Beijing and Shanghai are two important cities in China that serve as international gateways and showcase the country's rich history, culture, and modernity. Here are some useful tips on how to plan your itinerary for a Beijing and Shanghai trip.
How Long to Spend in Beijing and Shanghai
Typically, a classic Beijing and Shanghai itinerary takes about 1 week, with 4-5 days spent in Beijing and 2-3 days in Shanghai.
Beijing has richer tourist resources than Shanghai, with more attractions to explore. There are also more opportunities to immerse yourself in the Chinese culture, such as taking a tai chi class or learning to write Chinese calligraphy. Therefore, we recommend spending more time in Beijing.
How Long to Spend in Beijing
Beijing has many historical and cultural sites to explore. You could spend 2 to 3 days exploring the essence of Beijing, such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven.
If you want a more authentic experience of local life and Chinese culture, such as watching Peking opera, you can add one or two more days to your itinerary. See our 1-Day Beijing Hutong Tour (walk into a family's house in a hutong and watch a classical drum performance) and our Beijing Food Tour.
Discover real reviews of Highlights Travel Family's best-rated service across trusted platforms.
First Trip to China
Ethan has been my tour guide for my four day trip to Beijing. He has been knowledgeable, polite, and most helpful. I was uncomfortable coming to China for the first time without speaking any Chinese at all. Ethan gave the tours, arranged for shows and literally took me to my seats. He also accompanied me to the train station to help figure my was around and help me find the correct train and car. I would definitely use China Highlights again in the future.more
Jan 2024, Megan Sandbothe
Beijing trip with Birthday surprise
Had a great time in Beijing with Bruce. On arrival he surprised me with a cake for my 30th Birthday which was a special touch. We toured the Great wall, Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven as well as a few other items. Bruce was really knowledgeable (especially about the symbolism in the Temple of Heaven). He also coordinated gaining entry quickly and moving between locations efficiently. Highly recommend.more
Jan 2024, Sherpa325441
Making Family Memories in China
Our Beijing guide Mark was fantastic! He is so knowledgeable about the history of each place we visited and he was very helpful in getting us to hotels, train stations, restaurants, excursions, etc. He took away all of the travel-related stress that can come with a big trip and we are so thankful to him and China Highlights! My parents are hard to please and they also have been very happy with the hotels and unique activities.more
Jan 2024, rosequarose
Beijing dicembre 2023
Siamo stati 3 giorni a Beijing e grazie a Franco siamo riusciti a vedere e apprezzare questa magnifica città. Lui è sempre stato disponibilissimo, pronto ad aiutarci per ogni nostra necessità. Essendo difficile trovare persone che parlano Inglese ci ha spiegato anche come farci intendere senza problemi. Sempre molto premuroso, attento e preparato. Ci ha spiegato perfettamente tutte le peculiarità della città e ci ha fatto assaggiare ogni giorno piatti nuovi per apprezzare la cucina cinese.more
Jan 2024, Michele Azzoni
Terry the best!
I had an awesome time in Beijing, Terry is the best not only guided us, it felt like I was being invited for a trip for an old family member, he was so caring for our needs as a big family group, learned our habits, likes and dislikes on the first day and accommodated us. I strongly recommend taking the tour with him, you will not regret itmore
Jan 2024, HugoA@732hugoa
Greatest Asian Experience
China Highlights organized the trip of a life time for my family with teens, from Japan, through Thailand to China. They were flexible and accommodating of our preferences, fast to react when there was a glitch, passionate and knowledgeable of everything we were seeing.All local guides, from Lena in Tokyo, Denis in Kyoto, Tom in Bangkok, Kai in Phuket, Martin in Hong Kong, William in Guilin, Linda in Zhangjiajie, to Jessie in Beijing, did their best to make sure everything went smoothly and to adjust to my teens' additional requests.more
Jan 2024, Gadjanov Dian
Viagem dos sonhos com nosso guia Terry
Servi?o impecável! Me baseei nas avalia??es e n?o me arrependi. Transporte pontual e responsável. Todo o processo de compra muito bem conduzido. Muito bem planejado. Perfeito do início ao fim. Por fim, o mais importante: o nosso guia Terry. Absolutamente perfeito. O tempo todo preocupado com o nosso bem estar. Cuidou de tudo, se preocupou com tudo. Talvez o guia mais atencioso q já vimos em nossas viagens, principalmente cuidando da crian?a pequena que nos acompanhava. ele nos proporcionou uma experiência inesquecível. Quem for comprar, n?o hesite, pois foi um sonho de viagem, gra?as a eles.more
Jan 2024, Mr s@k89Rsmrs
Best of the Best
