3-Day Shanghai Itinerary

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Shanghai is one of the most popular cities to visit in China and, chances are, if you are making the trip to China then you will be visiting Shanghai. Despite Beijing being China’s capital, Shanghai is the most populated city in the country. Shanghai is unapologetically large and there is consequently a myriad of things to see and do in the city. You can follow this jam-packed three-day itinerary or extend to five days to fit in most of the top sites and a trip to a nearby ancient town. From huge skyscrapers and impressive skylines to old temples in the heart of the bustling, modern city, Shanghai has a ton of things to see and do.

Shanghai Itinerary Options

Where to Stay?

Shanghai is big and also an expensive city by China standards.

It can therefore be a little tricky to decide where to stay and it really does depend what you are looking for as all the attractions on this itinerary are dotted around the city.

In general, you really cannot go wrong with staying around the Bund area and People’s Square, which is centrally located and there are plenty of attractions in accessible distance.

Getting Around Shanghai

View Of Downtown Shanghai Skyline
Downtown , Beijing and Shanghai itinerary.

Never underestimate the size of Shanghai, which has a population of 26 million (just to compare cities like New York and London have around 8 million people) and is 6,340 sqkm.

The best way to get around Shanghai is by public transport.


The subway is extensive in Shanghai so there really is little reason to use any other method of transport.

Even locals will opt to use the subway rather than driving as it can get super busy with traffic especially at peak times.

There are 20 lines covering 826 km (513 mi).

If you don’t have time and would like someone else to organise your itinerary, book a private guide tour here.

How to Pay?

China is all about mobile payments and people don’t really carry cash anymore.

Most people in China use Alipay or WeChat in quick and convenient mobile transactions.

It used to be difficult for foreigners to use mobile money services but in 2023, We Chat Pay and Alipay introduced methods to allow foreigners to link foreign bank cards to the applications.

So, if you want to try this method you should organise to try it out before you go to China.

Alternatively, as Shanghai is a big international city cash and cards are widely accepted, especially at tourist attractions.

Where to Eat and How to Order

There are plenty of foreign restaurants in Shanghai where you will have no challenges with ordering but chances are you will want to taste the best of China’s exquisite foods.

A good way to get an introduction to Shanghainese cuisine is to join a foodie tour.

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Communicating In China

Shanghai is one of those cities where you are more likely to find English-speaking people, but it’s certainly not guaranteed everywhere you go.

The best thing to do before heading to China is to download Google Translate.

It will be your best friend.

You should also download the pinyin keyboard on your phone as well as the writing Chinese keyboard.

The writing keyboard (where you write Chinese characters with your fingers) is particularly useful if you ask an older Chinese person a question and want them to reply on their phone.

Many older Chinese people cannot type pinyin because they only learned the traditional characters.

Some quick useful phrases in mandarin to know are:

  • Nǐ hǎo (你好) – hello
  • Zài nǎlǐ在哪里 – Where?
  • Xǐshǒujiān zài nǎ? (洗手间在哪) – Where is the bathroom?

For more things to do in China read:

5-Day Shanghai Itinerary

Day 1: The Bund, Oriental Pearl Tower, Nanjing Road, Xintiandi District

Stroll Along The Bund
Shanghai Bund At Night With Cars
The Bund Shanghai is a must-see on a 3-day itinerary.

The Shanghai skyline is one of the most recognisable in the world and is perfectly viewed from the Bund.

The Bund is located across from the skyline skyscrapers, separated by the 500m wide Huangpu River that dissects the city in half.

The Bund is a popular place for people to go walking and check out the view.

Be warned though if you go in the evening or at the weekend this place is extremely busy, you might not even be able to find standing room right on the railing to see the view!

You will find that your phone or camera becomes full of pictures of Shanghai’s skyline.

The Bund is a place you must visit at least twice, once in the day and the other time at night.

The Bund is at Zhongshan Rd (E-1), Waitan, Huangpu, Shanghai, China, 200002.

Go Up The Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Pudong Oriental Pearl Tower At Night In Shanghai China
Oriental Pearl Tower is another landmark to visit during your Shanghai itinerary of 4 days.

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the most iconic of Shanghai’s buildings.

The Pearl Tower is on the opposite side of the Bund in Pudong New Area and is 468 m (1,536ft) high, making it the sixth-tallest TV tower in the world.

The tower has two large spheres and one smaller one that makes the tower look almost like a spaceship or a rocket.

