
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Over the years, Shanghai has become the forerunner in novel styles and fashion trends. Nanjing Lu is a 2.3-kilometer-long pedestrian road in the heart of Puxi, lined with branded shops of clothing, electronics, boutiques and restaurants. The road is populated with millions of visitors everyday, as they weave through the crowd overloaded with shopping bags. Nanjing Lu is a place of exude elegance and style, and is certainly a must-visit attraction for shopaholics.
8. To the Water Village We Go
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In need of a getaway from the city? Aren’t we all... Shanghai’s Zhujiajiao water town makes a perfect, peaceful day trip and is located just an hour away by car. Nicknamed the Venice of Shanghai, Zhujiajiao is built on a network of canals. With traditional architecture and beautifully maintained bridges, it is the tranquil escape from the Shanghai hustle and bustle you need. If you have time, you can also hit up Xitang Ancient Town, another local water village where Mission Impossible 3 was filmed!
9. Maglev Madness
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If Shanghai’s super metropolis has not caught your attention, then maybe its maglev train will. Running between Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Longyang Road Metro Station, a journey that would otherwise take close to an hour only takes 8 minutes – sure beats crowded metro rides leaving Guangzhou’s Baiyun Airport and Shenzhen’s Bao’an Airport (and we're not even going to start on Beijing traffic). The train is coined ‘maglev’ for its inventive ‘magnetive levitation’ concept. This means that the train is suspended and propelled by magnets, eliminating any forms of friction to achieve faster speeds. It is practically floating! So keep an eye out for when the speedometer hits its top speed of 431 kilometers per hour.
10. Feasts For Days
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Xiaolongbao is good, but it alone can never sum up the long list of quintessential Shanghainese dishes – shengjianbao (生煎包), red-braised pork (紅燒肉), pork chop with rice cake (排骨年糕)... these are just a few of the local dishes that you can have at very reasonable prices. Every person in Shanghai will have a restaurant in mind that serves the most authentic Shanghainese cuisine, but places like Xian De Lai (鮮得來), Yang’s Fried Dumpling (小楊生煎) and Da Hu Chun (大壺春) are some of the more well-known chains that are worth trying.
READ MORE: 10 Reasons Guangzhou is Better than Shanghai
[Cover image via Pixabay]