INSIDER SHANGHAI ITINERARY for (2020)

This insider SHANGHAI ITINERARY is packed with the best things Shanghai has to offer, so you can see it all!

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When it comes to Shanghai, less is certainly not more! As a leading business center, a luxury shopping paradise and a treasure trove of history, the city definitely thrives on excess! With our Shanghai itinerary, you’ll get to see why some call it ‘China’s Big Apple’!

Whether you’re having drinks on top of one of the city’s iconic skyscrapers or traversing crowded People’s Square, amazing entertainment and lots of things to see is definitely guaranteed! From sipping traditional tea to learning more about China’s history, this guide has it all.

You’ll find that this bustling city slows down in the art galleries and traditional gardens. Put in the work with our Shanghai itinerary, and you’ll be lucky enough to see the amazing city drop its guard and transform from glitzy city center to lush Chinese garden!

 

Best Time To Visit Shanghai

Bustling Shanghai stays busy year-round with business people, that is! When you’re planning a trip for pleasure, it’s super important to know when to visit the city!

The best time to visit Shanghai is from October to November, during autumn when the temperature is comfortably warm, rainfall is low and the crowds are thin. The first week of October, which is a national holiday, is a good time to visit as smart hotels will offer discounts while the business people are on holiday!

when to visit shanghai

These are the best times to visit Shanghai!

Spring is another good time to plan your trip. However, it’s also festival season which will hike prices so if you’re backpacking China on a budget, steer clear. On the other hand, this is the prime time for culture lovers with money to spare!

Shanghai is a global business destination, meaning that weekdays tend to bring higher prices. So it doesn’t matter how many days you spend but try to get a weekend in!

 Average TemperatureChance of RainCrowdsOverall Grade
January8°C / 46°FAverageCalm😐
February10°C / 50°FLowCalm😐
March14°C / 57°FAverageMedium😐
April20°C / 68°FAverageBusy🙂
May25°C / 77°FAverageBusy🙂
June28°C / 82°FHighBusy🙁
July32°C / 90°FHighBusy🙁
August32°C / 90°FHighBusy🙁
September28°C / 82°FAverageBusy🙁
October 23°C / 73°FLowCalm😀
November 17°C / 63°FLowCalm😀
December11°C / 52°FLowMedium😐

 

Where To Stay In Shanghai

Shanghai is already a sprawling city and it continues to grow, with over whopping 24 million people living there! This can easily overwhelm tourists and make it tricky when you’re looking for the best place to stay in Shanghai. Luckily, this part of our itinerary will take all the guesswork out of picking the perfect accommodation!

Where to stay in Shanghai

These are the best places to stay in Shanghai!

In our opinion, the best place to stay in Shanghai is Xujiahui. It has a perfect central location so it’s ideal for a first-time visitor! It’s also a popular shopping district, with plenty of international and Chinese brands at the many shopping malls. When it all gets a bit too much, you can relax beneath the trees at Xujiahui Park!

Shanghai is largely very modern but there are more traditional parts as well. If you’d like to soak up the contemporary part of the city, head to Pudong. The skyscrapers that light up come nightfall are the heart of this area.

The Bund and People’s Square are both older parts of the city. You’ll find souvenir stores between traditional houses there, but you’ll still have sight of those towering skyscrapers in Pudong! The Former French Concession area is popularly known as the “Little Paris of the East,” thanks to its quaint cafes and neoclassical buildings!

 

shanghai itinerary

The Phoenix is our pick for the best hostel in Shanghai!

Best Hostel in Shanghai The Phoenix

The warm welcome you get as you check-in at The Phoenix is just the start of great things to come! It’s a clean, friendly place that is also ideally situated next to the People’s Square metro station. There’s free Wifi in the hostel and The Phoenix Bar on the rooftop. What more can you ask for?

Want a few more amazing ideas? Head over to our post on the most INCREDIBLE hostels in Shanghai!

Check on HostelWorld

 

Room With Big City Views

Room With Big City Views is our pick for the best Airbnb in Shanghai!

Best Airbnb in Shanghai – Room With Big City Views

If you plan on staying in the magical city of Beijing, you gotta find a place in the city. Lucky you, this place is smack dab in the heart of it all.

It is considered the golden area of Shanghai and for a good reason. The restaurants in the neighborhood are to die for, and they are just within footsteps of this home.