It is best to book tickets for the tower in advance so you can save money and not have to wait in line.

Inside there are observation decks at 263m and 259m.

The lower one has a circular glass floor so you can look down at the view below.

There is also a revolving buffet restaurant in the 267m smaller sphere.

The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is at 1 Shiji Blvd, Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai, 200120.

Wander Along Nanjing Road
Nanjing Road, Shanghai
Nanjing Road is another popular spot to add to a Shanghai itinerary.

Nanjing Road is one of the world’s busiest shopping streets and is 3.4 mi (5.5km) long.

It starts at the Bund in the east and ends in the west at the junction between Jing’an Temple and West Yan’an Street.

Whether you are looking for clothes or electronics Nanjing Road has it all.

There are more than 600 stores on the road.

There are upscale stores like Omega and Tiffany as well as shops selling jade, silk and even clocks!

Nanjing Road is also the place to go for snacks, with a few shops and stalls selling an array of Chinese foods.

You can certainly visit Nanjing Road during the day for a spot of shopping but if you choose to head to the Bund in the evening walk down Nanjing Road.

At peak times you will feel as if you are walking in a slow-moving wave of people.

Spend A Night On The Town In Xintiandi District
Old Chinese Houses High Rises Xintiandi Luwan Shanghai
Xintiandi Luwan Shanghai itinerary 2 days.

Formerly Shikumen neighbourhood, Xintiandi District has been transformed into the glitzy fine dining and club district of the city.

If you are looking for somewhere to socialize, meet people and enjoy a few drinks this is the place to go.

Xintiandi District is also in a super convenient location right in the center of Shanghai, so no matter where you are staying it’s never too far away.

There’s plenty of variety when it comes to where to dine and drink in Xintiandi.

There are local beer brewing taprooms, cocktail lounges, hidden bars and clubs.

Day 2: Shanghai Tower, Jing’an Temple, Jade Buddha Temple, Huangpu River Cruise

After a day of seeing the modern side of Shanghai day two is a mix of old, new and nature.

Shanghai Tower

The Oriental Pearl Tower is the most distinctive of Shanghai’s buildings, but the Shanghai Tower is the tallest building in China as well as the world’s third tallest building.

Shanghai Tower seems to twist and stands at 632m (2,073ft).

If you want to look out over Shanghai from the tallest point in the city, then this is a great place to go.

The observation deck stands at 546 meters (1,791 ft), which is the world’s highest observation deck.

From the tower you can see the Huangpu River, the Bund, and the city’s other skyscrapers like Jin Mao Tower and the World Financial Center.

Shanghai Tower is at 501 Yincheng Rd (M), Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai, 200120.

Jing’an Temple
Gold Dragons Roof Top Jing An Temple Shanghai China
Jing A Temple is a traditional place to add to your Shanghai itinerary of 3 days.

From the ultra-modern Shanghai Tower to the Tandmi Buddhist temple Jing’an.

This temple is quite remarkable seeing as its located on the bustling Nanjing West Road and surrounded by modern city buildings.

When you first arrive, you will think it looks out of place and completely juxtaposed to its surroundings.

The original temples dates to 1216 AD.

The name Jing’an means Temple of Peace and Tranquillity.

Even though the temple is open-air you really do feel the sound of car honking disappear as you step though the entrance.

The temple has multiple halls to explore, calligraphy and paintings and notable statues and relics.

There’s also a large jade Buddha that measures 3.8 metres (12 ft).

Jing’an Temple is at 1686 Nanjing Rd (W), 久光 Jing’An, Shanghai, 200040. You may like this tour of Shanghai’s Old City.

Jade Buddha Temple
Shanghai - Inside Jade Buddha Temple
Jade Buddha Temple is a tranquil place to discover on a Shanghai itinerary.

Next up on your Shanghai day two itinerary is the Jade Buddha Temple.

Leave the modern city behind and explore this 1882 temple.

The temple was built to house two jade Buddha’s that were brought from Myanmar by a monk called Huigen.

The temple was destroyed in the Qing Dynasty revolution, but the statues remarkably survived.

The buddha’s are carved with whole white jade.

If you are interested in Chinese and Asian culture, then this is definitely a great place to visit on your trip to Shanghai.

The Jade Buddha Temple is at 170 Anyuan Rd, Jing’An, 200061.

Huangpu River Cruise

When the sun goes down and the Shangai skyline lights switch on the city transforms into a glittering wonderland.

One of the best ways to see the city at night (aside from the Bund) is by hopping on a boat along the Huangpu River.

