Where to stay in Shanghai? Check out our guide of the best places to stay in Shanghai, one of the fastest growing cities in East Asia
If you are planning to visit the city of Shanghai this guide brings important information on the best areas to stay in the city. Learn also more about the cost of living of one of the world’s largest and most modern cities.
Tourism in Shanghai
Shanghai is known as the ‘Pearl of the Orient’ or the ‘Paris of the East’ and has numerous attractions for visitors. Tourists coming into China will require a visa in almost all cases. Usually, you can apply for a visa at the Chinese embassy or consulate in your home country.
Since a few years ago a 144-hour visa-free transit is also available for visitors of a number of countries arriving by air. That gives you up to six days to tour the city, provided you have an onward flight to a third country. This option is only available for citizens of specific countries, more information is available here.
Apart from being one of the biggest business hubs in Asia, Shanghai also has a lot to offer for tourists. The city is famous for its architectural wonders, a thriving expat community, and delicious Chinese cuisine.
Shanghai has two international airports; Hongqiao International Airport is used mostly for domestic flights and short-haul international flights. Pudong International Airport is the main airport in the city for overseas flights. Pudong is located 30 km east of the city center (although very easy to reach from the city center).
The Pudong Airport has four runways with an annual capacity for up to 80 million passengers. Pudong is the second busiest airport in China and the world’s ninth busiest. It is used by 104 airlines, serving over 200 destinations worldwide.
If you are flying to Shanghai you can find the cheapest flights on Jetradar.
There are several options for traveling into the city of Shanghai from its principal international airport. There is a high speed railway line operating between the two international airports known as the Shanghai Airport Intercity Railway. The Shanghai Maglev Train operated from Pudong to Longyang Road Metro Station. The 30km journey takes just 8 minutes with trains operating every 15 minutes. At Longyang Road you can transfer to Metro lines 2,7 and 16.
Shanghai’s Metro line 2 operates from Pudong International Airport and connects to Hongqiao Airport via Longyang Road and the People’s Square. It is a much cheaper option than the Maglev but takes just over an hour to transfer into the city center.
There are eight express bus routes from various locations in the city to the airport. Taxis are also available; expect to pay more than 100RMB to travel into the city center.
Best Places to Stay in Shanghai
Shanghai has two areas which are ideal for visitors, The Bund and the Lujiazui. While The Bund or Waitan, is a more traditional area, the Lujiazui is the new financial center of Shanghai. These areas are pretty close to one another, and are separated by the river Huangpu.
One of the best places to stay in Shanghai is close to East Nanjing Road. Here you are close to the Bund and the Huangpu River as well as shopping along the famous Nanjing Road. This is also the area with most accommodation options in Shanghai, ranging from inexpensive hostels to high-end luxurious hotels.
To the east of the Hangpu River you will find the Lujiazui area, which is the financial center of the city. This is also where most of the skyscrapers in Shanghai are, including the Shanghai Tower, one of the tallest buildings in the world. The Lujiazui is also one of the best areas to stay in Shanghai, but it offers less options than the area close to The Bund and Nanjing Road. Most of the accommodation optionsin the Lujiazui district are luxurious hotels.
Budget Accommodation in Shanghai – $
Shanghai Blue Mountain Bund Youth Hostel – an excellent hostel offering dorm beds and private rooms in one of the best places to stay in Shanghai.
Reasonably Priced Accommodation in Shanghai – $$
Campanile Shanghai Bund Hotel – a reasonably priced hotel in the Huangpu District of Shanghai, with easy access to the metro and the city’s main attractions.
Metropolo Classiq, Shanghai, Bund Circle – an excellent hotel with great amenities in one of the best places to stay in Shanghai.
Luxurious Hotels in Shanghai – $$$
Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund – as the name says, this luxurious hotel is on the Bund, one of the best areas to stay in Shanghai.
The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong – a great high-end hotel in the Lujiazui area.
