Three (3) Days in Shanghai is just enough to grasp its sheer size and enjoy some key highlights of this interesting city. The choice of neighbourhoods, key attractions, shopping, eating, green areas and general curiosity will leave you wanting to return or stay longer. Shanghai roars with energy and its entrepreneurial spirit is evident everywhere you look. Every luxury brand from fashion to cars, hotels to jewellery and more, has a presence. Old world meets new world in its architecture, with some truly lovely masterpieces.
Shanghai may be the second largest city of mainland China, but it is also very westernised. As the financial capital of mainland China, Shanghai looks, sounds and feels like an international city. It reminds me of aspects of Honk Kong and Singapore with a little bit of Beijing rolled into one. This ‘Three (3) Days in Shanghai’ itinerary by Great Wine Days’ magazine: Vinodisiac, aims to inspire and save you time, as there is a lot to see and experience in Shanghai and its surrounds.
Divided by the Huangpu River, Shanghai is made up of two parts: Pudong, containing the financial district, the famous Pearl Tower and international airport (which is not covered in this itinerary); and Puxi, containing most of Shanghai’s key attractions and worthwhile highlights – which is the focus of our Three (3) Days in Shanghai itinerary.
Day One: Nanjing West and Nanjing East (pedestrian) Area
Nanjing West Road
Jing’an Temple & Park (allow 1-2 hours depending on whether you wish to enter the temple)
Yuyuan Garden & Area (allow 45 mins for the gardens + up to 2 hours for exploring the area & lunch)
Yuyuan or Yu Garden is a classic Chinese garden with rich history and culture. And very easy to visit without the need of a tour guide, despite what tour companies may say. The garden is located in Anren Jie, Shanghai and below we give you simple Metro details on how to get there, as it is the easiest and most cost-effective way.
Yuyuan was completed in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. ‘Yu’ in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying, and this garden was built for Pan’s parents as a place of serenity and calm, to be enjoyed in their old age. During the past 400 years, Yuyuan Garden has undergone tremendous changes, and in 1760 it was acquired by wealthy merchants who dedicated over 20 years to reconstructing buildings and the general maintenance of the gardens. Today, Yuyuan Garden is the result of a five year restoration project which commenced in 1956 and re-opened to the public in September of 1961. Yuyuan Garden occupies an area of 20,000 square metres consisting of several attractions, including pavilions, halls, rockeries and ponds. The six main scenic areas include: Dianchun Hall, Huijing Hall, Sansui Hall, Wanhua Chamber, Yuhua Hall and the Inner Garden.
Best time to visit: Spring time, when the garden exhibits lush green trees and blossoming flowers. Open: 8:30am–5:00pm.
Getting There: The Metro/Subway is best as it stops directly at Yuyuan Garden! Take Line 10 and get off at Yuyuan Station. Leave from Exit 1 and the Garden is steps away.
Lunch: Xiao Yang Sheng Jian (Jiu Jiu) for a no frills experience of the best, scrumptious hand-made crab meat and pork soup dumplings! These are filled with a wonderful, tasty soup stock, but go slow when first served, as the liquid stock is piping hot and can squirt and scald you or your fellow diners. 6.30AM – 7.30PM Daily.
Address: 90 Huanghe Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai.Getting there: By Metro/Subway – Take Exit 8 at People’s Square Station
Nanjing East (pedestrian) Road
This paved long and wide pedestrian street is packed with fashion stores, restaurants, Shanghai No.1 Department Store and many other shops. Walk down Nanjing East Road (pedestrian road) and check out the fashion stores, restaurants, and vibe. This leads to The Bund and there is a metro station. If you are a foreigner, you will highly likely be ‘targeted’ by sales touts asking if you want to buy a watch or bag. This is how some people make their living and it is quite normal. Our advice is tho stay calm and kindly but firmly decline and keep walking. Never buy or exchange money on the street…you wouldn’t in your own country, so definitely not wise. To avoid sales touts, walk along the side streets and parallel roads off Nanjing East Road, to avoid being hassled.
Dinner at ‘M on the Bund’ offers spectacular views over Pudong and the Huangpu river. ‘M on the Bund’ has great ambience; good food and service. Great to experience at least once, but then venture out and try others as Shanghai is overflowing with great local and international cuisines.
People’s Park near People’s Square (allow 1 hour)
People’s Square is located between Nanjing West and Nanjing East Roads, within walking distance of The Bund. People’s Park has beautiful gardens, ponds and ecological thinking which went into creating this much-needed green space of tranquility. Step into People’s Park and feel as if you have entered a new world far from Shanghai’s hustle bustle.
The Bund by day and night (allow up to 2 hours to walk it and take photos)
This famous waterfront is regarded as the symbol of Shanghai. Stretching 1,500 metres in length, on the west side of The Bund are many buildings of uniquely different architectural styles. This mix of Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and the Renaissance creates a spectacular riverfront. Walk along the promenade and enjoy the view across the Huangpu River to Pudong’s financial district, noting the interesting architecture including the famous Pearl Tower. Many great photo opportunities. During spring and summer it is a very busy location for wedding photos. Brides wearing white but also red bridal gowns with the groom, photographer and entourage in tow.
