From the towering skyscrapers to the quaint traditional back alleys, the colorful streets of Shanghai are full of Instagrammable spots.

The many faces of Shanghai are difficult to portray through a single medium. Historically, many have tried to depict the beauty of China through traditional means – by creating music, painting and writing poetry… These art forms are undeniably powerful, but these days, none are quite as impactful and far-reaching as…Instagram (By the way, here’s our Instagram profile.)

Yes, you read right, Instagram. There probably isn’t a single other platform that better tackles the immensity of the task at hand – capturing the comings and goings of this megacity of 25 million inhabitants and the nuances of its Chinese roots. With the increasing capabilities of smartphone cameras, Instagrammers all over the world have leveled up, and are always in search for someplace to take an “Instagrammable” photo or a really cool #OOTD.

In doing so, Instagrammers map life in the city, giving us a glimpse into literally several million points of views, revealing the many sides of Shanghai. From the well-known to the hidden, let us take you to some of our favorite spots in Shanghai to get that million-dollar Instagram shot.

First on our list – the iconic Shanghai skyline

Location: Lujiazui, Pudong

On the east bank of the mighty Huangpu River is Shanghai’s futuristic skyline, formed by the skyscrapers in the heart of its business district, Lujiazui. For many Chinese, Lujiazui embodies the hopes and dreams of the incredible transformation China went through in the past four decades. China’s financial hub offers an awe-inspiring view not many cityscapes can rival.

For an alternative view, skip the typical Instagram photo of Lujiazui taken from the Shanghai Bund. Instead, take the shot from the second bridge on Suzhou Creek so you can also add the famous Waibaidu Bridge into your photo.

Second on the list – The heart of the third tallest building in Shanghai, Jin Mao Tower.

Location: Jin Mao Tower, 88 Century Ave, Lujiazui, Pudong Xinqu

Standing tall alongside its taller counterparts, Shanghai Tower and the “Bottle Opener”, Jin Mao Tower’s grand art-deco facade looks impressive on the outside. But what most people don’t know, is that the crazy view you get on the inside will make for one sick Instagram photo. Upon entering the building, make your way to the spectacular lobby of the Grand Hyatt hotel and take the lift up to the 86th floor.

The Most Instagrammable Spots in Shanghai - The spectacular lobby of the Grand Hyatt hotel

The Most Instagrammable Spots in Shanghai – The spectacular lobby of the Grand Hyatt hotel

As you step out of the lift, hold on to your heart, as the vertigo-inducing view into its 115m-high barrel-vaulted atrium is not for the faint-hearted. We also recommend that you hold on to your phone or camera for your dear life as you don’t want it to plunge to its death.

[11 apps you absolutely need if you study in China]

Third on our list – The Shanghai Bund

Location: Zhongshan East 1st Rd, WaiTan, Huangpu Qu

Along the west bank of the Huangpu River, the Shanghai Bund sits regally, a living museum of Shanghai’s colonial past. The mile-long stretch of waterfront promenade boasts more than 50 buildings of various architectural styles – from gothic, to baroque, to neo-classical. A stark contrast to futuristic Lujiazui across the Huangpu River, making the Bund a premier spot for taking a panoramic Instagram photo of both the old and modern skyline.

The most instagrammable spots in Shanghai - the bund (1)

Photo by Jamie Liu on Unsplash

If you’re an early-riser, head to the Bund at dawn to catch the locals practising tai-chi as the sun rises. The combination of the century-old practice of tai-chi against the backdrop of iconic Shanghai results in an intriguing Instagram shot. And you know what’s even better? An Instagram shot without all the other tourists in the photo. 😉

At number 4 is an unexpectedly photogenic one – the 1933 Slaughterhouse.

Location: 10 Shajing Rd, Hongkou Qu

Built in the pre-Communist era of Shanghai in 1933, the 1933 Slaughterhouse was once upon a time a massive slaughterhouse for cattle. No longer used as a slaughterhouse these days, only the shell of the fascinating and almost eerie “Escheresque” building remains. The four-story building featuring concrete, glass and steel was the brainchild of British architects and Chinese developers.

