Shanghai Travel Guide: Things to Do in 24 Hours

This summer I traveled to China on a business trip. I only stayed in Shanghai and had one full day (and one morning) to explore the city. One day in Shanghai was definitely not enough. I mean, it is the biggest city in China after all! Even if Shanghai is often overshadowed by the more cultural Beijing, it definitely has a lot to offer. I would recommend you to spend at least a few days in Shanghai but if like me, you only have one day, this article will help you maximize your time and craft the perfect 24h in this magical city!

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What to Know Before Visiting Shanghai: Practical Tips

What Should I Know Before Going to China?

If you are going to Shanghai for the first time, you can read this article about 15 Things You Need to Know Before Going to China 🇨🇳

Where to Stay in Shanghai?

If you have a limited amount of time in Shanghai, I’d recommend sticking around any hotel within a walking distance from the Bund. 🏙 I personally stayed closer to Century Park because my work conference was located in the area but if you travel for fun, the Bund is the place to be 😊

How to Get Around Shanghai?

Taking a taxi 🚕 or the metro 🚇 are both reliable methods of transport in China. Taxis might be faster sometimes but it depends on traffic which can be pretty intense. There is a Uber equivalent called Didi Chuxing (滴滴出行) and it is extremely fast and efficient. However, the app is in Chinese so you’ll need to know how to write your destination in Chinese characters and you’ll need to be able to pay via one of China’s mobile payment apps (Alipay for example) 📲

Now that you know about the basics, let’s get started with the best travel itinerary in Shanghai for one day!

Century Park or the Longhua Temple

For the morning, I offer you two choices; visiting the Longhua temple or Century Park. This choice depends on your preference of course but also on where your hotel is located. My hotel was right in front of Century Park, which is why I included it here.

Century Park (世纪公园) 

This Park is not that popular among tourists but it is the biggest one in Shanghai and in a way reminded me of a Chinese Central Park. It is an oasis of tranquility and the ideal place to find peace in this busy urban city. It will take probably all morning to visit it all but it is possible to stroll around in a few hours or less. Century Park ended up being one of my favorite places in Shanghai!

Century Park

The Longhua Temple (龙华寺) 

This Buddhist temple is known for being the largest, most beautiful, and authentic ancient temple complex in the city. This temple is not in central Shanghai, but it is really easily accessible by the metro. A little history fact for you; during the Second Sino-Japanese War, the pagoda located in the temple was used by the Japanese as a flak cannon tower. Even if the famous pagoda is no longer open to the public, the rest of the temple complex is open every day from 7 AM – 4:30 PM. If you want to experience the charm of an old Chinese temple without the modern impact of today’s world, this place is for you!

Both Century Park and the Longhua Temple open at 7 AM so you can get there early to avoid crowds. You should stay for a couple of hours at any of those places. The travel time by the metro to the next stop is 30-40 minutes.

Longhua Temple

Jing’an Temple

Literally translated as the Temple of Peace and Tranquility (静安寺), the Jing’an Temple is located in the downtown area of Shanghai. What is striking about this temple is the contrast between old and new: it is surrounded by skyscrapers! Important displays in this temple are the bronze bell which was made in the Ming Dynasty and the biggest pure jade portrait of Sakyamuni in Mainland China. Note that the temple was burnt down in 1972 and was fully reconstructed.

You can stay at the Jing’an Temple for roughly an hour. The travel time by the metro to the next location is 30-40 minutes.

Jing’an Temple

Shanghai Old City

The Old City refers to the area inside the ancient walled town of Shanghai. Even if the ancient city slowly transformed over time, the atmosphere is still everything you expect about an old Chinese city to be like. It is definitely one of the most picturesque areas and the best place to go to experience the city history and culture and get a feel for Shanghai’s past. The biggest advantage is that the area is just a few blocks in size, meaning that you can walk around everywhere among the traditional Chinese buildings, temples, markets and tea houses.

Below are some must-see attractions in Shanghai Old City. You probably won’t have time to see all of them but those are options you can choose from while you are there.

Yu Garden (豫园)

This garden is considered one of the most beautiful Chinese gardens in the country. It was first built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty by a government officer named Pan Yunduan who finished it in 1577. “Yu” (豫) means happy and comfortable, and this garden was specially built for Pan’s dad as a place for him to relax in his old age. How sweet is that?

Yu Garden

Huxinting Teahouse (湖心亭茶室)

Just outside the entrance of the Yu Garden, you can find a man-made lake, where the Huxinting teahouse, one of the oldest and most famous teahouses in Shanghai, is located. To get there, there is a bridge which is constructed with a zig-zag style. According to traditional Chinese beliefs, the hard angles keep the evil spirits from getting into the teahouse as they are believed not to be able to turn corners!

City God Temple (上海城隍庙) & Chenxiang Ge Temple (沉香阁) 

The City God Temple is the largest and most impressive temple complex in the Old City. It commemorates Shanghai’s municipal status and is the site of the worship of three Chinese figures honored as gods of the city. 

The Chenxiang Ge Temple is a small but pretty temple located next to the Yu Garden. It is famous for its statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy and Compassion in China.

Souvenir stalls & food shacks 

The Old City is such a vibrant and lively area thanks to the many street vendors and small colorful shops. You can find reasonably priced souvenirs and artifacts if you are prepared to bargain for it! Feel free to grab lunch (and don’t forget to get ice cream too!) at the Old City which offers a lot of great street snacks or food stalls options.

You can enjoy Shanghai Old City for up to 3 hours. The travel time by taxi to the next location is 10-15 minutes.

Refreshing vanilla ice-cream in the Old City

People’s Square & People’s Park

People’s Park is located south of Nanjing East Road and north of People’s Square. You should visit People’s Square first then head to People’s Park and finally Nanjing East Road.

People’s Square (人民广场) is a garden-type open space surrounded by skyscrapers. On the southern edge of the square lies the Shanghai Museum which is a great place to visit for any history aficionado because it is packed with amazing artifacts of Chinese culture and history. There is a lot to see and of course, you won’t be able to spend too much time in the museum if you have only one day in Shanghai. However, I think that it is worth mentioning because if you are into museums, maybe you would rather spend time there instead of some other sights!

If you visit People’s Park (人民公园) during the weekend, you can witness the Shanghai Marriage Market (人民公园相亲角). It is an intriguing tradition where mothers and fathers of unmarried young adults set up umbrellas with their child’s resume on it in the hopes of finding a perfect match and future spouse! There are no photos, just descriptions of their child such as age, height, Chinese sign, etc. Apparently, many parents do not have the permission from their children to go to this “networking” event!

The park itself is a small oasis in the midst of busy Shanghai where a lot of people practice tai chi, dance, play cards or just take a nice stroll. Perfect place for people watching and a great escape in-between visits!

You can relax at People’s Square and People’s Park for a couple of hours. The travel time on foot to the next location is 5 minutes.

Food break!

Nanjing East Road

Nanjing East Road (南京东路) is one of the largest pedestrian streets in the world. It is really popular for being THE shopping street in Shanghai. There are a lot of stores and outlets to explore; from department stores to fancy boutique stores, you will definitely find some gift to spoil your loved ones or even #treatyourself! It is also famous it’s street food stalls and restaurants so you might as well have a snack here before dinner!

It takes half an hour to walk from People’s Park to the Bund along Nanjing East Road. Of course, after this crazy day in Shanghai, you might not want to walk all the way and that is ok! Taking a taxi works too.

You can enjoy the Nanjing East Road for an hour or two. Travel time depends if you walk or take a cab.

The Bund & Pudong

The Bund (外灘) is probably the most iconic and popular spot in Shanghai. Of course, going early morning is better if you want to avoid the crowds but if you only have one day, going during sunset and at night is even more magical. The futuristic city skyline shining with various colors on the water is truly incredible. You can also get the best views of the Oriental Pearl Tower from there.

For dinner, the Bund is a great option because it is a famous spot for rooftop bars and restaurants. Even if they tend to be pricier, the view is worth every cent!

If you aren’t tired after this adventurous day, you can grab a taxi or take the metro across the river and reach Pudong (浦东新区) where you will be able to end your day among those incredible skyscrapers! The Shanghai Tower Observation Deck (上海中心大厦) which is the highest in the city is open until 9PM so you can check the views from there. There are also lots of rooftop bars in Pudong where you can go get your last drink and finish off a perfect day in lovely Shanghai!

The Bund by night

Have you been to Shanghai? Let me know in the comments below! I would definitely love to come back so I’d love to hear your tips.

Want to keep reading? You might like those articles as well…
15 Things to Know Before Visiting China / How to Take Travel Pictures Without People in Them

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  1. EM
    April 1, 2019 / 9:50 PM


    Excellent summary. I also visited Shanghai recently and wrote a bit about my experiences in case you’d like to see a different one-day itinerary.

    However, I really like you also managed to make time for the Longhua temple – that one is really worth it.

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