Planning a trip to Shanghai with your kids? Wondering what to do to keep them happy but not miss out on the culture of this beautiful city? Maybe you are looking for things to do in Shanghai for a day. You’re in the right spot then. We took all 3 girls with to Shanghai and the entire party of 5 loved the city.
Shanghai is a MEGA-CITY! It boasts a population of over 24 million people and is one of China’s busiest cities. It hosts the country’s biggest financial hub and some of the worlds tallest building, Shanghai has the appearance of new, shiny, and modern, but still maintaining some of the traditional and culture.
We expected Shanghai to be MEGA chaotic and busy, but it never felt that way. It was super clean for a large city. It was well organized and easy to navigate.
Maybe I should have done more research before coming to China, but my work schedule leading up to the trip didn’t allow me to prepare as much as I normally would like. I was a little worried about things to do in the city with kids but we had no problems!
Even with my own lack of planning, Shanghai quickly moved to the top of each of our top city lists and here are some of the reasons as to why.
How to get around Shanghai
Shanghai was surprisingly very easy to get around. We walked a lot, we hired a private car and the subway as well. For such a huge city, it was simple to get around.
Since we are not familiar with Shanghai and China in general. We booked a car to pick us up from the airport. The best and easiest place to find a car to pick you up is on Trip Advisor.
We opted to book with Miki Tours. They were easy to communicate with via email and they also used Whatsapp to text which made it really easy.
When we arrived at the airport, after immigration and customs, the driver was standing there with a sign to pick us up. The driver didn’t speak English but as soon as we got in the car called someone that did speak English and she asked if we needed anything.
We used Miki tours for our airport to hotel transfer, hotel to port (since we’re going on a cruise) and then port to airport transfer. We had no issues and they were on time everywhere. If you are short on time and looking for things to do in Shanghai for a day, we recommend booking a car to take advantage of your time.
In the city, we used only public transportation. Specifically the subway/metro system. It was quite easy to figure out and use. Each station had an attendant that spoke some English. But we used the ticket machines which were also in English and made it simple to get our tickets.
They give you a credit card for your ticket that you use on the entrance and keep till your end destination. The kids thought they were great, they felt like grown-ups using their cards.
The subway/metros were clean and the stops were relatively close to many of the main attractions. Within a short 5 minute walk to most things. It did get a little busy in the evening rush hour, and with kids, we kept a closer eye on them.
Even with the millions of people, I never felt unsafe with my kids in Shanghai. Most people were courteous and patient with our kids.
Where to stay in Shanghai
Shanghai is such a huge city, it’s difficult to decide what area of the city to stay in let alone what hotel to pick. So where should you stay in Shanghai? There is a great article on Treksplorer that breaks Shanghai down and makes it easy to find the best fit for you!
What to do in Shanghai
Yu Garden with kids
Yu Garden, also known as Yuyuan Garden enjoys the reputation of “The crown of beauty in Southeast China.” Yu Garden is rich in culture and architecture and is listed as one of the four national cultural markets in China.
One of the most popular places to visit in Shanghai is, without a doubt, the Yu Garden. Built-in the Ming Dynasty, and first built in 1559, by Pan Yunduan. It was first built as a comfort for his father.
The garden was the largest and most prestigious of its time and era in Shanghai, but eventually, it would be too expensive for the Pans and they essentially ended up bankrupt.
Useful Details about Yu Garden
Adjacent to the Yu Garden is the Yuyuan Bazaar. This is great for shopping and looking for antiques, arts, crafts, and fun souvenirs. You can also try some local street and snack food. Things to do in Shanghai for a day.
Location: Yu Garden is located in the northeast of the old city in South Shanghai. It is close to Shanghai City God Temple, Yuyuan Tourist Mart and close distance to Shanghai Bund.
Address: No. 137 Anren Street, Huangpu District, Shanghai
Opening Hours: Mar to Oct: 08:30am-5:30pm; Nov to Feb: 08:30am-5:00pm
Tickets: To enter the Garden area it is free but some things have a small fee.
How Much Time is Needed: Recommended 2+ hours, but if you have time for tea, lunch, or dinner you will need extra time.
Kids at Yu Garden
This was our first stop. What to do with your kids here? There is a lot of shopping at Yu Garden and your kids will beg you for every single thing they see.
Tips for souvenirs in Yu Garden
One great tip for Yu Garden is to give your kids some a budget for souvenirs. Give each child some Chinese Yen (in cash) that they can spend on whatever they want in Yu Garden.
