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Make the most of 2 days in Shanghai

Take in the modern skyline on your Shanghai Itinerary
Take in the modern skyline on your Shanghai Itinerary

Shanghai sits on the banks of the Huangpu River, a tributary of the Yangtze. It’s a major port city although the main port is outside the city as the river is not deep enough for large ships. Shanghai is a thriving, modern city and although it does still have some older, traditional buildings, the skyline is dominated by contemporary towers and modern office buildings. So, here, I’m going to cover the main Shanghai attractions and tell you what you should add to your Shanghai itinerary.

Getting to Shanghai

Crossing the river on the bullet train from Nanjing to Shanghai
Crossing the river on the bullet train from Nanjing to Shanghai

Shanghai by air

Of course, many visitors to Shanghai, even to China, will start their Shanghai itinerary at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. It’s a major transport hub and so millions of passengers pass through it every year

A cheap and convenient way to get from the airport to downtown is by metro. Line 2 of the Shanghai metro runs directly between the city and airport. A single journey costs 3 CNY (35p) and it takes just over an hour.

Many visitors will prefer to take the Maglev instead. The Maglev is the fastest passenger train in the world so it’s a tourist attraction as well as a means of transport. However, it is a lot more expensive at 50 CNY (£5) and it doesn’t run directly into the city so you need to change to the metro at  Longyang Road Station. If you want to ride the Maglev then I’d advise doing it as a separate trip when you don’t have your luggage with you. When I’ve got my luggage I prefer as few changes as possible. However, it’s an option if you want it.

Nanjing to Shanghai by Train

Passing another bullet train on the raised high-speed line between Nanjing and Shanghai
Passing another bullet train on the raised high-speed line between Nanjing and Shanghai

Another option for arriving in Shanghai is by train. You can easily get from most other Chinese cities on high-speed trains and also overnight sleeper trains. In fact, we travelled from Nanjing on one of the new high-speed trains. After travelling on two overnight sleeper trains, this was our first trip on a Chinese high-speed or bullet train. We took one of the ‘G’ trains which are basically China’s fastest trains. So we had to find a separate waiting area at the Nanjing station for the high-speed trains as this station has both high-speed and traditional trains. We found the easiest way was to go to the ‘soft seating’ waiting room and then show our ticket. Afterwards, we were directed upstairs where we found the right place to wait and settled down to watch the departures board.

The G train is one of the shiny, white sleek trains and so we settled into comfy seats for the journey. The display above the door showed that we reached a maximum speed of 185 mph during the trip although we did slow down to go through some stations. We made a few stops and arrived at Shanghai Hongqiao Station 2 hours later. It’s a great way to make the journey and you also get to see the Chinese countryside enroute.

Getting Around Shanghai

Shanghai has an extensive metro system and it thus makes the ideal way to get around the city. Although Shanghai also has a comprehensive bus system I find it easier to use the metro when I don’t speak the language. You’ll find station names in Pinyin (Westernized Chinese) on all metro trains so it makes it very easy to get around. When we need to use buses I get someone at the hotel to write down my destination in Chinese in case the conductor or driver doesn’t understand me.

You can buy a single journey ticket for 3 CNY (35p). If you’re going to use the metro a lot you might find it easier to buy a one day pass for 18 CNY (£2) or a three-day pass for 45 CNY (£5) instead. I like these passes when sightseeing as it makes it easy to hop on the metro whenever you want to without queuing for more tickets. However, if you won’t be using the metro very much the single journey tickets are a cheaper option.

Attractions to add to your Shanghai itinerary

You’ll want to get out and about and make the most of your time in Shanghai. So, here I’m going to give you a list of different Shanghai attractions that will get your sightseeing off to a great start. If you have more time then consider taking a day trip to Nanjing. You can get from Shanghai to Nanjing in around 2 hours by high-speed train and it’s also a fascinating city.

The Bund

Shanghai Skyline at Night from the Bund
Shanghai Skyline at Night from the Bund

Firstly, you won’t want to miss seeing the view of Shanghai’s skyline for yourself. So, head down to the waterfront and take in the view across the Huangpu River. It’s an impressive view during the day but truly spectacular at night. It’s a popular area and you’ll find plenty of other tourists as well as locals enjoying the view.

