Shanghai, China: 3D2N Long Weekend Itinerary
After four long years, I have alas returned to Shanghai. A lot has changed, for better or for worse. The cosmopolitan city is currently China’s biggest and boasts a sheer number of attractions; a long weekend just seriously isn’t enough for travellers to tick off Shanghai’s most iconic places.
Revisiting Shanghai last month made me realise my previous travel mistakes and I wish I knew them earlier. Since time is always a constraint, I’ll be brutally honest about my personal thoughts – so that you can make an informed decision about which attraction is actually worth your time.
3 common mistakes that first-time visitors to Shanghai make:
#1 Squeezing unnecessarily with the suffocating crowd at The Bund
#2 Joining the queue for subpar overpriced dumplings at Nan Xiang
#3 Not making it a point to visit Shanghai Natural History Museum
DAY 1 in Shanghai
Pain Chaud – Amazing French Bakery With Excellent Croissant and Coffee
Located in the former French concession along Yongkang Road, Pain Chaud is a cosy French bakery that you must not miss. You probably wouldn’t be able to resist stepping into Pain Chaud when you walk past it anyway; the aroma of freshly baked bread and coffee, and spectacular display of artisanal pastries are just way too enticing.
Honestly, I wouldn’t have chanced upon this humble bakery if it weren’t for the Airbnb we were staying in. I love it so much that I returned daily for their splendid coffee and croissants throughout my stay in Shanghai.
Tip: Order the Almond Croissant, Pain au Chocolat and Latte
Address: 41 Yongkang Road, Xuhui Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200031
Nearest Metro: A 8-minute walk from South Shaanxi Road Station
Tianzifang – Shop at the Old French Quarter and explore the old alleyways
Alright, Tianzifang is obviously a designated tourist attraction but… I LOVE THIS PLACE. Once upon a time, Tianzifang was predominantly a residential area, but the characteristic multiple adjoining alleyways are now lined with many boutique shops, cafes, restaurants and more. Interestingly, thousands of local Chinese still reside upstairs (directly above the shops).
It’s easy to get lost here – but whatever, let your five senses lead the way. My favourite discovery in Tianzifang was this local perfume shop called Wee Jean (未见). Never in my life have I ever come across a brand whereby I actually dig every fragrance. But the impossible happened. Every scent in Wee Jean was either floral or fruity – and I’m a complete sucker for such scents.
Nearest Metro: A 5-minute walk from Dapuqiao Station
Hai Di Lao – Lunch at the world’s most value-for-money restaurant
Hai Di Lao needs no formal introduction, especially since we already have a few outlets in sunny Singapore. But assuming you are hearing it from the first time (dude, are you living in a cave?) – then let me tell you, Hai Di Lao is the world’s most value-for-money hot pot restaurant.
There are many Hai Di Lao branches across China so we didn’t have to queue for a table. Hai Di Lao’s staff service was excellent – we didn’t think that was possible in China. Over here, diners are treated like royalty. You get to enjoy complimentary manicure services and the waitress will cook and serve every single dish to you. So sit back, relax and enjoy the feast!
We ordered what seemed like an uncountable number of dishes and only paid approximately S$20 each. The price would have been at least double if we were dining in Singapore instead.
Address: Golden Magnolia Plaza, DaPuQiao, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200025
Nearest Metro: A 6-minute walk from Dapuqiao Station
Xintiandi – Upscale brands housed in Shikumen-style historic buildings
The affluent car-free Xintiandi precinct is a gazillion times different from its 1920 era. Back then, Shanghai was home to many Shikumen-style residential buildings. For those not in the know, Shikumen is essentially a traditional architectural style which embodies elements of the Orient and the West. Today, many high-end fashion retailers and upscale restaurants are located here.
Currently, Xintiandi is split into two distinct areas; the North Block comprises a block of restored Shikumen infrastructure, while the South Block was further developed for commercial developments. Admittedly, Xintiandi is extremely crowded and touristy, but do check it out if you have the time! It’s definitely worth exploring the district and its nooks and crannies.
Tip: The entertainment district is split into two main blocks, namely the North and South Block
Nearest Metro: Xintiandi Station
Bar Rouge – Enjoy an unobstructed view of The Bund at night
Everyone wants a picture with/of Shanghai’s skyline and I am of no exception. I remember squeezing with a sea of people at the riverfront four years ago – thinking to myself, there must be a better way to enjoy the cityscape. Thankfully, I found my answer this year at Bar Rouge :) Why would you choose suffer at the bottom when you can enjoy yourself from above?!
Bar Rouge officially opens at 6pm and I visited around 6.20pm. I was determined to catch the sunset and avoid the crowd. And boy I was indeed successful, despite it being a Friday night! P.s. This place is actually a nightclub, but I was here solely for the unobstructed bird’s eye view. Expect to pay around S$20 for a drink here – which I reckon is VERY reasonable for such a view.
Tip: It might sound absurd to visit a club at 6pm, but do it for the photography opportunity!
Address: 18 Zhongshan East 1st Rd, WaiTan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200002
Nearest Metro: A 10-minute walk from East Nanjing Road Station
Lost Heaven – Affordable Fine Dining Yunnan Restaurant
There are aplenty fancy restaurants in The Bund, but we chose Lost Heaven as it was the most budget-friendly option. The Chinese restaurant specialises in Yunnan-inspired cuisine and most dishes are meant for sharing. Do order the Da Li-style Chicken served with Chilli and Green Onions (RMB 78 / SGD 15.80) and Mt. Ka-la Grilled Beef (RMB 88 / SGD 17.80).
