By Hart Hagerty
August 14, 2014
Best City Tours in Shanghai
Credit: Radius Images / Alamy

Shanghai is such a bustling city that a stroll around the block can stimulate all of the senses, whether you are a fresh-off-the-plane tourist or a long-term resident. From fragrant food stalls, sidewalk barbershops, groups of knitting grannies to animated street hawkers, a colorful mix of Chinese daily life is lived out in the open for all to see and appreciate. One can easily spend days wondering the city streets, ducking into dusty stores, old buildings and winding lanes to soak in the many eccentricities of Shanghai. But when you’re ready for an organized tour to hold your hand and guide you further into the unknown, the city has excellent tour companies that fit a variety of traveling styles. From insider food itineraries to walking tours with master storytellers, there are many who bring the city’s history to life. All of these companies offer weekly public tours but can also arrange private tours for groups or corporate events.


While Shanghai has no shortage of fine dining and local eateries, many visitors can find it intimidating or overwhelming to get an authentic taste of real China. Enter UnTour Shanghai, a young food tour company giving exciting, delicious culinary excursions throughout the city. A foodie’s dream, their tours—which invite guests to gorge themselves on traditional street foods from breakfast bites to hearty dumplings—give visitors an unforgettable taste of Shanghai’s culinary underbelly.

Shanghai Flaneur

Shanghai Flaneur likes to think of itself as more of a “walking think-tank” than just another tour company. Developed by Katja Hellkoetter, this novel format is ideal for the curious, bookish traveler who wants to explore Shanghai from an intellectual perspective. Tours cover topics like history, architecture, business, and culture, and aim to spark a vibrant dialogue as experts lead groups into hidden lanes, old buildings, and forgotten neighborhoods. It’s like a walking TED Talk.

Shanghai Shopping Tour

The notion of paying around $200 to hire someone to, well, help you spend even more money, seems ridiculous at first. But the hundreds of happy guests of Shanghai Shopping Tour insist that the service was a sound investment. On these weekly public tours, friendly, fashionable western guides help shoppers navigate and bargain hard at the city’s most popular shopping hotspots like the Pearl market and fabric market. Instead of wasting time wondering aimlessly around the massive markets, guides beeline guests to their most trusted vendors. Visitors get custom clothes made, buy pearls and silk, and score the most convincing copies. These all-day tours include lunch and a comfortable van to haul shoppers and their purchases from market to market.

Shanghai Sidecar

Shanghai Sideways zips its guests around the city’s most interesting neighborhoods in motorcycle sidecars driven by expert guides. Their tours offer a totally new perspective (literally) of the city’s landscape, history and culture, along with a truly exhilarating adventure that’s not just for motorheads. The most popular Historic Shanghai tour covers a lot of territory in just three hours, from futuristic Pudong to alleyways of old Shanghai. Come winter, they keep guests snug inside the sidecars with cozy blankets and complimentary mulled wine.