10 Sites To Take The Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai

Shanghai, 18.30. I had 30 minutes before the city became a neon light explosion. I entered the Hyatt’s lift up to the 92nd floor feeling kind of nervous. The same type of nervous when you wait for someone at the airport or when you concentrate on smelling the rain. My stomach felt like falling due to the high-speed lift. One minute later I was up at the top. I remember I looked to the ground not to spoil the surprise and then, when I finally reached the window and looked at the views, my eyes opened and opened and kept opening. I had in front one of the most surrealistic images I have ever seen in my life. It felt like being on a video game. The last time I experienced this was the first time I went to Chicago’s Hancock Tower. But Shanghai was at least 3 times the size of Chicago.

Shanghai’s endless skyline, full of fog and massive buildings, will inspire you from its infinite points of view. If you are passionate about architecture and want to take breathtaking photographs you should definitely check out these locations. Click on images to make them larger.

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- The Bund
 The Bund
Location: 475, Zhongshan East 1st Rd (Google)
Best Views: Pudong (Shanghai World Financial Center, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Tower)
Admission: Free admission
Opening hours: 24h
Description: The Bund is the waterfront area along the western bank of the Huangpu River in central Shanghai. It is one mile long and all spots here offer amazing views. However, the spot by the wooden benches is probably a bit better because it is more elevated. On the other hand, when it has rained, it provides beautiful reflections of people.

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- Nanjing Road
 Nanjing Road
Location: Nanjing Road at People’s Square (Google)
Best Views: Nanjing Road
AdmissionFree admission
Opening hours: 24h
Description: Nanjing Road is located in the city center, running in a west-east direction and is the main shopping street of Shanghai. Around 5.5km long, it attracts over 1 million visitors daily. At 7 pm all the neon lights come to life making it crazy and beautiful at the same time. It gets overcrowded, and by that I mean you’ll be part of a homogeneous walking mass. If you stand crowds, thumbs up. If you don’t, this is number one spot to stay away! Great photographs from here though.

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- Park Hyatt- World Financial Center
 Park Hyatt at Shanghai World Financial Center
Location: 100 Century Avenue (Google)
Best Views: Jin Mao Tower, Oriental Pearl TV Tower
AdmissionFree admission, drinks around 80RMB
Opening hours: Mon-Sun (8am-11pm)
Description: Built in 1997 and designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF), this tower offers two options to photographers. One is the observatory, which is expensive and full of tourists (people who take pictures with their iPads) or two, the Lounge Bar at the Hyatt hotel, which is also expensive but is not crowded at all. This is my favorite spot in Shanghai. Enjoy a drink, or two if you order before 7pm (happy hour applies here) while you photograph Shanghai’s amazing skyline. If you want a spot by the window come here at 17.30 max. There are exactly 5 tables with good views!

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- Intersection Yanan Rd
 Intersection Nanbei Elevated Road at Yan’an Middle Road
Location: Nanbei Elevated Road at Yan’an Middle Road (Google)
Best Views: Tomorrow Square, Radisson Blue Hotel and People’s Square
AdmissionFree admission
Opening hours: 24h
Description: Shanghai is a very busy city, and road intersections reflect this very well. One of the busiest road intersections is this one. However, it’s hard to get this shot because the building is private property, and believe me, very well secured. I tried to get in several times and no success, photo credit goes to  Anna’s and Nico’s. Unless you find some friends who live here, it’s almost impossible. If you are unable to access, check it from underneath, beautiful too.

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- Moganshan Road
 Moganshan Road
Location: Mogashan Rd at Changhua Road (Google)
Best Views: Typical Architecture from Shanghai
AdmissionFree admission
Opening hours: 24h (dangerous at night)
Description: As you walk east down Moganshan, bright street art, graffiti, and stencils grab you from both sides of the road. Layers upon layers of paint, years lying beneath the current facade. Behind that, typical architecture from China. From an architect’s point of view, building repetition is a crime. Imagine 16 identical towers one placed after the other. This is something you need to visit, and that you won’t see in luxurious areas like Pudong or People’s Square.

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- Flair-Ritz Carlton
 Ritz Carlton at Shanghai International Finance Centre
Location: 8 Shiji Da Dao (Google)
Best Views: Oriental Pearl TV Tower
AdmissionFree admission, drinks 100RMB
Opening hours: Mon-Sun (17.30-2)
Description: Built in 2011 and deigned by César Pelli, this is one of the finest spots in Shanghai. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel occupies the south tower, while the north tower houses the current Shanghai headquarters of HSBC in China. Views from the Ritz Carlton rooftop, Flair on the 58th floor, are absolutely amazing. Prices, naturally, are astronomical but the price of just one drink may be worth the thousand pictures you’ll take from here. There’s no other place to get as close to The Oriental Pearl TV Tower as this one.