With European decoration and on the 13th floor you can see the beautiful city lights that entrap us all. For the walking type of traveler, this home is about 15 minutes from the subway, so if what your looking isn’t around the corner, hop on the train, and you will almost certainly find whatever you are looking for in no time.

Don’t forget to try the Japanese restaurant around the corner while you are here!

Check on Airbnb

 

shanghai itinerary

Campanile Shanghai Natural History Museum Hotel is our pick for the best budget hotel in Shanghai!

Best Budget Hotel in Shanghai – Campanile Shanghai Natural History Museum Hotel

This excellent hotel from the Campanile group offers true value for your money! It has a sophisticated interior that prioritizes comfort, with airconditioning and heating to ensure the perfect microclimate in your room. The hotel also boasts a restaurant, cafe, and bar. Although it’s not exactly centrally-located, it is near the center, and you’ll be within easy reach of the metro.

Check on Booking.com    Check on HotelsCombined

 

shanghai itinerary

The Peninsula Shanghai is our pick for the best luxury hotel in Shanghai!

Best Luxury Hotel in Shanghai – The Peninsula Shanghai

Right opposite the Bund and in the center of town, the Peninsula Shanghai is the absolute best hotel in Shanghai! Each room comes with a Nespresso machine and large-screen TV but there’s so much more to discover outside of your room. The two in-house restaurants ensure that all tastes are catered to, while live music and drinks are offered at the other in-house establishments!

Check on Booking.com    Check on HotelsCombined

 

Shanghai Itinerary

It really doesn’t matter how many days in the city you spend because we’ve got the perfect plan for you! With art galleries, panoramic observation desks, and quaint historic districts, you won’t even have time to wonder what to do next!

Thanks to its superb public transport system, it’s easy to get into the city center, no matter where you stay! The heart of the network is the metro system and it’s best to stick to this form of public transport. Signs, maps, and announcements come in both Chinese and English so there’s minimum confusion!

Shanghai Itinerary

Welcome to our EPIC Shanghai itinerary

Individual tickets cost upwards of USD $0.45 and never exceed USD $2.00, but there are more cost-effective options! The 1-day and 3-day passes cost USD $3.00 and USD $7.00, respectively.

If you’d like an even more convenient way of getting around Shanghai, then call a taxi, or Uber. Dazhong Taxis is the most reputable local taxi company.

Once you’re in the city center, you’ll be fine just getting around on foot since all the top Shanghai attractions are quite near to each other! Just watch out for the never-ending stream of hurried motorists!

 

Day 1 Itinerary in Shanghai

The Bund | Nanjing Road and People’s Square | Shanghai History Museum | Observation Deck | Old City

For day 1, our guide will introduce you to the most classic Shanghai points of interest! From a public square to a history museum and a riverside promenade, there’s plenty of things to do in Shanghai! (And, yes, you really can see all of this in just one day in Shanghai!)

 

Day 1 / Stop 1 – The Bund

  • Why it’s awesome: It’s one of the most easily recognized Shanghai attractions!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: We have yet to find fault with Lost Heaven Silk Road which serves authentic Yunnan dishes in a sleek venue with spectacular views!

We’re starting our first 24 hours in Shanghai with the iconic Bund! It’s a long waterfront on the bank of the Huangpu River that is lined with numerous historical buildings from the colonial era. In fact, there are 26 buildings in so many different styles that the Bund is now known as ‘the museum of international architecture’!

Most of the buildings were designed as imposing workplaces for banks and merchants which is what they’re still used for today! Look out for the Nissin Building, which has a pleasing combination of Japanese and classical Western styles. The China Merchants Bank Building, which is one of the oldest on the Bund, was designed in an elaborate gothic style.

The Bund

The Bund, Shanghai

Mostly though, you just want to stroll around and enjoy the lively atmosphere. There are some incredible views and sites that will probably provide some of the best photos you take home from your Shanghai trip!

Insider Tip: It’s important to see the Bund during the day to appreciate all the lovely architecture, but do try to come back later in the evening. There are amazing views of the city’s skyscrapers all lit-up, and watching the sunset across the river is one of the best things to do in Shanghai at night!

 

Day 1 / Stop 2 – Nanjing Road and People’s Square

  • Why it’s awesome: This iconic road stretches over 5km and is the best shopping destination in Shanghai!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: There are so many food stores along Nanjing Road where you can find plenty of Chinese snacks. Look out for meat-filled mooncakes and wine-cured crab!