This works great on so many levels. It takes all the pressure off you as the parents. Instead of “I want this” and “please I won’t ask for anything else”. You can say, “you have money, is this what you want to spend it on?”
This puts all the power back in the hands of your kids and teaches them to budget. This is a parenting win all around because while they are trying to decide what to spend their money on, you can actually enjoy the sites.
What to see in Yu Garden
If your kids are anything like mine, they get bored very quickly in places like this so we had to be in a hurry to catch the sites. We walked quickly through the shopping streets. (Our kids spent their budget in the very first store we walked in).
Huxinton Tea House
This is the main attraction to see at Yu Garden. As you emerge from the store lined streets, this stunning Tea House makes it’s grand appears. The Huxinton Tea House is surrounded by a large pond and is only accessible by crossing the nine-turning bridges. The “Nine-turning bridges'” does not mean there are nine bridges, but the design is to turn several times and multiple ways to traverse the bridges.
These bridges and the tea house make for a great picture spot. We made the mistake of visiting on a Saturday afternoon, it was packed!
The Tea House is beautiful and definitely worth seeing but we did not try to go in since we could barely make it through the sea of people on the bridges.
Don’t be afraid of the crowds if you happen to go on a Saturday as well. Prep your kids and let them know it will be busy. I made sure to keep my kids close and we didn’t have any problems losing site of them.
Make sure to keep track of your valuables, as with any tourist area, Yu Garden is known for pickpocketers.
Sample some world-famous steamed buns
The next thing that Yu Garden is famous for is great restaurants. The main areas are filled with a plethora of many local restaurants we were totally overwhelmed. Getting steam buns is one of the top things to do in Shanghai for a day.
If you want to sample some local food but don’t want to wait in the crowds, wander upstairs in any building and you’ll find fewer people but equally great food.
The area is famous for amazing steamed buns. We, unfortunately, were not able to find a restaurant that didn’t have a massive wait time. By the time we took our kids upstairs, they were so tired of walking that they were not feeling adventurous enough to try local food.
So we ended up at McDonald’s. But the good news is there is a McDonald’s super close. So if your kids are starving and looking for something familiar, wonder over a couple of streets away from the Tea House and you’ll find McDonald’s.
Nanjing Road & Shopping
On our way to the Bund we decided to walk down one of China’s #1 shopping streets, Nanjing Road. We hopped off the metro/subway line 10 at the Bund & Nanjing East Road Station.
This stop led it right on to Nanjing street. The street was filled with people, and stores lit up with lights and billboards.
Little did we know that Nanjing Road stretches for almost 5 kilometers or 3 Miles. It has over massive shopping malls, historic stores, specialty stores, hotels, attractions and so much more.
I am sure this place has so much more to offer then we were able to experience. Nanjing Road dates back to the Qing Dynasty and apparently some of the shops are still trading and operating today.
Historic Shops along Nanjing
- A couple of the shops we found dating back over 100 years old
- Shanghai Laojiefu Department store: They sell silk, cloths, and fabric.
- Duo Yun Xuan: Chinese calligraphy and painting
- Heng De Li Clocks and watches: Highend luxury clocks and watches.
Nanjing Street for Kids
If you are looking to shop with your kids then you will want to head to Bao Da Xiang Young Children’s mall. This store is tailored specifically to kids.
The store posts a kid’s lounge, amusement center, video game center, and karaoke. It has a wide range of kid’s stores for everything that you can think of, shoes, clothes, books, toys, baby clothes, baby strollers, etc…
Nanjing has a couple of small trains for the little one’s ride. They are fun and the kids enjoy riding on these little trains.
Where to Eat by Nanjing Road and the Bund?
After your hours of shopping on Nanjing Road and as you prepare to head to the Bund, you might be looking for a place to eat. I don’t necessarily recommend too many restaurants unless it checks all the boxes for our family which are; everyone has to like it, the price has to be reasonable to cheap, the service has to be good, and it has to be quick. If it can meet all of these, it keeps the entire family happy.
Grandmother’s Restaurant – Shanghai (Close to the Bund and Nanjing Street)
Between Nanjing road and walking to the Bund, off one of the side streets we found Grandmother’s Restaurant. We had looked on google for reviews and this restaurant has a 4.5 out of 5 stars, over 500 reviews, and said it was good for kids. We thought it would be worth a try and we wanted to try some traditional Chinese food.
The kids love the sweet and sour, fried rice, and even the barbeque pork. We enjoyed the fresh fruit juice and everything was prompt. One thing that we love about eating in Aisa, is when something is done they bring it out. They don’t wait till all the food is prepared. This is great for kids because they can start to eat as soon as food begins to arrive.