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- VUE bar
 VUE Bar
Location: 199 Huangpu Lu (Google)
Best Views: Pudong (Shanghai World Financial Center, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower and Shanghai Tower), Waibaidu Bridge
AdmissionFree admission, drinks 50-80RMB
Opening hours: Sun-Thu (18-1) Fri-Sat (18-2)
Description: Located at the Hyatt on the Bund on the 32-33 floors, it will impress you since the very moment you step on the lobby. Facing Lujiazui skyline, this rooftop is just perfect for photography. However, pictures using a tripod are not allowed because they are considered “professional photography” which is forbidden. I was told that twice by a man who spoke perfect English, who also told me he was being nice by not suing me already. My advice, bring a tripod in your bag, if not you’ll regret it.

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- Waibaidu Bridge
 Waibaidu Bridge
Location:  Waibaidu Bridge ar Huangpu Lu (Google)
Best Views: Waibaidu Bridge, Shanghai World Financial Center, Oriental Pearl TV Tower and Jin Mao Tower
AdmissionFree admission
Opening hours: 24h
Description: Built in 1908 as the first all-steel bridge and the only surviving example of a camelback truss bridge in China. I was amazed by how packed this bridge is, given that the best views are not from the inside but from the other side of the road. At 7pm it lights up in a very beautiful way, having Pudong’s skyline in the background. Love the contrast between old and new architecture!

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- Yuyuan Gardens
 Yuyuan Gardens
Location:  137 Anren Jie (Google)
Best Views: Yuyuan Pavilions, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai World Financial Center,  and Jin Mao Tower
AdmissionGeneral admission 40RMB, 15RMB for students.
Opening hours: Mon-Sun (8.30-17)
Description: Yu Garden was first conceived in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty. The gardens suffered damage numerous times during the 19th century. Since they were opened to the public in 1961, this complex of pavilions and gardens has been an observing point of Shanghai’s changing skyline. Almost all the surrounding buildings have been demolished leaving this old structure alone in a concrete jungle. From the main square (where everyone is eating dumplings) you can get a few spots for getting the Tea Temple with Shanghai Tower in the background. However, the best views are from the pond inside the Yuyuan Garden, which has an admission fee.

Virginia Duran Blog- Sites to Take the Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai- Huangpu Cruise
 Huangpu River Cruise
Location:  Zhongshan Dong Er Lu 219 (Google)
Best Views: Huangpu River skyline (East + West)
AdmissionPrices range from 35-70RMB
Opening hours: Mon-Sun (8.30-17)
Description: Huangpu River is a silent eyewitness to Shanghai’s history and its (crazy) development. Unfortunately, cruising on the river has become a must for most visitors to the city so it’s full of tourists (again, people who take pictures with their iPads). That being said, it’s a must do activity, especially if you only have a few days in Shanghai. I don’t remember the company name, but it departed from here. I took the night tour which departed at 7pm, and it was very packed but very beautiful.

Check these and other amazing spots of Shanghai on the map below or download my Free Architecture Guide of Shanghai.

79 thoughts on “10 Sites To Take The Best Skyline Pictures in Shanghai

  1. Fantastic! Thanks for taking me there, Virginia. I can not believe that I lived there… 🙂 I have to say – very impressive photos – especially during the nights the city looks amazing 🙂 Bye. Kamila


    • Hello Kamila, you lived in Shanghai already? for how long? the city at night was amazing in my opinion. Which was your favorite spot?


      • I lived there over 4y! I loved the Pudong and Yu. Garden – super modern x old part… 🙂 COOL city – but I did not like the never- ending transport and pollution..
        🙂 Bye. K


        • That’s very true, it was always polluted and very few days one could see the sun! Pudong skyline is growing fast so it may continue changing very rapidly. Can’t wait to be back 😀 4 years living in Shanghai is quite a lot of time, I bet you learnt Chinese very well 😉

          Liked by 1 person

      • Hello Kamila, that’s good news, you have amazing places waiting for you 😉
        how did you find the ones you did visit?


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    • Yes, that was one of my favorite spots! We usually went there after buying street food (got to love the dumplings) and observe the lights come up. Shanghai is beautiful, isn’t it?