Built for maximum utility but also taking into consideration style and design, the 26 “air-bridges”, for example, were built to control the flow of cattle as they were herded from place to place, but now make up a distinctive part of the complex. Since its retirement from being one of the largest slaughterhouses of the east, the 1933 Slaughterhouse now houses the budding local art scene.

If you’re a fan of architecture, urban exploration, or are just looking for a dramatic backdrop for your outfit shot, this is one Instagram spot in Shanghai you mustn’t miss out on.

Also, as 1933 Slaughterhouse is part of the broader repurposed area, a short walk around the neighborhood will reveal a mix of very pristine old Shanghai buildings and its newer iterations. Instagram-worthy photos everywhere you turn!

[5 reasons to attend summer exchange in Shanghai]

In 5th place, a reminder of Shanghai’s past – Lilong.

The once omnipresent Lilong or lane houses offer a very Instagram-picturesque and intimate glimpse into the communal arrangements that used to form the basis of Shanghai’s social fabric. Of these, the best-known and most characteristic being the shikumen, which combines western and Chinese-styled architecture.

Horrible living conditions and exponential urban development pushed these alleys to the brink of existence. Rows after rows of these neighborhoods were demolished, making them rarer and rarer. Realizing the need to preserve their past, the battle for the conservation of Longtang came in full force, resulting in their transformation into commercial and tourist hotspots such as Xintiandi and Tianzifang. Steeped in history, and a contrast to the modern skyscrapers in its vicinity, Lilongs are a beautiful reminder of Shanghai’s roots and traditions.

Take a step back in time and explore some Lilongs for some truly precious Instagrammable scenes. We recommend the less touristy ones like Changle Chun behind South Shanxi Road, and Jing’an Villa on East Nanjing Road.  

In 6th place is tourist-favorite, Yu Garden.

Location: 218 Anren St, Huangpu Qu

Yu Garden is a must-see for visitors to Shanghai – and for good reason. Lying west of the Bund, and dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Yu Garden is the oldest part of the city. Yu, in Chinese, means pleasing and satisfying, and a trip to Yu Garden will indeed be pleasing and satisfying to the most avid of Instagrammers.

Ancient pavilions, halls and cloisters, generously draped in lights, vividly reflected on the surface of its many tranquil fish ponds. Yu Garden consists of all the elements a classic Chinese garden should have.

From the Great Rockery at its entrance to the exquisite Wanhua Chamber, Yu Garden is a feast for your camera’s eyes. If you need that one Instagram photo telling your friends back home where in the world you are, there is no better place to take that photo than in Yu Garden.


Last but definitely not the least on our list – one of Laszlo Hudec’s buildings.

Location of Wukang Mansion: 1850 Huaihai Middle Rd, Xuhui Qu

Laszlo Hudec, sometimes referred to as “the architect who built Shanghai”, is arguably one of the city’s most prominent architects. The Hungarian-Slovak architect who arrived in Shanghai by chance built over 60 buildings in his 28 years there, leaving an indelible mark on the city. Some of his works include Shanghai’s first air-conditioned hospital, its first brewery, movie theatre, and skyscraper. His buildings continue to inspire even after 90 years from their construction.

Our favorite Instagram photo spot, however, has got to be Hudec’s Wukang Mansion in the former French Concession, at the southern end of Wukang Road. Built-in the French Renaissance style, Wukang Mansion is the oldest veranda-style apartment building in Shanghai. The unusual facade resembles a giant ship ready to set sail, as it was built to commemorate the Normandie, a battleship from the World War I era. One might also draw parallels between Wukang Mansion and the Flatiron Building in New York City. You mustn’t leave Shanghai without an Instagram photo of this peculiar building!

[Find out more about Shanghai Summer School’s summer programs.]

Last summer, we all had our own love affairs with Shanghai. ❤️ Some of us fell in love with her gastronomy, some of us fell in love with her endless energy, some of us fell in love with her rich culture and history, and some of us fell in love with her language. This is our love letter to Shanghai.

What would yours look like?  Click here to find out more about our programs.