Is it Worth Going to Shanghai for a Week?
May 25, 2018 9:17 AM   Subscribe

I have a free place to stay in Shanghai and am on a tight budget and wondered if it'd be worth flying from the States (frequent flyer miles) to go visit for a week. I generally am culturally curious and would like something like visiting the "Water Towns", but I'm wondering if there's much else to see and do to fill a week?
posted by Jon44 to Travel & Transportation around Shanghai, China (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The answer to whether or not you should take the opportunity to travel, given the chance, is almost always yes.

For Shanghai specifically, if your lodging is free, and the flight isn't too bad (I've gotten flights for less than $700USD in the past couple of years), then day to day costs are pretty low. Cheap awesome food is easy to find.

Go for it!
posted by Grither at 9:39 AM on May 25, 2018 [9 favorites]

I've not been to Shanghai in years and years now, but the Yu Garden and surrounding shopping/snacking complex is still going strong.

There are several museums - the Shanghai museum of ancient art didn't really have a lot of English language signage when I was there, so if you don't speak Mandarin it will be a shorter visit than if you do.

Both Suzhou and Hangzhou are lovely in themselves and have lots of architecture to see, and both are a pretty easy train ride from Shanghai.

Nanjing Road is a lot of fun and will have tasty snacks. I mean, I cannot overemphasize the importance of snacking if you go to Shanghai - Shanghainese food is hard to find in the states and it is extremely delicious, plus there will be lots of regional delicacies.

I'm sure there are a million new things to do too.

If I had a place to stay and frequent flyer miles for a week in Shanghai, you would not see me for the dust.

If I were going to Shanghai for a week, I would: plan an idle day for roaming around Nanjing Road and downtown generally; take a couple of days for Suzhou and/or water towns, spend a day in the Yu Garden area, visit the Shanghai Museum and environs, spend some time visiting fruit and vegetable markets (the produce in Shanghai was absolutely amazing when I was there - you can peel things, wash them with a readily available fruit/vegetable wash or dunk them in boiling water). I don't know what traffic is like anymore, but if it's at all feasible you should rent a bike and bike around a bit. Also, there must be some art galleries - I went to a couple when I was there, but I've forgotten exactly where they were. If you like shopping, the touristy markets are enjoyable to browse - the neatest things I brought home were a bunch of tiny resin reproductions of traditional stone carvings of rabbits, folkloric frogs, etc.

Also, ask your friend/relative/host for food suggestions. Srsly, so many good dumplings, buns, soups. If I had known how comparatively barren my gastronomic future would be, I might never have left Shanghai.

Also taro ice cream, I have never found any as good in the US.

When I was there, at least, Shanghai didn't have as much Official Stuff To Do as Beijing, for instance, but just being there was interesting.
posted by Frowner at 9:52 AM on May 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

You should absolutely do this! The only thing I'd add is that, assuming you are a US citizen, you will need to apply for a Chinese visa beforehand (US$140), so if you decide to do this (which you should), allot sufficient time and the money to handle that.
posted by andrewesque at 10:04 AM on May 25, 2018 [7 favorites]

There are so many other nearby cities as well that are super quick to get to by bullet train- hangzhou, suzhou, nanjing- all large cities with many attractions in their own right.

Bullet train to beijing is only 4 hours, so you could also go there!

Plenty to do to fill up a week, and more.
posted by bearette at 10:28 AM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ooooh, I did not realize that the train to Beijing was that fast now - you should 100% go to Beijing if you haven't been. And if you do go to Bejing, you should go to the New Summer Palace. There are umpteen bazillion amazing historical sites in Beijing, but the New Summer Palace is the most amazing of all. It will be crowded if you go when the weather is nice, but don't let that stop you - also try going first thing in the morning.
posted by Frowner at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2018

Shanghai is brilliant - we visit every couple of years (on our way to and from Suzhou, aka the "Venice of China" , where my husband helps run scientific meetings) and we still run out of time to do everything on the latest Shanghai list. (Frowner's comment is excellent).

Budget tip: There is free entry to almost all the Communist Party historic sites - including Mao's *only Shanghai residence. These CCP sites are usually on the quaint (as distinct from monumental) end of the scale, wonderfully preserved and mercifully free from fellow bloody tourist hordes (domestic or international).

Like most of the big tourist attractions in China today, the main Shanghai Museum is always busy - BUT it is an absolute world class wonder and you can easily spend most of a day there.

*Mao had many, many residences.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 11:05 AM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Definitely go. It's an amazing weird vibrant messed up city. You could easily spend the whole week just figuring out Shanghai.

The Communist Party Historic Sites is a good tip.

Go to SUPEH, and go check out the World Financial Center and the Jin Mao and the Pearl TV Tower in Pudong (Jin Mao is an easy place to get a free view of the old city from across the river).

And get Malatang somewhere around Huai Hai Zhong Lu.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:34 PM on May 25, 2018

I am not a big traveler, but I LOVED Shanghai. Spent 5 days there on business. I say go for it.
posted by AugustWest at 2:29 PM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine how you would run out of interesting things to do in a city like Shanghai in a week. I'm incredibly jealous of your opportunity, it's a top 3 destination for me.
posted by dis_integration at 2:56 PM on May 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Shanghai is a great city. If you do it, it's a splurge, but I highly recommend these motorcycle sidecar tours. Also, get to Hangzhou if you can.
posted by frumiousb at 4:18 PM on May 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

Hey, I was just in Shanghai, and I loved the modern art museum. So many Chinese artists I had never seen before, and such interesting art! It’s in Pudong, the old Expo site, in the China Pavilion.
posted by chainsofreedom at 2:20 AM on May 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I literally did this three years ago. I spent about a week taking the metro to different parts of the city and just wandering around various neighborhoods. Wandered through markets, historic parks, residential areas...

I wasn’t very experienced at traveling internationally, especially alone, and still had a great trip. I learned a lot about myself and how I function in unfamiliar places where I don’t know the language.

I wanted to go to see the friend I was staying with (she was there for work, but worked long hours most days), so that was a good enough reason to go to Shanghai in such a low-key way instead of saving the points/miles for a trip where I was more exited about the specific destination.
posted by itesser at 10:19 PM on May 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

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