Whether you’re travelling the world or just to China, Shanghai is an essential destination. The city of skyscrapers is home to 26 million people and is representative of China today: a mix of temples and traditional streets with modern buildings and business districts.

Shanghai, much like Beijing, Nanjing, or Suzhou, is definitely worth a visit. The megalopolis is one of the People's Republic of China’s biggest cities and is home to an advanced underground railway network, many shopping spots, Chinese street food, and the Jade Buddha Temple!

In this article, we’re going to look at how you can organise a trip to Shanghai, the different districts and neighbourhoods you should visit, how much it’ll cost you, where you can stay, and the best time to visit the city.

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The Different Districts of Shanghai

The city of Shanghai is divided into neighbourhoods but most people talk about the different districts of Shanghai. While there are many places worthy of a visit, here are the areas that you should definitely see when you’re in Shanghai.

Which are the best districts in Shanghai?
Shanghai is divided by the Huangpu River. Puxi is to the west and Pudong is to the east. (Source: jac8023)

The Jing'an District, a Mix of Modernity and Tradition

In the heart of Shanghai, the Jing’an District is a mix of old Chinese buildings and futuristic towers. Its name comes from the Jing’an Temple at the heart of this special district.

You can find culinary delights, a huge shopping centre, and plenty of things to do. Furthermore, the district is in a great location if you want to visit the whole city.

Huangpu, Shanghai’s City Centre

Huangpu takes its name from the river that runs through the city of Shanghai. It’s thought of as Shanghai’s city centre. It’s home to:

  • The Bund
  • Shanghai Museum
  • People’s Square
  • Suzhou Creek
  • New World (Xintiandi)
  • Shanghai’s Old Town
  • City God Temple of Shanghai
  • The Yu Garden

You just have to visit Huangpu while you’re in Shanghai. It’s also a great place to find accommodation, especially if you want somewhere with a good nightlife.

Xuhui, the Former French Concession in Shanghai

Xuhui was part of Puxi just like Jing’an and Huangpu and is one of Shanghai’s best areas. It’s a popular spot for expats as its home to the French quarter in Xujiahui.

Xuhui is home to bars, restaurants, and shopping centres. It’s a beautiful area with typical and modern architecture.

The Cost of Travelling to Shanghai

If you want to travel, especially to Asia, you’ll need to organise your budget so that you’ll avoid any unpleasant surprises once you’re there. This big city is home to plenty of restaurants and shopping centres that will easily give your credit card a good workout. We’ve got some advice on budgeting for your trip to Shanghai.

How much does it cost to visit Shanghai?
Make sure that you carefully budget your trip to Shanghai. (Source: moerschy)

Flights and Accommodation

After you’ve got your Chinese visa (costing just over £100), you’ll have to book your flights. You can get return flights to and from Shanghai from around £350 if you go at the right time. Make sure you get your flights as soon as you can as the prices only go up and are very expensive during the busy periods.

You should also look at accommodation in Shanghai. Firstly, choose where you’re going to stay according to your budget. For example, Xuhui is expensive. Consider the type of accommodation you’ll be getting. If you’re on a budget, you could opt for youth hostels.

If you’ve got a modest budget, you could get an Airbnb without breaking the bank. You can stay in a 1-star hotel for as little as £25 whilst a luxury hotel can cost you upwards of £200. The cost of hotels tends to be cheaper than in London.

Expenses in Shanghai: Food, Leisure, and Transport

One of the most important things when travelling is trying the food! Restaurants in China tend to cost less than in the UK. Thus, you can enjoy a 3-course meal for just over a tenner. You can also try new things in Chinese markets.

Transport is also cheaper than in the UK. This is great if you want to travel around Shanghai and make the most of the city.

Finally, there’s a lot of things you can enjoy for free such as the Chinese New Year. You’ll have to pay to eat in restaurants, drink in bars, or visit zoos and museums.

Don’t be scared to spend money in order to make the most out of your trip. You just have to take the first step:

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” - Laozi

You’ll come back with plenty of great memories and experiences.

Accommodation in Shanghai

Just as you would for any journey, you need to make sure that you’ve got somewhere to stay. After everything you’re going to visit, you’ll want a good night’s sleep.

How can you find accommodation in Shanghai?
The location of your accommodation is probably more important than the accommodation itself. (Source: xuanzi86410527)

Budget Accommodation in Shanghai

There are plenty of youth hostels in Shanghai. Practical and cheap, you can get a bed for one in a dormitory for as little as £10 per night. You can even get a discount card from Hostelling International.

Airbnb is another option. If you want to live like the Chinese, these are your best bet. They’re usually in good locations and don’t cost too much; £30 the night in some cases. Make sure you book well in advance as accommodation in Jing’an, Huangpu, and Xuhui is very popular.

Traditional and Unusual Hotels in Shanghai

With a decent budget, you can get a comfortable hotel room. Decent hotel rooms can cost between £50 and £150 per night. Luxury hotels can cost between £100 and £300 per night.

If you like something unusual, you can stay in capsules (from £10 the night) or in Love Hotels if you’re travelling as a couple. The Shimao Wonderland Intercontinental is a hotel that was built on an abandoned mine!

The Best Time to Visit Shanghai

Given that the climate, events, air quality, and the cost of hotels and flights can change drastically throughout the year, you’ll need to carefully plan the best time to visit the city. Here are the best times to visit Shanghai!

When is the best time of the year to visit Shanghai?
When night falls and it gets cold, it might be the time to pick up some hot noodles or dumplings! (Source: ioa8320)

The Best Season to Visit Shanghai

You wouldn’t be wrong if you were thinking spring was the best time to visit Shanghai. However, you can also get the best out of Shanghai in autumn, too! The main reason is the temperature: 22°C in September, 18°C in October, and 13°C in November. Furthermore, flights are affordable during this time.

Spring is also a good time but there will be more tourists. Summer is humid and hot and hotels and flights will also cost a fortune. January and February aren’t recommended because it’s really cold and the city is at its most polluted.

In short, you should probably opt for autumn or spring and avoid winter and summer.

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Unmissable Events in Shanghai

Traditional events are an important part of Shanghai’s cultural calendar, especially since there’s a Buddhist temple in every district. There’s the Chinese New Year which is celebrated all over China and Shanghai is no exception.

At the end of the new year celebrations, there’s the Lantern Festival, which is a very special event. The Longhua Temple Spring Festival Ceremony occurs when the peach trees flower. There are also a number of cultural events between September and December:

  • The Mid-Autumn Festival, 30 September
  • The National Day of the People's Republic of China, 1 October
  • Shanghai China International Arts Festival, 27 October
  • The Shanghai Marathon, 4 December
  • Christmas in Shanghai, 24 and 25 December

With Disneyland, aquariums, shopping, and the old town, there are plenty of things to do in Shanghai. Make sure you spend at least one week there and two if you can. Whether you're interested in visiting the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Shanghai World Financial Center in the Pudong District or just looking for a nice boutique hotel in Shanghai City, you should do your research first and check availability in the more popular hotels.

Now you should know a bit more about Shanghai. China is full of things to see and do and other regions like Guangzhou, Sichuan, and Yunnan are all worth visiting. You’re spoilt for choice.

Superprof is here to help with other articles on China, Chinese cities, and attractions like the Great Wall of China. You could also learn some Chinese through private tutorials with one of the tutors on Superprof. Bespoke language lessons ensure that you'll know what you need to know before getting to Shanghai!

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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.