      • Unfortunately not but have thought about taking a year off to work over there – one of my students gave me text recently about the was a philosophical experience he had while walking there..your post made me want to dig it up and read it again but I hate looking for things!


        • It must have been an amazing experience that of your student. Loved the Bund too. You’re planning a year off in China? I spent there only summer and I look forward to spending more time in the future!

          Liked by 1 person

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    • Mogashan Road was great! The buildings, however, were an architecture horror. I’d never seen 15 buildings that were exactly the same thing! Have you been to Shanghai?


      • I did, 2006 I think it was. I never got as far as blogging about it but my favorite memory was that incredible Skyline! If I ever go back I will have your post as a reference because I am crazy about big neon cities and skylines 🙂


        • I visited it this summer for the first time and it was AMAZING! It has changed a lot apparently- and will keep changing- so I am looking forward to going back too. What did you think of the city? Did you get to try weird food?


        • I have to admit I am a bit afraid of meaty things in China so I stayed vegetarian most of the time 😉 I also would love to go back one day!


  6. Thanks Virginia ! in the next days i will fly to Shanghai and i found here the best places for visit . I`ve been in SHanghai before butnow i saw some new places . THank you ! 😀


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  8. Excellent post Virginia! I’ll be in Shanghai for just a few days next week (mostly for business meetings). I’ll get a couple of evenings, and all day Saturday to explore the magnificent city and your post is fantastic in leading me to the right places, many thanks!


    • So jealous, you are going to have so much fun! Check the map below and try not to miss the yellow spots, those are the top picks 😉


  9. Hi, I have a 12 hour lay over in Shanghai. Is it safe for me to venture out alone? I loved your blog btw. Inspired me to check it out 🙂


    • Hello Malak, of course. However, you may need a visa if your final destination is not China. If you have only 12 hours I would recommend going to any of the yellow spots. One of my favorites: The Park Hyatt 🙂


  10. OMG! great article, so many places I haven’t visited, but know I have a reason to go back, thank you Virginia!

    I recently visited Shanghai and I had a great time, my favorite part was jogging on The Bund in the morning. It was so much fun that I created a video of my experience as well

    thank you China!


    • Hey Matt! I just saw your comment. How are you? Did you get a chance to return to beautiful Shanghai? I haven’t returned since and can’t wait to be back soon 🙂


  11. Thats a great write up and i am so eager to follow your tips and try in december when i am there. Are you still living in shanghai, Virginia?


    • Not in many. The restaurants and rooftops have limited access to photographers. I always carry a big bad to hide a small tripod 😀


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    • Hi! I didn’t mean that there was crime in Mogashan road, but that architecture there is terrific (all buildings look the same). The road itself is quite cool 🙂


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  14. Thank you for this post and information. Am making a trip to Shanghai and plan on bringing my photography equipment.

    Question – do you have any recommendations of locations for good early morning pictures (at or just before sunrise) of non-tourist/local areas that can depict authentic areas of the city?

    Thank you for your time and consideration.


    • Hi Joe, thanks for your kind words. My favorite spots of the map are the yellow ones. And some local places specifically for sunrise would be The Bund (touristic but it’s beautiful at sunrise), Dajing Ge Pavilion (located at the old city wall), Longhua Temple, Duolun Road and probably the best Nanjing Rd. (also a cliché but it’s truly amazing). The French concession is also nice, but maybe not for sunrise. Any secondary street can be full of charm too so my recommendation would be to just get lost. Please note that time map works badly in China due to the VPN related to Google.

      Hope this helps 🙂


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  17. Useful post. I will be spending one year in Shanghai and it is apparently a terrific destinations full of breath-taking spot with killer views. I love travelling in big cities like Shanghai, so much energy and nice places to visit. Working now for an events company in London that lists many trip / travel related events so I am always aware about what to do when I am abroad. By the way, I have also heard that le Bar Rouge also has a good view spot of Shanghai.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Juliette, how are you? Are you excited about Shanghai? le Bar Rouge is included in Shanghai’s Guide (but not in this article) 🙂
      Do you speak Chinese?


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  19. I’m visiting China soon, and I’ve heard there are great views from rooftops in Shanghai. Did you get the chance to visit any rooftops? If you want to, I’d really appreciate it if you told me the,. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello 🙂 such an exciting trip ahead! Have you been in China / Shanghai before? My favourite rooftops were VUE Bar, Bar Rouge, Park Hyatt, Ritz Carlton and The Roof at Waterhouse. Hope this helps 😀


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