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A Long Weekend With Children in Shanghai

19 September 2014

Whether you’ve just touched down in Shanghai for your “look-see” visit, or your relocation to the city is now a reality, keeping the children amused in Shanghai will be a main priority.
Of course, there’s the hotel or your new compound’s swimming pool and in- and outdoor play areas, but there are plenty of exciting places to visit in Shanghai that will captivate any child’s imagination.

We’ve taken a look at what’s on offer, and come up with our favourite four days of activities to suit all families; whether it’s action, history, culture or food you’re after. We set a fairly brisk pace, so you might find that you cover the ground a little slower than us, but our list will certainly give you plenty of options to keep the kids occupied while getting to know Shanghai better. So let’s get going!

Day 1 – A Birdseye… or Fisheye… View - Lujiazui

Whether by taxi or metro, Lujiazui is easily accessible from just about anywhere in the city. Take Line 2 on the Metro to the Lujiazui stop and emerge from underground into the shiny new heart of Shanghai. Twenty years ago this western side of the river was not much more than swampy farmland, but today, it’s one of the most recongisable financial centres in the world. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had for kids.  Try:

  • Take the lift to the observation decks of the futuristic Oriental Pearl tower (Dongfang Mingzhu). Rising 1,500 feet (457metres) into the sky, Shanghai’s iconic TV tower provides a jaw-dropping 360 degree view of the city as well as an insight into the city’s history in the ground-level museum with its scene reenactments from Shanghai’s past. A glass-floored observatory at 259m is sure to impress.
  • From up high to under the sea, right next door to the Oriental Pearl is the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, a slick and modern aquarium that houses 450 species of aquatic animals and boasts Around the World exhibits that take you from the Yangtze River in China to an Australian billabong and beyond. It's great place to while away a few hours on a hot day.
  • Eating options abound in Lujiazui, but for a good pit-stop refuel, and a bit of child-friendly retail therapy, you might want to head over to Super Brand Mall, crossing the huge roundabout intersection using the very space-aged overhead walkway. The walkway is also a great place to capture your own iconic family portrait with the Oriental Pearl or one of the newer skyscrapers in the background.  Super Brand Mall certainly lives up to its name but, for children, the highlight is definitely a stroll through Toys R Us and some game time at Tom’s Place, a chain amusement parlour. If you’re looking for real down time, the IMAX theatre might be the go. Find out about Super Brand Mall at
  • If your tribe is more interested in science than shopping, take some time to visit Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Museum with its vast array of creepy crawlies to keep your budding entomologist enthralled for hours.

Day 2 – Park Life, Science and the Art of Shopping for Fakes – Century Park and Pudong

As a visitor or newcomer to Shanghai, it can be hard to believe that the Pudong side of the river was virtually undeveloped less than two decades ago. And there’s good reason for the disbelief, with the eastern side of the Huangpu River boasting some of the city’s most substantial attractions. The area around vast Century Park will provide your family with more than enough outdoor and indoor activities, as well as one of the most amazing shopping experiences in the world. Try:

  • First stop Century Park, a whole day trip in itself. This vast park is conveniently located on Metro lines 1 and 7, and right across the road from Kerry Parkside, one of the city’s newest and best shopping malls. The park itself is 5km in circumference and boasts beautifully landscaped gardens, grassy areas to relax or play on, lots of eating opportunities, and activities such as tandem, triple or even quad bikes for hire and its own amusement park.
  • Shanghai’s Science and Technology Museum, despite its serious name, is full of fun and interactive activities for the whole family. Children will love the dancing robots, high-tech archery, the earthquake simulator and IMAX theatres presenting interesting scientific documentaries.
  • While not an official tourist site, the subterranean fake markets immediately below the Science and Technology Museum are one of the world’s shopping wonders! The labyrinth-like market houses vendors of every assortment of desirable “brand” goods, from handbags to watches, t-shirts to phones. You can literally get lost shopping for hours!

