The city of Shanghai is the perfect place to learn more about Chinese culture. With 26 million inhabitants, immense skyscrapers, and historic buildings like the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai attracts plenty of tourists wanting to wander its streets in search of its delicacies.

To prepare for a trip to the city, you should do your research on where exactly to visit. While autumn is the best time to visit Shanghai, it’s a little trickier to say which is the best area or district to stay in when you’re there.

In this article, Superprof is looking at the different districts in Shanghai that you can visit, what’s in them, and why you should stay in each of them. With our advice, you’ll be able to enjoy plenty of great days in the city.

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Huangpu, the Busiest District

Huangpu is one of the world’s most densely populated districts with over 95,000 habitants per km²!

Which is the busiest district in Shanghai?
Shanghai is home to many densely-populated districts. (Source: SeanSheng)

Its name comes from the river that runs through Shanghai and it’s considered to be the main district of the city. There are plenty of touristy sites including the Bund, a boulevard symbolic of Shanghai where you can find most of the banks and plenty of beautiful buildings. It’s also home to the Shanghai Museum, a beautiful place to discover.

When in Huangpu, you’ll want to see the People’s Square with its active nightlife, street food vendors, and students hanging out as well as Suzhou Creek, the artistic neighbourhood, or Xintiandi, the commercial area with plenty of restaurants to enjoy.

There’s also the City God Temple of Shanghai, the heart of Shanghai’s Old Town and then there’s the Yu Garden, another beautiful site to visit.

Find out more about the best time to visit Shanghai.

Shanghai’s Business District: Pudong

Pudong is one of Shanghai’s newer districts but it’s also one of its biggest. This is where Shanghai International Airport is and there are tonnes of huge buildings still being built. There is also a largely residential area with plenty of schools.

Which is the best neighbourhood in Shanghai for tourists?
Shanghai is home to the traditional and the modern. (Source: wangchaoach)

Here are some of the things you can see and do in Pudong:

  • Jin Mao Tower
  • Oriental Pearl TV Tower
  • World Financial Center
  • Shanghai Tower
  • Century Park
  • Shanghai Ocean Aquarium
  • Shanghai Wild Animal Park
  • Large shopping centres

With museums, parks, shopping, and walks by the river, Pudong is full of things to do and you shouldn’t miss it!

Xuhui, Shanghai’s Historic Centre

With over 1 million inhabitants, the Xuhui district is a very popular part of Shanghai, especially with expats. It’s representative of modern Chinese life. The heart of this area is Xujiahui, an area of commerce that could pose a dangerous risk to your wallet.

The Xuhui is also home to the French District, the FFC, the Former French Concession in the megalopolis. This is a nice little neighbourhood to visit with some of the city’s best bars and restaurants. This is a popular place for expats moving to the People's Republic of China.

Jing’an, the Rich and Touristy District

Jing’an is one of the districts in the centre of Shanghai and it’s divided between Chinese culture and international inspirations. It’s very international in terms of its architecture and you can find plenty of bars and restaurants full of westerners here.

What is there to do in Shanghai?
There's something for everyone in Shanghai! (Source: klausdie)

Jing’an means tranquillity, which you’ll see if you visit the district or live there. The district is also home to a huge temple which gave the area its name. It’s a Buddhist temple and it’s very popular with tourists, much like the shopping centre which breaks the area’s traditional vibe. Jing’an is the perfect area to enjoy the traditional and the modern all at once.

The Minhang District, Near the Centre

Between factories and residential areas, Minhang probably won’t be the first place you think of visiting. However, this is a great area to relax with all its parks, galleries, and the old town of Qibao. The area is also home to the Jiao Tong University and the East China Normal University.

Minhang could be a good place for tourists to stay as they spend an afternoon in Qibao Old Street. There are also plenty of places to shop and get souvenirs to take back home with you.

Yangpu: The University District

Yangpu is one of the districts in Shanghai city centre and is home to two of China’s biggest universities: Fudan University and Tongji University. There’s also a museum of Chinese martial arts. However, Yangpu isn’t just a student district. It’s also home to shopping, particularly in the Wujiaochang neighbourhood and its shopping centres, restaurants, and cinemas. You can also relax in Gongqing Forest Park, a perfect place for a picnic.

Find out more about budgeting for a trip to Shanghai.

Hongkou, Shanghai’s Little Tokyo

Hongkou is a popular and traditional district with a lot of unusual historical heritage. It’s also a great place to eat traditional Chinese food on a budget. Here are some of the things you can see and do in Hongkou:

  • Lu Xun Park and Museum
  • Duolun Lu Culture Street
  • Abattoir 1933 (shopping centre)
  • Tilanqiao, a historic area
  • Magda Danysz Gallery
  • Waibaidu Bridge
  • Art deco architecture
  • Cheap local restaurants

The area is still safe from property developers but this probably won’t last so make the most of your time in Shanghai and visit this area.

Changning: The Lively District in the Centre of the City

To the west of Shanghai, there’s the Changning district, a very lively part of the city that’s adapted to tourists. It would take too long to list everything you can do in Changning, but we should mention Red Town, Happiness Alley, and Shanghai Zoo.

In the Gubei residential district, also known as Little Tokyo or K-Town, you’ll find a Japanese and Korean ambience with good restaurants and an energetic nightlife. You can also visit Zhongshan Park, one of the most beautiful in the city.

You mustn't miss Changning. Make sure you give your self at least an afternoon, ideally a full day, to see it!

Find out more about finding accommodation in Shanghai.

Other Interesting Areas: Putuo, Fengxian, Chongming, Songjiang, and Jinshan

You can get to every neighbourhood in Shanghai by metro including Songjiang, Jinshan, Fengxian, places that blend modernity and tradition. Don’t hesitate to dive into these three districts!

Shanghai is also home to the Putuo district whose name comes from the main road running through it which is home to the Zhenru Temple, the Jade Buddha Temple, and Changfeng Park. It’s also home to a university campus.

Finally, Chongming is the biggest district in Shanghai but also the least developed. It consists of three islands: Chongming, Changxing, and Hengsha, which are accessible by ferry and tunnels. It’s the perfect place for seeing a different side of Shanghai.

Jiading and Baoshan: Industry, Activity, and Tourism

Baoshan and Jiading are industrial areas that we recommend you visit when you’re in Shanghai. Baoshan is home to the freight port, a relaxing place, while Jiading is very industrial and touristy with Jiading old town and the Shanghai International Circuit which hosts F1 Grands Prix.

What is there to do outside of Shanghai?
While the city is wonderful, you can also take a step back from it. (Source: Hobbyfoto)

You can also find Shanghai University, a museum dedicated to the Second World War, and Wisdom Bay Industrial Park. In Jiading, you can see the 800-year-old Confucius Temple and the Jiading Bamboo Carving Museum. All of these attractions and sites are accessible via metro.

Now that you know where to go when you're in Shanghai, you might want to broaden your sights to other cities like Nanjing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing, the capital city. When you travel, keep this in mind:

”There is no man more complete than the one who travelled a lot, who changed the shape of his thoughts and his life twenty times.” - Alphonse de Lamartine

Superprof can also help! We’ve got plenty of other articles on Shanghai and China. You could also get help with your Chinese from a private tutor on our site. There are three main options for Chinese private tutorials: group tutorials, face-to-face tutorials, and online tutorials.

Group tutorials are similar to traditional classes with multiple students and one teacher. If you and a group of friends all would like to learn Chinese, you could look for a private tutor offering group tutorials. Since there are several of you, you'll split the cost of the tutor's time, making the lessons cheaper per student per hour.

Face-to-face tutorials are bespoke lessons for just one student and tend to be more expensive per hour. However, they're also more cost-effective given the fact that the tutor can focus their attention entirely on you.

Finally, online tutorials are conducted over webcam with the tutor in a different place. You could even get a tutor living in China!

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