1 Day Shanghai Itinerary

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In today’s post, Will of Going Awesome Places is sharing with us his top budget travel tips on how to explore Shanghai for less than $25.  Who is Will? Since quitting his consulting job he’s been traveling the world and along the way writing about his epic adventures and taking amazing photos.  During his time, he spent one month in China and has previously written his own top 10 for Shanghai.  His true passion lies in telling stories, inspiring others to travel, writing detailed trip itineraries for others to follow and providing helpful tips and tricks to travel better.  You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube & Instagram.

Mad About Shanghai

Shanghai is many things. It’s a model city for lightspeed growth and progress – it’s one of the most forward thinking cosmopolitans in the world. It’s a city rich with nostalgia with colonial days gone past. It’s a city that never sleeps with it’s vibrant nightlife. It’s also a place for amazing foods whether you enjoy the gritty alleyways or opulent Michelin worthy restaurants.

There’s a lot happening in the city with lots to see, do, buy and eat. What’s beautiful about Shanghai is how easily you can do all of this on the cheap. And if you know your way around, there’s so much in the city that can be taken in for free.

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Shanghai Itinerary

So let me take you through 24 hours of what you could do in Shanghai for less than $25. With this itinerary, you journey through ancient times and eventually transport yourself into modern Shanghai.

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Morning – Breakfast

If you’re just arriving in Shanghai, you’ll probably be dealing with some jetlag so what better way to cure it than to start your day early and head over to one of the must-sees in the Yu Garden Bazaar area. This is a great area to get a glimpse into architecture from the dynasty periods but also be able to roam around and check out touristy souvenir shops, have some local foods and check out wholesale markets.

To get there, go to your nearest Metro station and head over to the Yu Yuan stop on Line 10. Once there, follow the signs for Yu Garden and a short 5-10 minute walk. Your best bet ticket wise is to buy an all-day travel pass for 18 RMB = $3.

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In the heart of Yu Garden where Nanxiang can be found

Head into the heart of Yu Garden Bazaar and you’ll find a zen and charming area made up of pavilions and a zig zagging path overtop a pond full of Koi fishes. Nearby, you’ll see a pavilion building with a bunch of people lining up in front of it. This restaurant is called Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant and this is where you’ll be able to try out Shanghai’s famous soup dumplings (xiao long bao). These aren’t your normal dumplings. Instead, they’re a small steamed bun consisting of a thin flour skin with pork filling that is surrounded in soup as it’s steamed in its bamboo basket.

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Ordering your soup dumplings at the window

The reason why you’re here this early is because prior to 9AM, the queues aren’t that long. Past 9, the tourists start rolling in and the line up can easily get up to an average of 1 hour. The commoner way of doing things is to just queue on the ground floor to grab some soup dumplings to go. I love coming here to soak in the experience, watch the guys make soup dumplings behind the glass. The soup dumplings themselves are deliciously juicy, fresh and most importantly thin skinned which is what makes it so delicate.

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Delicious xiao long bao takeaway

For a grand total of 20 RMB = $3.50, you get 16 dumplings. Don’t forget to grab some vinegar as well which complements the dumplings quite well.

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
85 Yu Yuan Road, Shanghai, China (Yu Garden)

Yu Garden & Shanghai City God Temple

After you finish your dumplings, it’s time to soak in the temples, pavilions, the Koi fishes that swim in the pond below, try out local snacks, buy kitschy souvenirs and people watch. The key here is to just start roaming around. There’s the main area landmarks but don’t be afraid to explore the side streets and the nearby wholesale market.

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The main gate from the street that leads into The City God Temple and Yu Garden

Cost-wise, you might spend a few bucks on snacks and souvenirs but it’ll be a few bucks at most. You could even find yourself buying a new pair of Crocs for 35 RMB = $6…who knows!

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Lots of areas to roam around Yu Garden and of course lots of souvenirs and snacks

Afternoon Tianzifang

Okay so you’ve now gotten a glimpse of Qing Dynasty architecture turned uber touristy, it’s now time to go artsy and explore a neighborhood set in a time when the French occupied a concession area of Shanghai.

