Shanghai is a splendid metropolis blending the West and the East, the modern and the ancient. No matter which aspect of Shanghai you are interested in, it will not disappoint you.
If you are planning a tour of Shanghai, read on to get the best from your time, and some tips on planning the itinerary.
The Best Things to Do in Shanghai
The main attractions of Shanghai are its skyline views, historical sites, and nearby water towns. Some of the activities that we would recommend include:
- Embark on a time-traveling journey from the Bund
We specially designed an in-depth experience to let you learn about Shanghai's past and present. Starting from the Bund, accompanied by our local guide, you would explore the old buildings to delve into Shanghai's colonial history. Meander through narrow alleys to witness traditional residential quarters and ways of Shanghai people's life, Take a ferry to cross the Huangpu River and slowly travel from old Shanghai to Shanghai's Pudong New Area.
- Enjoy a panoramic view of the city from one of the world's tallest buildings. The Shanghai Tower is recommended as it's the tallest building in Shanghai and the second tallest building in the world.
- Immerse yourself in Yuyuan Garden, which is the only surviving Ming Dynasty garden and is famous for its exquisite layout, beautiful landscaping, and the artistic style of the garden architecture.
- Take a leisurely stroll or boat ride in one of the water towns around Shanghai with fascinating canals, bridges, and architecture.
- Night activities: Take a Huangpu River night cruise; watch some cultural performances like an acrobatic show.
Shanghai- Guide and Tour Review
We arrived in Shanghai China on 10th of November, prior to departing New Zealand, our guide in Shanghai made contact with me to let us know he would meet us at the arrival gate when we land in Shanghai, this made me feel super comfortable as we arrived into a completely new country where we have never travelled to before. He let me know the instructions and when we arrived we were greeted by our guide Kris at the airport arrivals gate. Our driver took us to our hotel where Kris helped us checkin so we could rest as it was early morning. That afternoon Kris met us at our hotel and took us to explore the French Quarter where we had a lovely meal together, later that evening we went to a Chinese acrobat show which Kris recommended, truely a must see experience!more
Nov 2023, John Morrell
Shanghai trip with Kris
Kris is a friendly, attentive and knowledgeable tour guide who made sure our short trip in Shanghai was well organised without time wasting. We visited Shanghai Tower, The Bund, French Concession, Yuyuan, and watched the amazing Era Acrobats.Not only was he friendly and helpful, after knowing it was our first trip to China, Kris even went the extra miles and guided us all the way into the high speed rail cabin, to ensure we made no mistake and continued our journey to Hangzhou.I strongly recommend both China Highlights and Kris in Shanghai.more
Nov 2023, chong777
Good guide is success of your trip!
Never been to China before. We combined Shanghai masters with sightseeing to get into ancient and modern history of China. The whole experience was great from the first day. Thanks to our guide, Kris, who arranged tickets and helped us to get to the tournament timely although it was his day off and he had to wait us until night. He was cheerful, friendly and quite smart and easy to follow changes we asked. It should be also noted his English was very good so we did not experienced any difficulties with communication. I would definitly recommend Kris as a guide and define him as energetic, communicative, reliable person. Thanks to Kris who made our holiday in China easy, pleasant and remarkable.more
Nov 2023, Tamar
Garry’s & Eda’s Visit to Shanghai
We visited Shanghai on the last day of our tour in China. Kris, our guide in Shanghai was there to meet and assist us. We visited the Shanghai Tower, former French concession precinct and walk along the Bund. We even took a boat cruise along the river. It was an enjoyable experience. Kris was very attentive to all our needs. He was such a nice and flamboyant guy that we got along really well throughout the day. We strongly recommend Kris if you are ever in Shanghai.more
Nov 2023, Eda Adams
Shanghai Superguide!! Thanks Kris, you the bes!
Kris gave us a five star experience from the beginning. Not only did he show us the amazing city but he had wonderful knowledge of the city and recommended an after hour adventure that was unforgettable! We were quick to connect with Kris, he was very knowledgeable, thoughtful, personal, and fun during our whole stay. I highly recommend him to any visitors!!more
Nov 2023, Jamie H
Great Guide, Great Four Days In Shanghai
Our guide Kris was fantastic! He brought us to all the places we set out to see, but also had great suggestions on other places of interest. He was a very helpful interpreter and also went out of his way to make sure we were taken care of and had all of our questions answered. And he was flexible whenever we wanted to make a change. Kris really helped make our 4 days in Shanghai just perfect!more
Nov 2023, 4ontheroadMD
I was in Shanghai - thanks Kris - we had the best guide in Shanghai!Excellent English and he feels exactly what we needed. He helps us to understand and to like Shanghai. We will be back.Then I went to Huangshan - Thanks Toni - the warmest and the most patient guide! We saw the sunset, we felt the power of Yellow mountain!Then I go to Xian - thanks Jacob - Perfect English and so positive. Xian is wonderful for tourists with guide like Jacob. And I the and I was in Beijing.I had an excellent holiday .more
Nov 2023, Malina
Thank you so much Kenny!!
