Plan your visit wisely: Knowing what Shanghai areas are like before you choose where to stay in Shanghai can make a huge difference to your travel experiences, so we've suggested eight areas for your stay in the city.
You should stay in the area that most interests you. Shanghai is the biggest city in China with a population approaching 24 million people, but most tourists will want to stay in several tourist areas such as Puxi, Pudong (Lujiazui CBD), and nearby water towns or be close to the airports and major train stations. To help you know the eight areas, we've described some facts about budget level, shopping, nightlife, air quality, costs, green space, transport, family friendliness, and suitability for stopovers.
Where to Stay in Shanghai - Areas for Various Traveler Types
High Budget First-Timers and Urban Sightseeing Travelers
Middle Budget Central Urban Location with Nightlife
For Families with Children
For Budget Travelers, Layovers, Close to the City Center
Business Travelers and Layovers
1. The Bund (Puxi area): best area for sightseeing - No. 1 first-timers' choice
The Bund area along with Pudong are the two most popular tourist/visitor areas of Shanghai, and since it is right next to the Lujiazui business district, it is very upscale. The Bund has old-style architecture. Tourists might prefer staying in the Bund since it is where many popular scenic spots are located such as Yuyuan Garden, People's Square, and etc.
The Bund is a famous waterfront area on the west bank of the Pudong River. The pedestrian walkway stretches along the west bank of the Huangpu River for nearly a mile, and it is often crowded. On it, you'll get good views of the Pudong area. Many buildings in the Bund date from the early 1900s and were built in a variety of architectural styles such as Baroque, Gothic, Classical, Romanesque and Renaissance. In the evening, the city's skyscrapers put on a brilliant lightshow.
The Shanghai Museum, a huge museum of ancient Chinese art and artifacts, is in People's Square.
Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street is a nearly 3.5 mile pedestrian shopping street that leads from the Bund on the east side to the west side. It is China's premier shopping street with street musicians entertaining under flashing neon lights.
- Centrally located: The Bund is the center of Shanghai. It is great place to stay because it is conveniently located close to many of the main sights and has the Pudong skyline view.
- Nanjing road, along with the shopping and fine restaurants, has cultural highlights and gardens such as the Yuyuan Gardens to see.
- Good for eating out: There is a mix of traditional Shanghai restaurants for Shanghai cuisine, international restaurants, and fast-food chains.
- People's Square - It is a large open space that is literally the heart of the city with major museum and cultural facilities: Shanghai Grand Theater, Shanghai Museum, and the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall.
- Excellent transporatation and access: People's Square is the primary interchange for several subway lines, so its a good base area for traveling around in the region. It is in walking distance of Nanjing Road and the famous Bund.
- Accommodations: It has a huge variety of hotels including some of the best in Shanghai and some backpacker hostels.
- The daily hustle and bustle is not easy to get away from.
- to The Bund - There's no subway stop at the Bund, so the fastest way to get there is to get off at East Nanjing Road and walk towards the river and skyscrapers. The area is also called Puxi District (浦西).
- to Nanjing East Road - The East Nanjing Road Station is an interchange station for Line 2 (Pudong International Airport and Hongqiao Airport and Hongqiao Train Station) and Line 10.
- to People's Square - People's Square Station is a subway hub where lines 1, 2 and 8 interchange.
Hotel prices: 2&3 stars, 55–100 USD; luxury 4&5-star rating, 100–260 USD Note that hotel prices change quickly in the city.
2. The Pudong Lujiazui area: for business people and luxury shopping, just east of the Bund across the river
The Pudong New District (浦东新区) is the other favorite tourist area of Shanghai. It is where the tallest Shanghai landmark skyscrapers, some of the world's biggest buildings with observation decks are located such as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Shanghai Jingmao Tower, and the Shanghai World Financial Center. Numerous tourists like ascending the towers.
The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the second tallest radio and TV tower in China. It offers a spectacular view of Shanghai and has a revolving buffet restaurant and even a roller coaster! Visitors can find the Shanghai Municipal History Museum in the tower's pedestal, and there are hotel rooms located in the five smaller spheres.
The Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is one of the largest in the world, and it is conveniently next to the Oriental Pearl Tower.
The Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) is the second tallest office building in Shanghai. It has an observation deck, a mall, and a luxury hotel, the Hyatt Regency.
- Luxury malls house luxury brands and fashion.
- Packed with restaurants and snack vendors, you're spoiled for choice of accommodation in this area.
- It mostly focuses on shopping, financial services and trading, and staying here might not be suitable if you are seeking more in-depth or authentic Chinese cultural experiences.
- There are high hotel costs in the commercial area.
Subway: The Lujiazui area is close to Pudong International Airport. The Oriental Pearl Tower is 5.4 kilometers away from the airport. You can take Metro line 2 in about an hour or a combination of line 2 and the Maglev train in about 36 minutes. Taxis from the airport take about 32 minutes (24 USD).
Hotel prices: 2&3 stars, 55–100 USD; luxury 4&5-star rating, 100–300 USD
3. The French Concession: nightlife, shopping, dining, and European architecture
The French Concession is a famed residential area of Shanghai that was originally designed and built by the French. It is popular with tourists and expats, and it is appreciated for its cafes, tree-lined avenues, and old buildings. It is one of the best areas to stay in Shanghai for first-time visitors because it is convenient for sightseeing. However, expect to pay a premium in these areas.
Xintiandi is a residential/business area that has earned fame for the renovation project that preserved the old architecture while transitioning to be a luxury shopping and dining area.
- Seeing the old foreign-built architecture and discovering vintage shops, antique wares, and traditional restaurants tucked away inside the buildings is a delight for some people
- Lower costs: Prices are a step down from Lujiazui and the Bund.
- Nightlife: Many people consider the French Concession to have the best nightlife.
- Dining: There are many fine places to dine. The gorgeous architecture is a fine backdrop for dining.
- A lack of luxury hotels
- The subway trains are popular and crowded during rush hours.
Suggested transportation: You can walk from Xintiandi Station to People's Square in about 40 minutes. Taxis go the distance in about 3 minutes for about 4 USD.
Subway: From Xintiandi Station, line 8 goes to People's Square in about 9 minutes.
Hotel prices and recommendations: 2&3 stars, 50–100 USD; luxury 4&5-star rating, 80–200 USD
4. Qibao Water Town: an alternative out of the congested city, better for children and budget travelers
Qibao: If you're looking for an alternative to the inner city, consider staying at a water town such as Qibao or Zhujiajiao. Qibao is on the outskirts of the city about a half hour by subway (Qibao Station). It is smaller and more congested than Zhujiajiao that is a main water town attraction, but the closer proximity and the availability of lower cost accommodations are perks.
Qibao ancient town was first built about one thousand years ago. The old town occupies about two square kilometers and is crossed by two water lanes. Around the water lanes, there are preserved traditional houses, gardens, temples, shops and restaurants.
- Traditional China - gardens, pavilions, and narrow stone lanes give a taste of traditional China.
- Shopping and dining: There are many traditional restaurants in the southern part and old shops to choose from.
- It's not far from the center of town. It is about 18 kilometers from downtown Shanghai.
- Excellent for Hongqiao Airport or Hongqiao Station: Hongqiao International Airport is only about 3 kilometers away. So if you are planning on arriving or leaving Shanghai on a bullet train or plane from Honqiao, it is a close location.
- More of your time might be consumed in transportation to famous sights.
- It is somewhat cramped compared to much bigger water towns further from the central city.
Suggested transportation: For quick transport to the Bund and Lujiazui, we suggest take a taxi. A taxi to the Bund takes about 20 minutes (about 11 USD). Taking line 10 and a bus, you can get to Hongqiao Airport in about 22 minutes, and taxis can go there in six minutes (about 23 USD). Buses between Hongqiao Station and Qibao Station take about 24 minutes.
Subway: Line 9 to Qibao Station from People's Square near the Bund take about 40 minutes. Line 10 takes a little more than 50 minutes.
Prices and recommendations: 2&3 stars, 22–45 USD; 4&5-star rating, 55–110 USD
5. Zhujiajiao: iconic water town, good air quality, for families with children, an hour from central Shanghai
Zhujiajiao is an ancient water town that is only about 50 kilometers from the Bund. Canals were the main transportation lanes, and going around by boat for shipping and dining is many a tourist favorite activity. Many tourists prefer riding in the canals for themselves and their families rather than walking along tourist streets.
- One of the famous water towns in the Shanghai area, it is a tourist attraction in itself. It is good for those who prefer not to be in the center city.
- Proximity to Hongqiao Station and Hongqiao Airport: If you are travelling regionally around in China and Hong Kong using the Hongqiao airport or Hongqiao Station bullet trains, then Zhujiajiao is convenient. Subway line 17 goes directly from Hongqiao Station to Zhujiajiao in about 40 minutes.
- The air quality is better and there are lower hotel costs.
- Southwest of the city center
- A longer amount of time is consumed in subway/taxi journeys. They can be crowded/jammed during rush hours.
Suggested transportation: Taxis take about 37 minutes (25 USD) to the city center.
Subway: From Zhujiajiao, transferring between line 17 and line 2 on the subway, it takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to reach People's Square.
Hotel prices and recommendations: 2&3 stars, 33–93 USD, 4&5-star rating, 100–350 USD
6. Shanghai Train Station Area of Jing'an: for low cost hotels, by excellent transportation, close to the Bund
The Shanghai Train Station is only 4 km (2 miles) west of the Bund. So it is a central tourist location for the proximity to the Bund and its location in the Jing'an area that expats like to go to and live in. Also, Shanghai Station is both a bullet train station and metro interchange station. Lines 1, 3, and 4 go there for convenient city transport.
For attractions and things to do, there is West Nanjing Road that has luxury malls and many cafes and restaurants.
Also, prices in hotels around it are lower than in Lujiazui and the Bund.