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One of the entrances into Tianzifang

Inside is a labyrinth of alleyways and dead end streets containing small craft stores, coffee shops and trendy art studios. So don’t be fooled. On the outside, it looks like a well preserved community from the 1930’s in Shikumen architecture but in fact it’s become a hipster, trendy spot.

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Cute cafes and bars to chill out at

What I love about this place is that although you can say it’s touristy now, it has preserved its residential feel with electricity cables strung overhead, air conditioning units outside of buildings, clothes out to dry and bicycles leaning against house doors.

To get here, get connected to Line 9’s Dapuqiao station which is just immediately south of Tianzifang.

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Interesting sights at every corner. Try not to get lost!

So again, explore the area, grab a coffee if want to chill or buy funny Chairman Mao souvenirs.

Lunch

After all that walking around, you’re probably going to be starving for lunch so we head over to the heart of Shanghai – People’s Square. Take the subway from Dapuqiao to People’s Square from Line 9 to 8.

There are cheap eats galore and another place I recommend is Yang’s Fried Dumplings (720 Nanjing Road East near Guizhou Road). Now these dumplings are different from soup dumplings. They are more buns than dumplings but crisped on the bottom to give a nice crunchy texture to it.

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The deliciousness of Yang’s

There might be a bit of a line but I’d suggest you grab a seat inside, order a set of 4 fried dumplings for 4 RMB = $0.70 and if you’re feeling super hungry, get bowl of pork wonton for 7 RMB = $1.20. Can’t beat that right? Just be careful when biting into these piping hot dumplings when you first get them because they will burn your tongue. The way you eat them is to take a small bite out of them, let it cool, start sipping the soup and then eat the rest of it.

Feeling thirsty? Grab a bubble tea along the way. There are numerous chains in Shanghai but my favorite is definitely CoCo. If you’re looking for something refreshing, their Kumquat tea is great or if you want to go for something classic, get the milk tea with tapioca. Comes out to about 9 RMB = $1.50.

Yang’s Fried Dumplings
Address: 720 Nanjing Dong Lu, near Guizhou Lu, Shanghai

Nanjing Road East

As you make your way to Yang’s, you will notice that Nanjing Road East is actually a pedestrian only street. Big shops, malls and restaurants line up the streets. You can pretty much just walk along this street and head eastwards. There’s nothing that particularly stands out here other than the bright neon lights at night and more big name stores. So if you have a shopping itch, this is your place to go nuts.

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Neon lights of Nanjing Road East

Keep walking until you reach…

Evening – Bund

At the end of Nanjing Road East is the Bund. The Bund is waterfront area that stretches along the western bank of Huangpu River and is regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years. This boardwalk allows you to take in the sweeping panoramic views of the huge skyscrapers that dominate the Pudong area of Shanghai. Turn around and you get incredible views 26 various buildings of different western architectural styles including Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classicism and Renaissance from a time when the British and Americans had settlements there.

The Bund
Beautiful panoramic views of Pudong, Shanghai across the river
Going Right Through
Bund’s famous colonial architecture

Hopefully by this point the sun will be making its way down and you’ll be able to see the lights start coming on from the Pearl Tower to the super skyscrapers of Shanghai Tower, Jin Mao and SWFC.

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The Bund lit up at night

Sit down, relax and watch the hoards of tourists (you’ll just have to get used to this fact everywhere you go in Shanghai) and take a few photos.

Dinner

To close off the night, walk from the Bund to the nearby restaurant called Shanghai Grandmother Restaurant. This is a Shanghainese restaurant with many classic dishes to try including drunken chicken, stringbeans with sweet potato and fried salted rice sticks. They also have an English menu so that should make things easier. I urge you to try different things! Dinner here runs up to an average of 50 RMB = $8.72.

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Entrance to Shanghai Grandmother Restaurant
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Drunken chicken

One thing to note is that they are cash only.

Shanghai Grandmother Restaurant (Shanghai Laolao)
No.70 Fuzhou Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China (The Bund)

Accommodation in Shanghai

Rock&Wood International Youth Hostel

Quoted from their page, “The dorms are praised for having ‘comfy beds, individual lights, power outlets and shelves’, while the large common area ‘is always extremely social and very easy to meet people’ in.”

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Lobby area of Rock & Wood International Youth Hostel in Shanghai

I would recommend staying at this hostel located near metro line 3 at West Yan’an Road station. It’s a bit far from the city but with a metro system that can get you anywhere, it’s honestly not a big deal. It’s also the highest rated hostel on Hostelworld.com. Dorm rooms are available for 60 RMB = $11

Rock&Wood International Youth Hostel YHA
No.615 Lane, ZhaoHua Road, Changning District, Shanghai, China

Daily Budget

  • Metro day pass = $3
  • Breakfast = $3.50
  • Lunch: $2
  • Dinner: $9
  • Accommodation: $11
  • TOTAL = $28.50

Okay fine so it’s not $25 exactly but not too shabby right? Bottom line is that it’s totally possible to have a thrifty day in Shanghai while seeing a lot of the main sights and have some delicious food while you’re at it!

What has your experience in Shanghai been?

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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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31 thoughts on “1 Day Shanghai Itinerary”

  1. Anna | slightly astray

    This brings up memories of Shanghai! I’m planning a trip to China for next Spring, and Shanghai may be on the itinerary. I’ve briefly seen a few of these, but I didn’t know about Tianzifang (the French occupied portion). I will definitely have to check that out. It looks so cute! I agree that the market around Yu Garden is super touristy, but it’s still one of those things you must do while in Shanghai!

  2. not easy to do a place like Shanghai with accommodation for less than $25 but this is an awesome guide to keeping the costs right down. I stayed in a hostel with a double room for about $15-$20 a night I think it was, and it was ultra comfy. Sorry – on my way to work no time to check which one, dorm beds much cheaper of course! as long as its not too hot, shanghai is good for walking once you’re in the centre. great post – love the night photos!

  3. Shanghai looks so interesting! Nice to know that it can be enjoyed at only $25 a day.The city looks clean and well-kept too.

  4. Anna @ shenANNAgans

    Wow… It sure looks like a wonderful city to visit. Every time I visit, I say out loud… Wow, it is so surprising that an entire yummy tummy full adventure action packed day can happen for $25 a day. Its so inspiring. :) Looks like a beautiful city. Cant wait to visit.

  5. Nichelle @ Airline Miles Experts

    Shanghai looks fascinating at night. It feels so magical seeing the city by day and fill with colorful lights when the evening comes. That was such a very thrifty day, indeed. But I guess those who are not used to walking would really complain, :)

  6. Miriam of Adventurous Miriam

    Great guide and a really beautiful panoramic photo! I had no idea Shanghai was so cosy – or cheap for that matter.

  7. Tim | UrbanDuniya

    Shanghai is one of my all time dream destinations – can’t wait to go there and experience it for myself! Thanks for these great tips :)

  8. Great to see you here Will and thanks for sharing your tips and great pictures.

    I love exploring Yu Gardens and the surrounding area. In fact I’ll probably head back there again next month.

    The Bund is a wonderful tourist attraction and you’ve found a gem of a place to eat so close. Just avoid going for a drink in one of the nearby bars, they can be very expensive!

  9. Thanks for the opportunity to put together this post Agness! I have a lot of fond memories of Shanghai from my time doing a summer language program there.

    Shanghai can get expensive if you want to do it up but there are a ton of ways to keep the costs low and on a budget. Hopefully most of you guys will be able to check out these places when you get out there!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks for contributing, Will. This post brings back such great memories from China. I miss it a lot these days!!

  10. Ahh this post really makes me wanna go to Shanghai! Beautiful images – kudos to Will for the budgeting tips as well!

  11. I have plan to visit Beijing in April, next year. Shanghai is definitely on my list. And then, I read this. Wow, such an incredible city and story. Thanks for sharing your journey with use^^

  12. I’ve been thinking about visiting for a while but holding off because I’ve heard it’s so expensive, great to see it can be done on a budget!

  13. I completely believe the fact that shanghai is one of the most joyful city, I just came from a latest journey there and it was amazing!

  14. Maya @ Maya Kitchenette

    Oh Shanghai is awesome especially the heritage and FOOD! Dumplings and the paos are delish! First time visiting here btw…love ur blog!!

  15. I’m headed here in March! This is really helpful. We were looking at the Jade Buddha Temple or the Longhua Temple. Are either of these worth it or recommended? Thanks!

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