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How to Plan a Day Trip in Shanghai — Stopover Ideas


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. 

Travelers flying from Shanghai may need to wait half a day to a day before boarding an onward flight.

Enjoy Visa-Free Transit Touring

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.

Time Needed

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 Suggested Half Day / Day in Shanghai

Leave Your Luggage at the Airport

Pudong International AirportPudong International Airport

There are 6 luggage deposit offices in the airport:

In Terminal Building 1: between Gate 4 and Gate 5 and between Gate 10 and Gate 11 in the Departure Hall, and between Gate 6 and Gate 7 in the Arrival Hall. The telephone number is 021-6834 6324.

In Terminal Building 2: near Service Counter A and near Service Counter M in the Departure Hall; and near the International Arrivals exit. The telephone number is 021-6834 0076.

We suggest you leave your luggage at your departure terminal building. The price for leaving (large) luggage is 50 yuan a day (small luggage may be cheaper).

Suggested 12½-hour Day Tour 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.

The Bund at nightThe Bund at night

1. The first 1½ hours: It takes about 30 minutes to process through Arrivals. Then maybe a further 30 minutes is needed to pick up and deposit your large luggage, and walk from the airport to Pudong Airport Subway Station (浦东机场). Take subway line 2 to Lujiazui (陆家嘴, about 25 minutes). Lujiazui Subway Station is about 400 meters from the Oriental Pearl. Subway is the best transportation because it avoids traffic jams.

2. Visiting the Oriental Pearl Tower (about 2 hours): 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.

3. Shopping and Eating in Nanjing Road (at least 2 hours): Return to Lujiazui subway station, take subway line 2 to People’s Square (人民广场), and walk east along 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.

4. Visiting the Bund (about 2 hours): 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.

Yu YuanYu Yuan

5. Yu Yuan (at least 3 hours): Walking south along the Bund, Yu Garden is about 1 km from Nanjing Road, and about 300 m in from the river on the right. The entrance is on Anmen Street. Entry is 40 yuan. You can taste Shanghai food on adjoining Shanghai Old Street.

6. Return to the airport (about 2 hours): Four hours before your boarding time, it is time to return the airport. Take subway line 10 at Yuyuan Subway Station (豫园), get off at Nanjing East Road (南京东路), and transfer to line 2 for Pudong International Airport.

The Maglev: To shorten your journey (and for the experience of the world’s fastest train) you should ride the Maglev from Longyang Lu on Line 2 to the airport.

If you have a child, Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is enjoyable and convenient (140 yuan pp.). It is quite near the Oriental Pearl Tower, and the recommended stay is half a day. Check out more top things to do in Shanghai with kids.

Choosing What to Visit in Shanghai

Zhujiajiao WatertownZhujiajiao Watertown

First select which you want to visit from Shanghai’s numerous attractions. 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. The following is a list of top Shanghai attractions for your selection.

There are several ancient water towns near Shanghai. All of them have graceful water scenery and ancient-style architecture. The recommended time for a visit to these ancient water towns is always one or two days. 

However, if you like, you also can finish the visit and go back to Shanghai within a day. 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.

Attraction Type Customer Rating Recommended time for a visit (hours
— add 4 hours for transport)
Open (Entry) cost (yuan) Distance from Central Shanghai: People's Square (km)
The Bund and Huangpu River Scenic five stars 2 Day and night free 2
Xintiandi Culture and Shopping four stars 3 Day and night free 3
Oriental Pearl TV Tower Scenic & Culture four stars 2 8am–9:30pm 35, 150, and 305 6
Jinmao Tower Scenic & Culture four stars 2 8:30am–10pm 100 5
City God's Temple Cultural, shopping, and eating four stars 3 day and night free 6
Tianzifang Cultural, shopping, and eating four stars 3 Daytime and evening free 4
Confucian Temple Culture, shopping, and eating four stars 3 Daytime and evening 10 32
Nanjing Road Shopping and eating five stars 2 Day and night free 2
Yu Garden Historical site five stars 3 Day and night 40 2
Jade Buddha Temple Historical site four stars 1.5 Daytime 30 5
Disneyland Children's five stars 8 unknown 370 18
Shanghai Museum Museum five stars 3 9am–5pm free 2
Madame Tussaudas Wax Museum Museum four stars 3 10am–10pm 135 0.4
Qibao Ancient Town Ancient Water Town four stars 4 day and night free 18

Night Activities

There are many night activities in Shanghai. Click to see the top 10 things to do at night in Shanghai

Meals and Shopping

Shanghai food

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 (consisting of traditional Chinese restaurants, Muslim Restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, best restaurants for kids, Western restaurants, and buffet restaurants) can offer you some suggestions on choosing where and what to eat.

Our Shanghai shopping guide has listed the main shopping places in Shanghai, and what you can buy in these shopping places (including silk, antiques, clothes, shoes, fabric, books, silverware, and qipaos).

Accommodation and Hotel Reservation

It is easy to find a hotel anywhere in Shanghai. Hotels in business areas and near attractions are more expensive. Huangpu, Jing’an, Nanshi, and Hongkou districts are Shanghai’s traditional business areas. Pudong, Changning, and Xuhui districts are the newly-born business areas. Staying in these areas can make your trip smoother.

Need Help with Your Day Tour — Look No Further!

If you're thinking that taking a independent trip in Shanghai is really complicated and stressful, let us tailor-make a day trip in Shanghai for you according to what you want to do.

Recommended 1-Day Shanghai Layover Tour

  • Price: From $149 per person
  • Depart: Daily

Tour Highlights

  • Collection/drop-off from the airport, hotel, cruise port, or train station, depending on your schedule
  • Have a full view across the city of Shanghai from the highest building — the Shanghai Tower
  • Explore the old town and visit Yu Garden
  • Stroll along the Bund and appreciate the classic and modern buildings on both sides
  • Taste a traditional Chinese dish in a century-old restaurant — sip a jumbo xiao long bao (steamed soup bun) with a straw

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)…

QUICK INQUIRY Each tour can be tailored.

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