Whether you visit during the day or at night take a walk along the waterfront area. Indeed, there are some fabulous buildings on this side of the river. Particularly the more traditional, colonial-style buildings which contrast with the more modern architecture you’ll see on the other bank of the Huangpu.

The Bund at Night
The Bund at Night

Nearest Metro:
The closest metro station for the Bund, Sightseeing tunnel and Nanjing Road is the East Nanjing Road Station. You can reach this station on either line 2 or line 10.

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel

Make time for a quick trip across the river for a close-up view of the Pearl Tower. We went under the river through the Bund sightseeing tunnel in a kind of monorail capsule with loads of bright lights which was rather fun.

Tickets:
The journey lasts less than 5 minutes and a return ticket will cost you 70 CNY (£8) so it’s quite expensive. Better to save a few pounds and just take a single trip across for 50 CNY (£5) and then use the metro to get back.

Opening Hours:
May-October from 8 am to 10.30 pm.
November-April from 8 am to 10 pm.

The video clip above shows the inside of the sightseeing tunnel. If you look closely you can see one of the monorail cars coming in the other direction.

Nanjing Road

Central Shanghai
Central Shanghai

Nearby is the main shopping area of Nanjing Road. This is a central pedestrianized area with an abundance of shops and restaurants. Here, you’ll find a mixture of traditional Chinese brands and shops with recognisable Western brands and shops. Even those you do recognise won’t necessarily be the same as at home. For instance, we had lunch at a Chinese Pizza Hut which had quite a different menu from our local one. It was excellent though and they still did pan pizza which we washed down with some very good Chinese beer.

Central Shanghai
Central Shanghai

Oriental Pearl Tower

One thing is for sure, you won’t be able to miss the Oriental Pearl Tower. It dominates the Shanghai skyline and looks absolutely amazing lit up at night. It is located in Pudong which is just across the river from the Bund waterfront. It’s actually a TV & radio tower but it’s the distinctive shape, like a giant pearl, that draws attention. In fact, if you look close there are several spheres, or pearls, of various sizes.

Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai
Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai

Inside you will find a hotel, shops, restaurants and even a history museum. Of course, there’s also a viewing area which you reach in high-capacity lifts.

Oriental Pearl Tower: Practical Information

Nearest metro: Lujiazui Station (Line 2)

Opening Hours: 8 am to 9.30pm

Tickets: There are various admission packages available.
You can buy a ticket for the History Museum only for 35 CNY (£4).

If you want to go up to the viewing gallery you need to buy at least the Standard Package for 160 CNY (£18).
This includes the viewing platform, Transparent Sky Walking and entry to the History Museum.

More expensive packages can be purchased which include a river cruise and the multi-media show.

Shanghai Tower

One thing Shanghai is not short of is tall towers. Its skyline is quite futuristic in appearance and, especially, in the Pudong area of the city, tall skyscrapers dominate. The Shanghai Tower is the largest in China. It was actually under construction when we were in Shanghai and you can see it in the photos we took of the World Financial Centre. It’s the one to the left with the crane on it in the photo below.

Obviously, we weren’t able to go up inside the tower but you can now if you want to. In fact, I love to go up these tall buildings. You get a great view of the city and it’s an experience in itself.

Shanghai Tower: Practical Information

Nearest metro: Lujiazui Station (Line 2)

Opening Hours: 8.30 am to 10 pm

Tickets:
Admission to the viewing platform is 180 CNY (£20)

World Financial Centre

Shanghai World Financial Centre - The Bottle Opener
Shanghai World Financial Centre
The Bottle Opener

When we visited Shanghai the World Financial Centre was the tallest skyscraper in the city. It’s often referred to as the bottle opener and if you look at the photo I’m sure you’ll agree it does look like a giant bottle opener.

The Viewing Platform of the Shanghai World Financial Centre
The Viewing Platform of the Shanghai World Financial Centre

We went up to the 94th floor by elevator, then an escalator up to floor 97 and finally another lift to the 100th floor. You walk across a partial glass floor so you’re looking straight down 100 floors. It’s very unnerving even for those of us without vertigo but Paul, who has a bit of a high-building phobia, it was quite a challenge. He did make it all the way up though and even managed to peer over the edge. Unfortunately, it was quite misty and although it kept moving around so we did get a reasonable view on and off we didn’t get very good photos. Still, it was fun.

