Things to Do in Eastern China
One of the tallest buildings in the world, the Shanghai Tower (Shanghai Zhongxin Dasha) has a twisting silhouette that dominates the skyline. Standing 137 stories and 2,073 feet (632 meters) high, the building features some of the world’s fastest elevators, which race to a viewing platform 1,841 feet (561 meters) above the city. On a clear day, the views are spectacular.
The Bund (Waitan) refers to Shanghai’s iconic waterfront strip, which runs for 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) along the west shore of the Huangpu River. Renowned for its extensive collection of colonial-era buildings, there’s also pedestrian-friendly promenade perfect for strolling, which offers stunning views of both the Bund and Pudong.
Dating from the Ming Dynasty, Yuyuan Garden—or simply, Yu Garden—in the middle of the Old Town (Nanshi) Shanghai, is one of China’s best-preserved classical gardens. Covering an area of 5 acres (2 hectares), Yuyuan Garden is known for its beautiful scenery, elegant layout, and delightful pavilions, pagodas, pools, bridges, and rockeries.
One of Shanghai’s most charming areas, the former French Concession is known for its tree-lined streets and interesting mix of Chinese and Western architectural styles. Popular with locals, expats, and visitors, the area is home to a number of top attractions, as well as hip cafés, restaurants, bars, clubs, boutiques, galleries, and museums.
Once the tallest building in Shanghai, the Oriental Pearl Tower (Dongfang Mingzhu Ta) remains one of the most recognizable skyscrapers in Pudong, part of the skyline visible from The Bund. The sci-fi-esque 1,535-foot (468-meter) tower houses observation platforms, a glass-bottomed walkway, rotating restaurant, as well as the Shanghai History Museum in its basement.
Also known as the “Venice of Shanghai,” Zhujiajiao is the best preserved of the four ancient water towns in the Shanghai area. With a history dating back over 1,700 years, Zhujiajiao is full of lovely canals and waterways, small alleys, picturesque bridges, and ancient buildings, many from the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Nanshi is the collection of narrow streets and alleys once enclosed within the walls of old Shanghai. During the city’s period of foreign concessions, it was the main Chinese district, rarely entered by foreigners. Today, the neighborhood captures the essence of old China, complete with several temples, food vendors, and a crowded bazaar.
Nicknamed the “Bottle Opener” due to its distinctive shape, the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) is the second tallest building in Shanghai, reaching a dizzying 1,614 feet (492 meters). Its three observatories—in particular, the glass-bottomed observatory on the 100th floor—are the main draw of the building, located in the Lujiazui area of Pudong. There’s also a hotel and a mall.
West Lake (Xi Hu) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a top attraction in the heart of old Hangzhou. With mountains on three sides and plenty of charming gardens, bridges, pagodas, temples, and islands, it’s easy to see why this scenic man-made lake has inspired so many poets and painters through the ages.
Jade Buddha Temple (Yufo Si) is a working Buddhist monastery—one of the few in China. The star attractions of the Jade Buddha Temple are two figures brought to Shanghai from Singapore by a monk from Burma in the 19th century: a 6.5-foot (2-meter) seated jade Buddha encrusted with semiprecious stones and a smaller white jade reclining Buddha.
More Things to Do in Eastern China
Located in Anhui, Mt. Huangshan (aka Yellow Mountain) is considered one of China’s most beautiful mountains and is renowned for its four wonders: a sea of clouds, jagged granite peaks, odd-shaped pine trees, and hot springs. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the mountain is also one of the most visited scenic areas in the country.
The Tsingtao Beer Museum commemorates some 100 years of German brewing history and heritage in China. Wander the halls of the two-story structure and learn about the traditions developed and perfected here, and sample cold and crisp beer right from the production line of one of China’s oldest working breweries.
Lingyin Temple is one of the oldest and most famous Buddhist temples in China and a top attraction in Hangzhou. Situated at the foot of Lingyin Mountain and surrounded by forest, Lingyin Temple is known for its tranquil setting, spiritual atmosphere, and numerous pagodas, grottoes, and Buddhist relics.
A vibrant mix of old and new, Xin Tian Di is a fashionable and upscale area full of modern and trendy shops, galleries, cafes, restaurants, bars, and clubs, many housed within traditional Shikumen buildings that have been restored. It’s a place to see and be seen, and a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
The massive People’s Square (Renmin Guangchang) is in the heart of Shanghai. Surrounded by the city’s municipal government headquarters, a park, and several top museums, the major landmark makes for a popular meeting spot, as well as being at the center of politics, culture, transportation, and tourism in Shanghai.
Experience the magic at Shanghai Disneyland, the first Disney park in Mainland China. Enjoy thrilling rides, shows, and attractions; shop and dine; and pose with your favorite characters in six different themed areas: Mickey Avenue, Gardens of Imagination, Fantasyland, Adventure Isle, Treasure Cove, and Tomorrowland.
Topped by the wonky, 1,000-year-old Cloud Rock Leaning Pagoda, China’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Suzhou’s Tiger Hill is an artificial burial mound that likely conceals the remains of the city’s founder, King Helü. Gardens, pools, bonsai, bamboo forests, and tea houses make the hill a charming place to linger.
Shanghai’s premier shopping street, Nanjing Road (Nanjing Lu) features businesses ranging from small shops and stalls to massive department stores and malls. It’s the world’s longest shopping district, stretching 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) from the Bund to Jing’an Temple, and attracts over a million visitors a day.
Considered one of the finest museums in China, the Shanghai Museum has a vast collection of Chinese artifacts from the Neolithic period onward. The museum’s 11 state-of-the-art galleries display ancient bronze, jade, and ceramics; painting, calligraphy, and ancient sculptures; and Ming and Qing dynasty furniture.
Pudong, which lies east of the Huangpu River, is Shanghai’s modern business and financial center. Formerly an agricultural area, Pudong is now home to an international airport, the biggest park in Shanghai, luxury shopping, a lively culinary scene, and the tallest and most distinctive skyscrapers in the city.
Stretching for over 71 miles (113 kilometers) and with an average width of 1,312 feet (400 meters), the Huangpu River flows through the middle of Shanghai and divides the city into two parts. Puxi, to the west, is the city’s historical, cultural, and entertainment center, while Pudong, to the east, is Shanghai’s business and financial center.
This picturesque village southeast of Suzhou is one of several ancient water towns dotting the Yangtze River Delta. More than a dozen rivers and waterways divide this Song Dynasty town into multiple islets, connected by 49 stone bridges. This Venice of the Orient is also known for its gardens, including the UNESCO-listed Tuisi Garden.
Spanning around 13 acres (five hectares, the Humble Administrator’s Garden (Zhuo Zheng Yuan is the largest and best known of Suzhou’s nine UNESCO World Heritage–listed gardens. First built in 1509 for an official named Wang Xianchen, it’s one of China’s finest classical gardens, with bridges, pavilions, rock gardens, and reflecting pools.
Qingdao’s first pier, Zhanqiao Pier, is a landmark of the city. Built in 1891, the 1,444-foot (440-meter pier stretches into Qingdao Bay. At the end of the pier stands the octagonal Huilan Pavilion, which famously forms a part of the Tsingtao beer logo. One of the most popular attractions in Qingdao, Zhanqiao Pier also offers stellar sea views.