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How to Plan a Trip to Shanghai 2024/2025, Get Advice There!

Written by CindyUpdated Mar. 6, 2024

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.

The BundOur guests traveling along the Bund
  • 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.
The panoramic view of Shanghai from Shanghai TowerThe panoramic view of Shanghai from Shanghai Tower
  • 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.
Yuyuan GardenYuyuan Garden
  • Take a leisurely stroll or boat ride in one of the water towns around Shanghai with fascinating canals, bridges, and architecture.
ZhujiajiaoZhujiajiao Water Town - the nearest water town from Shanghai with about 1 hour's driving
  • Night activities: Take a Huangpu River night cruise; watch some cultural performances like an acrobatic show.

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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.

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.

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.

Shanghai map

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 local foodXiaolongbao

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.

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