As you leave the Bund, you should find yourself in the much-talked-about Nanjing Road. It’s chock-full with department and luxury stores, both local and international!

Besides the usual Tiffany’s and Montblanc, you’ll find old Chinese department stores that specialize in traditional Chinese crafts. There’s a myriad of silks, jade carvings, and clocks on sale here, making Nanjing one of those places you must see in Shanghai!

Nanjing Road

Nanjing Road, Shanghai

Along Nanjing Road, you’ll find People’s Square, the heart and soul of modern-day Shanghai! It’s bisected by People’s Avenue, a 32m-wide pavement that has a large greenbelt.

On the southwest side of the square is a blue and white dovecot. Thousands of doves gather there in the mornings, providing a soothing presence in one of the busiest parts of Shanghai!

In the center of the square, be sure to admire the Musical Fountain! It spans 320 square meters and is decorated with Chinese symbolisms.

 

Day 1 / Stop 3 – Shanghai History Museum

  • Why it’s awesome: The museum uses state-of-the-art technology and rare artifacts to transport visitors through the millennia since Shanghai was settled!
  • Cost: Admission is free; audio guides cost around $3 USD.
  • Food nearby: On the museum’s rooftop you’ll find Roof325, a cafe serving international meals and offering jaw-dropping views of People’s Square and the larger city!

On the southern end of People’s Square, you’ll find an imposing building with redbrick features. This is the Shanghai History Museum which tells the 6,000-year-old story of this colossal city!

When the museum opened in 2018, people were queuing up from 5am to get inside! Thankfully, this level of popularity has subsided since but the Museum is still the best museum you’ll find in the city and something you should definitely do in Shanghai!

There are over 1,100 artifacts spread out over an awesome 9,800 square meters! As you make your way from the ground floor to the third floor, you will travel from Neolithic China to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949!

Shanghai History Museum

Shanghai History Museum

In the ancient section, you’ll be blown away by how the early Chinese utilized precious materials like jade and ivory to create utensils, as well as intricately-detailed ceremonial items! There is also art and other pieces that show some of the sights, like the Yu Garden, as they were when they were first created!

The section on modern Shanghai is a lot more somber, as the exhibitions chronicle long decades of war and colonialism, followed by the Maoist years. However dark, it’s an important part of Chinese history, and it’s well-presented.

The Best Travel Backpack?!

Pssssst! Not picked the perfect travel backpack yet? The Broke Backpacker team has tried out over thirty backpacks this year! Our favourite carry on backpack is the Nomatic Travel Bag.

Read our full review!

 

Day 1 / Stop 4 – Observation Deck

  • Why it’s awesome: Shanghai’s collection of neck-craning skyscrapers are some of the most iconic landmarks! Not to mention, there are views for days!
  • Cost: $31 USD for admission to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the in-house Municipal History Museum. $26 USD for admission to all sightseeing zones at the Shanghai World Financial Center.
  • Food nearby: You’ll find the Revolving Restaurant at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. At the Shanghai World Financial Center, the Park Hyatt Hotel has a cocktail bar and a smart restaurant!

Now that you’ve explored the tourist area around the Bund, cross the river to Pudong. The commercial center of Shanghai is bursting with high-rises that offer epic views! Our two favorites are the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the World Financial Center.

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the second tallest TV tower in China with a height of 468m and the sixth highest in the world! With the Nanpu Bridge in the background, it’s designed to look like two dragons playing with pearls! The surrounding greenery should give you the appearance of a jade plate.

oriental pearl tower Observation Deck

Observation Deck, Shanghai

Inside the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, it’s all very modern, especially the various observation decks. Time to send home some pictures!

The Shanghai World Financial Center on the other hand, is the second tallest building in the whole world! It attracts a global finance industry, but we’re really just here for the views! There’s a sightseeing hall at 423m, a sightseeing observatory at 439m with windows to take photos, and a sightseeing skywalk at 474m!

 

Day 1 / Stop 5 – Old City

  • Why it’s awesome: Discover a picture-perfect district of traditional pre-European Chinese architecture, culture, and history!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: No visit to Old City is complete without Chinese teas at Mid-Lake Pavilion Teahouse! The extensive tea menu has been sampled by British Queen Elizabeth and Bill Clinton!

One of the highlights of Shanghai travel has to be the Old City! As it predates 1850, it’s ideal for visitors who want to see a more traditionally Chinese part of the city!

Yu Gardens (often called Yuyuan Gardens) is the first place to visit in Old City. It’s a lush, shaded park with sparkly fish pools and fragrant magnolia flowers! It was built over 18 years in the 16th century, during the Ming dynasty!

Old City

Old City, Shanghai

The Temple of the Town God is a restored 15th-century temple that combines Taoist and Buddhist worship. Be sure to admire the carvings that decorate the roof!

Complete your own “What to do in Shanghai” walking tour of Old City by heading to Dàjìng Pavilion. This pavilion contains the only extant section of the old city walls. There’s also a lovely, tiny Guandi Temple and a small calligraphy museum to enjoy!

The Phoenix

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The Phoenix
  • Free WiFi
  • 24 Hour Reception
  • Airport Transfers

The warm welcome you get as you check-in at The Phoenix is just the start of great things to come!

Day 2 Itinerary in Shanghai

The Former French Concession | Jade Buddha Temple | Urban Planning Exhibition Center | Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art | Moganshan Road Art District

Spending at least 2 days in Shanghai is perfect for you to explore the city’s cultural history and contemporary art scene! Today will take you to sites that are a little further out of the city center but are totally worth the effort!

 

Day 2 / Stop 1 – The Former French Concession

  • Why it’s awesome: Called “The Little Paris of the East,” this stylish suburb offers quaint Shanghai points of interest!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Find your morning pick-me-up at And Coffee. Amongst the minimalist interior, you’ll be served with a refreshing, tangy drink of coffee, tonic, and raspberries!

As morning dawns on the second day of your trip, enjoy your own casual Shanghai walking tour by heading down this pretty district! It’s one of the best things to do in this area!

The Former French Concession was once just that: a part of the city occupied by the French after the Opium Wars. History aside, you’ll find that time tends to slow down as you wander the tree-lined avenues of the Former French Concession. This atmosphere is why it’s on our what to do in Shanghai list, but if you need a clear destination to stroll towards, read on!

The Former French Concession Shanghai

The Former French Concession, Shanghai | source: Fabio Achilli (Flickr)

Wulumuqi Zhong Lu is the most popular place to start a Shanghai walking tour here! First up, it’s time for some local fashion. Feiyue is a Chinese sneaker brand that’s beloved around the world. You’ll find these snazzy shoes on sale at Culture Matters.

To see how local bamboo is used in the fashion industry, pop into Kate Wood Originals where you’ll find stunning sunglasses and custom-made wooden bicycle frames!

Wuyuan Lu is the next street to head to. Here, you’ll find the Zhang Leping Museum which is dedicated to the eponymous author of Sanmao the Orphan, a popular 20th-century comic.

 

Day 2 / Stop 2 – Jade Buddha Temple

  • Why it’s awesome: An opulent house of Buddhist worship in the city, this is a fantastic sensory experience on our Shanghai trip itinerary!
  • Cost: It’s $3 USD for entrance and an additional $1 USD to see the jade Buddhas.
  • Food nearby: Enhance your Buddhist experience and grab a bite at the on-site vegetarian restaurant. You’ll be amazed at just how much can be cooked with only veggies!

Now that you’re well into your day 2, it’s about time that you head over to the Jade Buddha Temple in Jing’ an! This temple was built in 1882 to house two statues of Buddha that were shipped from Burma. It was destroyed during the revolution against the Qing dynasty but was rebuilt in 1928.

The Hall of Heavenly Kings houses exquisite statues of the four Heavenly Kings. Even more magnificent, though, is the Grand Hall. It’s usually packed with worshippers praying to Buddhas past, present, and future. Look out for the copper statue of Guanyin at the back of the hall.

Jade Buddha Temple

Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai

Across a courtyard lies the Jade Buddha Hall, which may well be the highlight of your itinerary! Put your camera away (photography is forbidden) and lower your voice as you admire the Sitting Buddha. This 1.9m statue was carved from a single piece of pale green jade. It’s a masterpiece of art!

In the Reclining Buddha Hall, you’ll find the second jade statue of Buddha. This statue is smaller and made of white jade, but it’s equally as beautiful as the Sitting Buddha!

