A globalized metropolis in every sense of the word, Shanghai is an ideal destination for travelers seeking to gain an understanding of how China has been propelled to the top of the world’s economic food chain. As the city has morphed into the commercial base of the East, it has also proudly opened its arms to the global community, and invested in infrastructure that makes group travel a breeze. You can expect to find numerous 4-5* hotels that are accessible even to those with tight budgets; highly affordable coach and guide services; an extensive subway network that can be easily navigated by tourists; fairly orderly roads (uncommon in most other parts of China); simple train connections to Beijing and other major cities; and of course one of the world’s most-trafficked airports, which offers direct routes to multiple US hubs. Another plus- the language barrier is surprisingly easy to overcome, with English signage throughout the city, and a well-educated populace eager to practice the English they’ve been studying since grammar school.
When it comes to sightseeing, although Shanghai is known for stunning modern architecture, pockets of old-world charm and traditional culture can still be found if you know where to look. These contrasts can easily be explored in half or full day tours around the city. Be sure not to miss the following sights:
Shanghai Tower: A stunning addition to the city's already impressive skyline, the newly opened skyscraper is currently the second tallest building in the world and boasts the world's fastest elevator, which shoots you up to the 119th floor at ear-popping speeds of 42.8 m/hr. Do a tour to get the full story of the tower's construction, or head straight up to the observatory for 360 views of the metropolis below.
Old City: After experiencing modern shanghai at the tower, head to the Old City to explore the city's traditional roots in its walled-in historical district. Marvel at buildings from the Ming and Qing dynasties; get your shopping fix at stalls selling Chinese handicrafts; visit the 400 yr. old Yuyuan Gardens; participate in a tea ceremony; explore Chinese "drug stores," filled to the brim with medicinal herbs; and don't forget to sample the famous soup dumplings!
Xin Tian Di: Appreciate the European flare of the former French Concession and witness a different side of Shanghai’s history with a walking tour of this pedestrian area. Expect tree-lined streets, Shikumen architecture from the late 19th/early 20th century, cafes, galleries, and boutiques.
Outside of traditional tours, there are also many more interactive activities that should be considered during your stay in Shanghai, such as market visits; tai chi and calligraphy practice in a local park; cooking classes; and even home-hosted lunches. For groups with a business focus, there are a handful of big-name companies often willing to host site visits, including GM, Bao Steel, Volkswagen, and Coca Cola