Shanghai (上海), China

World / Asia / China


Shanghai Travel Guide: View of Pudong skyscrapers
Shanghai Travel Guide: View of Pudong skyscrapers
Author: Pyzhou (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Shanghai is the most populous and developed city in China. Home to 18 million people, Shanghai is also the 9th biggest city in the world. It is located on the banks of the Huangpu River, which is on the Yangtze River Delta.

Pudong International Airport
Pudong International Airport
Author: Baycrest (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 Generic)

Shanghai has a municapality population of 19.2 million people, making it one of the biggest cities in the world. The municipality of Shanghai covers an area of 7,037 sq km (2,717 sq miles). The city is now one of the major tourist destinations in China, and gateway to many natural and heritage sites in the neighbouring provinces.

Getting Into Shanghai

Shanghai Airports

There are two airports serving Shanghai, Pudong and Hongqiao. International flights arrive at Pudong International Airport (PVG) while domestic flights at Hongqiao (SHA). Pudong is located 40km east of Shanghai. To reach the city, you can take the taxi, the airport bus or the Transrapid maglev train.

Longyang Maglev Station, Shanghai
Longyang Maglev Station, Shanghai
Author: Mike Gonzalez, (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Going by taxi is the most expensive option. It costs RMB 145 and takes an hour. Beware of airport touts. Check with the driver whether they know where you would like to go, and get a cost estimate before you enter the taxi. Most drivers do not speak English, so it may be handy to have your destination written out in Chinese. Travel time into Shanghai is one hour.

Airport buses cost only RMB 15-22. They take at least 90 minutes to reach Shanghai, and the last bus leaves at 9:00pm. Among the routes plied by the buses, No. 2 goes to the Airport City Terminal on Nanjing West Road (cost RMB 9.00) while No. 5 goes to the Shanghai train station (cost RMB 18.00).

The Transrapid maglev train is probably the most stylish way to enter Shanghai, but not exactly the most practical, because the train terminal is at Longyang, and you still need to take a subway (or taxi) to get to Puxi (the west side of Shanghai). There's a bit of climbing to do as well, to the 2nd floor of the airport to take the train, and also at the subway. With a speed of 430km/hour, it is the fastest option, for it covers the Pudong to Longyang route in 8 minutes flat, and is definitely worth the experience. The trains run from 7:00am to 9:00pm daily. Fare is RMB 50.00 one way, or RMB 80.00 same-day return. There is even a VIP class; it costs twice as much, but at least you earn bragging rights!

The Bund, Shanghai
The Bund, Shanghai
Author: Airunp, (public domain)

Nanjing Road, Shanghai
Nanjing Road, Shanghai
Author: Agnieszka Bojczuk, (GNU Free Documentation License)

Jing'an Temple Subway Station, Shanghai Metro Line 2
Jing'an Temple Subway Station, Shanghai Metro Line 2
Author: Miguel A. Monjas (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Shanghai subway train
Shanghai subway train
Author: Markus Schweiss (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

Line 1 Subway Ticket, Shanghai
Line 1 Subway Ticket, Shanghai
Author: Tnds (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Moving around in Shanghai

Taking the Shanghai Metro
The subway, called Shanghai Metro, is the most convenient way to explore Shanghai. Most of my description of tourist attractions in Shanghai will include some information on which subway train to take. There are presently 10 lines, with another 9 under construction. Shanghai Metro is cheap, fast, and easy to use. Signages are in Chinese as well as English, and fares start from ¥3.00, and priced according to distance travelled.

Taking the Shanghai taxi
The taxis in Shanghai are relatively cheap. The fare starts at ¥12 for the first 3km and then ¥2.30 per km up to 10km, thereafter ¥3.50 per km. If caught in a jam, the meter will run and you are billed after 5 minutes. To take the taxi, it would be wise to get your destination written out in Chinese. Keep a hotel name card with you, to show the taxi driver for the return journey.

Calling the taxi
There are 150 taxi companies in Shanghai, with a total of 45,000 taxis. Of these, the most popular include Dazhong taxi (greenish blue livery), Qiangsheng taxi (orange livery), Haibo taxi (dark blue livery), Bashi taxi (green livery), Fanlanhong taxi (red livery) and Jinjiang taxi (white livery). Here are the numbers to call:

Dazhong Taxi: 021 96822
Qiangsheng Taxi: 012 6258 0000
Haibo Taxi: 021 96965
Bashi Taxi: 021 96840

Dazhong Taxi, Shanghai
Dazhong Taxi, Shanghai
Author: WiNG (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai
Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai
Author: Steve46814 (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)

Shanghai Transrapid Maglev Trains
Shanghai Transrapid Maglev Trains
Author: Jpatokal (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic)

Places of Interest in Shanghai

  1. French Concession
    Once a foreigner's enclave, today the French Concession is an upscale residential and retail neighborhood.

  2. Fuxing Park
    Park located within the French Concession still bearing elements of French garden style.

  3. Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Building
    Historic building on the Bund, today housing the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank.

  4. Hongkou Park
    Park with lake to the north of Suzhou Creek, where the locals go for boat rides.

  5. Huangpu River
    Famous river that flows through Shanghai.

  6. Jade Buddha Temple
    Also known as the Shanghai Yufo Temple, this is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Shanghai.

  7. Jin Mao Tower
    This is one of the first major skyscrapers in the Pudong district of Shanghai.

  8. Jing'an Temple
    An important temple with a history going back to the 3rd century AD.

  9. Longhua Cemetery of Martyrs
    Cemetery of those who died to advance the communist caused, located where the Nationalist executed hundreds of Communists.