The Bund, or also know as Waitan, might be one of the most iconic places in all of Shanghai. This is a must if you want one thing to do in Shanghai for a day. The area stretches along the waterfront of the Huangpu River and has a promenade walkway.
The walkway is located on the west bank of the river and has a spectacular view of the “new” Shanghai. The tall modern skyscrapers.
From here you will see views of the “Oriental Pearl Tower,” and “Shanghai Tower,” if the weather is clear. The night we visited was rainy but it didn’t take away for the spectacular beauty of this view.
The Bund promenade is enjoyable for all. Our kids loved the wall the led to the promenade. The wall is decorated with an arrangement of plants, and then animatronic butterflies in a bubble fly and change colors.
The kids loved walking back and forth to see the butterflies change. The vibrant colors added to the effect of the already beautiful arrangments.
The Bund with kids tips
The bund can be visited day and night. We opted for the late afternoon and evening. When we first arrived at the Bund. The towers on the opposite side of the river were not completely lit up with the neon lights. It wasn’t until later that the light came on.
If you arrive at the Bund from Nanjing street, you will find it crowded and difficult to get to the edge for a view or picture. This what we experienced, but just walk down the promenade a little way, there are fewer people and you have a great view and not as many people.
How to get to the Bund
The easiest way to get to the Bund is to take the Subway. Take Shanghai Metro Line 2 and get off at Nanjing Road(E.) Station, and walk along Nanjing Road for about 5 minutes. This is one of the best things to do in Shanghai for a day.
The Bund Bull
The “Charging Bull” is often called; Bund Financial Bull, The Bund Bull, or the Shanghai Bull. This 5,000 – pound work of art is said to be the same height, length, and weight as the one that is located in New York City’s Charging Bull. The slight differences are the bull is leaning right, instead of left and has a more menacing tail that than the New York version.
Although the Bull is a symbol of trading and the financial district, our kids had fun playing around the bull and taking pictures. The beautiful setting on the Bund Walk Way and the HSBC financial building in the background.
The building is a contrast to the modern tall buildings across the river with the neon light. The HSBC building looks more like something you would find in Paris or London. The Bull is located along the Huangpu River.
The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
If you have made it to the Bund, it’s fun to take your kids on the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. This train will take you to the other side of the river and drops you close to the Oriental Pearl.
The Bund Sight Seeing Tunnel travels under the Huangpu River and connects the Bund and Luijiazui financial district and trade zone. The tunnel is a special public transport that makes your journey to the other side exciting and interesting. The short 5-minute tunnel, adds visual effects and sounds to the trip.
In my opinion, this tunnel was overpriced and too short. The tunnel is around $7 USD per person. For our family of 5, it cost about $30 USD for 4 tickets. (Our baby was still free).
This price is for one way and the ride is about 3 minutes. My kids loved every second of it and would argue that it was worth the money. But as a mom that has to budget, I would not spend my money here again.
- Ticket prices: CNY 50 for one way, CNY 70 for roundtrip
- Opening hours: May-October: 8:00-22:30 November-April: 8:00-22:00
- The entrance to the tunnel is located at the end of The Bund
The Oriental Pearl
Beware of the electric scooters
Since you will do a lot of walking in Shanghai, there is one thing you need to be aware of before you set out on the streets. All of the motorbikes and scooters in Shanghai are electric and silent!
When crossing the street, make sure to have your kids close and always check twice for motorbikes. They often won’t stop at the lights and you WILL NOT HEAR them coming.
There were several times our kids almost stepped out right in front of a bike. BE CAREFUL. The streets are so quiet which is nice but also dangerous when you are used to hearing cars coming.
Child safety harness
If you are traveling with a toddler, it would be a good idea to consider a walking harness for toddlers or a baby safety harness to keep your little ones safe and close. It will also help keep your mind at ease. Amazon has lots of cute options, here are a few for boys and girls.
They also make just walking straps for toddlers that are super easy to pack and easy to use. They simply hook onto your wrist and your little one’s wrist. Amazon also has some great options for these.
Things to do in Shanghai for a day with my review. My overall impression of Shanghai and traveling with kids was positive. I actually would have liked to have more time discovering the city. Shanghai is clean, it felt safe, and public transportation was easy to navigate and to use.
Our visit to Shanghai was to catch a Royal Carribean Cruise that leaves out of here and heads to Japan, stopping in Osaka, Kobe, and Yokohama (Tokyo). Check-out our post if you happen to be heading there or taking this same cruise on the Spectrum of the Seas.