Day 3 – Soak Up History – The Bund and Old Town

Shanghai is truly a river city, with the broad Huangpu River snaking its way through the city centre, creating a natural divide between West and East, old and new. Older children will enjoy a glimpse into Shanghai’s past through time spent exploring the grand and historic architecture on the western side of the river, while even the young ones will find plenty of interest in the hustle and bustle and street fair atmosphere of the Shanghai’s old town. Try:

  • Do a complete circuit of the Bund. Sitting majestically on the eastern bank of the Huangpu is Shanghai’s famed Bund, or Wai Tan to locals. Once a major trading port, the Bund fell into decay during the Mao years, with many of its historic buildings being leased for less-than-impressive purposes. One even became a KFC! However, times have changed, and particularly in the past 15 years, the Bund has returned to its former glory, now housing high-end boutiques, restaurants and bars. Start at the Suzhou Creek bridge and visit the Bund History Museum which houses photos and relics from the concession era. Stroll along the broad walkway along the river and soak up the stunning views of old and new on both sides of the river. Once you reach the ferry terminal, cross the road and walk back, making sure to read the plaques on each of the old buildings which describe their former purposes as banks and trading houses of many nations.
  • Take a ferry to truly experience the contrast of eras. Shanghai Ferries leave from the South Bund at regular intervals throughout the day, with dinner cruises also available. On a warm evening, it’s wonderful to stand on the deck and marvel at the bright lights of Pudong and elegance of the Bund. Beware, it is usually necessary to buy tickets one day in advance of cruising.
  • Located in Shanghai’s oldest neighbourhood, Yu Yuan (or the Yu Gardens) can be found right in the centre of the often hectic, but always interesting, Yu Gardens Marketplace. Have your child’s name engraved in Mandarin characters on their own chop (Chinese name stamp), haggle over shadow puppets and kites, or try some of Shanghai’s best xiao long bao (pork dumplings). Then, walk the famous zig-zag bridge leading to the sanctuary of the intricately planned Ming Dynasty gardens with its carp ponds, rocky grottos and ancient trees.

Day 4 – Take a Stroll – The Former French Concession

A mere half hour by car from The British International School Shanghai, Pudong, the former French Concession is a “must see” for every family. Its tree-lined streets, bustling markets filled with every assortment of fresh and dried food, and the networks of concession-era lanes make a wonderful day adventure of the family. Try:

  • Kick a ball or fly a kite at Fuxing Park, one of Shanghai’s oldest and most beautiful parks. There’s a children’s amusement area, suitable for children aged up to about 13, but the real amusement at this park is watching the range of activities enjoyed by locals. People of all ages can be found dancing in groups, performing tai chi, singing opera, or playing badminton. The locals are happy for visitors to join in and don’t mind having their photographs taken at all.
  • Recover your energy with a steaming bowl of pulled noodles at one of the many Muslim noodle restaurants dotting this part of town. These delicious noodles are made fresh right in front of you.  Watching the skill of the noodle puller is as good as any floor show, as they work the dough and deftly pull it into the never-ending lengths of noodles which are usually served in a beef broth.
  • Head to Tianzifang to pick up your Shanghai souvenirs. As series of inter-connecting old lanes, Tianzifang contains every variety of souvenir shop – selling everything from chopsticks to silk scarves, delicate porcelain to Shanghai-inspired Christmas ornaments. You definitely won’t go away empty-handed! It is also home to some of the city’s coolest coffee shops and cafes, so there’s always the chance to put up your feet for a coffee or wine, while the children enjoy a frozen yogurt or slice of pizza.
  • Round off the day with a visit to Shanghai’s famous Propaganda Poster Art Centre, a private and comprehensive collection of Mao era propaganda posters with accompanying historical explanations. While not for very small children, even those from 7 or 8 years will appreciate the colourful and compelling art, while older children will come away with a much greater understanding of the many national and international political campaigns for which the posters were produced.