I visited China five times and my most recent longer visit was in June 2016. I went to Shanghai for work, but I extended my stay and visited Suzhou, Nanjing and Beijing. Although this trip predates my blog, I decided to write about it because it seems that not many other bloggers visit and write about China, probably because of stringent visa requirements. It’s also more expensive than other countries in south-east Asia. This trip is still relatively fresh and I hope that my comments could be useful for people that plan to visit this fascinating country.
There are two airports in Shanghai. I arrived to Pudong International airport, which is the bigger one of the two. It is located in the Pudong area, right by the Yellow sea. For people who have never been to Shanghai the fun starts right there.
The best way to travel from the airport to the city is by Maglev train – a magnetic levitation train. A single ticket costs 50 yuan, while a return ticket costs 80 yuan and it is valid for one week. The 19km journey takes 7m 20s as the train travels at the maximum speed of 431km/h. It is the only such train in the world and it’s a fantastic experience. However, the train travels at this speed between 9am-10.45am and between 3pm–4.45pm only. At other times, the journey to and from the airport is at what feels as much slower 300km/h. In addition to the excitement because of the speed that most people have never experienced in their lives, transfer from the airport is fast and stress free.
The train arrives to Longyang Road station, which is also in the Pudong area and from where there are connecting metro lines to other parts of the city.
Shanghai is a very big city, as per Wikipedia there were 24 million people living in Shanghai in 2017. Despite its size, due to its superb infrastructure, travelling around the city is relatively easy as most places of interest for visitors are either next to the metro station or a short walk away. The best area to stay in Shanghai is anywhere near or on Nanjing Road.
I stayed in the Sofitel Shanghai Hyland Hotel, which is in the middle of Nanjing Road. It’s a good hotel, in the best location and it wasn’t too expensive when I booked it. Hotels in China are relatively cheap because there are so many of them and competition is fierce, thus 4 or 5 star hotels are easily within reach, unlike in other parts of the world, especially in Europe. Anyhow, the choice of places to stay is vast and with a bit of a search, it is possible to find a good and reasonably priced hotel.
– Nanjing Road – is the main pedestrian shopping street in Shanghai. You will not see many restaurants on Nanjing Road, but there is an abundance of them in side streets. You can also find some interesting restaurants in the Shanghai First Foodhall, they are on the 2nd floor, the basement and the 1st floor are a department store that sells various Chinese product. It’s all very colourful and interesting to see. The Shanghai First Foodhall is in a part of Nanjing Road closer to People’s Square.
If you start at People’s Square and you walk all the way along Nanjing Road, you will arrive to the breath-taking Bund, a waterfront area with spectacular views across the Huangpu river, onto the famous Shanghai skyline – the modern skyscrapers of Lujiazui. It stretches 1.6 km along the bank of the Huangpu River and it contains many historical buildings that once housed numerous banks and trading houses. The government restored it for the Expo 2010 Exhibition and reopened it to the public in March 2010.
The whole area is a must see, on both sides of the river. Across from the Bund, there is a new financial district, with a famous TV tower located alongside equally famous skyscrapers that have become the Shanghai’s landmark.
Other interesting things to see in Shanghai are:
– Yu Garden – an extensive Chinese garden built in 1577 that features Ming dynasty pavilions, ponds, rockeries and arched bridges. It’s a very beautiful and atmospheric garden and it should be on every visitor’s list. The surrounding area is also very interesting with shops, restaurants and markets. The City God Temple is close by and it’s worth a visit.
– Jing’an Temple – the Buddhist temple on West Nanjing Road – the temple was first built in 247 AD in the Wu Kingdom, during the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. It was relocated to its current site in 1216, during the Song Dynasty. The current temple was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty but, during the Cultural Revolution, the temple was converted into a plastic factory. It was renovated and returned to its original purpose in 1983. The Jing’An Pagoda was completed in 2010.
– The Shanghai French Concession Area – with its distinct character, contains many interesting shops and restaurants.
– Qibao Old Town – the Qibao historic area is a tourist attraction now, located by the Puhui River. It’s full of traditional Chinese architecture, plus there are many other things to see there, including museums and street food. To get there, take the metro line number 9. Qibao Old Town is only a short walk from the station. It’s a nice area to visit, but I would only suggest it to people that have already been to Shanghai and have already seen main attractions.
Each and every time when I went to Shanghai, it was in June, at the beginning of summer. It was hot, with temperatures between 25-30 degrees C, a bit cooler in the evening and in the night. It rained from time to time. That was a good thing as the rain cleaned the air and there was no visible pollution. My Chinese friends told me that, when it doesn’t rain for a month, the pollution becomes unbearable.
All in all, I would say that two, maximum three days, are more than enough for Shanghai. Shanghai doesn’t have monumental historical sites like Beijing, where you need a full day to visit each of them. Rather, Shanghai itself is monumental and also an impressive combination of old and new.
It should definitely be on everyone’s list if they are planning to visit this fascinating country.