I’ve never been a fan of 3-day itineraries or those “must-do” in 3 days person. Having been there for almost a year, these are what I would recommend, but do plan your schedule accordingly!
If this is your first time in Shanghai, check out the other posts I have on traveling to Shanghai! (Especially the post on surviving in Digital Nation: China, everything relies so heavily on apps. I was practically crippled the first time I went into the supermarket there)
Since metro is the most economical means of transport in Shanghai, this guide shall be based on the subway. Each subway trip is around 4RMB per trip, usually within the inner ring, regardless of the number of stations you take (it costs a little bit more if you travel to the outer areas, but not by much). Even if it’s 1 stop, or 10, it is generally still 4RMB.
However when you are looking at the subway/metro map, be mindful of when the stations are not interchanges for the metro lines. I’ve made that mistake before and had to walk a whole train stop to make up for it..
Key places in Shanghai!
Must Go Places
1. Dimsum at Ritz-Carlton Pudong
Line 2, Lujiazui Metro 陆家嘴
Dine at the One Michelin Star Jin Xuan Chinese Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton Pudong on the weekends. You will be rewarded with great view of the bund, sans the crowd. Prices are not super expensive, considering how much dimsum actually cost overseas (read Korea, Singapore, European countries, etc.)
Prices at Jin Xuan are not super pricey (even though it has stellar views and owns a star), considering how costly dimsum actually is (read Korea, Singapore, European countries, etc.)
Dimsum/Yumcha time is from 12pm-2pm, but they will let you hang around a little after 2pm if you are in for a chitchat sesh with nice and quiet ambience, a rarity in Shanghai.
We usually make our reservation in advance (the husband knows the manager), there is usually ample seats but you can reserve online too just in case!
2. Fake Market for tailors, prescription glasses, or imitation branded goods
Line 2, Science and Technology Metro 上海科技馆
This is an underground market. Not like market in the traditional sense, but more like a underground mall. If you are not heading there for the fake goods (you can get fake Vans, Tom Toms, or even the latest LV handbag), you can consider tailoring your clothes or making a new pair of glasses. (Glasses are legit, as in suitable for daily use, they’re not fake plastic lenses. I got my prescription glasses for 200RMB, anti-blue light lens as well as fake Gucci frames, but I had no idea, I thought I was getting regular metal frames……. until 5hours later when I took them off to prevent them from steaming up from the noodles at dinner…… then I realised)
The moment you walk out of the train station, you should see both sides of it, AP Plaza and Xinyang. Both sell similar merchandise.
Rule of thumb, bargain hard, try not to follow touts. They get a commission from your sale anyway. You are better off finding the shops yourself than pay extra to the touts.
Start from 10% in the shops that catch your eye, but you should pay nowhere close to the original price of the original item. Do you research before heading down! As a personal rule, I would never pay more than 40% the price of the original item, or get luxury brands there. (I would go for fakes more for the kick rather than to show off. I would not buy something I can not actually afford in real life. But that’s just me…)
And on bargaining, since I kinda look the part, I will always tell them I am a local student. I would think that I have a distinct guangdong/fujian accent in my spoken Chinese. They are less aggressive with students and kinder with their price cuts. And especially so when I am able to pay like a local – using Wechat pay or Alipay.
At some point, I got tired of all the bargaining or asking of prices and would only buy items where prices are clearly marked.
I got branded tumblers and even a certain British brand of plasticky/canvas bags for 20RMB, Toms for 10RMB, Converse for 30RMB, my husband got a certain FC soccer shorts for 10RMB. But don’t just use the prices I got my items as a benchmark. Supply and demand changes, it really depends on luck and your ability to comb the place throughly. Bear in mind your travel plans, you don’t want to hold everyone in your group back just to head back there to get the bag you wished you’ve bought the first trip there..
Reception underground is not always very trusty, so bring some real cash if you intend to lowball the sellers a little.. They may get quite impatient with the data situation as well if Alipay or Wechat pay doesn’t work because of the reception, and you certainly don’t want to miss out on a good deal!
Opening hours: 10.30 – 18.30 (mostly, some do close earlier, some later..)
3. Tian Zi Fang / 田子坊
Line 9, Da Pu Qiao Metro 打浦桥
I really love the vibes of this place, more so than Xintiandi / 新天地. This has a nice old Shanghai charm, narrow streets in a grid with stalls on both sides of the narrow laneways. It retains the typical Shanghainese Shikumen structure, and is a pretty peaceful place to head to on weekdays! (it gets quite crowded on weekends!)
Opening hours: typically 10.00-21.30, bars open till later.
4. Bund view without the crowd
Up for a bund view, without the crowd or having to pay for entrance/food at Ritz-Carlton? Not a problem!
You can check out the view at the Pudong side of the bund.
Line 2, Lu Jia Zui Metro 陆家嘴
Get off at Lu Jia Zui, walk towards the bund.
Once there, turn back to look at the buildings. You get the same view, except the bund will be behind you and not in your photo, but it will be WAY less crowded than at the East Nanjing side of the bund!
While you’re there, enjoy the view of the Oriental Pearl Tower!
If you are adventurous enough, take a bike (bicycle rentals are all around, just scan the QR code and you are off!). For me, I brought my escooter to the Puxi side to explore a little bit!