As being China born n raised n lived in Shanghai for many years, I wouldn’t book a tour to visit China. However my friend Amy booked a private tour through ChinaHighlight, for her very first trip to China, i came along, it totally changed my opinion about arranging private tour, absolutely worthwhile! We had a fantastic experience, learnt so many interesting stories about history, arts and culture, our tour guide in Shanghai is Kenny, she is so knowledgeable and caring, and took very nice pictures too! The restaurant she took us to were very yummy, feels local too, we couldn’t thank her enough for the pleasant trip, Amy already planning to visit again in Spring! Oh, almost forgot to mention the cars they arranged are very clean, safe drives too!more
Oct 2023, venture21609
I have a very good experience with
I have a very good experience with China Highlights. Very professional in the advisory for my pleasure travel for two weeks in china. Very good and professional guides especially Francisco in Shanghai.And also de follow of all the comunicaciones with me and also.Answering my multiple questions.more
Oct 2023, Fredy Haber
Shanghai, a beautiful city with a short but rich history.
Our final day of our 17day holiday in China was spent in Shanghai. We had an expert guide in Kris from China Highlights to show us around this magnificent city.From the rolling skyline to the majestic Huangpu River there is ample scenery in Shanghai but the main feature for travellers at the end of a long journey is the multitude of shopping opportunities to source those necessary mementos of this wonderful country. Everything for every taste and budget is available.Kris showed us the highlights including a ride to the top of the Shanghai tower, the world's second tallest building, as well as the sites that add to the rich history of this city including the Bund and old living sections that depict the lifestyle of the local Shanghai residents.more
Oct 2023, Matthew C
Francisco made our trip to China an
Francisco made our trip to China an experience we will never forget. Being in a country with a culture that is so rich and different can be very stressful. Having Francisco as our guide was the best thing that could have happened to us in our trip. And he speaks Spanish!!! Gracias por una aventura inolvidable Francisco!more
Oct 2023, Hugo
Desde un inicio la se?orita Juana Pan nos atendió con prontitud y eficiencia. Nuestro tour era de varios días y requirió de guías que nos ayudaran en el desplazamiento. Siempre estuvieron ahí para recibirnos: Lili, Alonso, Silvia, Francisco, Pablo y otros, nos dieron excelente trato y cuidados durante nuestra estadía en China. Los lugares visitados fueron muy bien seleccionados y los shows q los que asistimos fueron espectaculares. Incluso en días libres se comunicaban por we chat con nosotros. sin duda la mayoría hizo más de lo esperado.more
Oct 2023, Luis Sandoval Solano
China Highlights 11 days China Private Tour
We have arrange with China Highlights for a 11 days private tour with English specking guide which include Beijing, Xian, Guilin & Shanghai. Maggie has been very helpful with all our inquiry, services and helping and preparing us for the trip. Our English tour guide Helen (Beijing), Susan (Xian), Vincent & Ellen (Guilin) & Kris (Shanghai) were all very professional, thoughtful, helpful and patience with us.All the places that were arrange suit us very well.China has really change compare 20+ years ago when I was visiting.more
Oct 2023, John W
Great trip around Shanghai
This was our first time ever visiting Shanghai so we wanted to see good places to go to and good food to eat in Shanghai. That's why we booked with China Highlights. They're very responsive and quick to arrange our 3 day trip. Our guide name is Qi and she is a very sweet and helpful person. She knew we wanted to explore many local foods, so she brought us some local breakfast foods when she picked us up from our hotel, just so we can try everything! She was knowledgeable as well about the culture and history of the places we went to. Will definitely recommend this tour and use China Highlights again for our next trip to China!more
Sep 2023, Sherry
Fantastic first trip in Shanghai
My partner and I were visiting China for the first time. Our tour guide was Martin, who was friendly and very knowledgeable. He adjusted the tour to our needs and gave us an extensive tour of Shanghai as well as many fascinating insights on China. He also went above and beyond and offered us plenty of recommendations on what to do in the evenings, how to get there, and even made bookings for us. Martin, thanks again!more
Sep 2023, Regis
Excellent booking and travel planning process.
