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This article is created to guide you how to plan a layover or a day trip in Shanghai. If you use Shanghai as a gateway city for China visits you could discover Shanghai in a series of mini trips.
One of China's "layover cities": Shanghai has one of China’s most important airports, Pudong International Airport, making Shanghai one of the main arrival/departure cities for China.
Shanghai Municipality is visa-free for transit passengers! A separate policy was extended to neighboring Zhejiang and Jiangsu provinces in 2016. For details, see our China Visa-Free Transit Policy page.
A journey between the airport and the Shanghai urban area takes about one hour, which means that you need at least a 6-hour layover to get out of the airport, see a central Shanghai attraction and get back with time to check in for your flight. See Pudong International Airport Transportation.
A Sample Itinerary: Pudong Airport – the Oriental Pearl – Nanjing Road – The Bund – Yu Garden – Pudong Airport
Covering four attractions might be too much. Select attractions according to your interests and available time.
It takes about 1 hour to process through Arrivals, and pick up and deposit your large luggage. There are 6 luggage deposit offices in the airport.
Traveling from the airport to the city center, it is advisable to book a private transfer in advance, for time-saving convenience. Our guide will pick you up at the airport.
Alternatively, it takes about 1 hour to take subway line 2 to Lujiazui (陆家嘴 ) where the Oriental Pearl Tower is located.
If you want to have a bird’s eye view of Shanghai and a meal on the top of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, you need about 3 hours. There is a revolving restaurant in the tower. Now the Shanghai Tower and other nearby towers offer other bird's eye view options.
Yu Garden, built more than 400 years ago, is a classic Chinese garden with exquisite layout and beautiful scenery. You can taste Shanghai food on adjoining Shanghai Old Street.
At the end of Nanjing Road is the Bund. The night scenes of the Bund are extremely eye-catching. There are many cafés and restaurants there.
Then go to Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s No. 1 pedestrian street for shopping and eating.
About 20 minutes is enough to walk the mile (1½ kilometers) of Nanjing Road.
Four hours before your boarding time, it is time to return the airport. To shorten your journey (and for the experience of the world’s fastest train) you can ride the Maglev from Longyang Lu to the airport.
If this has sparked your interest, read a more detailed intro to this 1-Day Shanghai Highlights Tour; or get started with a Shanghai tour inquiry (our consultancy is free)…
Usually three or four activities a day is about right. For attractions far from central Shanghai (like the ancient water towns), one attraction a day is about right.
There are several ancient water towns near Shanghai. You may be puzzled about which ancient water town to go to. Check out our special report on Top 8 Ancient Towns around Shanghai — Which Should I Go To?
Shanghai has more than 72 museums, China Highlights has listed the best seven on our Top 7 Museums in Shanghai page.
If you have a child, Shanghai Disneyland is enjoyable and convenient. It is quite near Pudong Airport. Check out more top things to do in Shanghai with kids.
This table shows you the most popular attractions in Shanghai.
|Attraction||Type||Things to See & Do||Recommended time for a visit||Open||Distance from Central Shanghai: People's Square (km)|
|The Bund and Huangpu River||Scenic||Enjoy Shanghai's classic skyline views; take a cruise boat ride||2||Day and night||2|
|Oriental Pearl TV Tower||Scenic & Culture||Enjoy a bird’s view of Shanghai city||2||8am–9:30pm||6|
|Yu Garden||Historical site||Visit a classic Chinese garden||3||8:30am–5:30pm||2|
|Nanjing Road||Shopping and eating||Shop in great brands retail stores and eat in decent restaurants||2||Day and night||2|
|Xintiandi||Culture and Shopping||Experience the old Shanghai||3||Day and night||3|
|City God's Temple||Cultural, shopping, and eating||See ancient Chinese architecture, eat local food, and buy souvenirs||3||day and night||6|
|Shanghai Museum||Museum||Learn Chinese history from precious relics||3||9am–5pm||2|
|Zhujiajiao Ancient Town||Ancient Water Town||boating, walking, and photography||3||day and night||50|
There are many night activities in Shanghai, such as:
Click to see the top 10 things to do at night in Shanghai.
Recommended hotels near Pudong airport:
Recommended hotels in the city center:
Shanghai has lots of local food. You can taste them in Town God’s Temple and Yu Garden.
Our guides to Shanghai food and Shanghai restaurants can offer you some suggestions on choosing where and what to eat.
It is time and energy-consuming if you travel independently in Shanghai. To maximize your layover time, you are recommended to take a private tour.
Just tell us your interests and requirements. One of our specialists will take care of the rest, from tailor-making a unique tour to waving goodbye at the airport.
Here are two sample Shanghai itineraries for inspiration: