Settled along the Yangtze River Delta and the Chinese coast, Shanghai sits as a shining gem of modern technology and Old World charm. Her name means “Upon-the-Sea” and that is exactly where she resides. Steeped in a proud history, this city now flourishes as a hub for international trade and finance. During the last two decades, Shanghai has become one of the fastest developing cities in the world and a popular destination for tourists. Renowned for its historic landmarks and metropolitan culture it is also known for being the birthplace to everything modern in China. In this guide, we’ll give you all the details for visiting Shanghai, as well as popular areas to visit and things to do!
Getting In/ Getting Out
This city is one of the leading air transport hubs in Asia. There are two commercial airports here in Shanghai, each with their own amenities and services offered:
Shanghai Pudong International Airport: Located on the south bank of the Yangtze River in east Shanghai, is about 30 km (19 miles) away from the city’s center. This is the main international airport with several flights coming in and out of the city per day. Most of the international flights will come through this airport. Visit http://en.shairport.com/pudongair.html for more details.
Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport: Mainly operates domestic flights and limited short-haul international flights. Visit http://en.shairport.com/hongqiaoair.html for more details.
FREE Visa Transit in China!
Passport holders from the 51 countries and regions of the world can enjoy a 72-hour Visa-Free Transit when taking an international transfer via Shanghai Pudong Airport or Hongqiao Airport. And now, Since January 30, 2016, if traveling in Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu, visitors can now enjoy a 144 hour Visa-free transit! This is perfect for a 3 day vacation stopover in China, while you are on your way to another destination (and you don’t need to apply for Chinese visa). Click here to learn more about Visa Free Transit in China.
Once you have arrived at the airport there are quite a few transportation options to choose from to take you from the airport into the city. Just choose the one that is right for you:
- Shuttle Buses: Each airport has a shuttle bus system to take you to and from the airport.
- Subway: Lines 2 and 10 now go from the city to Pudong Airport and Hongqiao Airport.
- Shanghai Airport Shuttle Bus to Nearby Cities: This is a long distance option shuttling passengers from both airports to nearby cities. To view their pick up points please visit: www.travelchinaguide.com.
- Taxis: Taxi services are plentiful in Shanghai and are available for transport into the city from both airports. Fares vary so be sure to ask before you accept transportation.
- Train: Railways are an important part of transportation in Shanghai. If you are planning to go into Shanghai or leave by railroad, there are four major railway stations to utilize. You can view the complete timetables to any and all stations, as well as order tickets, at www.chinatrainguide.com.
- Shanghai Railway Station: This station is located north of the city center on Moling Rd, Zhabei District, in Shanghai. It is one of the most important hubs and sees the most passenger traffic. Primarily serving north-south and westward bound locations, this station has quite a few high speed train options to try. There are 2 Z (non-stop, deluxe) trains to Taiyuan and Xi’an every day. It also offers over 50 high-speed CRH train routes every day as well as T trains (fast trains that stop at main stations) and K trains (fast high-speed trains).
- Shanghai South Railway Station: This station is located on Laohumin Lu, Xuhui District, in Shanghai. It serves most trains to the cities of Zhejiang, and the southern provinces of China excluding the Shanghai-Hong Kong Route. This station, along with the main Shanghai Railway Station, are the primary railway hubs of the city.
- Shanghai West Railway Station: Located on Taopu Road in the Putuo District, this station only serves high-speed trains running between Shanghai and Nanjing. There are also a few trains ending at Changzhou and Suzhou. Passengers can take Line 11 from here into the downtown area of Shanghai.
- Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station: Serves as the main terminus of three high-speed rail lines. It is very close to the Hongqiao Airport. Passengers can take Lines 2 and 10 of the Metro here for the downtown area.
- The Meglev: Something fun to try: While you are in Shanghai, go for a ride on a technological wave of the future-try the Maglev Train! This is Shanghai’s “super train” and the only commercial train of its kind in the world. It is super-fast, saves time…and is a lot of fun to ride! This train runs from Pudong International Airport to Longyang Rd. Station located between Longyang Road and Baiyang Road in Pudong’s New Area and cuts the travel time to and from the airport significantly!
~ Pudong International Airport: Here you can transfer to the airport then on to your destination.
~Longyang Rd. Station: Here you can transfer to Subway Line 2 and many buses which will take you in to Shanghai. You can purchase tickets at the airport, just follow the signs to the Meglev.
Ship: Coming in by cruise line? Shanghai Cruise Port of Call is a major hub for all Asia Pacific cruises. There are three International Cruise Terminals here:
- Shanghai Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal: This is the best cruise terminal in the city, it is located on 1 Baoyang Road, Wusongkou, Baoshan District, in Paotaiwan Bay. Please note: There is not direct public transportation between this port and Shanghai’s city center. Instead, you will have to take the subway or a taxi to your destination.
- Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal: This is the largest cruise port terminal in Shanghai. It is located at: 500 Daming Road, in the Hongkou District near the downtown area.
- Waigaoqiao International Cruise Terminal: It is located at Waigaoqiao in Pudong New Area about 30 km from downtown Shanghai. You can take a taxi or the subway Line 2 into the city.
Getting Around Shanghai:
Shanghai has an extensive public transportation system including metros, buses, and taxis. It is rather fun to experience as Shanghai’s technology in transportation is more advanced than other cities. Payment on all modes of transportation can be made by using the Shanghai Public Transportation Card which can be purchased at any subway station.
This rapid transit system includes the subway system and the light railway lines traveling to every core district throughout the city as well as neighboring districts. This is the fastest and most comfortable way to get around the city as there are 14 different metro lines, and 329 stations. The subway signs are labeled in English and Chinese. The fare depends of the length of travel distance starting at around 3 RMB. It is important to note that the Metro is not a 24 hour service. You can see a complete Metro schedule and timetable at: www.travelchinaguide.com. You can also download a free metro app into your phone or device at www.exploreshanghai.com that will give you a complete map of all metro stops while you’re on the go.
Shanghai has the world’s most extensive network of urban bus routes, with nearly one thousand bus lines, operated by numerous transportation companies. Bus fare normally costs 2RMB. You can find a complete bus schedule at www.travelchinaguide.com.
** To save time, you may consider booking a Bus Day-Tour of Shanghai Bus Day-Tour of Shanghai where you can get transportation around town + a wonderful sightseeing tour of Shanghai!
These can always be found in Shanghai. They are the most expedient form of transportation, except in rush hour. It is important to remember that most taxi drivers do not speak English. It is a great idea to take one of your hotel’s business cards with you to show to your driver so you get to the right hotel. You can also download a language translation app that you can directly talk into your phone and it will translate. Translation books are always a good idea.
This is a fun way to get about the city and one of the most cost effective. Bicycles can be obtained cheaply and it is a fun mode of transportation allowing you to take your time and stop where you want to stop between your destinations. Laws have recently banned the use of bicycles on main roads and expressways but there are plenty of bicycle lanes to be traveled throughout the city.
Ferry’s and Boats:
There are nine basic routes to convey travelers between east and west Shanghai. The Ferry terminal can be found at the southern end of the Bund on the west shore and at the southern end of Riverside Ave, at Dongchang Lu, on the east shore. There are five other routes across the river that use the tunnels. A fun tunnel to take is the Waitan Bund Sightseeing Tunnel which has glass covered tram cars that glide through a subterranean light show which includes music and a narrative!
Some Travel Tips for Tourists:
Shanghai is one of the most populated cities in the world. While it is quite a safe city to visit, there are pickpockets and other petty crimes that prey upon tourists. Stay smart. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
Watch Out for One Another: Watch your surroundings and keep tabs on everyone in your party. Make designated meeting locations should someone get lost.
Watch Your Stuff: Be mindful as you would at home. Don’t put your bags down to take photos, and watch your valuables at all times.
Money: If you feel worried, you can use a money belt or fanny pack instead of wallets or purses which can easily be stolen. Backpacks can be easily broken into if slung over your shoulder in a crowded location, so it’s best to keep them in front of you in crowds where you can watch the zippers.
Be Smart: Be alert when buying souvenirs around tourist attractions. These are crowded places where thieves love to dwell. Keep a protective watch over your money. Also pay attention to what the money looks like. Souvenir store owners have been known to dupe customers by giving them old money that is now worthless.
Scams: Just as in every large city in the world, there are a lot of scammers about that love to prey on tourists. Do your homework on the internet before you leave; read what other tourists have experienced so you will be prepared to avoid the same pitfalls and can then enjoy this beautiful city.
Pollution: Air Pollution is Shanghai is low compared to other Chinese cities but it is still a problem compared to the air quality in most of the rest of the world. It is always a good idea to bring along some allergy medication in case you have a reaction to the air. And if the air is bad on a particular day, masks are very cheap and can be bought in most convenience stores.
Shanghai has a humid, subtropical climate. Winters are chilly and damp with cold northwesterly winds from Siberia causing nighttime temperatures to drop below freezing. Summers are hot and humid, with an average of a little over 8 days exceeding 95 degree Fahrenheit. Expect the occasional downpour or thunderstorm during this season. Typhoon Season in Shanghai is during the summer and early autumn. The best time to visit beautiful Shanghai is in the spring or autumn months.
Major Festivals and Sporting Events:
Part of Shanghai’s charm is the amount of festivals and sporting events it hosts each year. A few suggestions are commented on below for your convenience in planning your trip to this fascinating city. Each festival is unique and showcases another facet of this glittering city. Some fun Shanghai festivals to plan your stay around are:
- Chinese New Year! This fabulous festival takes place in January or February, depending on the lunar month, and begins with striking the bell in Longshua Park to ring in the New Year. The festivities then are all throughout the city.
- The Longshua Temple Fair takes place in March and coincides with spring and the blossoming peach blossoms. It is held in Longshua old town and has been celebrated for over 300 years. It is the largest folk gathering in China with a colorful fair including stalls, jugglers, fold art, and stilt walkers!
- Shanghai International Tea Culture Festival takes place in April, and lasts about a week long. This special festival promotes tea including: an extensive variety of teas to taste, competitions and exhibitions.
- The Shanghai Peach Blossom Festival is held annually in Late March or early April, when thousands of peach blossoms are blooming throughout the Nanhui District filling their air with their glorious scent and adding vibrant color to the area. The peach symbolizes life, growth and prosperity to the Chinese people and all are celebrated in this festival which includes folk culture and amusements.
- The Dragon Boat Festival is held in April each year. Crews in narrow boats race to the beat of heavy drums. Don’t forget to grab some sticky rice served in bamboo leaves- this is a delicious traditional snack at the festival!
- The Shanghai Television Festival is held in June. This international TV Festival is a prestigious event. This is a massive Shanghai tourist festival showcasing the city, culture and history of China. Entertainment venues are hosted throughout the city. Add in markets, a folklore tour, a Chinese festival in Yuyuan Garden and a music festival with fireworks in Century Park. This is a huge event!
- Shanghai International Arts Festival takes place in September/ October each year. The goal of this festival is to present the best in entertainment across the globe. This festival lasts a month long and showcases more than 150 performances in everything from Opera to magic! Other activities at this festival include, an international piano competition, Asia Music festival, international magic festival and competition and an arts and crafts fair.
Shanghai is home to amazing sports talent. Why not see a game?
- Soccer: Shanghai is home to many professional soccer teams such as the Shanghai Shenhua, Shanghai SIPG and Shanghai Shenxin of the Chinese Super League.
- Basketball: See the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association play.
- Ice Hockey: Shanghai’s team is China Dragon.
- Baseball: The Shanghai Golden Eagles are here and are part of the China Baseball League.
- Racing: Shanghai hosts the Chinese Grand Prix- which is one round of the Formula One World Championship.
- Golf: Shanghai also holds the Gold Tournaments: Shanghai Masters tournament which is part of ATP World Tour Masters 1000 and the BMW Masters and WGC-HSBC Champions.
Major Tourist Neighborhoods in Shanghai:
This city is a maze of neighborhoods all offering something to entertain the tourists! Enjoy everything from spectacular entertainments, monuments, shopping, and sight-seeing, museums and wonderful food, sports, and more.
- City Parks: There are over 150 parks throughout the city. Each one offering something different and unique. Popular parks to check out are: People’s Square Park, Gongqing Forest Park, Fuxing Park, Zhongshan Park, Lu Xun Park, Century Park and Jing’an Park.
- New Shanghai Disney Resort just opened the summer of 2016. This massive park is home to some incredible rides, like the Tron launch coaster and a Pirates of the Caribbean that incorporates technology that puts the versions in other Disney parks to shame — it’s worth the trip! Click here to read our full review of our visit to Shanghai Disneyland during the grand opening!
- Huangpu District embraces a lot of the downtown areas including Nanjing Road, the Bund, and Xin Tian Di shopping and entertainments complex, Yu Yuan Gardens and People’s Square.
- Lujiazui District is another nice area which includes the financial district with its modern skyscrapers and 5 star hotels. It has the Oriental Pearl Tower which is a great attraction, and Jinmao Tower which is China’s tallest building. There are also museums such as the world-class Shanghai Science and Technology Museum and the Ocean Aquarium. Close by is Century Park which is a haven of tranquility for a peaceful afternoon.
- Qibao Town is only 18 km (11.18 miles) from the modern downtown, this ancient district of Shanghai satisfies the need to see the city as it used to be with its ancient townships. Qibao’s history goes back 1,000 years. This district’s point of interest is Qibao Temple that brings Shanghai’s history to life as no other structure could. And then, for something different, check out the live cricket shows in Qibao. We are not talking about cricket the sport, here, we are talking about the insects! You are sure to see a show that you have never seen before as Qibao residents fight their crickets in exhibitions sure to wow tourists from all over the world.
Points of Interest:
There are so many Points of Interest in Shanghai to boast about. Here are just a few crowd- pleasers:
- The Bund, (also called Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu) is located by the bank of the Huangpu River from the Waibaidu Bridge to Nanpu Bridge, it is a famous waterfront for tourists. From its view of various buildings holding 26 different forms of architecture to its 1,700 meter long lover’s wall, the Bund uniquely cradles city life and culture in a new exciting way making it a must see destination.
- Oriental Pearl TV Tower is a historic masterpiece. It is located in Pudong Park in Lujiazui, Shanghai. The architecture and history behind this monument is amazing as it combines ancient concepts with new world technology, recreation and education. The base of the tower is home to a science fantasy city! The tower includes a hotel in its spherical structures and the pearl at the very top contains shops, restaurants, and a sightseeing floor. You can also book a tour of the tower.
- The China Art Museum is a new museum that covers nearly 39 acres, is one of the largest museums in Asia housing 27 exhibition halls. There are basic and specialty exhibitions here, famous paintings, and world class art. The admission is free.
- The Shanghai Botanical Gardens is located in the Xuhui District. This world renowned garden is huge and lushly covered in collections of Chinese plants and 3500 species of local flora including: magnolias, azaleas, peonies, roses, conifers, bamboo, maples, and osmanthus. It is especially beautiful to visit in the spring. The Botanical Gardens also boast a Tropicarium as well as the Magnolia Garden, Peony Garden,
- YuYuan Garden / Famous Tea House & Shanghai Old Town Bazaar is a popular area to visit that is not far from the Bund. The YuYuan garden is a stunning complex that is the city’s most famous example of traditional gardens that used to be kept by wealthy families in Shanghai. Nearby the garden is the famous picturesque Tea House that sits in the middle of a pond of blooming flowers. Stop in to have a cup of tea, then stroll the market streets of the old town bazaar next to the tea house – filled with lots of modern shops and some great souvenirs.
- The Former French Concession is a district is popular for its tree-lined streets and architecture. Walking or biking this area is quite relaxing, and cool with all the trees. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to enjoy, sometimes making it feel like you aren’t in China.
- The Shanghai Zoo is the city zoo that houses more than 6,000 animals from all over the world including 600 animals native to China. The zoo provides eco-friendly environments for their animals and has become one of the best ecological gardens in the city. The zoo provides amusement and leisure as well as scientific education to have visitors leave with a better understanding and appreciations for the animals and their environments around the world. Areas in the zoo include: Swan Lake, the Aviary, Outdoor Bird Garden, Pheasant Corridor, Big Cat Enclosures, Outdoor Carnivore Islands, Carnivore Boardwalk, Panda House and Bear Pits, Polar Bear World, Herbivore Paddocks, Kangaroo Lawn, Aquatic Mammals Boardwalk, Raptor Area, Flamingo Pond, Waterbird Houses, Parrot house, Hornbill and Toucan Circle, Wader Stream, Indoor Bird House, Penguin Pool, Bailing Pet World and Small Animal Area, Monkey Houses, Nocturnal Animal and Tamarin house, Ape Islands and gorilla Pavilion, Indoor Reptile house, Walk-in Reptile house, Fresh-and-Saltwater Aquarium, Goldfish Hall and Koi Pond and a Children’s Zoo.
Popular Sightseeing Activities and Day Tours in Shanghai
- Half-Day Old Shanghai Bike Tour
- Former French Concession Walking Tour
- Yuyuan Gardens and Zhujiajiao with Foot Massage
- Shanghai: 3-Hour Authentic Downtown Local Food Tasting
- 3-hour Shanghai Old Town Walking Tour
- From Shanghai: Half-Day Tour, Yu Yuan Garden, Old City, Bund
- Suzhou Garden & Water Town Tour from Shanghai
- Shanghai: Ancient and Modern Tour and River Cruise
- Zhujiajiao Water Town & Huangpu River Cruise
- Sightseeing Tour, Huangpu River Cruise and Wonton-Making
- Gangster Tour: 2.5 hour Shanghai Walking Tour
- Shanghai by Night on the Huangpu River Cruise
Time to Start Planning Your Visit to Shanghai!
Shanghai is a dazzling city to visit whether you are a novice traveler or a seasoned pro. Steeped in Chinese history and old world traditions this city also amazes the world in new cutting edge technology. You can search the world over and not find another city like this beautiful city by the sea. Come for a visit and leave feeling irrevocably changed.