5. Stroll along the whole of Nanjing Road
Line 2, East Nanjing Road to West Nanjing Road 南京东路 – 南京西路
Have a look see at the crowd along the bund, regardless of time and day. People-watch too, while you are at it! It is fun, I guarantee you.
After that, take a walk along the entire stretch of East Nanjing Road all the way down to West Nanjing Road, where the world’s largest Starbucks Reserve used to be.
There is a giant roastery inside as well. Level 2 houses the teavana series, there is ample seating around and when it gets too crowded, entry is controlled. On days you see long lines outside Starbucks, hang around the West Nanjing area and go back in a few hours. The crowd should clear by then!
If you are a Disney fan, there is an outlet for you to get your Disney fix without having to travel all the way to Disneyland for your Disney merchandise.
if you are there on a weekend. Check out the Marriage Market on weekends at People’s Square (人民广场).
You will see parents eager to matchmake their children by putting up posters, stating their child’s age, geneder, picture, elgibility and what they are looking for. Sometimes, these are pasted on umbrellas, propped on the ground for easy viewing.
I have no idea how successful this method of matchmaking is, but it brings some vibrancy to the park area at People’s Square.
6. Southbund Fabric Market
Line 4, Nanpu Bridge 南浦大桥
Fancy a new suit, or some new cheongsums made in Shanghai?
From the beginning of time (or basically, my mom), Shanghainese is known for their tailoring. It is no wonder there is an entire building dedicated to tailoing clothes in the area.
While my husband did not tailor the entire suit, he made workshirts here. They were an average of about 120-150RMB for a shirt, depending on the collar type, sleeve type, etc. You know the drill. Pop by have a look.
Opening hours: 11am – 6pm. (Some shops do close earlier, but the mall turns the lights off at around 6 to get patrons out)
Qi Bao: Line 9, Qi Bao 七宝
Zhu Jia Jiao: Line 17, Zhu Jia Jiao 朱家角
What is a trip to China without a vist to the Venices of the Orient.
Pop by the two watertowns within Shanghai, Zhu Jia Jiao (朱家角) or Qi Bao (七宝).
View wise, both are about the same.
Accessibility wise, Qi Bao is more accessible and much closer to the central areas. Qi Bao Old Street is relatively near the Metor station, almost a 10minute walk out of the mall at Qi Bao metro and you have reached the old Watertown. On the other hand, it is quite a long walk from the metro station to get to Zhu Jia Jiao Old Street.
Size wise, Zhu Jia Jiao is much larger, definitely. There are more tea houses at Zhu Jia Jiao to spend the afternoon, much more enjoyable as a day trip than Qi Bao. But if you are in a hurry to tick things off your list, Qi Bao is a good choice!
Opening Hours: Attraction sites are typically opened from 9am-5pm.
8. Yu Yuan Garden (Ming Dynasty Garden)
Line 10, Yuyuan Garden 豫园
One of my few favorite places, if not for the crowd. It has the lovely oriental vibes around the entire area (it’s mostly shopping, souveniours and food places) and there is the authentic Ming Dynasty garden within the Yu Yuan compound too. Of course, you will have to pay to enter the garden area. Entrance tickets are sold through the booth right at the entrance of the garden!
I won’t recommend going into the Cheng Huang Temple (城隍庙) as it’s really small and not much of a learning experience, so save your entrance ticket for a snack instead.
Opening Hours: 8.45am – 4.15pm at the YuYuan Garden Compound. The shopping street outside is opened till late.
9. Xin Tian Di (新天地)
Line 10/13, Xin Tian Di 新天地
If you fancy some traditional Shanghainese architecture, head to Xintiandi. Xintiandi is now littered with shops, eateries and bars. They serve mostly Western fares, but the old Shanghainese Shukumen architectural charm at Xintiandi remains.
These structures originally appeared in the mid of the 19th century as a product of combining Chinese and Western architecture styles, usually having a vaulted stone door frame with Chinese style carvings and a wooden door.
10. Speakeasy Bars
Check out some speakeasy bars in Shanghai if you can. The prices are pretty affordable, and it’s a fun way to end off the night!
Two we’ve tried are Speak Low and Flask. The drinks were served in a non-traditional way, flavours are interesting as well. Worth it to find out more about speakeasy bars in Shanghai if you have time.
11. Jiashan Market
A little like a farmer’s market concept, if you are in the French Concession on the First and Third Saturday of the month, check this one out. They feature some of Shanghai’s best artisan producers.
Whilst almost every guide will recommend Disneyland as the top destination in Shanghai, I would say go only if you have time to spare.
I went in the middle of summer vacation, when school was out. It was crowded on all the rides, wait time was an average or 2-3h for the rides. Fast pass ran out the moment we got there (11am), we basically got onto 3 rides for the day and was too tired to enjoy anything else or wait for the fireworks for that matter.
I love Disney, and I’ve been to Orlando twice just for some Disney magic. But the magic of disney was lost on this one for me.
Check out a petting zoo in the middle of Shanghai!
Line 6, Jinqiao Road Metro 金桥路
Situated on top of a shopping mall, this was quite a surprise. It was beside our first apartment in Shanghai, we didn’t know until we were bringing my mother around the mall. (We managed to get in for free as there was a birthday party going on, I’m not sure if it charges on usual days!)
Check out the cute animals here if you have time! There are sheeps, rabbits, pigs, chickens…