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How to Plan a Shanghai Tour

shanghai nightviewShanghai night scene

Shanghai is a modern city with a highly-developed business sector and convenient transportation. If you are planning a tour of Shanghai, read on to get the best from your time, and some tips on planning the itinerary.

Getting a Visa… or No Need to Get a Visa?

Usually foreigners need to apply for a visa before travel to China. Read on how to apply for a China visa.

From January 30th, 2016, you can enjoy 6-day visa-free access to Shanghai, if you are a resident of one of 51 countries transiting through Shanghai to another country/region.

If you meet the relevant qualifying criteria of the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, you won't need to obtain a visa in advance.

Choosing the Best Time to Go

The Best Times: March–May, September–November

Yuyuan GardenYuyuan Garden

These two periods have moderate temperatures, and are best for enjoying outdoor activities.

Summer — Rainy, Becoming Hotter

Mid June to early July is the rainiest period in Shanghai. Prepare rain gear if you travel during this period.

The hottest time in Shanghai is from July to August. The temperature can be up to 35°C (95°F).

Winter — Cold and Damp

Though it seldom snows, the cold and wet wind will make you feel like it's freezing.

Inconvenient and High-Price Periods

Chinese New Year (usually in January or February) and the week-long holidays beginning on International Labor Day (May 1) and National Day (Oct 1). Be prepared for huge crowds at the airports, tourist sights, shopping areas, restaurants, and hotels during these periods.

Read more about Shanghai weather.

How to Get to Shanghai?

Shanghai has two international airports: Pudong (PVG) and Hongqiao (SHA). It is easy to get to Shanghai with international flights. There are direct flights to Shanghai from most major world cities.

If you are already in China, you can reach Shanghai by plane conveniently, and bullet trains are increasingly becoming a viable, quick option. See more information about Shanghai transportation.

Shanghai map

Travel Individually or Travel with a Travel Company?

Travel with a Travel Company.You will be taken care of by our guide.

Transportation in Shanghai is very convenient, and you can travel like most locals do by taking the subway, buses, taxis, biking, walking, etc., but you may encounter many unforeseen troubles, like the language barrier and getting lost.

If you want no hassles, we recommend you travel with a professional travel company, who will take care of getting you where you want to go. Then you can enjoy a comfortable and relaxing tour.

China Highlights has been specializing in tailor-making China tours since 1998. Contact us, and our travel experts will be glad to help you arrange your tour based on your requirements. Our local guide will show you the real Shanghai and lead you to experience the lives of local people.

Highlights You Should Not Miss

Shanghai is rich in historical, cultural, and scenic attractions. Even if your time is limited, you should not miss the highlights below:

The Oriental Pearl TV TowerThe Oriental Pearl TV Tower
  • The Bund is the most famous place in Shanghai and is a good place to relax and appreciate the architecture. Time needed: 1–2 hours
  • The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the icon of Shanghai. You can get a panoramic view of the Bund and Huangpu River. And it's better to visit at night for the spectacular night view. Time needed: 2–3 hours
  • Yuyuan (‘Happiness Garden’) is famous for its exquisite layout, beautiful landscaping, and the artistic style of the garden architecture. Time needed: 2–3 hours
  • Xintiandi is a place where you can experience the historical and cultural atmosphere of Shanghai. Time needed: 1–2 hours
  • Water Towns Nearby: There are several water towns near Shanghai, about 1–2 hours' drive away. You can boat on the waterways, eat local snacks, and appreciate the ancient architecture. Time needed: half a day – 2 days

How Many Days to Stay in Shanghai?

Shanghai is a splendid metropolis blending the West and the East, the modern and the ancient. No matter which aspect of Shanghai you are interested in, it will not disappoint you. The longer you stay, the deeper you will understand this city.

Tongli Water TownTongli Water Town

If time permits, taking an extension tour to Suzhou or Hangzhou is highly recommended.

Here are some suggested itineraries for your reference:

1-Day Tour: Shanghai Highlights

The Bund, Yuyuan Garden, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Museum

2-Day Tour: Shanghai Highlights + a Water Town

Day 1: The Bund, Yuyuan Garden, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Museum
Day 2: Zhujiajiao Water Town or Xitang Water Town
See detailed itinerary.

3-Day Tour: Shanghai + Hangzhou + Nanxun Water Town

Day 1: The Bund, Yuyuan Garden, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Museum
Day 2: Travel to Hangzhou, Lingyin Temple, West Lake, a Tea plantation
Day 3: Nanxun Water Town
See detailed itinerary.

4-Day Tour: Shanghai + Hangzhou + Suzhou + Tongli Water Town

Day 1: The Bund, Yuyuan Garden, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Museum
Day 2: Travel to Hangzhou (1 hour by bullet train), Lingyin Temple, West Lake, a Tea plantation
Day 3: Travel to Suzhou (2 hours by bullet train), Humble Administrator's Garden, Tiger Hill, the Garden of the Master of Nets
Day 4: Tongli Water Town
See detailed itinerary.

