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Asia > China > Shanghai > Useful Info
Updated on Jan 07, 2019 Useful Info

Overview of Shanghai's most interesting neighborhoods for first-time visitors

Shanghai is an immense city with many different neighborhoods. It's impossible to see them all without spending 2-3 weeks there.

But the most iconic ones are only a handful; some are iconic for historical reasons, others are for architectural reasons, and still others are known for commercial activities.

Here's a map overview of all the most interesting neighborhoods in Shanghai (click on the red area for most details):



Here's more details on each of these neighborhoods, ranked by the order I think first-time visitors to Shanghai to check them out:


  • The Bund (外滩)
  • This was THE poshest place in Shanghai back in the early 1900s and still is the most iconic part of Shanghai. It's a waterfront promenade lined with grand neoclassical, baroque, and art-deco style buildings built by European companies as their Asian head offices back when Shanghai was an international city
  • The buildings are all well maintained and the waterfront has been converted to a walkable park
  • Just across the river, you get an unobstructed view of the futuristic skylines of the Lujiazui financial distrcit
  • It's the number 1 tourist draw in Shanghai. You can get the most iconic photos of Shanghai here
  • There are lots of hotels, bars, and restaurants in the buildings along the waterfront. They are all very expensive but the view is worth it
  • Main things to see/do here: colonial buildings, futuristic skylines, Instagram photos
  • How long to spend here: 2-4 hours

User submitted photo of Shanghai

User submitted photo of Shanghai


  • Huangpu Area (黄浦区)
  • Just west of the Bund, this large area was the commercial center of Shanghai in the 1900s. It still is very much central Shanghai today but the city has grown beyond it
  • The old buildings are largely well-kept here, so walking around the neighborhood you can get a sense of what a typical middle-class Shanghai urbanite would've experienced 100 years ago
  • Because it's still very much a commercial center, there are a lot of nice hotels, shops, malls and restaurants around here you can check out
  • This area is most known today for Nanjing East Road Pedestrian Street, which I believe is the first pedestrian street in China. The street is rather touristy and I don't recommend actually buying anything on it, but it's very cool to walk on it and immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle
  • Main things to see/do here: walk around, Nanjing East Road Pedestrian Street, People's Square, 50 Moganshan Road Art District, Suzhou Creek
  • How long to spend here: 1/2-1 day

User submitted photo of Shanghai

User submitted photo of Shanghai

User submitted photo of Shanghai


Former French Concession (法租界)

  • As its name suggests, this massive area used to be administered by France during Shanghai's colonial era, who left its mark here with quiet tree-line roads and beautiful mansions
  • Back in the day, the wealthiest residents of Shanghai built opulent mansions here to impress one another, and the high society of the city enjoyed each other's company and decided the city's fate in the smoke-filled rooms of private clubs here
  • Today, it still maintains its quiet charm. I love the narrow tree-lined roads here that makes you feel isolated from the noise from the rest of this giant city. Chic cafes, boutiques, and galleries abound in this area and there's no shortage of little things to discover everyday
  • In China, we consider this part of Shanghai to be very "Xiaozi", meaning bourgeoisie (or "boojee" as my American friend told me it's called these days). When I go to Shanghai this is my favorite place to stay in and work from. The cafes here are excellent
  • What to see/do here: slow down, drink coffee, discover cool shops, discover extravagant historic mansions, walk/bike around, food, Instagram photos. Specific interesting spots include: Fuxing Park (beautiful little park), former residence of Sun Yat-Sen (who founded modern China), Tianzifang (similar to vibe to Xintiandi), Hengshan Road (an elegant boulevard lined with massive mansions)
  • How long to spend here: 1-2 days

User submitted photo of Shanghai

User submitted photo of Shanghai


  • Lujiazui (陆家嘴)
  • Whereas Huangpu area is the heart of old Shanghai, Lujiazui can be considered the heart of the future Shanghai
  • This is the area that's probably on the second most number of postcards of Shanghai (right after the Bund). The area is packed with tall skyscrapers built after the 90s. Before that, this area was an empty field with some farms
  • Lujiazui is part of the larger Pudong area, which extends far east beyond just this neighborhood. Most of Pudong is very boring, just a endless sea of residential highrises, the airport, and Disneyland.
  • I should add that for travelers there's not too much to do in Lujiazui. Because it's so new, aside from tall skyscrapers and observation towers on top of these skyscrapers, there aren't too much to see. There is a giant mall here too but I don't know how many people go to Shanghai to check out its malls
  • But there are some very nice hotels in this area (Ritz Carlton, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Shangri La), so you might consider staying in this area
  • Main things to see/do here: walk along the waterfront to look at the Bund, observation decks on top of skyscrapers, shopping
  • How long to spend here: 2-3 hours

User submitted photo of Shanghai

User submitted photo of Shanghai


  • Yu Garden/City God Temple (豫园/城隍庙)
  • This is a big commercial complex of Chinese-style buildings
  • The original Yu Garden was built almost 500 years ago, and in the imperial times it served as an examination location. The nearby City God Temple has also been here for just as long, and it's dedicated to the protector of the city
  • These days, this area has thousands of small shops selling anything you can imagine. It's also a fantastic place to try some local foods
  • The buildings here are mostly newly built in the style of old Chinese buildings
  • It can get very crowded
  • What to see/do here: souvenir shopping, food
  • How long to spend here: 2-4 hours

User submitted photo of Shanghai

User submitted photo of Shanghai


Huaihai Middle Road & Xintiandi (淮海中路&新天地)

  • A posh area with too many upscale malls, hotels, boutiques, bars, and restaurants, this area is very central and can be considered to be another downtown of Shanghai
  • Historically it wasn't really considered an interesting neighborhood (just a typical residential area), but in the last 20 years it really came into its own being with the gentrification of Huaihai Middle Road and the development of Xintiandi
  • I actually quite like walking on Huaihai Middle Road as it's lined with trees and flanked by luxury shops. Great place to people watch and see some ostentatious display of wealth
  • Xintiandi, on the other hand, is where newly-minted middle class and upper middle class like to hang out. It's a large complex/neighborhood of refurbished traditional brick townhouses that now house many western-style bars and restaurants, mostly run by expats. You'll see quite a number of foreign tourists and expats hanging out here too. At night it becomes very lively with music and drinks
  • It's a great area to stay in. A very big selection of trendy, not just luxury, hotels. Westin has been here for many years; one of my favorite new ones is Andaz, the Boutique brand owned by Hyatt. It's extremely central and convenient to get around by subway
  • What to see/do here: people watch, shopping, western bars and restaurants
  • How long to spend here: 2-4 hours in the day, 2-4 hours at night (in Xintiandi)

User submitted photo of Shanghai

User submitted photo of Shanghai


  • Jing'an Area (静安区)
  • This is a big mixed residential and commercial area. It's one of the most coveted neighborhoods for Shanghainese to live in because of its central location, availability of all kinds of restaurants, cafes, shops, and malls, and green space
  • For travelers, this area is also interesting because it has a large collection of Shikumen (a very uniquely Shanghai old brick townhouses) that are still lived in, lots of historical sites, and there are so many malls here that have all kinds of great foods from all over China
  • What to see/do here: go wild and try all kinds of food at the restaurants in the malls here, world's biggest Starbucks (it's like a wonderland of all things Starbucks), cafes, walk around and people watch, relax in a park, Jing'an Temple, Shanghai Exhibition Center (a vast Soviet-style complex), former residence of Mao Zedong, acrobatics show
  • How long to spend here: 1/2-1 day

User submitted photo of Shanghai

User submitted photo of Shanghai