From tree-lined streets lined with European homes, to traditional multi-family “shikumen” dwellings, to rows of sleek high-rises along the Bund, Shanghai’s got it all—and more. Soar above the streets from the top of one of the world’s highest buildings, or delve into divine goodies at street level. There’s something for everyone wondering where the best places to stay in Shanghai are in this city of contrasts. Once you’re ready, browse the city’s top hotels.
If your vacation isn’t complete without a dozen shopping bags swinging from your hands, Xujiahui, with its gleaming malls and plentiful hotels, is your best bet for where to spend your time in Shanghai. Hop off the metro at Xujiahui Station and get ready to swipe that credit card, particularly if you’re in the market for the latest electronics. The historic commerce district is also home to one of the prettiest legacies of the city’s French Catholic influence—the neo-Gothic St. Ignatius Cathedral.
Marvel at modern China when you stay at or visit the Bund, a waterfront promenade along the Huang Pu River. Building heights are restricted to maintain the stunning landscape views, so take those Instagram-perfect photos because you know you’re getting the best angles. You’ll see all kinds of buildings here, from Romanesque to Gothic, Baroque and neoclassical. When you’re done sightseeing, prepare for a long and leisurely argument with your travel companions about the best spot to grab a bite; you’ll be spoiled for choice with the restaurants and cafes that abound here.
The historical center of Shanghai and a haven of green spaces, the Old City is within the traditional fortified city limits. Step back in time as you wander through Yuyuan Garden, one of Shanghai’s largest classical gardens, where you can take in the splendor of the pagodas, pools and pavilions. Settle down in a tiny noodle house for a bowl of something yummy, or head down a bustling alleyway to bargain for antique jewelry.
If you’re wondering where to stay in Shanghai—and if budget is not a limiting factor—head to the car-free environs of Xintiandi, China’s most expensive neighborhood. The site of the first Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, this area is today dense with some of the city’s most upscale shopping, eating and entertainment hot spots, arranged inside traditional “shikumen,” multi-family homes of bygone days.
To rub shoulders with the young, hip and smart crowd, head over to Wujiaochang, which is essentially Shanghai’s college town. Located in the upper northeast of the city, Wujiaochang is home to several of Shanghai’s universities. You can enjoy sinking into a young, vibrant vibe surrounded by the students of Shanghai’s many universities.
With the gorgeous Museum of Contemporary Art and Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center here, the 30-acre People’s Park is an oasis of ponds, trees and green space smack in the middle of the city. It’s one of the best things to see in Shanghai, not just for the beauty, but to see unique traditions close up. This is the site of the famous marriage markets, where parents gather from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays to give out information about the adult children they are trying to marry off.
With its leafy, tree-lined streets and discreet mansions, you’d be forgiven for assuming you’d somehow teleported to a Paris arrondissement. The French Concession, or French Quarter, was controlled by France from 1849 to 1943 and still maintains much of its distinctive Gallic flair. It’s one of the best places to stay in Shanghai, and you can while away hours here people watching from a sidewalk café.
The 5,000-year-old water town of Zhujiajiao is a must-see when you’re visiting Shanghai. This town in the Qingpu district is a portal into an ancient way of life. The best way to get around here is by boat, so hail one to meander through the canals and admire historic wonders such as the Fangshang Bridge and Yuanjin temple.
From the latest in sleek design to millennia-old traditions, Shanghai is a glittering example of how the modern and ancient can co-exist. Book your trip to Shanghai, and whether you stay in a hundred-year-old home or a boutique hotel, prepare to be awed by this city.