 

Day 2 / Stop 3 – Urban Planning Exhibition Center

  • Why it’s awesome: Shanghai is enjoying its present moment on the world stage but for a glimpse of the bright future, head here!
  • Cost: $4 USD for entrance. Audio guides are an additional $3 USD but information is provided in the exhibitions.
  • Food nearby: On the fifth floor, there’s a small cafe that serves light meals.

From its humble origins as a fishing village to a future that promises to be even more exciting, Shanghai’s destiny is comprehensively presented by the Urban Planning Exhibition Center! The use of photos, models, and other multimedia ensures that you really feel a part of the city in each and every era!

On the first floor, you’ll explore Shanghai’s past. The exhibition includes the establishment of the international community in the city, colonial architecture, and traditional shíkùmén (stone gate) housing.

The second floor is dedicated to temporary exhibitions.

Urban Planning Exhibition Center shanghai

Urban Planning Exhibition Center, Shanghai | source: Jordiferrer (Wikicommons)

The third floor is all about the future of this megatropolis! A detailed model shows what the city is envisioned to look like, while the Virtual World 3D wraparound tour adds to the believability of it all!

Sustainability and transport are the subjects of exhibitions on the fourth floor.

As you exit the museum, you walk along Old Shanghai Street, a reconstruction of the city in the 1930s that comes complete with a cobble-stoned walkway and vintage cars! It’s a fun ending to such an exciting attraction on our 2-day itinerary in Shanghai!

 

Day 2 / Stop 4 – Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art

  • Why it’s awesome: This state-owned art gallery presents cutting-edge exhibitions that provoke thought amongst locals and foreigners alike!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Dulong Road has many interesting shops and cafes along the way but we love Old Film Cafe! This tribute to the golden age of local cinema is atmospheric, often hosts film screenings, and has excellent coffee!

With 2 days in Shanghai, it’s time to admire Shanghai’s contemporary art and there’s nowhere better to start than the Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art! Whether it’s an electronic music performance or an exhibition on local gender prejudice, this museum uses a variety of media to engage visitors!

The museum aims to connect Western and Eastern cultures through the power of art. To this end, artists hail from all corners of the world, with Picasso exhibiting alongside Yoshitaka Amano!

The museum is located on Duolon Road, a historic area where many prominent Chinese cultural figures, like Lu Xun, created their art. Inside, the spiral staircase that ascends seven floors is considered a work of art itself!

For a memento of your visit, browse around in the museum shop! There are some wonderful products, like books in Chinese and English, and posters for sale.

 

Day 2 / Stop 5 – Moganshan Road Art District

  • Why it’s awesome: Home to local and international talents like Zhou Tiehai and Ding Yi, this is the center of Shanghai’s art scene!
  • Cost: Free!
  • Food nearby: Wind down with a cup of coffee and delicious treats at UNDEF/NE. It’s a popular hang-out for local creatives. With regular events and some of the best coffee in town, you’ll soon see why!

At 50 Moganshan Road, known as M50, you’ll find a complex that’s a prominent home of contemporary Chinese art. The building used to house textile mills but has since been converted into a sophisticated network of galleries, studios and workshops all in the name of the city’s burgeoning art scene!

There are over 130 different artistic ventures in this complex so prepare to be blown away by China’s young creatives and their extraordinary ideas! You want to have a bit of a wander around but there are certain parts that you must visit before leaving!

If it’s iconic Chinese artists you’re looking for, head to shanghART H-Space Gallery. The Swiss-owned space is one of the oldest contemporary galleries in Shanghai! For a wider variety, try Eastlink Gallery on the 5th floor.

Moganshan Road Art District Shanghai

Moganshan Road Art District, Shanghai | source: Fabio Achilli (Flickr)

Bear in mind that M50 is the perfect place to bag some unique souvenirs from your trip to Shanghai! Plenty of tourists have managed to get well-priced pieces of art here. For this alone, you should have it on your Shanghai itinerary!

Insider Tip: There isn’t a metro station within walking distance of the art district and using the bus to get here is rather complicated. In any case, it’s best to save your energy for the myriad of shops, so take a taxi!

Gardens Neighborhood, Cape Town

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you– pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money and a passport photocopy!

GET IT HERE

 

Shanghai Itinerary: Day 3 and Beyond

Propaganda Poster Art Center | Soong Qing-Ling’s Former Residence | Chongming Island | Qibao | Power Station of Art

Today’s plan is all about the hidden gems that not all tourists get around to. Luckily, though, 3 days in Shanghai means that you’ve got more than enough time to enjoy these unique attractions!

 

Propaganda Poster Art Center

  • ‘Quirky’ and ‘vibrant’ are key words to describe this one-of-a-kind museum that documents the history of propaganda in Maoist China!
  • This fascinating insight into how the state functioned during that era is a mind-blowing experience !
  • The $4 USD that you spend on admission is absolutely worth it!

As you walk along Hushuan Street, you’ll come to a seemingly ordinary residential complex. This unassuming entrance, however, is how you enter the Propaganda Poster Art Center! It’s located in the basement of the building which just adds to the intensity of the experience!

The museum has an extraordinary collection of around 5,000 posters, many of which were collected from rubbish dumps by the dedicated founder. Together they span three decades of Chinese political life, from the late 1940s to the late 1970s!

Propaganda Poster Art Center shanghai

Propaganda Poster Art Center, Shanghai | source: Nicor (Wikicommons)

These posters are works of art that demonstrate the political outlook at the time, as well as give us clues about how ordinary Chinese felt. You can track the change in styles over time, from European-style cartoons to socialist-realist images to the Red art-style of the Cultural Revolution. The artists truly managed to capture in images the resilience of the human spirit!

This is hands-down one of the best places to visit in Shanghai during your 3 days! You can even purchase some of these amazing historic artifacts at the center! It’s open daily, with the exception of Monday. Don’t miss it!

 

Soong Qing-Ling’s Former Residence

  • Soong Qing-Ling is a hero to multitudes of Chinese people. The locals honor her!
  • The Shanghai-born Soong Qing-Ling married Dr Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Chinese Republic, and later played a prominent role in the communist government.
  • She lived in this two-story house for 15 years in the mid-20th century!

Soong Qing-Ling is the kind of historical figure that seizes the imagination when you first learn of her! In addition to her role as the wife of Sun Yat-sen, the much beloved Chinese woman would later become Vice President of China under the communist government and often served as head of state. Her home remains much as it would have been when she lived here in the 1950s, making it a treat for anyone touring Shanghai!

Soong Qing-Ling’s Former Residence Shanghai

Soong Qing-Ling’s Former Residence, Shanghai | source: Jpbowen (Wikicommons)

The first floor of the house was the living and dining area, while upstairs you’ll find her office, her bedroom, and the bedroom of her beloved maid. A small annex to the house has an absorbing display of memorabilia. It’s a fascinating collection of letters from the likes of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, family photographs, and her college degree!

In the garage, be sure to admire the two black limousines, one of which was given to her as a present by Stalin in 1952! The garden is often considered the highlight of the house. The well-kept lawn is bordered by magnolias and camphor trees and is where Soong entertained guests!

 

Chongming Island

  • Find peace and quiet from downtown Shanghai on this nature-filled island in the Yangtze River!
  • As the third-largest island in China, there’s a huge variety of fauna and flora to ogle on Chongming!
  • Try some tasty hairy crab while you’re there! Chongming alcohol, a herbal brew, is also good to taste!

Chongming Island is about an hour outside of the city center, so it’s a good option to save for the third day of your itinerary! Once you’re there and surrounded by the chirping birds and swaying trees, you’ll probably feel like you’re on the other side of the world.

In the center of Chongming Island, you’ll enter Dongping National Forest Park, which is the largest man-made plain forest in east China. The forest is dense and the sweet scent of flowers fill the air. It has good facilities for birdwatching, as well as offering rock climbing and ziplining, amongst other activities!

Chongming Island in Shanghai

Chongming Island, Shanghai source: NG-Spacetime(Shutterstock)

On the far east of the island is Dongtan Wetland Park. Reeds grow in marshes as far as the eye can see, while thousands of birds soar towards the horizon. Try to show up for sunrise. The view is one of the most breathtaking things to see in Shanghai!

Come sunset, secure your spot in Xisha Wetland Park, on the western end of the island. Unlike Dongtan, it’s free to visit!

To see how traditional Chinese gardeners have tamed nature, visit Danyuan Garden, the only man-made garden on the island. It’s designed in the Suzhou style with halls, pavilions, small pools, and bridges scattered around the park. Have your camera on hand as you pose amongst the red lanterns and porcelain chairs!