See more our Shanghai tours.

Recommended 3-Day Shanghai and Watertown Tour

  • Price: From $363
  • Depart: Daily

Day 1. Shanghai Arrival

Your private guide and driver will transport you to your hotel and help you check in.

Evening activities: You can ask your guide for recommendations on places to go in your evening free time.

Day 2. Discover Shanghai

After breakfast at your hotel, you will begin your tour by visiting Shanghai Museum, one of the best museums in China. Go to Yuyuan Garden to appreciate traditional Chinese landscaping and culture. Then enjoy a panoramic view of the Bund and Pudong New area at the Oriental Pearl TV TowerEnd the day enjoying the sunset with a relaxing walk along the Bund.

Day 3. Xitang Watertown, Shanghai Departure

After breakfast at your hotel, your tour guide will help you check out, and take you to visit Xitang Ancient Water Town. After Xitang and lunch, your driver and tour guide will escort you to the airport and wave goodbye.

If this has sparked your interest, read a more detailed intro to this 3-Day Essence Shanghai and Watertown Tour; or get started with a Shanghai tour inquiry (our consultancy is free)…

Your Tour Can Be Tailor-Made...

If the above tour isn't what you're looking for, just tell us your interests and requirements and we will help tailor-make a unique Shanghai tour to suit you.

Where to Stay in Shanghai

Shanghai hotelThere are numerous accommodation options in Shanghai.

The largest city in China, Shanghai is one of the top economic, finance, trade, and shopping centers in the world. There are numerous accommodation options in Shanghai, but the price is generally higher than elsewhere in mainland China.

First choose where you want to stay, and then compare the hotels and prices there. China Highlights offers a hotel booking service. Below are some recommended hotels in Shanghai.

Best Five-Star Hotels:

Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund Ranked #2 on Trip Advisor

The Puli Hotel and Spa Shanghai Ranked #6 on Trip Advisor

The Langham Xintiandi Shanghai Ranked #4 on Trip Advisor

Fairmont Peace Hotel Shanghai Ranked #7 on Trip Advisor

The Peninsula Shanghai Ranked #8 on Trip Advisor

Best Four-Star Hotels:

Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund Ranked #12 on Trip Advisor

Les Suites Orient, Bund Shanghai Ranked #17 on Trip Advisor

Andaz Xintiandi, Shanghai Ranked #20 on Trip Advisor

Grand Central Hotel Shanghai Ranked #25 on Trip Advisor

Best Boutique Hotels:

The Yangtze Boutique Shanghai Ranked 27 on Trip Advisor

URBN Hotel Ranked #39 on Trip Advisor

If you need any recommendation on accommodation in Shanghai, please contact us.

Shanghai Home Stay

Shanghai home stayTo make dumplings with a local family. 

Shanghai's home stay option, in the well-developed Caoyang Village area, offers you the opportunity to interact with local people. There will be a welcome party organized by the local people at the Neighborhood Community Services Center. Then your host will show you to their house, where you will stay in a twin-bed bedroom.

You will have the opportunity to learn how to make dumplings and enjoy dinner with the family. On the second day, you can have Chinese breakfast with this family and join in local people's morning exercises. You can also visit a local food market with the host and get to know how the host prepares for lunch.

China Highlights offers the home stay if you book a China tour with us.

Dining in Shanghai

Shanghai has a wide range of restaurants, which not only serve local cuisine, but also dishes from all over China and all over the world. So you can easily find a restaurant in Shanghai to fit your tastes. Our Shanghai Restaurants recommendations include Western restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, and Muslim restaurants.

Shopping in Shanghai

The night view of ShanghaiThe night view of Shanghai

Shanghai, hailed as a "Shopping paradise", is one of the most prosperous cities in the world. There are many shopping centers, malls, department stores, markets, and shopping streets. Shopping in Shanghai is very convenient. You can purchase anything you want there. Read our Shanghai Shopping page to find places to buy souvenirs, qipaos, silk, etc.

Nightlife in Shanghai

If you stay in Shanghai, one thing you cannot miss is the nighttime beauty of the Bund. When the lights on the Bund go on for the evening, the city's glory and charm can be felt all the more.

The best way to see the night view of the Bund is take a Huangpu River night cruise.

If interested, you can watch some cultural performances like an acrobatic show and Shanghai’s Peking Opera.

Shanghai has a wide variety of bars, clubs, cinemas, theaters, restaurants, cafes, and so on. Read top 10 things to do at night to find how to enjoy your nights in Shanghai.

Tour Shanghai with China HighlightsTour Shanghai with China Highlights.

Tour Shanghai with China Highlights

Based on years of experience and customer feedback, we have developed many Shanghai tours. Here are some popular tours for inspiration:

The above tours can be customized to your requirements. Contact us for help.