How to Cover Shanghai in 24 hours

Thinking of going to Shanghai? Well nearly everyone that visits China‘s pretty quick to scramble and check out Shanghai, but because there is so much to do, the unfamiliar travelers will have a hard time making the best of their stay in Shanghai.

Seeing Shanghai’s Famous Downtown

The best places to stay, as far as convenience goes, are near the Bund and People’s Square in central Shanghai. Shanghai is very commuter friendly because of its sophisticated railway system, so even if you don’t stay in the city center you are probably only a 30-minute ride away from everything in town.

To start a jam-packed day tour, make your way to the green line and get off at either Nanjing Road or People’s Square (also on the red and blue lines). Nanjing Road, with its large neon signs, boasts one of the recognizable streets in Shanghai. Here you can do some window shopping, and if you venture down one of the small side streets, find some amazing local restaurants. Be prepared for being confronted by people asking if you want to buy designer bags and watches. It is generally safe to take a look at these vendors’ shops (you will have to follow them down a backstreet to their hidden stores which may seem a bit suspicious) but you better be a haggling pro if you want to get a decent price. These people are professionals at bartering and are very good at parting unsuspecting foreigners from their money.

Where to Shop

Walking east you will come to the end of Nanjing Road and find yourself on the Bund. The Bund is a long street that faces the Huangbu River and the financial district. Built in British-style architecture, this beautiful section of Shanghai plays host to numerous high fashion stores. Looking across the river you will see the most famous skyline in China with the colorful Pearl Tower at the center.

After photos, go back to the subway, and take the green line to the Shanghai Museum of Science and Technology. You won’t actually go into the museum, but stay in the underground subway station for shopping at one of the best fake markets in China. Whether it’s Chanel bags, Prada glasses, pearls or traditional items, the fake market here has knock-offs of such high quality that friends will be hard pressed to tell the difference. For the very best of the shopkeepers’ collection, ask to “see their catalog”. The shopkeepers have to hide their best fakes in case of police raids, so if you want truly perfect copies you will have to ask.

Where to Relax

Now fully shopped out, take the green line back to Jingan Temple and spend some quiet time walking through the newly restored temple and gardens across the street. Once you have lit some incense and relax a little, grab either a taxi or take the orange line one stop south to Changsu Road, in order to head into the French Concession.

The Concession is a large, serene area built during the French occupation. You will have to decide ahead of time exactly where you want to go. If you tell a taxi driver that you want to go to the French Concession, but don’t give a specific location he may get mad or frustrated. Doing this would be the equivalent of traveling in New York and saying that you want to go to Manhattan; it doesn’t really narrow it down.

The streets in the Concession are quiet, lined with trees, and have tons of cute shops and cafes. Stop in at one of the many bookshops for lunch, coffee, and a little down time. You could spend several hours getting lost in the French Concession, but try to limit it to just the afternoon.

Where to Go Out

Now refreshed and having regained your strength. It’s time to head back to your hotel and change for a night out. Shanghai is famous for its nightlife and glitzy clubs so you will want to dress the part. Once changed, return to the Bund to see the amazing light displays on the skyscrapers across the river. Most buildings on the Bund feature restaurants and rooftop nightclubs, so you can either try your luck or plan ahead on which one you want to go to. These clubs can be quite pricy and sometimes limit entry on weekends, so you may want to arrive a bit early. (See also Nightlife in Beijing)

Enjoy the view and a cocktail at one of the rooftop bars then head to a different building for a truly spectacular dinner. Once you are full from a decadent meal that was worth every penny, take the subway under the river to the Hyatt Hotel in the financial district. The Hyatt has one of the highest bars in Shanghai, giving it an unbelievable view of the city.  Entrance into the bar is free but there is normally a minimum-spending requirement of a RMB150 per person. Make sure you get there before midnight because the lights of Shanghai do turn off.

Having taken in some of the best shopping, sights, and foods that Shanghai has to offer, you can now safely say that you have made the best of your short time in the exciting, whirlwind city of Shanghai.

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