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How to Plan a Trip to Shanghai 2020 (Tips for a Great Tour)

shanghai nightview

Shanghai is a splendid metropolis. No matter which aspect of Shanghai you are interested in, it will not disappoint you.

Read on to get the best the city offer, and learn some tips on planning a Shanghai itinerary.

1. The Best Things to Do and See in Shanghai

a trio to shanghai and see skyline

There are plenty of free things to see and do in Shanghai. Shanghai’s main attractions are its skyline views, historical sites, and nearby water towns. 

Here, we've rounded up the best things based on different requirements for your reference.

Must-Visit Attractions

  • The Bund is the most famous place in Shanghai.It is a good place to relax and appreciate the colonial architecture. Time needed: 1–2 hours.
  • The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is one of the most famous skyscrapers in Shanghai. You can get a panoramic view of the Bund and the Huangpu River. It's better to visit the tower at night for the spectacular night view. Time needed: 2–3 hours.
  • YuYuan (‘Happiness Garden’) is famous for its exquisite layout, beautiful landscaping, and the artistic style of the garden architecture. Time needed: 2–3 hours.
  • Nanjing Road is one of the world's busiest shopping streets. Whether or not you want to shop, it is a must-see place. The walk along the street is a walk through the city's history. Time needed: 2–3 hours.

See our classic Shanghai tour including the must-see attractions. It is specially designed to make the most of your time.

Family-Friendly Attractions

  • Shanghai Disney Resort is the dream of every kid, blending the magic of Disney with unique cultural elements of China. It is near Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Time needed: 1–2 days.
  • Shanghai Zoo is a decent place to see giant pandas, red pandas, and a beautiful lake with walkways around it.Time needed: half a day.

Our 4-Day Shanghai Family Tour can give you some inspiration.

Nearby Water Towns


There are several water towns near Shanghai, which are about 1–2 hours' drive away. They have much in common, such as water canals and stone bridges, but each of them has its own unique features.

  • Zhujiajiao is suitable for travelers who have limited time as it is only an hour from downtown Shanghai. Its drawback is that it is very commercial and crowded.
  • Nanxun is about 2 hours from Shanghai. It is a longer drive but you will be rewarded with a quiet and rustic town.

If you don't know which one to choose, you will find the answer on the Top 10 Ancient Water Towns Near Shanghai — Which One to Visit?

2.How Long to Stay for a Shanghai Trip: 2–4 Days Recommended

the bundthe Bund

It depends on your schedule and your interests. Usually people spend 2–4 days there. 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.

Here are some suggested itineraries for your reference:

2-Day Classic Shanghai Tour: Shanghai Highlights + a Water Town

Day 1: the Bund, Yu Garden, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Shanghai Museum
Day 2: Zhujiajiao Water Town or Xitang Water Town

Find out about more handpicked experiences in our well-designed tour.

4-Day Tour: Shanghai + Hangzhou + Water Town

tour shanghai

Day 1: the Bund, Yu Garden, the Shanghai Tower, the Shanghai Museum
Day 2: Travel to Hangzhou, Lingyin Temple, West Lake, a Tea plantation
Day 3: Nanxun Water Town

See our full 4 days Shanghai tour itinerary for more ideas.

Unlike other travel agencies, who only sell fixed Shanghai tour itineraries, we create unique experiences. Our tours are typically private and tailor-made to your travel style. Let’s create your Shanghai tour, or learn more our exclusive spotlight experiences and see more our Shanghai tours for some inspiration.

3. Getting a Visa… or No Need to Get a Visa?

Usually, foreigners need to apply for a visa before traveling to China. If you meet the relevant qualifying criteria of the 144-hour visa-free transit policy, you can stay in Shanghai for 144 hours without a visa.

4. The Best Time to visit

Zhujiajiao Water TownZhujiajiao Water Town

The best times to visit Shanghai are March–May and September–November, as the weather is comfortable.

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. 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)

5. Getting To and Around Shanghai

Shanghai map


Getting to Shanghai


By Air

Shanghai has two airports: Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA).

Shanghai Pudong International Airport, which is 30 kilometers (18 miles) east of downtown Shanghai, mainly serves international flights.

Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, which is 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the city center, mainly serves domestic flights.

By Train

There are three major railway stations in the city: Shanghai Railway Station, Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, and Shanghai South Railway Station. It is convenient to travel from Beijing and Nanjing to Shanghai. If you are interested, you can travel from Hong Kong to Shanghai as well.

Our private transfer service provides you with convenience and flexibility at a reasonable price.

By Cruise Ship

There are three cruise terminals in Shanghai: Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal, Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal, and Waigaoqiao International Cruise Terminal.Shanghai has adopted a 15-day visa-free policy for foreign tourist groups entering China by cruise ship.

Getting Around Shanghai

Shanghai is a modern city with well-developed city transportation. It is not a big problem to travel by metro, bus, and taxi.See more information about Shanghai transportation.

A private tour with your own chauffeured and comfortable vehicle is suitable for those who are looking for a hassle-free journey with efficiency and flexibility.

6. Where to Stay in Shanghai

Learn to make dumplings at the hutongs. Get in touch with Chinese culture.Learn to make dumplings at a local family. Get in touch with Chinese culture.

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.

If you want to enjoy Shanghai's classic skyline views, you can choose a hotel near the Huangpu River.

Below are some hotels recommended by our local specialists:

  • 5-star hotel: Les Suites Orient Bund Shanghai; The Langham Yangtze Boutique Hotel
  • 4-star hotel: Narada Boutique Hotel Shanghai Bund (SSAW Hotel Shanghai)

7. What to Eat 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 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

See more Shanghai dishes you should eat.

Discover Shanghai with Us

tour shanghai with us

If you want no hassles, we recommend you to travel with a professional local guide, who will show you the real Shanghai and lead you to experience the lives of local people.

Here are some sample itineraries. Treat them simply as inspiration, because your trip will be created individually by one of our specialists to match your tastes and budget.