 

Qibao

  • Shanghai is surrounded by the aptly-named water towns which are admired for their canals, stone bridges, and charming whitewashed houses!
  • It’s the perfect place to experience a more traditional lifestyle as locals still use the waterways for transport, fishing, and washing clothes.
  • Qibao is the nearest water town to Shanghai (just 30 minutes by metro from the city center) so it’s an ideal attraction to put on your 3-day itinerary!

If you start to wonder what to do in Shanghai on day 3, then make a beeline for Qibao! This tiny town was established during the Northern Song Dynasty which ruled from 960 to 1126. The little settlement grew into a prominent commercial center over the centuries. In fact, ‘Qibao’ means ‘seven treasures’ in Chinese which locals attribute to the wealth the town gathered!

Qibao in Shanghai

Qibao, Shanghai source: Richie Chan (Shutterstock)

Qibao Temple is the perfect place to start your adventure in Qibao! The temple is a much-revered site for locals as a famed monk, Jing, studied here. It’s the perfect place to observe both Han and Tang-era architectural styles!

One of the most unique experiences has to be this: cricket fighting! That’s right, this age-old Chinese pastime is still practiced in Qibao. In fact, it’s so popular that locals have established a small museum to it where visitors can learn more about the activity and witness live fights! Unlike bullfighting, cricket fighting very rarely causes injury to the animals.

 

Power Station of Art

  • This state-run contemporary art gallery is the heart of urban culture in Shanghai!
  • It’s hosted some of the biggest art shows in China, such as the Biennale and an Andy Warhol retrospective!
  • The awesome architecture and history of the location is also a highlight of our Shanghai itinerary!

Housed in a former power station, which was established in 1897 and along the Huangpu River, Power Station of Art screams innovation! It hosts an array of exhibitions that feature both Chinese and international artists.

From jewelry to toys to architecture, the museum takes a broad definition of art and changes the way visitors look at objects that may seem to have only a utilitarian use! It tends to collaborate with some big names, like jewelry house Van Cleef & Arpels, so what you see is certainly world-class!

Power Station of Art shanghai

Power Station of Art, Shanghai | source: macchi (Flickr)

Pick up some creative souvenirs for friends and family at A Power Store, branches of which are positioned throughout the museum! There’s also a cafe and a swanky restaurant upstairs to chat about your new discoveries!

When you go outside, crane your neck upwards to spot the temperature. The 165m high chimney serves as a thermometer to tell locals what the temperature in Shanghai is!

Insider Tip: Save money on the admission fee by visiting on a Tuesday, which is always free!

Don’t forget to pack a good book!

Lonely Planet Shanghai (Travel Guide): This is our top recommendation for an awesome and inspiring read on this magical city.

 

Staying Safe in Shanghai

Those who travel to China generally find the country quite safe. However, there are a few general things to keep in mind safety-wise.

  1. Chinese men have a poor reputation when it comes to drinking! Visitors have found that it’s very easy to get into a fight with locals in bars which is definitely not advised!
  2. The major concern when you travel to Shanghai, though, is pickpocketing. As in all cities, this tends to happen in crowded areas like transportation hubs and landmarks.
  3. Try to pay in exact change if you pay cash as China does suffer from counterfeit currency problems.
  4. Pollution is also a concern so if you’re planning a trip to Shanghai, you may want to put a filtration face mask on your packing list. It’s a common thing for locals to wear, so you won’t look one bit out of place!
  5. Shanghai has hectic traffic, so exercise supreme caution! A good tip is to avoid making eye contact with motorists when you want to cross the road; otherwise, they’ll think you’re letting them go!
  6. For peace of mind while on vacation in Shanghai, get yourself a reputable travel insurance that offers you comprehensive cover in case of emergency. There are plenty of choices but we love World Nomads! It’s easy to purchase, provides comprehensive cover and customizes your policy based on your destination.

Get more AWESOME advice on our post about travel safety tips!

Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of the best travel insurance for backpackers,or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads now, our favourite travel insurance provider.

 

Day Trips From Shanghai

We know it seems crazy to leave this dazzling city, but these epic day trips from Shanghai will change your mind! Whether it’s a lake or a palace, there’s somewhere exciting to explore outside the city every day!

 

Nanjing Private Tour from Shanghai

One of the best Shanghai day trips has to be this epic 8 hour trip to Nanjing! Nanjing was once China’s capital, and it remains an important city in modern China!

Nanjing Private Tour from Shanghai

Your first visit will be to Chaotian Gong, a 19th-century palace complex. Next up is the iconic Zhonghua Gate which is the biggest castle-style city gate in China and a part of the most complicated castle in the world!

After a visit to the 1,000-year-old Confucius Temple and a stroll along the city’s Qinhuai River, your tour will take you to the mausoleum of Dr Sun Yat-sen, the founder of the Republic of China. Even though it’s in Nanjing, the proximity to Shanghai means the mausoleum is an absolute must-see!

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Private Day Tour to Wuxi Lingshan Grand Buddha and Tai Lake

This immersive 10-hour tour is one of the most extraordinary day trips from Shanghai!

The star attraction of this day trip is the Lingshan Grand Buddha, which towers above you at 88m! It’s actually the tallest bronze Buddha in the world!

Private Day Tour to Wuxi Lingshan Grand Buddha and Tai Lake

At the Five Mudra Mandala, you’ll have the chance to touch the largest Buddha’s hand in the world. It’s meant to bring good fortune and longevity!

Following a vegetarian lunch in the temple, it’s time to explore the northern bank of Tai Lake, the third largest freshwater lake in China. Then, it’s back to Shanghai with some amazing memories!

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Private Day Tour to Suzhou From Shanghai By Fast Train

Most tourists consider this one of the best day trips from Shanghai due to the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the heart of Suzhou!

Suzhou is nicknamed “the Venice of the East” because of the large network of canals. Around the canals are some gorgeous Chinese gardens! One of those you’ll visit is the Humble Administrator’s Garden which also has a pretty residential quarter.

Private Day Tour to Suzhou From Shanghai By Fast Train

A tour of Shantang Street will teach you more about China’s water towns. You’ll visit the Opera Stage and the Boat Museum.

To cap off this excellent day trip, there’s a boat cruise on the Grand Canal and a visit to the Suzhou Silk Museum. Don’t miss out!

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Hangzhou West Lake, Dragon Well Tea Village & Linyin Temple

As you tour through he city, you’ll often hear talk of day trips to Hangzhou and wonder where is Shanghai in relation to Hangzhou! Well, all your questions about this lush and vibrant city will be answered by the end of the day!

Hangzhou West Lake, Dragon Well Tea Village & Linyin Temple

At the picturesque Dragon Well village, you’ll be introduced to Chinese tea farming and one of the best tea brands! Later on, there’s boat cruise on the West Lake and a visit to one of the lovely islands.

The Linyin Temple is the final stop on this trip. Built in 328, it’s now one of the largest Buddhist temples in China!

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Shanghai: Zhujiajiao UNESCO Water Town Afternoon Tour

You may have visited Qibao already, but Zhujiajiao is the absolute winner of all the water towns surrounding Shanghai! It’s also one of the furthest, making it a perfect day trip from the city!

Shanghai Zhujiajiao UNESCO Water Town Afternoon Tour

This ancient water town is over 400 years old and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Make sure to keep your camera close by as you cruise along the stunning canals and admire Dian Shan Lake!

Your local guide will point out all the best places to eat and shop, as well as show you the most atmospheric parts of the town! Trust us, it’s sublime!

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Conclusion

Foreigners tend to see Shanghai as a glitzy modern metropolis but with this Shanghai itinerary,  you’ll find that there’s so much more to this riverside city! Look beyond the imposing cityscape of Pudong and explore the ground-level landmarks for a truly rich vacation!

From a temple with carved jade Buddhas to a converted powerhouse art gallery, Shanghai is bursting with creativity! Up-and-coming local artists mingle with long-gone Chinese masters, not just in galleries, but in the renovated stone houses of Old City. Whether it’s noodles and dumplings or using the river to get around, some things don’t change and that’s only enhanced the beauty of contemporary city!

A trip to Shanghai is an eye-opening, mind-boggling, and spine-tingling experience that is offset by tranquil oases of art and nature in the city center. Find the perfect balance between now and then, as well as the ideal combination of the man-made and the natural! Pick your favorite hostel or hotel to book and start packing for Shanghai!

 

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This insider SHANGHAI ITINERARY is packed with the best things Shanghai has to offer, so you can see it all!

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