Roger Li was our booking and travel advisor. As soon as he reached out to me after my initial online inquiry, he conveyed great communication skills and diligence in his work. He always responded quickly and never hesitated in adjusting our itinerary, until we are completely satisfied. He was also very flexible in our requests e.g. tweaking departure city, additional travellers, extra free days. What impressed me most was his (and probably China Highlights') ability to understand the needs of foreign travellers e.g. using WhatsApp and money exchange issues, tips on using WeChat/Alipay when applicable. We have booked our end of year tour now and hope that China Highlights will deliver as well as this initial process!more
Sep 2023, Catherine Wong
One day trip to Shanghai with Martin
I liked beautiful riverfront with skyscrapers, especially in the evening. The garden is very nice, lots of walkways makes it feel really big. Thanks to the guide the schedule was very flexible. Instead of waiting in a huge queue for the tv tower we went to nearby skyscraper, we also were able to meet with our friends who also visited Shanghai on the same day.more
Aug 2023, Dmitry
We had an amazing trip with China Highlights!
Kris was an excellent tour guide in Shanghai and flexible with our travel plans. Mervyn has impressive knowledge of history and culture in Xi'an and did a stellar job navigating the crowds of tourists seeing the Terra-cotta Army. Cactus brings a depth of historical knowledge to the tours that is super interesting, and she has great enthusiasm that makes the tour enjoyable. All our drivers were very good and helped ensure that we got from one destination to the next as safely and quickly as possible. The air conditioning in the comfortable cars during the exceptionally hot summer was appreciated, as well. Our itinerary included Shanghai, Xi'an, and Beijing, plus a few days trips such as a small water town outside Shanghai and the Terra-cotta Army outside Xi'an. We took high speed trains between all our destinations, and the China Highlights team did everything they could remotely to pre-arrange those logistics and also escorted us as far as they were able to at each train station. We traveled first class whenever the tickets were still available, and we stayed in quality hotels that were clean and centrally-located for most tourist activities in each city. It was maybe the greatest culinary trip of our lives. :)more
Aug 2023, Brett N
Kris from China Highlights in Shanghai was wonderful
We toured Shanghai with Kris from China Highlights as our guide, he was friendly, helpful and made the trip a lot of fun! He also went above and beyond when we traveled to my daughter’s birthplace helping to get information and connect with people from the orphanage where my daughter was adopted from.Highly recommend!!more
Aug 2023, Rita A
Personalized and very memorable!
Kris with China Highlights was friendly and personable during our trip. He told us the history of Shanghai in an interesting way, and gave us great recommendations to avoid crowds but still see the highlights of Shanghai. He also traveled with us to the city I was born and was very helpful in helping us communicate with locals. He made sure we had a memorable and very special experience.more
Aug 2023, Annie A
Top Things to Do Recommended for Families
- Have fun in Disneyland. We could help you book VIP Fast Pass Tickets if you don't want to spend too much time on lining up. Especially during the summer vacation, VIP Fast Pass Tickets could help a lot.
- Visit Shanghai Museum. We have carefully designed treasure hunt games for children. Kids could have a good understanding of the history and culture of the exhibits, and listen to interesting stories, such as what the music 2000 years ago sounds like and what happened to the host of the ancient cursed vessel.
- Take a ride on the world's fastest train with your kids — the Maglev on your way to or from the airport, to feel super-modern Shanghai.
Top Things to Do Recommended for Couples
- Immerse yourself in the luxury hotel we carefully choose for you to relish the breathtaking Bund view while treating yourselves to a delightful afternoon tea. Also, unwind further with a relaxing couple's spa experience.
- Explore "Hongkew Ghetto" by Jews. It is a less tourist place and was once the Noah's Ark for Jews during WWII. Our guide will take you to discover the memories of elderly Jews and see exhibitions of historic items to learn about stories about the area's history.
- Enjoy your favorite movie in a private theatre. We found a comfortable and high-quality private theater offering coffee, desserts, and some light food. You two could enjoy some intimate and quality time there.
How Long to Stay in Shanghai — 2–4 Days
Most travelers spend 2–4 days to visit the main highlights in Shanghai. The longer you stay, the deeper you will understand this city.
- 2-Day Shanghai's Old and New Collision
- 2-Day A Journey to the Future
- 4-Day Shanghai Family Disneyland Tour
- See more Shanghai tours.