We visited Beijing with guide Mark, Xi’an with Jenny, Guilin with Frank, and Shanghai with guide Kris. Each guide was so unique but they all had in common a passion for their city and a true kindness. They were early for all of the airport and train station pickups and helped us so much checking into hotels and flights. We tried so many different foods special to each region and appreciated the great recommendations from the guides. The activities we did were a combination of “must-see” sites like the Great Wall, Forbidden Palace, Teracotta soldiers, and participating in local arts like shadow puppetry, fan making, and seeing cultural shows.more
Jan 2024, Rose A
Ski trip to Thaiwoo Ski resort & Beijing Tour
Our Beijing Tour guide Terry, who is very experience and able to explain the history of China. We went to forbidden city, Tiananmen and hutong walking area and took us to a very delicious dumpling restaurant. His English is perfect and very kind to kids also.The trip went smoothly and everything was very well organized, good communications. kids had a lot of fun. Highly recommended for China Highlight when travel to China , Terry - Beijing Tour & Ryo at Thaiwoo ski resortmore
Jan 2024, Explorer00356257314
Bejing for 3 days
We spent 3 days in Beijing and our guide, Ethan, was immediately courteous, punctual and full of advice on Chinese customs and habits. When it came to telling us the history of places and monuments, he always gave complete and exhaustive explanations.more
Jan 2024, Matteo Giudici Turati
3 GG a Pechino
Abbiamo visitato con lui e il driver (ottimo anche lui), la città proibita,il tempio del paradiso, piazza tiennamen e la grande muraglia......stra consiglio Ethan come guida.more
Jan 2024, Matgiu
Great experience in cold Beijing
Bruce was excellent in taking us around Beijing. He was very knowledgeable with the history and the details of each attraction. He knew all the ins and outs and didn’t have to queue where everyone had to. He was also patient with us being a bit older and less than fit especially going up the Great Wall. I would highly recommend Bruce to anyone who wants to do a private tour.more
Dec 2023, sgwelly
Ethan was amazing! He showed us all the detailed attraction and gave us all the useful information and also suggest us places to go. He was really supportive and make our trip unforgettable!more
Dec 2023, Alessandra
First private tour with China Highlights.
The tour guides were all knowledgeable and efficient in taking guiding us through many remarkable historical or natural sites.more
Dec 2023, Catherine W
Terry is the best Tour Guide
Our tour guide Terry was absolutely fantastic. His attitude was amazing, he was very patient with us and the best thing he gave us was his wealth of knowledge when it came Chinese History. This knowledge is exactly why we wanted to visit China and through his words we found it very easy to immerse ourselves in the beautiful architecture and scenery we found ourselves in.more
Dec 2023, sajjads@680sajjads
Best tour experience!
We booked a tour with Terry for the forbidden city, Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall of China. Terry went above and beyond in providing us with an amazing experience. He spoke fluent English and educated us on the history of the places we visited and answered every question we could think of. He was extremely helpful and friendly and made an amazing trip even more enjoyable.more
Dec 2023, 598ishamams
4 days in Beijing
Jack was welcoming and warm when we arrived at Beijing airport tired late at night. He was diligent and hardworking taking us around the many historical landmarks in Beijing. Whilst it is cold in winter (and we caught the first snow!), it was very enjoyable visiting Mutianyu because there were no crowds.more
Dec 2023, Catherine Wong
Great places, great food
We visited the Great Wall, The Southern Gong Lane, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace. Amazing places. Our guide, Jeffrey was excellent. The driver was also helpful. The selected halal restaurants are so good with lots of delicious meals to choose.more
Dec 2023, Farid S
Had an awesome trip with Helen as our tour guide in Beijing and Tianjin. She is such a warm personality and highly motivated guide (recommendable!). Also appreciate the little Christmas gift that she gave to us.more
Dec 2023, Ang
5-star experience in Beijing
Kitty spoke good English and was very knowledgeable. She provided great insights on the places we visited and went the extra mile to help us with our requests on shopping, massages and even to arrange a last minute acrobat show.Both Kitty and Mr Ho were very accommodating to the changes we made in our itinerary during the trip, and Kitty was very caring - she gave me a scarf as I had forgotten to bring mine, and even bought me medication when I was feeling under the weather.more
Dec 2023, sharon
How Long to Spend in Shanghai
Shanghai's main attractions are the Bund and Yu Garden. One day is enough to explore the highlights.