  10. Nanjing Road
    The most famous road in Shanghai, major location for the biggest department stores of the city.

  11. Old Bank of China Building
    Heritage building on the Bund.

  12. Oriental Pearl Tower
    An observation and telecommunication tower in Pudong district with a dramatic design.

  13. Peace Hotel
    Famous historic hotel on the Bund.

  14. People's Park & Square
    Famous public square in the heart of Shanghai.

  15. Pudong
    New development precinct of Shanghai, and home to its tallest skyscrapers.

  16. Shanghai Art Museum
    Museum housed in the former clubhouse of the Shanghai Racing Club.

  17. Shanghai Exhibition Centre
    Grim, Soviet-style structure erected in 1954.

  18. Shanghai Grand Theatre
    A mammoth theater designed by a French architect.

  19. Shanghai Museum
    Huge museum housing over 120,000 artifacts.

  20. Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall
    Six storey complex showcasing the urban development of Shanghai.

  21. Shanghai World Financial Center
    Momentarily the tallest skyscraper in Shanghai.

  22. Site of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party
    Historic house within the French Concession.

  23. Song Qingling's Former Residence
    Former residence of the wife of Dr Sun Yat-sen.

  24. The Bund
    Famous riverside promenade in Shanghai.

  25. Xujiahui Catholic Cathedral
    Gothic-style Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Ignatius.

  26. Yuyuan Garden
    Garden next to the ancient city park of Shanghai.

Sights in the vicinity of Shanghai

  1. She Shan
    Hill to the southwest of Shanghai.

  2. Song Jiang
    Charming little town between Shanghai and Hangzhou.

Getting out of Shanghai

Travelling from Shanghai by Flight

Shanghai's Hongqiao Airport services domestic flights. It is just 20-30 minutes away from the city by taxi.

Travelling from Shanghai by train

Shanghai has three train stations:
Shanghai Railway Station, the oldest and largest, it is the terminus for most trains, although some are now shifted to the South station. It is linked by the Metro lines 1, 3 and 4.
Shanghai South Railway Station, this newly expanded terminal caters for trains coming from the south. It is linked by the Metro lines 1 and 3.
Shanghai West Railway Station, this is the smallest of the three stations, and serve only a limited number of destinations, such as Yantai, Zaozhuang, Hengyang, Ganzhou and Chengdu. Not linked by the Metro lines.

A little bit about Shanghai Geography

Shanghai is the most populous, most developed, and arguably most expensive city in China. Home to 18 million people, Shanghai is also the 9th biggest city in the world. It is situated on the banks of the Huangpu River in the Yangtze Delta, and is China's financial and economic centre.

To me, Shanghai is one of the most exciting destinations in Asia. However, trying to write a budget travel guide for it is quite a challenge, as Shanghai is rapidly phasing itself above the rest of China in terms of prices.

What I can advise is that if you intend to visit Shanghai, be prepared for things to be more expensive than another more rural Chinese destination. The advantage of exploring Shanghai is that it is truly a very happening destination. So try to pay it a visit while you can still afford to.

The Huangpu River splits Shanghai into two sections. The older section, on the west bank, is called Puxi, while the newer section, on the east bank, is called Pudong. Pudong is home of some of the most striking architecture in all of China.

Getting to know Shanghai, district by district

The Huangpu River cuts Shanghai into two not-equal parts. Much of the city is on the west side of the river, although the most modern is arguably Pudong, the district on the right.

Pudong District is the iconic skyscraper district of Shanghai, with not the densest, but surely the tallest skyscrapers in Shanghai. And the best view of the skyscrapers is from The Bund, that promenade along the Huangpu River on the west side. The Bund, which I describe in more detail separately, has all the historical colonial landmarks.

The Bund itself is located in the Huangpu District. It also includes the Old City of Shanghai. Spreading out in all directions are the other district of Shanghai.

Districts of Central Shanghai

Huangpu District is the traditional heart of Shanghai. This is the location of major landmarks such as People's Square, Shanghai Museum and the city's largest subway station. The Old City of Shanghai is location within Huangpu District. Many of the biggest department stores of Shanghai is on Nanjing East Road within this district.

Yangpu District is on the northeast of the city center. It is the site of the famous Fudan University and Tongji University as well as Gongqing Forest Park. It is bordered by Hongkou District to the west and the Huangpu River to the east.

Hongkou District used to have a substantial Jewish enclave. It is the location of Lu Xun Park. It is sandwiched between Zhabei District to the west, Yangpu District to the east, and the Huangpu River to the south.

Putuo District is on the northwest of Shanghai. It is the location of Changfeng Park, which has a small amusement park and aquarium. Putuo is to the west of Zhabei, and to the north of Jing'an and Changning.

Jing'an District is the location of Jing'an Temple, at the heart of Shanghai. Nanjing West Road extend from here to People's Square.

Changning District is a residential district to the west of Shanghai. Hongqiao International Airport and Shanghai Zoo are located here.

French Concession is a leafy part of Shanghai to the west of Huangpu District, and south of Jing'an and Changning districts. This is an upscale neighborhood with upmarket properties and a number of large shopping malls.

Districts of Outer Shanghai

Pudong District is the skyscraper district and also most foreign visitor's first sight of Shanghai, as it is also the home of the Pudong International Airport.

Beyond Central Shanghai are several other districts and suburbs. The northern districts include Baoshan, Jiading, Qingpu, North Songjiang and West Minhang while the southern districts are Jinshan, Fengxian, South Songjiang and East Minhang.

Chongming County, which comprises Chongming Island, Chongxing Island and Hengsha Island, at the mouth of the Yangtze River, are also within the jurisdiction of Shanghai. The US$1.6 billion Chongming Bridge Tunnel links Chongming Island to Pudong District.

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