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What To Do With Layover In Shanghai


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Alfi Benn





If you find yourself with a layover in Shanghai, you’re in for a treat! This vibrant metropolis, often dubbed the “Paris of the East,” is a fascinating blend of rich history, modern skyscrapers, and delectable cuisine. Despite the limited time, there are numerous ways to make the most of your layover and immerse yourself in the unique culture and attractions that Shanghai has to offer. From exploring iconic landmarks to savoring authentic local dishes, the city presents a myriad of experiences to indulge in during your brief stay.


Whether you have a few hours or a day to spare, Shanghai has something for everyone. In this guide, we’ll delve into the top activities and attractions to consider, ensuring that your layover becomes a memorable and enriching experience. So, fasten your seatbelt and get ready to embark on a whirlwind adventure through the bustling streets of Shanghai!


Explore the City

Shanghai is a city of contrasts, seamlessly blending its rich cultural heritage with modern marvels. If you have a layover in this dynamic metropolis, take the opportunity to explore its bustling streets and immerse yourself in its vibrant atmosphere. Begin your adventure by visiting the iconic landmarks that define the city’s skyline.


One unmissable destination is the renowned Bund, a historic waterfront area lined with architectural gems that showcase Shanghai’s colonial past. Stroll along the promenade and marvel at the juxtaposition of colonial-era buildings and futuristic skyscrapers across the Huangpu River. The Bund offers a captivating glimpse into Shanghai’s evolution, making it a must-visit for anyone eager to understand the city’s narrative.


Another essential stop is the Yu Garden, a tranquil oasis nestled within the bustling city. Step into this traditional Chinese garden and lose yourself in its serene beauty, complete with ornate pavilions, tranquil ponds, and meandering pathways. The garden provides a serene escape from the urban bustle, allowing you to appreciate the harmonious coexistence of nature and architecture—a hallmark of classical Chinese garden design.


As you navigate the city, be sure to indulge in the local cuisine, which is a delightful fusion of flavors and aromas. From savory xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) to succulent braised pork belly, Shanghai’s culinary scene is a feast for the senses. Seek out a local eatery or street food vendor to savor these delectable dishes, and embrace the opportunity to tantalize your taste buds with authentic Shanghai flavors.


While exploring the city, consider ascending the Shanghai Tower, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers. The panoramic views from its observation deck offer a breathtaking perspective of the city’s expansive skyline, allowing you to witness the urban sprawl and the meandering river that defines Shanghai’s topography.


After a day of exploration, treat yourself to a rejuvenating experience at a spa where you can unwind and recharge before your onward journey. Shanghai’s spa establishments offer a range of indulgent treatments, from soothing massages to revitalizing therapies, providing the perfect opportunity to relax and reflect on your memorable layover in this captivating city.


Visit the Bund

When in Shanghai, a visit to the Bund is an absolute must. This historic waterfront area, also known as Waitan, is a captivating blend of old and new, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich history and its modern-day splendor.


As you set foot on the Bund, you’ll be greeted by a stunning array of architectural marvels that line the waterfront. The western bank of the Huangpu River is adorned with an impressive collection of colonial-era buildings, each bearing the indelible imprint of bygone eras. These structures, characterized by their neoclassical and art deco designs, serve as enduring vestiges of Shanghai’s cosmopolitan past.


One of the most iconic buildings along the Bund is the Bund Bull, a bronze sculpture that has become a symbol of prosperity and resilience. This enduring emblem of the city’s financial district stands as a testament to Shanghai’s unwavering spirit and its status as a global economic powerhouse.


As you stroll along the promenade, take in the breathtaking views of the opposite bank, where the futuristic skyscrapers of Pudong create a mesmerizing juxtaposition. The sight of these towering edifices, illuminated by the shimmering lights of the city, is a testament to Shanghai’s remarkable transformation into a modern metropolis.


For a truly enchanting experience, consider visiting the Bund in the evening when the city is aglow with dazzling lights. The illuminated skyline, reflected in the tranquil waters of the Huangpu River, creates a spellbinding panorama that is nothing short of awe-inspiring. This is also the perfect time to embark on a leisurely river cruise, allowing you to witness the Bund and Pudong in all their nocturnal splendor.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture aficionado, or simply a traveler seeking unforgettable experiences, the Bund offers a captivating tapestry of narratives and visuals that will leave an indelible impression. It’s a place where the past converges with the present, where tradition meets innovation, and where the essence of Shanghai is encapsulated in a timeless embrace.


Explore Yu Garden

Step into a realm of tranquility and beauty as you explore the enchanting Yu Garden in Shanghai. Nestled amidst the bustling urban landscape, this classical Chinese garden is a testament to the exquisite artistry and timeless elegance of traditional garden design.


