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Published April 25, 2017

Shanghai's Best Views

By Dan Entwistle


Home to high-end restaurants, five star hotels, massive corporations and several of the world's tallest buildings, Shanghai's skyline truly is something to marvel over. While the view from the western side of the river (The Bund) is spectacular, many tourists who come here opt to get a view from above by checking out one of the city's observation platforms. Unfortunately, with so many to choose from it can be hard to know which platform to spend your hard earned cash on, so we've put this handy guide together to show you what exactly you can expect from each tower.

 

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The Oriental Pearl Tower

 

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Chances are when you picture the Shanghai skyline, this is the building that sticks out most vividly in your mind’s eye. Built back in 1994, the Pearl Tower is now home to three levels of observation platforms, a museum, a VR rollercoaster, a hotel, a revolving restaurant and a huge glass floor that’s wrapped around the outside of the building’s second biggest pearl.

 
If you’re looking for a place to bring the kids, this is probably the tower for you. They’ll have hours of fun running across the glass floor, looking out over the city, and pretending to be an astronaut in the space-themed “space cabin” observation deck. Depending on their age they might even find something of interest in the Shanghai History Museum.

 

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Having said that, if you’re looking for the best view in the city we’d recommend you head elsewhere. While the Pearl Tower was the tallest structure in China from 1994-2007 it’s now been surpassed by several other observation platforms just down the road. The Pearl Tower itself is also an iconic part of the Shanghai skyline, so any pictures you take from the top of it will obviously be missing the Pearl.
 

In addition, the tower’s interior hasn’t aged well. Every observation level feels worn and a bit grubby. If you’re looking to visit the tower’s highest platform then you’ll also be shelling out for the most expensive observation platform ticket in Shanghai and you’ll have to queue up for three different lifts to get there. The “space cabin” at the top also requires you to wear shoe covers to protect the platform’s white floor and the windows there are relatively small and a lot dirtier than other towers in Shanghai.
 

In short, if you don’t have kids, don’t bother.
 

Ticket price:

 
Space Cabin + Upper Sphere + Lower Sphere + Museum - ¥220
 
Upper Sphere + Lower Sphere + Multimedia Show + Museum - ¥180
 
Upper Sphere + Lower Sphere + Museum ¥160
 
 

Jinmao Tower

 

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Easily the best looking building in Lujiazui, the Jinmao tower is also our second favourite observation deck in the city.

 

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While not the tallest, the Jinmao observation platform takes up the entire 88th floor of the building, meaning that on one side you can look up at the Shanghai Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center, and on the other side you can look down on The Bund and the Pearl Tower.

 

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One of the most impressive parts of the Jinmao Tower’s observation deck is the newly opened skywalk. Situated 360.4m above the ground, the skywalk is a barrier-free glass walkway that juts out from the side of the tower. With no railings to keep you from falling off, walkers are strapped into a safety harness and clipped onto a cable that runs alongside the building. Once you’re all strapped up you can lean out into the void, sit on the edge of the walkway or just walk around it like a normal person.
                                                        
 
If you don’t feel brave/stupid enough to trust your life to a single cable and a safety harness, the inside of the Jinmao observation deck offers a much safer thrill in the form of a glass window that looks down 34 floors into the bar at the base of the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
 

Ticket prices:

 
Observation Platform: ¥120
 
Skywalk: ¥388
 
 

Shanghai World Financial Center:

 

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Referred to as “The Bottle Opener” or SWFC, the Shanghai World Financial Center is the ninth tallest building in the world and the second highest observation platform in the city.
 

A ticket up the tower costs ¥180, and for that you’ll get two views out across the city, one from the 97th floor and one from the 100th floor. From the 97th floor you’ll be able to look up through a glass ceiling to see the hole in the top of the building. You’ll also get a pretty decent view out over the Jinmao Tower, Bund and Pearl Tower. On the 100th floor you’ll be pretty much the same view and you’ll be able to look straight down through a glass floor into the observation deck below.
 
 

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We’ll be honest here, although the SWFC is the second highest building in the city, the design of the tower means that it probably offers one of the least impressive views. While you can look out through both the front and back of the building, you can’t see out of the sides, meaning if you want to get a good view of the Shanghai Tower, you’re out of luck.
 

Instead of visiting the SWFC’s observation deck, we recommend walking into the entrance of the Park Hyatt at the base of the building and taking a lift all the way up to the 91st floor to the hotel’s bar, 100 Century Avenue. From here you’ll be able to sit by the window and look out over the city while enjoying a beer, all for less than the price of buying a ticket to the observation deck six floors above.
 

Ticket Prices:

Observation Deck: ¥180
 
Entry into 100 Century Avenue: Usually Free

 

Shanghai Tower

 
Officially the second tallest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower also holds the record for being the tallest building in Shanghai, having the fastest elevators in the world, housing the tallest observation deck in the world and being the home to the only Pizza Hut anywhere to have a robot waiter. But is the view worth it?
 
 

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In short, yes. Unlike the SWFC, the Shanghai Tower offers a full 360 view across the city with relatively clean floor-to-ceiling windows. From the building’s 118th/119th floor, you can look down on every other skyscraper in the city, enjoy a coffee at the highest café in the city and squeeze one out in the highest toilet in the city. It truly is a magical place.
 
 

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Having said that, there’s nothing much to do here apart from look out over the city. The 119th floor holds occasional art exhibits but for the most part you’re really just going up there for the view. There’s a nice little exhibit in the basement of the Shanghai Tower that showcases some of the other tallest buildings in the world. There’s also a section talking about why the building was designed the way it was and several other interesting bits of information, but apart from that, the experience offers no gimmicks. There’re no glass floors, no museums no VR rollercoasters, no sky walks, nothing apart from a great view 561 meters up in the air. We absolutely love it.
 

Ticket prices:


Observation Deck: ¥180