Beijing vs. Shanghai

To be honest, both cities are so different that it is very difficult to compare them, and I maybe didn’t spend enough time in Shanghai to get to the full image of the city. However, I’ve seen enough to find out that both cities are just the complete opposite from each other. While Beijing is more an old and traditional city with a lot of culture and old buildings, Shanghai is just a mega city and metropole with high standards, big shopping malls, and exclusive rooftop bars.

Shanghai Skyline


For me, it seemed that the pollution is Beijing is a lot worst then the pollution in Shanghai. This may be because of the location of both cities. Shanghai is located near the sea, and Beijing is in the middle of the Mountains. On the other hand, is Beijing surrounded by a lot of industrial companies which produces a lot of pollution and the cars are way older in Beijing. Shanghai has a lot of luxury cars and new cars while Beijing is full of old cars and motorcycles.


To be honest, when I arrived in Beijing I thought that the city center would be full of skyscrapers, but I got disappointed in the city center there is not one skyscraper, not even one high building. This is because of the forbidden city which is in the middle of the city and shouldn’t be covered in Skyscrapers. Beijing has only one district with some skyscrapers where the CCTV tower is located. The city center of Beijing is basically looking like an old town with old buildings and small shops and no modern parts in it. Shanghai, on the other hand, has the most amazing Skyline I saw until now. One Skyscraper tops the other one and, in the night, until 10 pm they have a light show. From the Bund (The other side of the river) the view is just amazing and the perfect place to have a beer and chillout with friends.

Skyline Shanghai
CCTV Headquarters

Life in the cities:

Shanghai is by far more organized then Beijing. People don’t horn all the time. Traffic lights get respected, and most of the other rules get respected too. Beijing is such a chaotic city, lots of motorcycles cross how and when they want, and you must pay attention all the time to not get hit by one. In Beijing, there are no 5 seconds you won’t hear a horn or people shouting while Shanghai is in fact relatively quiet. Shanghai is even the most organized city I saw in China, it still needs a lot of improvement to achieve a European standard, but Shanghai is on a good way to get there. Because of the help from thousands and thousands of workers both cities are very clean, this is, in fact, true for every city I’ve been in so far.


Nightlife in Shanghai is by far better than the nightlife in Beijing. The rooftop bars and clubs are just crazy. They are also crazy expensive for Chinese standards but with the right connections the entrance is free, and some drinks are on the house too. In addition to these super exclusive bars and clubs, the city has a lot of normal bars, wine bars, cocktail bars and pubs to offer. The city never sleeps, and you can spend one week every evening on another rooftop bar, and you won’t get bored with the view. Beijing has, of course, also some exclusive clubs and bars but it’s nothing compared to Shanghai. I was partying in a Club called Mix with 2 floors, one with hip-hop and RnB music and one with electro music. It’s also expensive to party in Beijing especially the drinks in the clubs. Except for this district and some other districts with clubs, I didn’t saw much bars or clubs, most of the times people drink in the restaurant while eating.  


Beijing has for sure the better food, this is because there is so much street food which is amazing. In addition to that, you can find all these small restaurants which look like they really need a renovation, but they have the best food you can get. It’s so cheap in these restaurants but just good food. The lesson I learned the first day in China was that it doesn’t matter how the restaurant looks, it just matters who’s sitting inside. Where the locals sit, the food is good. There are also several street food corners in the city where you can walk around and try everything. In Shanghai it’s different, most street foods disappeared, and the restaurants all look modern and fancy. This, unfortunately, doesn’t mean that the food is better, in contrary to these street food and shitty restaurants often have better food than the fancy looking ones. The food is also a lot more expensive in Shanghai than in Beijing.

Hotpot in Beijing
Food Shanghai
Chicken with rice and meatballs in Shanghai


Shanghai is in all points the more expensive city. Hostels and Hotels are more expensive, Food is more expensive, and partying is a lot more expensive. Only transportation is the same price. Metro and bus tickets cost in all of China nearly the same and Taxis have similar prices.

Skyline Shanghai


This point definitely goes to Beijing. Beijing has so much culture to offer and so many places to visit. The Great Wall of China, the forbidden city, the Temple of Heaven Park and a lots more. The details can be found here. Shanghai, on the other hand, hasn’t too much to visit. There is the Yu Yuan Garden and of course the Skyscrapers where you can visit the viewpoints, but apart from that, there is not much to see. Shanghai is more a good city to live in and to have a weekend full of party and shopping, while Beijing is packed with culture.

Yu Yuan Garden Shanghai
Yu Yuan Garden in Shanghai
Great Wall Beijing
Great Wall in Beijing

 To be honest, I don’t have a favorite city. Both cities have their positive and negative sides. To live in, I would certainly choose Shanghai over Beijing but to visit I don’t have a favorite place. Both cities are amazing in their own way, and you should visit both.


  • Total countries I visited until now: 25


  • Planes: 3
  • Busses: 10
  • Trains: 9
  • Km running: 360
  • Drinks: 17

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