Every evening, The Bund turns Shanghai into a spectacular light show. Best viewed from a building overlooking the area with your camera in your hand. The Shanghai skyline on both sides of the Huangpu River is illuminated! Best to capture it before 22:00 / 10pm as the lights of many buildings were dimmed or switched off, when we visited!
Getting there: By Metro/Subway, take Line 2 or Line 10 to East Nanjing Road Station. Then walk about 10 minutes toward the Huangpu River.
Day Two: Suzhou & Tongli Water Town (by private tour)
Book your own private driver and guide via a reputable travel agency before you arrive in Shanghai (we used China Travel and highly recommend them). They take care of all the entry ticket purchasing; pick-ups and drop-offs; include lunch in the price; as well as create a seamless guided experience for you, saving you time and hassle. The drop you back to your hotel.
The Administrator’s residence and gardens are impressive. Allow enough time to walk around and discover the serenity (despite the crowds) of the gardens and to visit the buildings’ interiors.
Tongli Water Town
Tongli is a beautiful and authentic water town in the Jiangsu province, in Wujiang district – just outside Suzhou. Known for its network of canals, it features museums, shops with local crafts and food, and tea houses. Whilst it does take two (2) hours to drive to Tongli Water Town, being outside Shanghai, it is worth it. In Shanghai, one of the most promoted water towns is Zhujiajiao, but our advice is to skip this one to avoid the busloads of tourists and visit Tongli instead! You won’t be disappointed, but much better off.
Take a memorable and romantic canal boat ride to discover the canal system. Hop onto a rickshaw for an eco-friendly trip through the Tongli’s streets and alleys.
Lunch at the famous Yangyang Dumpling Restaurant.
Days Three: French Concession – Xintiandi, Fuxing Park, Sinan Road, Tianzifang and Taikang.
Xintiandi (allow 1 hour; up to 3 hours if having lunch/dinner and shopping)
The French Concession is a very large area of Shanghai. Walking through Xintiandi and the rest of the French Concession area is the best way to explore and discover Shikumen (European and Chinese-inspired) architecture, leafy streets, cafes, chic restaurants, luxury hotels, tea houses and designer boutiques. Furthermore, you will experience Shanghai in the 1920’s as well as its current, modern urban lifestyle. One full day and even an evening, is time well-spent to experience the area and its highlights, as three (3) days in Shanghai won’t allow for exhaustive exploration of this neighbourhood.
Take Metro Line 1 and get off at South Huangpi Rd. Station. Get out from Exit 3 and walk southwards along South Huangpi Road.
Take Metro Line 10 and get off at Xintiandi Station. Get out from Exit 6 to Madang Road, then walk a bit to the north.
Take Metro Line 13 and get off at Xin Tian Di Station.
Fuxing Park (allow 1-2 hours)
Tianzifang Arts & Crafts Area (allow 1-2 hours)
Tianzifang injects a shot of fun arts and crafts to Shanghai’s French Concession area, with its narrow alleyways and markets, packed with interesting shops, great coffee, bars, and a variety of Eastern and Western snacks. You could easily spend between 1-3 hours in this area, walking, eating, drinking and exploring.
Taikang Design and Arts Centre (allow 1-2 hours)
Taikang Design and Arts Centre, French Concession, Shanghai houses more sophisticated local designers and artists; coffee shops and bars.
Last Day: shopping, leisurely walks or catching your flight back home.
On your last day and if you have some time, you may wish to do some shopping, get a massage before your flight or revisit an area for more exploration – like the arts and design areas of Tianzifang and Taikang. Just remember to allow at least 3-4 hours for traveling to the airport, check in and security checks, to ensure a leisurely departure, without the stress.
In conclusion, our ‘Three (3) Days in Shanghai’ itinerary is packed with key highlights and is very doable at a nice pace without feeling rushed, provided you start your day by 10am and maximise it, spending a full day out. Feel free to pick and choose the key highlights and attractions which suit your interests. Lastly, don’t forget to people-watch and take in the city of Shanghai!
- Taxis: only take a taxi from the airport taxi rank downstairs; don’t accept rides from people approaching you in the airport; or ask your hotel to book one for you.
- Metro system: use this as often as needed as it is clean, cheap, safe (always be conscious of your belongings), environmentally-friendly and convenient.
- Printed map: ensure you are organised before you set off from your hotel, with a printed map (in case you can’t get maps or a signal on your smartphone)
- Currency: always have some local currency. Only use reputable banks for currency exchange at the airport (slightly more expensive but worth it) or in the city – don’t forget your passport for proof of identity. NEVER exchange money on the street.
Enjoy Three (3) Days in Shanghai.