I frankly wouldn’t recommend eating at this place if you are travelling with elderly or children, because the indoor dining area was SO DARK – we struggled to read the menu and everything started feeling a little trippy. But anyway, should you be dining at Lost Heaven, do remember to head upstairs after your meal. The pretty alfresco upstairs terrace is ideal for chill drinks.
Address: No.17a Yanan East Road Huangpu District, Shanghai 200002, China
Nearest Metro: A 10-minute walk from Yuyuan Garden Station
Day 2 in Shanghai
Yuyuan Garden – Lost its charm over the years, claustrophobes beware
Here’s what every travel guidebook will tell you: 400-year-old Botanical Garden Yuyuan is an unmissable attraction! Head to Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant and sample their famous xiao long baos. Well, I did that four years ago and I’m most certainly not doing it ever again. I’ve eaten a fair share of xiao long baos in my entire life and Nan Xiang just isn’t worth the wait.
Our personal opinion? A stroll in Yuyuan Garden was far from enjoyable. We were packed like sardines and an attempt to cross the zigzag bridge or anywhere else was a terrifying experience. Yuyuan Garden and Yuyuan Bazaar were both overly commercialised and didn’t appeal to us. In fact, my friend (a first-timer to Shanghai) asked to leave quickly after, citing extreme disdain.
Having said that, Yuyuan Garden is still one of Shanghai’s most beloved attractions and features unique Chinese architecture and carvings. So you might still want to check it out for the sake of ticking it off your sightseeing list. But note that you’ve been warned of the unpleasant crowd!
Address: 218 Anren St, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Nearest Metro: Yuyuan Garden Station
Jiajiatangbao – A Shanghainese institution loved by the locals
As mentioned above, please SKIP the touristy Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant at Yuyuan and dine at Jiajia Tangbao instead. For the Chinese illiterate, the restaurant’s speciality is in soup dumplings. The xiao long baos here are way cheaper and phew, no crazy queues.
Hole-in-the-wall eatery Jiajia Tangbao only accepts cash. You can choose from a myriad of fillings, namely chicken, crabmeat, pork and shrimp. Each portion of meat is encased in a delicate skin – it’s thin yet sturdy to hold its content. These piping hot steamed dumplings are served in a bamboo basket and prices only start from (RMB 15 / SGD 3.05) for 12 dumplings!
Totally worth it.
Address: 90 Huanghe Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200003
Nearest Metro: A 3-minute walk from People’s Square Station Exit 9
Shanghai Natural History Museum – This place is dope shit, a MUST-visit!
It’s a shame that Shanghai Natural History Museum did not even make it to the top 50 things to do in Shanghai on TripAdvisor. Are you kidding me?! This museum was one of the highlights of my trip. I’ve been to Shanghai’s so-called best attractions (The Pearl Tower, Huangpu River Cruise and whatnot), but nothing impressed me as much as this natural history museum.
Designed by one of the world’s best architecture firms Perkins+Will, a walk around Shanghai Natural History Museum itself was just absolutely surreal. Walk alongside life-size extinct creatures in the River of Life display area and marvel at the 280,000 exhibited items. The museum can be directly accessed via the Shanghai Natural History Musuem Station.
Address: 510 Beijing W Rd, Jingan Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200041
Nearest Metro: Shanghai Natural History Musuem
Nanjing Road – Stroll down the world’s longest shopping precinct
Spanning 5.5 kilometres long, Nanjing Road is the world’s longest shopping street and a paradise for shopaholics. Both sides of Nanjing Road are filled with massive department stores; you will spot familiar global labels (such as H&M and UniQlo) and homegrown brands. If you are lazy to walk, you can hop on/off the mini sightseeing tram which traverses down the busy road.
While it seems like many male travellers have received “massage offers” at Nanjing Road, we girls on the other hand experienced aggressive flyer distributors who wouldn’t retreat. Epic.
Needless to say, there are many restaurants and eateries are situated along this long road. So go on take your pick! If you can’t decide what to eat, I would strongly recommend Xiao Yang Shen Jian (小杨生煎) which serves divine pan-fried pork soup dumplings. There are many outlets across Shanghai, but there’s apparently one located along Nanjing East Road (in Google Maps).
Nearest Metros: East Nanjing Road Station and West Nanjing Road Station
Day 3 in Shanghai
Shanghai Disneyland Park is Walt Disney’s biggest international resort. It is THREE times bigger than Hong Kong Disneyland and features several never-seen-before exciting attractions. I’m sure all Disney fans will know this by now – Shanghai Disneyland’s Enchanted Storybook Castle is the biggest Disneyland castle on earth. And it’s spellbindingly beautiful in real life!
Here’s the thing: An entire day probably still would not be enough if you plan to cover all shows and rides. Despite having a Disney FastPass, I still failed to cover at least half of the attractions. Assuming you only have a day, I strongly urge you to strategise your route in advance – the park is huge and it will take you quite some time to travel from one adventure land to the other.
Nearest Metro: Disney Resort
Here is a map of all the places featured in this 3D2N Shanghai itinerary:
You can also download the free 3D2N Shanghai itinerary in pdf file or word doc. Feel free to tweak it to your own preferences.
Disclaimer: We visited Shanghai in mid April 2017 and are not liable for any inaccuracies. Do email us at email@example.com if you spot any outdated information.