While Shanghai represents ultramodern metropolitan China, the surrounding countryside offers a glimpse into the nation’s ancient heritage and historical roots. If you’re ready to escape the big city for a while, here are some of the best day trips, from quiet water towns to the silk-making city of Suzhou.
Zhujiajiao – 29 miles (46 km) away
A day trip to Zhujiajiao often means a boat ride along the town’s peaceful canals past landmarks like the five-arch bridge spanning the Cao Gang River. For history buffs, this ancient water town offers insight into China’s industrialization, particularly the art of silk production. As one of the closest water villages to Shanghai, you can visit Zhujiajiao in as little as half a day.
Zhouzhuang – 53 miles (85 km) away
This 900-year-old water town in Jiangsu is one of China’s best-known canal towns. Highlights of Zhouzhuang include its 14 stone bridges, many dating back to the Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. Due to its proximity to Suzhou, you can visit both cities in a single day trip from Shanghai.
Suzhou – 66 miles (107 km) away
The city of Suzhou, known for its meticulous traditional Chinese gardens and rich silk history, makes a pleasant escape from the bustle of Shanghai. A day tour to the Venice of the East might include visits to some of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage–listed gardens, a cruise along the picturesque Grand Canal to admire the Ming and Qing dynasty architecture, and a visit to a 14th-century silk factory to see how the luxe fabric is produced.
Hangzhou – 109 miles (176 km) away
The UNESCO-recognized city of Hangzhou ranks among China’s most popular destinations, thanks in large part to the stunning scenery of West Lake. Depending on the option you choose, a guided tour to this city might include a visit to Meijiawu Tea Village, a boat ride on West Lake, and a visit to Six Harmonies Pagoda.
Day Trips by Flight
The best way to understand China’s rich culture, long history, and vast geography it is to visit destinations that are spread across the country. Even the most time-pressed travelers can see the must-see sights of destinations like Guilin, Xian, or Beijing on a day trip by air from Shanghai.