Shanghai is the perfect place to visit for a weekend from Beijing. It has a completely different air to it, but is still a good distance way to get there and back in two days. You will feel refreshed and exhilarated from your travels.
Before going, I didn’t know much about the city at all. People I spoke to just said it’s more modern than Beijing and has less smog. All of which I found to be accurate.
I flew late Monday night, so I was there for all of Tuesday and Wednesday (my weekend) ready for work on Thursday. The flight took little more than 2 hours from Beijing, where as the train takes 5 hours. The train is good if you manage to get a sleeper, which would be a bunk bed. They’re generally comfortable and manageable if you have enough time and snacks to get you through a long journey.
The metro is connected to the airport and the train station so both are very convenient to travel into the city.
The moment I stepped out of the hostel for the first time I was in love. All the architecture reminded me of Europe. Low level buildings, with balconies and false columns and decoration above each window. It was truly beautiful. A mix of the East and the West in one place but it was also very modern along The Bund, which is a boardwalk along the river dividing the financial sector and the rest of the city. The pearl tower is part of the financial area. There were so many aspects of the city that made it exciting and different to Beijing. I think I expected the cities to be similar, this really wasn’t the case.
I would recommend on your first day to begin by checking out the Former French Concession, which was originally built, as the name suggests, for the French. It has a great character, covered with little cafes sitting out on the street and small boutiques. The area is very popular with tourists so gets quite busy. Stop at one of the local cafes, have a cup of coffee and soak up the atmosphere.
Following on from a walk around the Former French Concession, you could venture further into the city to Yuyuan also known as the Yu Gardens. Due to the time of year I visited, the streets and the garden were heaving with people, I would suggest going at a quieter time. However, it was still beautiful. Entrance costs 40¥ and I would aim to spend at least an hour there. The park is covered with pavilions in old Chinese architecture making it really interesting to walk around. Surrounding the walls is a mass of street stalls selling food (this would be a good time to try Shanghai’s famous sticky tofu), souvenirs, anything imaginable, so once inside the tranquility takes over you. Early in the morning or later at night is the best time to visit avoiding the crowds in the afternoon. I cannot recommend the garden enough.
After breakfast and a walk around the gardens you could move on to a few museums or exhibitions. The Propaganda Poster Art Museum is worth a visit, displaying posters from the communist China under Mao and also during the Cultural Revolution. If you’re planning to visit in Summer, this would be a good activity to do at the heat of the day, to stay cool and inside. I was in the museum for about an hour and a half, though I went round quite quickly so I would advise giving yourself 2 hours.
During the evening it’s well worth meandering the narrow streets of Tianzifang, comprising a maze of boutiques, street stalls and fake goods shops down pedestrian alleys. . There’s plenty of food options and decent priced beers if you look around. To get there take the metro to Dupuqiao and the entrance to the narrow streets will be obvious to you by the mass of people.
Up bright and early offers a nice morning walk along the Bund, a unique board walk on the river. It holds the most recognisable skyline in China, perhaps along with Hong Kong. During the day or when the sun goes down, it gets quite busy so best to go in the morning.
In the afternoon and the heat of the day there are again plenty of museums all worth a visit. Alternatively, a spot of shopping down West Nanjing road might be in order, lined with malls and a mass of shops, it offers a great opportunity to pick up any souvenirs or postcards for back home. Plenty of dining options, from pricey sit down restaurants to cheap and cheerful street food this road had everything to be desired.
Chinese opera or an acrobatic show would be good evening entertainment. I found a theatre online and found out what time the next show was on then bought tickets there, which ended up being more expensive that online. Another way to buy tickets is through TripAdvisor though generally they’ll mark the price up because it will be in your home currency. The best solution would be to ask at your reception and see if they offer any deals or recommend a show. They’ll know where to buy tickets and what’s on offer.
Have you been to Shanghai? What were your highlights? Comment below, would be great to hear from you. ♥