This tour company is one of Shanghai’s best known for good reason. Their sheer creativity means that in any season, you can choose from a wide range of walks. For instance, let them show you a Shanghai that existed long before foreign concessions and skyscrapers (Ancient Shanghai Tour), or introduce you to otherworldly spirits (Ghost Tour) and the thugs who once ran the town (Gangster Tour). They can also teach you martial arts history (Kung Fu Tour) and help you find valuable collectibles (Antiques Tour). One of our favorites, the Shanghai Future Tour, guides you through the sprawling Urban Planning Exhibition Center, scrutinizing the city’s rapid transformation in the last few decades. The walk also highlights the city’s future development, as outlined by last year’s 12th five-year economic plan, and offsets the government’s chipper optimism with sobering analysis. Participants amble around Shanghai with new eyes afterward. In addition to their constantly updated repertoire within the city, the company offers tours to Suzhou, Hangzhou and Zhujiajiao.
Find it: www.newmantours.com
UnTour was founded by two food-loving foreigners, Jamie Barys and Kyle Long—the company's chief eating officer and chief running officer respectively. Having scoured Shanghai street food since 2010, they bring the tastiest dishes to the forefront of your attention. Unsurprisingly, their best tours are culinary walking and sightseeing tours that range from night markets to dumpling tasting and wine pairing. Their focus on local food and friendly, personal tours has helped them maintain their spot as #1 highest voted activity on TripAdvisor. One of our favorite tours is their weekly Street Eats Breakfast Tour—trust us, your taste buds will thank you, plus you get to walk off any potential calories you may gain so it’s a win-win situation. Start the morning by relaxing at Xiangyang Park watching locals do tai chi, meanwhile munching on such delicious treats as shengjianbao (Shanghainese fried dumplings), danbing (puffy egg crepes), and even stopping for coffee at one of Shangha's most loved cafe, Egg.
Find it: www.untourfoodtours.com
One of the better-known tour services, this provider refers to its offerings as “walking workshops,” or a combination of “a guided urban field trip, an in-depth discussion and professional development.” With this approach, they take you on an exploration of such topics as architecture, business, design, art and literature. One popular option is the music and jazz tour. As Shanghai was famous in the '20s for its jazz scene, passionate and published expert Andrew Field takes people on an engrossing tour into music history, and introduces such fascinating figures as Chinese national anthem composer Nie Er and Li Jinhui—the godfather of modern Chinese pop music. While the three-hour tour largely examines the city’s musical past, the night ends with stops at the jazz favorite Cotton Club, to catch some of the city’s present-day music talent. Photographer Yolanda von Hagen also offers a couple of long-running photography walks helping you to snap some memorable, and iconic, Shanghai scenes to lock in your memory bank. Tours are announced on their website and offered in English, Mandarin and French.
Find it: www.shanghai-flaneur.com
Shanghai is home to one of the largest concentrations of Art Deco in the world, in the form of architecture, furniture, fashion, graphic design and more; yet we might walk past oblivious to the history surrounding us. Shanghai Art Deco offers several tours that guide you through this design style that pervades the city’s neighborhoods. Go on the Lost Chinese Art Deco City tour and discover a city's history between magnificent buildings originally conceived by the Nationalist government, but never used for their intended purpose. The Bund and Beyond tour takes you to Old Shanghai’s financial district, which is still teeming with Art Deco banks, department stores, commercial buildings, and hotels—some of the grandest, yet most unexplored architecture found within the city. For those who like to walk and eat at the same time, the Deco and Dumplings tour will satisfy your hunger for both Shanghai street food and Art Deco history as you stroll along well-known food streets against the impressive Art Deco cityscape. Take either a private tour or one of their monthly tours and open your eyes to a cultural art form that defined modern Shanghai.
Find it: www.shanghaiartdeco.net
This company is your go-to if you want to take your fabric market experience to the next level. While designed for the casual tourist, it’s also great if you have no idea which shops are most reliable in the big markets. Shopping Tours Shanghai will even do the bargaining for you if you can’t be bothered—and that alone can be worth the money. The company’s classic and most well-known tour is the Best of Everything, a full-day extravaganza that sees you laden with bags of beautiful fabrics, accessories, shoes, Chinese handcrafts, art and porcelain. All you need to gather for the friends and family back home, you’ll find at great prices with this company. The guides do not receive commissions. For those who have more limited time or more targeted shopping needs, the customizable private tours and personal shopper options are also great time savers. A hidden gem among the company’s offerings is the curtain shopping tour. It might sound random, but quality curtains can come quite cheaply in China. The company’s “curtain expert” is an experienced negotiator and shopper who makes the process efficient and painless.
Find it: www.shoppingtoursshanghai.com
What many first-time visitors to Shanghai don't know is that Shanghai’s Jewish community has thrived for more than a century, and their history makes for a quite eye-opening half-day tour. Israeli journalist Dvir Bar-Gal passionately yet accessibly explains the Jews’ unique history and huge influence on the city throughout history. With an itinerary of synagogues, the Peace Hotel and an old ghetto area, the Jewish Walking Tour introduces people like the moneyed Sassoon family, who amassed an opium-fueled fortune while living in a mansion on the Bund at the turn of the century, and World War II refugees confined to the Hongkou ghettoes due to an agreement between the ruling Japanese government and their German allies. On the tour you’ll also check out one of the few remaining Jewish neighborhoods still standing in that area, which has been on sale as the city attempts to "revitalize" it. The tour is available in English or Hebrew daily, rain or shine. Groups of all sizes are welcome, and tours can be also customized to your schedule.
Find it: www.shanghai-jews.com
Cycling is nothing short of a Shanghai tradition, and the thrill of uncovering new parts of this city on two wheels never dies. Run by natives of the Netherlands, this tour provider takes you on a cruise through backstreets you’ve never seen, crossing from the Jade Buddha Temple over to the former French Concession, stopping in different bazaars and alleyways before arriving at the Bund for a great view and refreshing drink. The many non-residents who ride cite their favorite part of the tour as seeing scenes of local life they would otherwise miss. Tours last approximately three to five hours and will include up to a dozen people, though larger groups can also be accommodated. Everyone can choose from city bikes, tandems and mountain bikes to ride. Because Shanghai is flat, the ride is not strenuous, though navigating traffic can be challenging. As such, the company welcomes children 8 to 13 years of age on a tandem when accompanied by an adult. Children 13 and up may also ride their own bike. It’s a great way to explore while watching your carbon footprint.
Find it: www.wheelybiketours.com