There are plenty of cruises to choose from that all start from the Bund.

From the boat you will be able to see some of the most recognisable buildings like the Shanghai International Convention Center, Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai Center, the Oriental Pearl Tower and the International Finance Center.

Boat rides usually last around 45 minutes and you can select the time so its flexible with your schedule.

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Day 3: Yu Garden, Longhua Temple, The Shanghai Museum

Yu Garden
Shanghai, China View At The Traditional Yuyuan Garden
Yuyuan Garden is a lovely spot to wander around during a Shanghai 4 day tour itinerary.

Yu Garden is an iconic stop and should certainly be on your Shanghai itinerary.

Located in Huangpu District it’s one of the must-see attractions.

The garden dates to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and was owned by government official Pan Yunduan.

The garden is around five acres and features classical garden art, carvings, and rockeries.

There are also plenty of vibrant orange fish swimming around in the waters.

For a real feel of a classic Chinese garden this is the place to visit.

Yu Garden is at 279 Yu Yuan Lao Jie, 四牌楼 Huangpu, Shanghai, 200000.

Longhua Temple
Lighting The Candle Pray To Buddha At Longhua Temple
Longhua Temple is another temple to add to your Shanghai itinerary if you have more time.

After Yu Garden head to Longhua Temple and Pagoda.

Longhua Temple is the oldest temple in Shanghai with a history of more than 1,700 years.

After a feisty and destructive history most of the buildings you see today are reconstructions that date back to the Qing Dynasty.

Longhua Pagoda is 40.4 metres (132.5 ft) and is situated in front of the Longhua Temple.

One of the best times of year to visit the temple is during late spring when the peach trees are in full blossom.

Longhua Temple is at 2853 Longhua Rd, Xuhui District, Shanghai, 200232.

The Shanghai Museum
Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum is another great place to include in a Shanghai itinerary.

After Longhua Temple head away from the inevitable summer heat and step inside the Shanghai Museum.

The Shanghai Museum has two locations: the main museum is in People’s Square in Huangpu District.

The museum features paintings, calligraphy, Ming and Qing Dynasty furniture and minority nationality artwork.

If you have visited many museums around the world, it’s interesting to compare those with the pieces inside the Shanghai Museum.

The Shanghai Museum is at 201 Renmin Ave, People’s Square, Huangpu, 200003. Skip the lines by booking your tickets here.

Side Trip Options

Day 4: Take A Trip To Zhujiajiao Ancient Town

If you are looking to spend a few more days in Shanghai, then its highly recommended to visit Zhujiajiao Ancient Town.

Zhujiajiao Ancient Town is a water town located in Qingpu District of Shanghai.

China has many of these quaint water towns but this one is particularly famous because of its 1,700-year history.

Many people refer to Zhujiajiao as Shanghai’s Venice.

The bridges in the water town are particularly famous.

Be sure to check out Fangsheng Bridge as well as Lang Bridge.

You can reach this water town by taking metro line 17 to Zhujiajiao Station. A great way to explore is on a private tour with a guide.

Zhujiajiao Ancient Town is at Shanghai, Qingpu District, Kezhiyuan Rd, 朱家角翔宁浜763号 邮政编码: 201713.

Day 5: Visit Shanghai Disneyland Park

Wonderful Magic Castle Princess At Disneyland
Disneyland Shanghai is a fun day trip itinerary.

If you are visiting Shanghai with kids or indeed Disney enthusiasts, then taking a trip to Shanghai Disneyland is a good idea.

You might be wondering what it is like to visit Disneyland in China as a foreigner? Well, it feels in many ways the same as other Disneyland’s around the world.

All signage is in Chinese as well as English, however the entertainment attractions are spoken in Mandarin.

For Disney lovers you can enjoy all the fun rides and parades but with a Chinese element to them.

It’s a truly unique Disney experience.

Shanghai Disneyland Park is at 4MV5+945, Pudong, Shanghai, 201205. Book your private transfers to Disneyland here.

Looking for more itineraries? Try these:

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Harriet Comley
Harriet Comley is a travel enthusiast, freelance travel writer and a lover of safaris. Since 2017 she has been travelling the globe living in the UK, Canada, Vietnam, China and now Zambia, where she is completing her PhD in Sustainable Tourism. For 3 1/2 years she taught English in Vietnam and China. Now she has turned her attention to writing, having contributed to a number of travel blogs and websites always focusing on what she loves most…exploring!