- Train transport to popular cities: There is a bullet train to Beijing, Xi'an, Hangzhou and a number of other cities and a through train to Hong Kong. For people planning to visit these cities and Shanghai, it might be ideal to save travel time and for convenience.
- Three metro lines: Line 1 goes to the South Railway Station, People's Square and Circus World.
- The Jiaotong Park is nearby for green space to relax in.
- Budget Hotels: The area around the station has a handful of hotels for between 35 USD and 100 USD.
- You can walk to the Bund in about an hour from Shanghai Station.
- Taking a bus to the Bund takes about half an hour, and talking a taxi takes 10 minutes.
Subway: Take Line 4 and transfer to Line 10 to go to the Bund in half an hour. To go to/from Pudong International Airport, you can take a taxi for about 38 minutes for 25 or 30 USD. Using a combination of Line 4 and the Maglev, you can get to Pudong in about an hour. The Shanghai Station is in the Jing'an District (静安).
Hotel prices and recommendations: Home Inn Shanghai (35 USD and up, single room) and Tiantian International Youth Inn (40 USD and up, single room) both get high ratings from reviewers and are just minutes away from the station. Generally, hotels: mid-range 3–4 stars, 50–100 USD; luxury 5-star rating, 85–170 USD
7. The Pudong International Airport area: best choice for international stopovers - for families, business travellers, more green space, & Shanghai Disney
Most of the recommended areas to stay in Shanghai are west of the Lujiazui area. But for a different experience, more parks and greenery, more local Chinese culture and less tourist oriented place, head across the river to the Pudong area around the Pudong International Airport.
Business travelers and those with young children might prefer Pudong for its convenience to the airport, quieter locations, and the newly opened Shanghai Disney Resort.
It is close to the ocean, so the air quality is often better, and the ocean moderates the temperatures, so it isn't as sweltering as in the inner city in the summer.
Pudong is much greener, more open and less crowded than the inner city. It is quite, more residential, thus making it better for those with families.
- Transportation to inner city highlights: Commute times are reasonable. Pudong District (浦东) is about 32 kilometers away. Nanjing Road, People's Square and the Shanghai Museum are about 33 kilometers away. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower and other towers and the Shanghai Aquarium are about 31 to 33 kilometers away. Taxis take about half an hour to get to this central area. (about 24 USD).
- The nightlife and fine dining are much less.
- Less luxurious accommodations
Subway: Transferring between the Shanghai Maglev Train and Shanghai Metro Line 2 makes it a 35 minute trip to the Oriental Pearl Tower.
Hotel prices : 2&3 stars, 70–140 USD; 4&5-star rating, 80–160 USD
8. Shanghai Hongqiao Airport and Hongqiao Train Station: another good area for layovers, business travellers, and regional travelers.
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and the Hongqiao Railway Station complex are only about 20 minutes by taxi away from the Bund. Staying around the Hongqiao Station affords you quick regional travel and lower hotel costs than the central city.
Advantages: This is one of the largest train stations in Asia that allows you quick access to Hongqiao airport as well as the Hongqiao subway interchange hub. So for getting around the region, it is a good place to stay.
Check out The Complete Guide to a Shanghai Layover
- Time spent wasted in traffic jams
- A major problem is sightseeing during layovers. Many potential problems can lead to you missing your next flight. The common ones are:
You can lose your way once in town, and it can be difficult to get help due to the language barrier.
You may experience problems finding a ticket office and have to waste time queuing for tickets.
Please note: Just inquire about our 1-Day Shanghai Highlights Tour that is timed wisely to suit your flight schedule and is worry-free.
Suggested transportation: China Highlights private airport transfer services are provided by our company. The transport services are both convenient and economical. Taxis to the Pudong financial district go there in about 22 minutes (12 USD).
Subway: The Hongqiao Train Station is one of Shanghai's four major train stations and a bullet train hub station. It is next to Terminal 2 of Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport and lines 2, 10, and 17 of Shanghai Metro.
Hotel prices: 3 stars, 22–90 USD; 4 & 5-star rating, 75–160 USD
Optimizing Your Shanghai Experience
Ease of onward trips: Shanghai has two huge international airports where you can land and tour the huge Yangtze Delta for 6 days visa-free.
Travel troubles in Shanghai are almost inevitable without expert advice. Traveling on your own for example, you may end up overpaying for a hotel or stay on a noisy street without the facilities and convenience you need. You may find that traffic upsets your schedule, your kids (or you) get bored while you waste time in huge ticket lines, and so on. Let us help...
Our Shanghai Highlights Tour Recommendations
Traveling independently in Shanghai consumes a lot of time and energy. To maximize your time, you are recommended to take a private tour.
Here are two sample Shanghai itineraries for inspiration:
- 5-Day Essence of Shanghai and Hangzhou Tour (144-hour visa-free): See the most famous sights in Shanghai and Hangzhou such as the Bund and West Lake.
- 2-Day Charming Shanghai and Water Town Tour
Just make a free inquiry for a customized tour with the best accommodation and arrangements for you, to suit your time, pace, and preferences. You can utilize our over 20 years of experience in China tour tailoring!