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How to Plan a Shanghai Trip

The largest metropolis of China, Shanghai is regarded as the perfect embodiment of both ultra-modernization and antiquity, boasting its scores of architectural landmarks, mega malls, trendy restaurants and bars, age-old streets, cultural sites, ancient towns as well as narrow alleys with traditional dwellings. So, to get the best out of Shanghai, a city with limitless scope for exploration and experience, a little preparation before your journey is always essential.

The following guide is dedicatedly developed to help you as informed as possible, covering a variety of on-the-ground information, such as when to go, how to get there, low-down of its key destinations, etc.

Choosing the Best Time to Go

The best time to visit Shanghai for good weather is from March to May and late September to November when the temperature is comfortable, and the breeze is crisp and clean. Actually, the period of late March, late October, and early November is more recommended for you to avoid the domestic public holidays and some conventions.

While the hot and humid summer and the chilly winter maybe not as welcomed and pleasant as spring and autumn, it is the best time for saving money thanks to the relatively low hotel occupancy and room rates.

A Shanghai Weather guide has been prepared to provide you more details about weather information and tips.

Choosing Your Means of Travel

One important travel hub of China and the world, Shanghai is easily accessible from pretty much anywhere (both domestically and abroad).

Arriving from Abroad

There are two international airports – Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport - serving Shanghai, which operate airlines to over 100 international destinations. So, when traveling from most major world cities, it is very easy to get to Shanghai by an international flight.

Arriving from Domestic Cities

By air: Both Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) serve flights to dozens of domestic destinations.

By Train: There are four main railway stations in Shanghai operating hundreds of trains to or from around China, these include the non-stop express to Hong Kong, high-speed trains and bullet trains to many major cities like Beijing, Xian, Hangzhou, Chengdu, etc.

By Bus: There are a number of national highways start from or run through Shanghai, providing convenient accesses to many major destinations in all directions, even including the most remote regions of Xinjiang, Yunnan, and Tibet.

Getting Around

Thanks to the government's heavy investment, the Shanghai public transportation system is extremely extensive and efficient, and can conveniently transfer you to the metropolis' every corner. The various public transportation means available in Shanghai are city bus, sightseeing bus, taxi, metro, ferry, etc., and you can optionally choose a mode of travel based on your destination and time.

Please get to Shanghai Transportation page for more detailed information.

Top Activities in Shanghai

Traditions and tranquility meet trendy fashion and modernization in Shanghai, endowing it various tantalizing options. Since there is no way to touch all the highlights of this vast, diversified city in a limited duration, we handpicked some musts to make your trip planning an easy process:

Walking across the Bund

One of Shanghai's most recognized landmarks, the Bund is a famous water-front promenade alongside the Huangpu River where you get chance to see various European style buildings of colonial-era, many modern iconic skyscrapers, amazing natural view of Huangpu River as well as the real lifestyle of local people.

The Bund in Shanghai

Visiting the Yuyuan Garden

Once a private garden built in Ming Dynasty, Yuyuan Garden is regarded as the best garden in Southeast China, highlighting impressive architectures, zigzagging bridges, peaceful sceneries, fine carvings, and the nearby bustling bazaar with lanes of restaurants, tea houses and souvenir shops.

Strolling around Xintiandi

A charming modern street housing a large number of western brand restaurants, shops and cafes, Xintiandi is a popular entertainment area for both tourists and locals where you can whether go for shopping, eating, leisure or just sit at a store for rest.

Heading to a Nearby Water Town

In addition to its modernization, trendy living, bustle and hustle, Shanghai also boasts many nearby water towns which exude its antique, peaceful, and idyllic side. What's the life like in an ancient town very near from a metropolis? When in Shanghai, you get chance to have this unique experience.

Water Town near Shanghai

More Shanghai musts are listed in Shanghai Top Things to Do.

How Many Days to Stay

Regarding how long to stay in Shanghai, you’ll get an idea after deciding on the list of places you want to see. Regardless of your stay of duration, one thing is certain that when travelling in Shanghai - a city of great diversification, it is always easy to pick out some best highlights to light up your trip.

If you are those day trippers with limited time, the landmark sites such as the Bund, Nanjing Road, Yuyuan Garden, New Spot, and Shanghai Museum are recommended to be covered. If you have more time available, some nearby water towns like Tongli, Zhouzhuang and Wuzhen should be included to touch the idyllic charm near a cosmopolitan city.

For more inspiring trip ideas, please visit our Shanghai Tours.

Where to Eat

Whether you choose to enjoy fine dining in the best restaurants with world-class chefs across the Bund or Pudong, or seek out the authentic affordable local snacks at a hole-in-the-wall or street level eatery, Shanghai, with a wide range of restaurants, have something for every taste.

Since it doesn’t always come easy for travelers to research the many local restaurants in limited time, we specially prepared the Shanghai Food & Restaurants guide which will introduce you to many authentic Shanghai snacks and top recommended places to gather all of them.

Shanghai Food - Shengjianbao
Where to Stay

When deciding where to stay in Shanghai, you can’t go wrong to choose a hotel around the downtown area which is the home of many Shanghai's landmarks, making it more leisure to stroll around the Former French Concession, the Bund, Nanjing Road, etc. And the convenient public transportation system will provide you easy access to the rest sites of Shanghai from these downtown neighborhoods.

The following hand-picked hotels by should be a reference for you:
Hongqiao State Guest Hotel Shanghai
Le Royal Meridien, Shanghai
Renaissance Shanghai Yu Garden Hotel
Fairmont Peace Hotel
Pullman Shanghai Jingan Hotel

Shopping in Shanghai

When it comes to shopping, Shanghai, a shopping paradise that can be parallel with Hong Kong, is never short of options. This metropolis carries many of the best department stores and the most bustling shopping markets in the world, including Nanjing Road, Huaihai Road Market, boutique shops throughout the Bund and the French Concession, and the Outdoor Bazaar adjacent to Yuyuan Garden, etc.

The sheer volume of the shopping opportunities can be dizzying for even the Shanghai locals. That's where our Shanghai Shopping guide comes in.

Shanghai Nanjing Road
Shanghai Nanjing Road
How to Spend Your Nightlife

A city that never sleeps, Shanghai's nightlife is electrifying and surprisingly varied. In addition to the crazy cocktail bars and dance clubs, Shanghai is also ready to greet these night owls with amazing shows and performances in many theaters, dramatic night views and skylines along the Bund or around the Pudong New District, a leisure stroll around the Nanjing Road or some small alleys, or an enjoyable snack trip at the City God Temple, etc.

Get to our Shanghai Nightlife page for in-depth information on how to spend your nightlife in Shanghai.

The Bund at night
The Bund at night
More Tips

144-hour visa-free transit policy

The 144-hour visa-free transit policy has come to Shanghai and several surrounding cities since January 30th, 2016. That means a resident from one of 51 countries can stay in Shanghai for 144 hours without a prior visa if he/she meets the relevant requirements.

Travel with a Local Guide

While the transportation in Shanghai is very convenient, a travel guide helps to take all hassles out of your journey and shed new light on the city with their vivid narration, passionate sharing of local traditions and insights.

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