If you want to learn about Shanghai's colonial history or even lesser-known stories, such as about the Jews and Shanghai, take half a day or one day to explore the French Concession or a Jewish ghetto.
Water towns are also a feature of the area around Shanghai. If you have the time, you could spend half a day visiting Zhujiajiao Water Town.
A Classic Beijing and Shanghai Itinerary
- Day 1: Arrival in Beijing with free time to explore
- Day 2: Visit the Forbidden City and enjoy a hutong tour, where you can visit a local family and learn about Beijing from their perspective.
- Day 3: Go to the Temple of Heaven, where you can join in with the local elderly people's morning activities and then visit the Great Wall.
- Day 4: Visit the Summer Palace, a former royal retreat, and then depart to Shanghai.
- Day 5: Explore Shanghai (a walking tour in the Bund, a Huangpu River ferry tour, and a visit to Yu Garden, etc.).
- Day 6: Departure (or add a half-day trip to Zhujiajiao Water Town).
If you have an extra 2 or 3 days, you could extend your trip to nearby Hangzhou and Suzhou where you can see more exquisite garden scenery and experience the traditional water village life. You can also learn about the Chinese tea culture by visiting a tea plantation in Hangzhou to see the process of making tea. See our 5-Day Yangtze River Delta Bullet Train Tour
All our tours can be adjusted or customized based on your needs. Just contact us.
Choices of Transportation
Flying and taking high-speed trains are the two most popular ways to travel between Beijing and Shanghai. We recommend taking the bullet train which takes about 4½ to 6 hours. Taking the train is also a more convenient and flexible option.
The flight time takes about 2½ hours. However, the road to the airport could be crowded. Considering the time spent in traffic jams and the waiting time at the airport, the whole process is similar to taking a high-speed train, although it could take even longer.
Beijing to Shanghai or Shanghai to Beijing
Both Beijing and Shanghai are the most convenient and major ports of entry and exit, with abundant international and domestic flights. It doesn't make much difference whether you go from Shanghai to Beijing or from Beijing to Shanghai. Choose your preferred route according to the most convenient departure/arrival times, ticket prices, and travel dates.
Costs for a Trip to Beijing and Shanghai
Beijing and Shanghai are first-tier cities in China in terms of consumption and economic level. For a private tour, the average cost per day is about US$220–350 per person, including flights/trains within China, 4- or 5-star hotels, lunches, attractions, guides, and private transport.
In the peak season, the prices of hotels and airfares can go up by 50 to 100%. When you book with us, you'll receive a 100% refund of any payments made to China Highlights if you cancel up to 3 weeks before departure (more details here⇒).
Accommodation Choices in Beijing and Shanghai
In Beijing, if you prefer a more central location for entertainment and shopping, then you can choose a hotel in the Wangfujing area. If you want a more unique accommodation experience, we recommend a hutong-style hotel.
In Shanghai, hotels around the Bund and Nanjing Road are popular choices if you prefer a bustling vibe and a great nighttime view. If you want a relatively quiet surrounding with an old colonial vibe, we recommend you choose to stay near the French Concession.
Best Times to Visit Beijing and Shanghai
Weather-wise, the best time to visit Beijing and Shanghai is in autumn, especially in September and October. These months have the most comfortable weather, which is warm, sunny, and dry.
The rainy season usually lasts from May to August, but it doesn't rain much in Beijing. Shanghai, located in the south, experiences more rain. However, the rain doesn't last continuously for long periods of time. In case of rainy weather, we will adjust the itinerary to make sure your travel experience is not affected.
Moreover, the main attractions in Beijing and Shanghai are mostly cultural sights. So they are not affected much by the weather.
No matter what season you are visiting in, we will plan the itinerary with suitable activities according to your preferences or your family's preferences.
Insider tips: The first weeks of May and October are peak times, followed by the summer holidays. If you plan to travel during these periods, please book at least 6 months to 1 year in advance.
You need to apply for a China visa to visit both Beijing and Shanghai.
Although you can enjoy a 144-day visa-free trip in Beijing or Shanghai, the policy is not available when traveling from Beijing to Shanghai and vice versa. You cannot apply for your China visa in Beijing or Shanghai if you are going to visit both cities so you should apply for it in your country.
Tour China with Us
All our tours can be tailor-made based on your needs. See our popular China tours including Beijing and Shanghai for inspiration: