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How to Plan a Day Trip in Shanghai — Stopover Ideas

ShanghaiShanghai

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.

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: at least 6 hours

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

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.

The Bund at nightThe Bund at night

1. Leave your luggage at the airport, and get to the city center (about 2 hours).

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.

2. Visit 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. Explore Yu Yuan (at least 3 hours)

Yu YuanYu Yuan

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.

4. Visit 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.

5. Shop and Eat in Nanjing Road (at least 2 hours)

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.

6. Return to the airport

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.

Recommended 1-Day Shanghai Layover Tour

  • Price: From $189 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.

Choosing What to Visit in Shanghai

Zhujiajiao WatertownZhujiajiao Watertown

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

Recommended Night Activities

The cruise on the Huangpu RiverIt is enjoybale to take a cruise ride on the Huangpu River.

There are many night activities in Shanghai, such as:

  • Stroll along the Bund
  • Cruise along the Huangpu River
  • Watch an acrobatic show
  • Walk and shop along Nanjing Road

Click to see the top 10 things to do at night in Shanghai.

Recommended Hotels

Recommended hotels near Pudong airport:

  • 5-star: Royal International Hotel Shanghai
  • 4-star: Ramada Plaza Shanghai Pudong Airport

Recommended hotels in the city center:

  • 5-star: Les Suites Orient Bund Shanghai
  • 4-star: Narada Boutique Hotel Shanghai Bund (SSAW Hotel Shanghai)

Famous Local Food You Should Eat

Shanghai food

Shanghai has lots of local food. You can taste them in Town God’s Temple and Yu Garden.

  • Iconic dishes: steamed crab, crayfish, red-braised pork,
  • Famous snacks: xiaolongbao (steamed stuffed buns), soup buns, fried mantou (steamed buns)

Our guides to Shanghai food and Shanghai restaurants can offer you some suggestions on choosing where and what to eat.

Need Help with Your Day Tour — Look No Further!

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.

China Highlights guide and customers Travel with us, and you will be taken care of well by your private guide.

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:

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