With three days to spend in bustling Shanghai, you have time to explore city highlights—old and new—and to get out of town and experience the charm of one of the ancient water towns on the Yangtze River Delta. See below for suggestions on how to best spend your 36 hours in Shanghai.
Day 1: City Overview
Get oriented on your first day in Shanghai, a city of some 24 million people, with a guided sightseeing tour to some of its top attractions, including the Bund, Pudong skyscrapers, French Concession, Yuyuan Garden, and Jade Buddha Temple. Choose a private tour to see the sights most important to you, or if you’d rather explore at your own pace, opt for a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus with stops at locations around the city and narration. End your first day with a dinner cruise along Shanghai’s Huangpu River to see the iconic skyline illuminated at night. Many cruises offer dinner onboard for a complete night out.
Day 2: History and Culture
Take a deeper dive into Shanghai's history and culture. Depending on your interests, you might spend the morning on a walking tour of neighborhoods such as the Old French Concession, Shanghai Old Town, or the Jewish Quarter. Alternately, you could hop in the saddle to tour the city streets by bike. In the afternoon, visit one of the city’s many excellent museums, such as the Shanghai Museum or Shanghai History Museum, or do some people watching in People’s Square. Wrap up another day of sightseeing with an evening street food tour or bar hop through the Bund and Old French Concession.
Day 3: Water Villages and Rural Life
After two days in Shanghai, it’s time to escape the modern bustle for a day in rural China. Reconnect with the area's roots as a port town with a day trip to a nearby ancient water village. Tour the gardens of Suzhou—a UNESCO World Heritage Site—explore the canals of Zhujiajiao by boat, or learn why Zhouzhuang is considered the Venice of the East. Alternately, travel to Hangzhou by bullet train for a day touring West Lake. Upon your return to Shanghai, sit back, relax, and watch the gravity-defying stunts of a professional Chinese acrobatic troupe at one of the city’s many theaters.