Looking to spend 2 days in Shanghai? I’ve put together an itinerary for the best things to see and do in Shanghai in 2 days.
Shanghai is a unique city, with temples & historic architecture nestled between modern, towering skyscrapers. 2 days in Shanghai is not enough time to see and do everything this vibrant city has to offer, however if you’re traveling on a timeline and only have 2 days, check out my itinerary to make the most of your time!
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2 Days In Shanghai: Trip Overview
- PTO/Vacation Days Needed: 2-3 (but depends on where you are coming from)
- Nights: 2
- Cost: $$
- Exchange Rate: $1 USD = 7 Chinese Yuan (RMB)
SEE ALSO: 2 Days in Hanoi
Where to Stay in Shanghai
There are a few different “neighborhoods” of Shanghai that each have a different vibe. I stayed in the financial district area of Pudong at the Shangri-La Pudong Hotel, which is East of the Huangpu River (the skyline you see when looking across the river from The Bund). . While the hotel is beautiful and has an AMAZING breakfast buffet and rooftop bar, I recommend staying on the West side of the river so you are walking distance to more bars and restaurants.
If it’s your first time in Shanghai and you want to stay in the middle of the action, you’ll want to be staying near The Bund/People’s Square While this area is somewhat touristy, it is close to the main sites of Shanghai as well as nightlife. if you only have 2 days in Shanghai and want to be conveniently-located, this is the place to be.
Best Hotels Near The Bund/People’s Square:
- Luxury: Radisson New World Shanghai Hotel This 5-star hotel is packed with amenities and is conveniently located right across from People’s Square, which is basically the center of Shanghai.
- Budget: Shanghai Fish Inn East Nanjing Road this affordable hotel features spacious rooms, free Wi-Fi- and is in a great location near People’s Square.
How to Get Around Shanghai
There are a few different options for getting around Shanghai:
- Metro – Shanghai has one of the largest metro systems in the world, and it is very cheap and easy to navigate.
- Taxi – I found it incredibly hard to hail a taxi at times, and the language barrier can be difficult to communicate where you want to go. Tip – install Google Translate app on your phone and type in your destination to show to the cab driver. Another tip – if you are having a hard time hailing a cab, go into the lobby of a major hotel nearby and they can help you get one.
- Didi– download the Didi app before your trip. It’s the Chinese version of Uber. I’ve heard that it works well for other people, but personally, it didn’t work well on my phone for some reason. Definitely worth a shot, though.
2 Days in Shanghai: The Best Things to Do
Obviously it would be better to spend more than 2 days in Shanghai, but if 2 days is all you got – make the most of it! Check out my list of the top things to do in Shanghai if you only have 2 days:
Walk Along The Bund
This iconic and scenic walkway along the Huangpu River is well-known as one of the top things to do in Shanghai, meaning that everyone else will be there too (expect it to be crowded) but it is worth the visit! Check it out at night to admire the lit-up skyline of Pudong from afar. Fun fact – 20 years ago, the Pudong skyline was nothing but farmland! This in itself shows the tremendous and quick growth of the sprawling metropolitan area of Shanghai.
Visit the Jing’An Temple
The Jing’an Temple was one of my favorite things we saw in Shanghai. I found this iconic temple to be incredibly unique, because it is in the middle of city. You are literally walking around this historic temple and if you look up, there are skyscrapers in the background. There are not many places where you see such a mix of old and new architecture in the same spot! The Jing’an Temple also is home to the largest jade Buddha in China.
Getting to the Jing’an Temple: super easy – just take metro line 2, get off at the Jing’an Temple stop and it’s right there! Entrance is about 20 RMB.
Check Out Old City/Yu Gardens
Head to Old City, where you can meander through alleyways between traditional Chinese architecture and peruse different shops selling treats, food, and souvenirs. The Yu Garden (also known as Yuyuan Garden) is in this area as well, featuring a picturesque water-scene with lilypads and plants surrounding it.
Huxinting Tea House
Built in the Ming Dynasty, the Huxinting Teahouse is a beautiful and ornately-decorated teahouse located on stilts in the middle of the lake in the Yu Garden. Walk across the zig-zag bridge over the lake to get inside. Head up the stairs and pick a table with a view of the lake. While the tea served here is pricey compared to other places, the experience and atmosphere is worth it. They also give you free little appetizers to accompany your tea. I loved relaxing here awhile, sipping on my tea and enjoying the view!
Eat Soup Dumplings!
China is known for their delicious soup dumplings, and the best place to get them in Shanghai is at a place called Jia Jia Tang Bao. At this no-frills spot, you’ll order your dumplings from the host at the entrance, and then will get a front-row view of the dumplings being made while you wait for a table to open up. Be prepared to stand in line for this place – I was there around 2:00 in the afternoon and waited in line about 45 minutes! The dumplings are definitely worth the wait, though. The menu is simple – only options are crab, or crab & pork. We got the crab & pork dumplings and they were AMAZING!! Seriously. You need to go here.
Walk Along East Nanjing Road
East Nanjing Road is one of the busiest shopping streets in the world! This pedestrian-friendly road runs all the way to The Bund, and has hundreds of shops, restaurants, and hotels with rooftop bars.
A P Xinyang – “Fake Market”
Head across the river to Pudong to the Science and Technology Museum metro stop, where you will find the AP Market inside the actual metro station underground. This market has anything you are looking for – designer handbags, sports jerseys, electronics, souvenirs, sunglasses, Lululemon leggings, shoes, etc. Remember that all prices here are negotiable!
When in Shanghai – rooftop bars are a must! There are quite a few to choose from, but we decided on Flair at the top of the Ritz Carlton in Pudong, which is the tallest rooftop bar in China! Has a great view of the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower from the roof.
Another rooftop bar I’ve heard great things about is TOPS at Banyan Tree. which has a spacious outdoor terrace with lounge chairs and an expansive view of the skyline across the river.
Brunch and Explore the French Concession
The French Concession is a beautiful area of Shanghai, filled with tree-lined streets, vintage stores, restaurants, indie shops and boutique wine bars. The hipster vibes of this area remind me a bit of LA. Grab brunch at RAC Coffee in the area, a popular spot with indoor/outdoor seating, great food and drinks! It gets crowded, so get there early to get your name on the waitlist and meander around the area while you wait.
Other Tips for Your Shanghai Trip
- Download a VPN app before your trip so that you are able to use Google, Instagram, FB, Gmail, etc when you are over there! I recommend paying for the premium VPN package instead of doing any free trial or downgraded level to ensure that it works dependably while you are there.
- Have Cash – most of the taxis only accept cash, as well as some restaurants
- Check the Hours before heading to a location. It seemed to me that lots of places had weird hours in Shanghai, and often times we would taxi over to a specific rooftop bar or restaurant only to find that they weren’t open yet.
- Use the Metro when you can – it’s fast and efficient!
- Google Translate app will be your best friend – make sure you download this before you go!
- Get a card from your hotel with the address/name on it in Chinese, so you can use it to show cab drivers your address to get back