What to do during a free weekend in Shanghai?
April 21, 2011 1:19 AM   Subscribe

I have a short weekend (Fri night to Sun morning) off in Shanghai during a work trip, and I'm looking for an activity - even a day trip to Beijing or the Great Wall. I'd appreciate suggestions and/or advice.

My company is sending a colleague and me to China in May for a few days, and we will have time off during weekend of the 20th.
We will be in Shanghai, and I'm looking for an activity - possibly an overnight day-trip - for the weekend. I was wondering if anyone here has any advice?

To be clear:
1. We finish work on Friday afternoon (Regular work day)
2. Need to be back by Sunday morning to check back into the hotel
3. Don't mind an overnight train to and from Beijing (what we currently had in mind)
4. We don't have to leave Shanghai.

We're looking for something not too expensive, maybe a few hundred dollars at most.

So do you guys have any advice?
posted by jonobarel to Travel & Transportation around Shanghai, China (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You certainly could go to Beijing, but I wouldn't take the train if I were you. You could fly roundtrip Shanghai-Beijing very cheaply, maybe $150 or less. Try elong.com or other budget carriers.

Honestly though Beijing would be very overwhelming in one day and two nights. Maybe you'd be better off soaking up Shanghai. You mentioned that you'll only be there for a few days; if that means that you'll only have one weekend in Shanghai I'm sure you won't run out of things to do-- it's a marvelous city with a lot of unique districts. You could also visit the much closer Hangzhou or Suzhou if they seem interesting.
posted by acidic at 1:49 AM on April 21, 2011

I just did a whole month in China and it's very frustrating trying to see places in a day there. Even if you speak the language things barely go as planned. It's also not an easy train ride to Beijing and back. I think when I did the trip it was about 14 hours one way.

Spend your time in Shanghai. There is plenty to do there from Friday night until Sunday morning. Suzhou is sort of cool, so I second that as the place to visit if you're really dying to leave the city.

I recommend just getting a map and riding the metro all over the city then stopping at different places that look cool to you and just generally checking things out. It's a good way of experiencing things in China.

Also, if you want to do a tea ceremony it's free at the little tea house inside the Yuyuan garden. If you do it elsewhere you'll end up paying insane money per little pot of tea.
posted by zephyr_words at 1:58 AM on April 21, 2011

I wouldn't fly to Beijing either, and Suzhou and Hangzhou are great options.

The one other suggestion I have would be to go ahead and do Xi'an in a weekend, but fly! It should be like a two hour flight. Take Saturday to check out the Terracotta Warriors and wander around the old town and eat extra bowls of lamb noodles (yang rou pao mo).
posted by sestaaak at 3:45 AM on April 21, 2011

Don't bother with extensive travel, unless travel is the objective. There are a ton of things to see and do in and around Shanghai within the Metro system that can easily occupy, educate and entertain for your weekend.

Hangzhou is nice for the west lake and hikes in the hills. I wouldn't go to Suzhou as there are a couple of hidden water towns closer to the city that are fun and not as explored by tourists. I'll dig out the metro details if you're interested.

Memail me or add some additional information to this question about your inteerests and I can try to point you to some specifics. I've just finished living there for three years.
posted by michswiss at 4:33 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Unless you are really dying to see Beijing, I wouldn't recommend going under those time constraints. Also, the Great Wall is a few hours from Beijing, so that would be more trekking.

How about Suzhou? A very pleasant city near Shanghai famous for its gardens. There's also Nanjing, hangzhou, and several other smaller but pleasant cities (Yangzhou is nice for small but charming city). You could also stay in Shanghai, but personally, I'd go check out another place.
posted by bearette at 4:35 AM on April 21, 2011

When I was visiting my brother in Shanghai, he took us on two day trips, one to Suzhou and one to Hangzhou. Both were awesome...so I'd say look into either of those and pick one to go check out! We even took a cab to one of them, and it was not expensive at all.
posted by Grither at 5:54 AM on April 21, 2011

Seconding Suzhou--it's nice by train and the food is good. Beijing would be both too much and not enough--you could just about see the Forbidden City and maybe Tiantan or something in the time. I did some speed touring of Beijing with a friend a few years ago (I lived there) and just seeing those two things in one day left us exhausted and crabby.

Although if you do go to Beijing, you should skip everything else and go to the New Summer Palace--with the stone boat and the buildings built up the side of the mountain and so on. That's among the most remarkable places in the world, very beautiful and realistic to see in a day.
posted by Frowner at 6:19 AM on April 21, 2011

Heading to the Great Wall from Shanghai is like heading to see Atlanta from New York City. I mean, you can do it, but it's not exactly a day trip. Or even really an overnight. You need two full days to travel unless you fly, and even that's going to take the better part of an afternoon.
posted by valkyryn at 7:12 AM on April 21, 2011

Go to Xi'an. That's the closest and best option if you are looking for a "must see before I leave China" experience.

You can ask your concierge in your hotel to book your flight and getting to the airport is very easy by train or taxi. You can be there by 12:00 on Saturday and go straight to see the terracotta warriors and fly back on Sunday morning early.

Nanjing is great but you need time to explore. Staying in Shanghai would also be very entertaining but I think you might leave wishing you had seen at least one more iconic Chinese site.
posted by yfatah at 7:23 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hey, I'm in the same exact situation, but the prior weekend. (You're talking about May, right?) I was just going to pick a few places to go and wander about in in Shanghai, probably including Yuyuan Garden, maybe Longhua or Fengjing or Qibao. I haven't done much research yet though.

Actually anyone have any hotel/inn recommendations? Otherwise I'll just let me company book me in whatever generic big hotel. ( PM me if we don't want to take over jonobarel' question here... sorry...)
posted by thefool at 7:55 AM on April 21, 2011

Response by poster:
Heading to the Great Wall from Shanghai is like heading to see Atlanta from New York City
:) Point taken.

Okay, so there's no doubt the predominant suggestion is to go to Suzhou or Hangzhou, or go around the city.

Thanks, I had no idea about those places. We'll take them under consideration. Thanks for the tips!
posted by jonobarel at 2:48 AM on April 22, 2011

Suzhou is pretty cool. It's described as the Venice of China. Lots of ancient temples and a boat ride through the canals is fun. I can't imagine how polluted the water is though. The silk factory is kind of touristy but is still pretty fascinating. I'm pretty sure it's owned by the government though and the tour guide gets a cut of what you spend. I didn't care, everyone in my family got new silk robes.

I didn't make it up to Nanking but that might be worth a stop if you have any interest in WWII.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 7:26 PM on April 22, 2011

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