As you wander through the intricately designed pathways of Yu Garden, you’ll encounter a harmonious blend of natural elements and architectural masterpieces. The garden’s meticulously landscaped grounds are adorned with picturesque pavilions, meandering bridges, and serene ponds, creating a serene sanctuary that offers respite from the city’s frenetic energy.


One of the garden’s most iconic features is the Heralding Spring Hall, a pavilion that exudes an air of grace and grandeur. Its traditional architectural elements, including ornate carvings and sweeping eaves, evoke a sense of timeless splendor, inviting visitors to contemplate the beauty of classical Chinese architecture.


Another highlight of Yu Garden is the Rockery, a remarkable assemblage of intricately arranged rocks and winding pathways. This meticulously crafted landscape feature is a testament to the art of creating naturalistic scenery within a confined space, a hallmark of classical Chinese garden design.


For a truly immersive experience, take a moment to pause at the Exquisite Jade Rock, a renowned symbol of the garden’s enduring allure. This extraordinary rock formation, characterized by its unique contours and captivating textures, is steeped in symbolism and is revered for its aesthetic and spiritual significance.


As you meander through the garden, be sure to visit the Mid-Lake Pavilion, a serene retreat that offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. This pavilion, perched elegantly amidst the tranquil waters, provides a perfect vantage point to admire the garden’s scenic beauty and reflect on the timeless allure of classical Chinese garden design.


Whether you’re an avid admirer of traditional aesthetics, a nature enthusiast, or simply a traveler in search of serenity, Yu Garden promises a captivating journey through the artistry and cultural heritage of ancient China. It’s a place where the beauty of nature converges with the ingenuity of human craftsmanship, offering a timeless escape from the bustling urban landscape of Shanghai.


Enjoy Local Cuisine

Indulging in Shanghai’s diverse and delectable cuisine is an essential part of any visit to this vibrant city. With a rich culinary heritage influenced by both traditional Chinese flavors and international influences, Shanghai offers a tantalizing array of dishes that are sure to delight your taste buds.


One of the quintessential culinary experiences in Shanghai is savoring the iconic xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings. These delicate steamed dumplings, filled with savory broth and succulent meat, are a testament to the artistry of dim sum cuisine. Be sure to visit a renowned eatery such as Nanxiang Mantou Dian to savor these delectable morsels, each bursting with flavorful broth and tender filling.


For a taste of Shanghai’s rich culinary history, seek out the renowned Old Jesse Restaurant in the Xuhui District. This esteemed establishment is celebrated for its traditional Shanghainese dishes, including the iconic “Red-Cooked Pork,” a sumptuous dish of braised pork belly infused with aromatic spices and soy-based sauce. The restaurant’s commitment to preserving authentic flavors ensures a memorable dining experience that encapsulates the essence of Shanghai’s gastronomic traditions.


As you navigate the city, be sure to explore the vibrant street food scene, where you can sample an array of local delicacies. From savory jianbing, a crispy crepe filled with savory and tangy fillings, to aromatic scallion oil noodles that tantalize the senses, Shanghai’s street food offerings are a testament to the city’s culinary diversity and creativity.


For those seeking a contemporary twist on traditional flavors, Shanghai’s burgeoning fine dining scene offers an array of innovative culinary experiences. Visit Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet for a multi-sensory dining adventure that pushes the boundaries of gastronomic artistry, combining avant-garde techniques with immersive storytelling to create an unforgettable culinary journey.


Whether you’re a culinary connoisseur or an adventurous eater, Shanghai’s culinary landscape promises a feast for the senses, with each dish reflecting the city’s rich history, diverse influences, and unwavering commitment to gastronomic excellence. So, embrace the opportunity to savor the flavors of Shanghai and embark on a gastronomic odyssey that will leave a lasting impression on your palate and your heart.


Visit the Shanghai Tower

Standing as a testament to Shanghai’s architectural prowess and innovative spirit, the Shanghai Tower is a must-visit destination for those seeking a panoramic perspective of the city’s awe-inspiring skyline. As one of the tallest buildings in the world, this iconic skyscraper offers a breathtaking vantage point from which to behold the urban expanse of Shanghai.


Upon ascending the tower’s sleek and futuristic elevators, you’ll be whisked to the observation deck, where a mesmerizing panorama of the city unfolds before your eyes. The sweeping views encompass the meandering course of the Huangpu River, the iconic skyscrapers of Pudong, and the historic landmarks that punctuate the cityscape, providing a captivating tableau of Shanghai’s multifaceted identity.


One of the most striking features of the Shanghai Tower’s observation deck is the transparent glass floor, which offers a vertigo-inducing experience as you gaze down upon the city from a lofty vantage point. This thrilling encounter with the city’s vertiginous heights provides a unique opportunity to appreciate the architectural marvels and urban symphony that define Shanghai’s skyline.


For those seeking a more immersive experience, the tower’s interactive exhibits offer insights into the engineering and design innovations that have shaped the building’s iconic stature. From virtual reality simulations of the tower’s construction to engaging displays that illuminate the complexities of urban planning, these exhibits provide a deeper understanding of the architectural ingenuity that underpins the Shanghai Tower’s monumental presence.


As the sun begins its descent, consider visiting the Shanghai Tower in the evening to witness the city’s transformation into a luminous tapestry of lights. The nocturnal panorama, with the city aglow beneath a star-studded sky, presents a captivating spectacle that underscores Shanghai’s status as a beacon of modernity and innovation.


Whether you’re an architecture enthusiast, a photography aficionado, or simply a traveler seeking a bird’s-eye view of a dynamic city, the Shanghai Tower promises an unforgettable experience that encapsulates the essence of Shanghai’s urban grandeur. So, ascend to the heights of this architectural marvel and behold the city’s symphony of lights, colors, and aspirations from a perspective that is truly unparalleled.


Relax in a Spa

Amidst the bustling energy of Shanghai, finding a moment of tranquility and rejuvenation is essential, and the city’s array of luxurious spas offers the perfect sanctuary for relaxation and self-care. After a day of exploration and discovery, immerse yourself in the indulgent world of spa treatments, where ancient healing traditions and modern wellness practices converge to create a blissful oasis.


Shanghai’s spas are renowned for their holistic therapies that harmonize the mind, body, and spirit, providing a respite from the urban clamor. From revitalizing massages that alleviate tension and promote circulation to rejuvenating facials that restore radiance to the skin, the city’s spa establishments offer a diverse range of treatments tailored to cater to every individual’s needs.


Consider embarking on a sensory journey through the traditional Chinese therapies offered at many spas in Shanghai. Experience the restorative benefits of Tui Na, a therapeutic massage that targets acupressure points to alleviate muscular tension and enhance energy flow. Alternatively, indulge in a tranquil session of acupuncture, a time-honored practice that seeks to restore balance and vitality to the body.


For those seeking a contemporary wellness experience, Shanghai’s spas also offer an array of modern treatments that cater to the demands of the discerning traveler. From invigorating body scrubs that exfoliate and nourish the skin to detoxifying wraps that promote purification and renewal, these innovative therapies are designed to elevate the spa experience to new heights of luxury and efficacy.


Many of Shanghai’s spas boast serene environments that transport guests into a realm of tranquility and serenity. Immerse yourself in the soothing ambiance of these havens, where aromatic scents, calming music, and serene décor create an atmosphere conducive to relaxation and introspection.


After your indulgent spa experience, take the time to savor a moment of repose in the spa’s relaxation areas, where you can unwind amidst plush furnishings and serene surroundings. Reflect on your journey through Shanghai and allow the therapeutic effects of your spa treatments to permeate your senses, leaving you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.


Whether you seek to alleviate travel fatigue, embark on a holistic wellness journey, or simply indulge in moments of self-care, Shanghai’s spas offer an oasis of tranquility and rejuvenation amidst the city’s vibrancy. So, surrender to the allure of these sanctuaries and embrace the opportunity to revitalize your body, mind, and spirit in the heart of this dynamic metropolis.



As your layover in Shanghai draws to a close, you’ve undoubtedly experienced a whirlwind of captivating adventures, cultural immersion, and unforgettable moments. From exploring iconic landmarks such as the Bund and Yu Garden to savoring the city’s diverse culinary offerings and indulging in moments of relaxation, your brief sojourn in this dynamic metropolis has left an indelible imprint on your travel narrative.


Shanghai, with its seamless blend of tradition and modernity, has offered you a glimpse into the heart of China’s vibrant identity. The city’s architectural marvels, rich culinary heritage, and serene oases have collectively woven a tapestry of experiences that embody the essence of Shanghai’s allure.


As you prepare to continue your journey, carry with you the memories of Shanghai’s illuminated skyline, the tantalizing flavors of its cuisine, and the tranquility of its gardens and spas. Reflect on the harmonious coexistence of tradition and innovation that defines this remarkable city, and cherish the moments of connection and discovery that have enriched your layover experience.


Whether you’ve marveled at the city from the heights of the Shanghai Tower or found solace in the serenity of a traditional Chinese garden, Shanghai has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on your travel story. As you bid farewell to this captivating metropolis, carry with you the spirit of Shanghai—the spirit of resilience, creativity, and boundless possibility.


So, as you embark on the next leg of your journey, remember that your layover in Shanghai was not just a pause in your travels—it was an invitation to immerse yourself in a world of contrasts, to savor the essence of a city that pulsates with life, and to embrace the beauty of a fleeting encounter that has left an enduring impression on your wanderlust soul.