Shanghai’s Tourist Attractions
The Huangpu River and the Bund are one of the most famous attractions in the city, attracting thousands of visitors daily. The Huangpu River is known as the mother river of Shanghai and divides the city into its eastern and western districts.
You can book guided tours and also transfers in Shanghai, as well as getting a Chinese sim card on Klook.com.
The Bund can be found on the western bank of the river and is home to modern skyscrapers that sit alongside European style buildings dating from the 1930’s. A romantic evening’s stroll along the Bund is the highlight of many visits to Shanghai. Take Metro line 2 or 10 to the station at East Nanjing Road, it is then a ten minute walk to the river.
Nanjing Road is one of the leading commercial streets in China; it is 5.5km long with more than 600 large stores that see up to 1.7 million customers daily. You can buy anything from cheap souvenirs to high end luxury items. Nanjing Road is served by Metro lines 1, 2,8,10, 12 and 13. If you visit the middle section of Nanjing Road you can also visit the People’s Square or Madame Tussauds.
Shanghai has many ancient gardens; the largest of these is Yuyuan Garden. It is full of Ming and Qing styled architecture with the Grand Rockery being the most famous sight within the six areas of the garden. The surrounding area is full of snack shops making this an ideal early evening attraction. The closest stop on metro line 10 is Yuyuan Garden.
Xin Tian Di is in the center of the city at Middle Huaihai Road, it is an urban attraction of historical and modern fashionable design. The exterior of its buildings retains the antique tiles and walls of Shikumen housing found in old Shanghai. The interior of the buildings host international galleries, bars, cafes, theme restaurants and boutiques. You can get a taste of 1920’s Shanghai combined with the 21st century. You can take metro line 1 to South Huangpi Road station or lines 10 or 13 to Xin Tian Di station.
Cost of Travel in Shanghai
Shanghai is somewhat accessible if you are coming from Western countries, as well as from Japan or South Korea. However, cost of travel has been on the rise during the past year. Overall, all costs in Shanghai are somewhat reasonable, and you can afford to enjoy the city even if you have a limited budget.
Accommodation and food in Shanghai are pretty accessible, and unless you will visit the city during specific holidays, the prices are somewhat stable throughout the year. Food in China is usually delicious and much more affordable then in North America or Europe.
Shanghai cuisine is often called Hu cuisine, it is traditionally cooked pickled in wine, giving it a red color and is usually fish, crab or chicken. Sugar and soy sauce are used plentifully in locally styled food. Expect to pay up to 100 RMB per person in a traditional restaurant, and budget meals start as low as 50 RMB.
Public transport is the best way to get around in Shanghai, like in most cities of China. Shanghai’s Metro uses both subway and light metro lines within its system. there are currently 14 lines in use. It has 364 stations with 588 km of track making it the world’s longest metro network.
Trams were reintroduced into Shanghai in 2010 in the East of the city, with additional systems currently under construction. Shanghai has almost 1000 bus routes, making it the world’s most extensive urban bus network including the world’s oldest trolleybus system.
The fare for traveling on the Shanghai metro begins at 3RMB, longer journeys will cost up to 15RMB. Bus fares in the city cost 2 or 3 RMB. There are plenty of taxis in Shanghai, fares begin at 14 or 16RMB depending on the size of the vehicle for the first 3km. each additional km costs 2.4 RMB. Prices increase after 11pm until 5am.
The Best Time to Visit Shanghai
The most pleasant times to visit are spring (March to May), although sudden rainstorms can occur and autumn or fall (September to November) when there is more sunshine and generally dry. Winters are cold and damp with many days below freezing. Summers are hot and humid with daytime temperatures in the high 30’sC.
Traveling in China Resources
If you are travelling around China you may be interesting in our other Chinese city guides. Check the best places to stay in Beijing, as well as our guide on where to stay in Shenzhen. If you plan to stay longer in the country check our post on the cheapest cities in China.