If time permits, taking an extension tour to Suzhou or Hangzhou is highly recommended. Check 5-Day Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou Bullet Train Tour
For more itinerary ideas for your Shanghai trip, you can check Ultimate Shanghai Itineraries with Side Trip Ideas
Extended China Tours from Shanghai
If this is your first time visiting China, you could refer to our 15-Day Shanghai– Beijing– Xi'an–Chengdu–Guilin– Hangzhou–Huangshan –Suzhou. It blends the most popular cities and top experiences for culture and nature, suitable for both couples and families.
If you have a special interest in China's history and culture, we recommend our 13-Day Shanghai– Chengdu– Xi'an–Pingyao–Beijing. Pingyao Ancient Town would be a highlight for you to learn about China's cultural ancient town.
If you want to seek some off-the-beaten destinations, you could see our 20-Day Shanghai– Xiamen– Kunming–Lijiang–Lanzhou–Xining–Zhangye–Dunhuang–Beijing, You would cross through the vast Gobi on the Silk Road and experience the ethnic customs and stunning views of Yunnan.
start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors.
The Best Time to Visit Shanghai
The best times to visit Shanghai are March–May and September–November when you can enjoy the Bund, visit the water towns, and see the scenery during clear and comfortable weather.
Mid June to early July is the rainiest period in Shanghai. The hottest time in Shanghai is from July to August.
The coldest period is from late January until early February when it is windy and chilly.
Read more about Shanghai weather.
We recommend that you book well in advance, and are prepared for huge crowds if you plan to visit during these Chinese holidays:
- China's summer holiday season (July and August)
- Labor Day (May 1–3) and National Day (October 1–7)
- Spring Festival (late January or early to mid February)
How to Get to Shanghai?
Shanghai has two international airports: Pudong (PVG) and Hongqiao (SHA). It is easy to get to Shanghai with international flights. There are direct flights to Shanghai from most major world cities.
If you are already in China, you can reach Shanghai by plane conveniently, and bullet trains are increasingly becoming a viable, quick option.
Where to Stay in Shanghai?
There are numerous accommodation options in Shanghai, ranging from 5 star hotels to youth hostels. The price is generally higher than elsewhere in mainland China.
There are several popular areas that offer different experiences. Here are a few neighborhoods to consider:
- The Bund: This waterfront area on the Huangpu River offers stunning views of Shanghai's skyline and is home to many luxurious hotels. It's a great choice if you look for convenience, iconic landmarks, and a vibrant nightlife.
- Nanjing Road: Located in the heart of Shanghai, Nanjing Road is one of the world's busiest shopping streets. Staying in this area gives you easy access to shopping, dining, and entertainment options, as well as proximity to attractions like People's Square and Shanghai Museum.
- French Concession: This historic area is known for its tree-lined streets, art deco buildings, and charming atmosphere. It offers a mix of boutique hotels, quaint cafes, trendy bars, and distinctive boutiques. The French Concession is ideal for you if you want a more relaxed and culturally rich experience.
- Pudong: Situated across the river from the Bund, Pudong is Shanghai's modern financial district. Here you'll find towering skyscrapers, including the famous Oriental Pearl Tower. Pudong is a popular choice if you prefer a more contemporary and futuristic atmosphere.
- Xintiandi: This revitalized neighborhood combines traditional Shikumen-style houses with modern architecture. It's known for its stylish restaurants, cafes, shops, and vibrant nightlife scene.
The best area to stay in Shanghai depends on your preferences and the purpose of your visit. Contact us to recommend the best suitable choice based on your requirements.
Famous Local Food to Try in Shanghai
Shanghai has a wide range of restaurants, which not only serve local cuisine, but also dishes from all over China and all over the world. So you can easily find a restaurant in Shanghai to fit your tastes.
If you would like to explore Shanghai's local snacks, you could see our Half-Day Shanghai Local Food Hunt.
If you want to try some local food, here are some recommendations:
- Iconic dishes: steamed crab, crayfish, red-braised pork,
- Famous snacks: Xiaolongbao (steamed buns), Soup Buns, Fried Mantou
Do I Need Visa to Visit Shanghai?
Usually foreigners need to apply for a visa before travel to China. If you meet the relevant qualifying criteria of the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, you won't need to obtain a visa in advance. See How to Make the Most of Your 144-Hour Visa-Free Stay in Shanghai.
Read on how to apply for a China visa.