Top 5 Must-see Off the Beaten Track Spots in Shanghai

Grabbing a tourist brochure of hot spots when travelling in Shanghai, you will find household names and famous spots, like the Bund, Oriental Pearl Tower, Yuyuan Garden, West Nanjing Road, and more, where there is a mob of other tourists following a guy holding a flag. These are the landmarks in Shanghai. However, if you are looking for something more off the beaten track, for the cool and adventurous, take a look at our list below. These are Top-5 must-do activities or must see sites that aren’t part of your typical guided tours.


  1. Ancient water-town!

If scenes in “Mission Impossible 3” still ring a bell, I would recommend visiting an ancient water-town in the area surrounding Shanghai. There are far less people than the busy streets of Shanghai, but you get an idea of the Yangtze Delta’s history. One of our favorite water-towns is, Zhujiajiao. You will find typical water-town elements: numerous bridges; canals throughout the whole town; and stylish hostels or residence houses. There are plenty of small lanes filled with tasty home-made meals and snacks. If you are the talkative type or you want to practice your Mandarin Chinese, you can also talk to the friendly local sellers, as many grew up there, and would tell you a lot of the stories and history of Zhujiajiao. The town is peaceful and mellow, making it a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the big city.


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2.   Yongkang Bar Street

Ordering an expensive cocktail in one of those fancy, sophisticated bars or clubs near the Bund or Xintiandi will make you feel like a high-roller. But if you want to find another place can to add some spice to your night out, and you’re not on a baller’s budget, visit YongKang Road. Located in the Former French Concession, it is a hotspot for locals and the busy expatriate community. You will find reasonably priced restaurants and bars, where beers; burgers; fish & chips; and good conversation are in abundance. Quite a few of the bars and restaurants are owned by Western expatriates, making it one of the more authentic spots in the city for Western food, which is great if you’re getting tired of Chinese food on your trip.

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3.  Fabric Markets

Wandering around the streets of Shanghai and looking for a place to buy some clothes? Then you should go to one of the city’s fabric markets, where you can have clothes tailor-made. Whether you want designer’s knock-offs, a business suit, or even something of your own design, you can get it at the fabric market. There are multiple fabric markets in Shanghai, I would suggest checking out the fabric market on Lujiabang Road, near the Nanpu Bridge. It’s one of the main fabric markets in the city, if not the main one. The place is always packed with people, which can be overwhelming, but that is part of the experience. You will have ample opportunities to practice your negotiation skills with the purveyors in the market. Take in the energy of the market, as you browse and have a tour the inside.



4.  Marriage Market

Now that you are suited up, what’s next? How about a date? If you haven’t found ‘the one’ yet or you want to see something completely unique in Shanghai, check out the ‘Marriage Market’ in People’s Park. The‘Marriage Market’, also known as ‘Blind Date Corner’, is a place where you will find parents holding signs trying to find a spouse for their child. The signs contain general information including photos, age, education level, salaries, hobbies, career, and physical descriptions. We don’t want to ruin the experience by going into too much detail, as we suggest it is something best discovered in person. Who knows, your Mr. or Mrs.Right might be waiting for you.



5.   Street Food

Street food can be a polarizing aspect of travel, with some travelers lusting after delicious new flavors, while others are disgusted at the idea of it. With all of the food scares in China recently, it’s easy to be in the second category. But if you feel a bit adventurous, we will give you some of our favorite spots. We recommend people use their best judgment when it comes to eating street food, if you have a sensitive stomach or the food looks unclean, then try another vendor where you feel more comfortable. Here are some must-tryfood places:


2. Qibao Old Street

3. TongchuanRoad

4. HuangheRoad

5. Dingxi Road

These are night markets that run until midnight, so you can get something tasty in your stomach after long day of calorie-burning sightseeing around Shanghai.

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There you have our Top-5 must-do activities or must see sites that you won’t typically find on a guided tour. You should still see the staples, like the Bund and Jing’an Temple, but these 5 things will surely enrich your stay in Shanghai. It can give you a glimpse in the life of a Shanghai expat, a good history lesson, and local tastes.

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