Glass panels allow you to see straight down from the viewing platform
Glass panels allow you to see straight down from the viewing platform

World Financial Centre Tower: Practical Information

Nearest metro:  Dongchang Road Station or Lujiazui Station (Both on Line 2)

Opening Hours: 9 am to 10.30 pm

Tickets:
Admission to the viewing platform is 180 CNY (£20)

Jade Buddha Temple

Jade Buddha Temple Shanghai
Jade Buddha Temple Shanghai

Head across to the western part of Shanghai for a glimpse of a more traditional part of the city. This small temple contains two white jade statues of Buddha. One lying down and one sitting.

Jade Buddha Temple: Practical Information

Nearest metro:   Jiangning Road Station (Line 13)

Opening Hours: 4 am to 4.30 pm

Tickets:
Admission is 20 CNY (£2). Plus 10 CNY (£1) to see the statues.

Yuyuan Garden

This beautiful garden is located in central Shanghai. It’s a tranquil oasis in the midst of a busy city and so you should definitely put a visit on your Shanghai itinerary. Laid out in a classical Chinese style, the garden has a number of lovely features. One of these is the rockery with its jade rock.

Yuyuan Garden: Practical Information

Nearest metro:   Yuyuan Station (Line 10)

Opening Hours: 8.45 am to 4.15 pm

Tickets:
Admission is 40 CNY (£4).

River Cruise

Take a river cruise
Take a river cruise

Since Shanghai is a city divided by the river Huangpu it makes sense to get out on the river to see the city from a different perspective. You can sail through the middle of Shanghai and take in the riverside attractions as you go. A great time to take a river cruise is at night so that you can see the lights. Click here to check availability for a nighttime river cruise. You can also take a daytime cruise as part of a full day sightseeing tour which is a great way to make sure you don’t miss any of the sights.

Shanghai Museum

If like me, you like to add a museum or two to your sightseeing itinerary then take look at the Shanghai museum. You’ll find an extensive collection of ceramics as well as Chinese paintings, sculptures, coins and furniture. Of course, there’s plenty of jade to admire and also some impressive calligraphy.

Shanghai Museum: Practical Information

Nearest metro: People’s Square Station (Lines 1, 2 and 8)

Opening Hours: 9 am to 5 pm

Tickets:
Admission is free but you need to collect a ticket at the desk.
You can rent an audio guide for 40 CNY (£4) but you must leave a deposit of 400 CNY (£40) or your passport.

Shanghai Hop on Hop Sightseeing Bus

We quite often use the Hop on Hop off sightseeing buses to get an overview of a city. The sightseeing bus in Shanghai is pretty good value at under £25 per person so it can be a good way to see the city. You can book your tickets in advance here or buy them on the bus when you arrive in Shanghai. The bus goes to all the attractions I’ve talked about in this article. We saw parts of Shanghai we probably wouldn’t have gone to specifically and you get a great view from the open-top deck. If you’ve not got a Shanghai Itinerary planned before you go then it’s a good way to pick out the places you want to return to for a closer look later.

The Old Customs House
The Old Customs House

Shanghai Disneyland

I love visiting the various Disney parks but we were a bit early for Shanghai Disneyland which was not open when we were there. Of course, if you know the other Disney Parks you don’t need me to tell you what to expect. However, they’ll be some differences here as Shanghai presents Disney with a touch of Chinese style. Not a cheap day out but definitely a fun way to spend some time in Shanghai.

Shanghai Disneyland: Practical Information

Nearest metro: Disneyland park Station (Line 11)

Opening Hours Vary so check the offical website

Tickets:
A 1-day ticket starts from 399 CNY (£40) but prices increase on weekends and other peak times. A 2-day ticket from 718 CNY can be much better value if you are visiting for 2 days.

This Shanghai Itinerary is part of a series of articles about our trip around the world without flying. To read more about our journey across China and the rest of the world click on any of the images below.

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What to see in Shanghai. Use our guide to make the most of your time sightseeing in this vibrant, modern Chinese city.