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! You may have a chance to stay Shanghai for 144 hours without a visa. 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.
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.
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 or the Shanghai 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. We often recommend our clients to visit the Shanghai Tower instead of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower because it is taller but has a shorter queue.
3. Explore Yu Yuan (at least 3 hours)
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 USD199 p/p
- Depart: Daily
- Time smart - Collection/drop-off from the airport or cruise port
- All inclusive and hassle-free - five of Shanghai's must-see attractions, such as the Bund and Yu Garden
- Eat like a local - taste xiaolongbao (steamed soup buns) in a century-old restaurant
Read a more detailed intro to this 1-Day Shanghai Highlights Tour; or get started with a Shanghai tour inquiry (our consultancy is free)…
More Things to See in Shanghai
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.
If you like water towns...
There are several ancient water towns near Shanghai. Zhujiajiao Water Town is one of the most popular one and easy to access.
Our 2-Day Charming Shanghai and Watertown Tour will help you make the most of your time and maximize your experience with a private car and an experienced English guide.
If you are interested in museums...
Shanghai has more than 72 museums, China Highlights has listed the best seven on our Top 7 Museums in Shanghai page.
If you travel with a child...
If you have a child, Shanghai Disneyland is enjoyable and convenient. Take our Shanghai Family Tour to have happy family memories in Disneyland and give your children a culture exploration to the Old Shanghai.
Recommended Night Activities
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 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 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.
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: