Being one of the most populated cities in the world, its nice to get away from the towering neon buildings for a day. Here are the best day trips from Shanghai.

Hangzhou:

Home to picture perfect West Lake, where pagodas and temples dot the surrounding hillsides creating panoramic views whichever way you look. Just a 45 minute train ride from Shanghai’s Hongqiao railway station makes this an ideal day trip if you don’t have enough time to spend a few days here. The train station is connected to the metro station so getting in and out of the city is easy. Obviously the highlight of this city is West Lake.

West Lake has been applauded by emperors for centuries and always seems to be the muse of a poet. You can spend a whole day wondering around West Lake, stop to take a breather at one of the many benches along the waterside, listen to the music of a local jamming out on their saxophone, or take a boat tour to see the lake from the inside out.

There are many boat operators and tours you can take to explore the lake. We chose the small/private boat tour that costs 150 RMB for one hour. We did not notice at the time that this small boat did NOT have a motor and there was only one paddle. Our “driver” wasn’t the most go getter of a guide so we didn’t get very far or go very fast. I would recommend getting on the larger boat to be able to see more of the lake and its half the price.

Venture up to the Leifeng Pagoda to get the best panoramic views of the city. If you’re into gardens check out the Hangzhou Botanical Garden. And if walking around the lake wasn’t enough of a workout, hike up Baoshi Shan to get a view of West Lake. You’ll get to pass by a temple on the way up and the paths are well kept. *Shan means mountain in Chinese so know you’ll be in for a hike.

I stayed on Zhongshan Zhonglu Street which was fairly busy during the day but really came alive at night. Come hungry and get adventurous. You can try anything from fresh juices and teas to basically anything on a stick, like squid, soft-shelled crab, and scorpion.

Accommodation Recommendations:

Budget

  • Hangzhou Pupu HomestayExcellent location to enjoy tea plantations, temples, and West Lake. Also located close to the bus line. Clean, modern, and a nice garden area to relax in after a day of exploring Hangzhou. Rooms start at $50 a night.

Mid Range

  • Tea Boutique Hotel West Lake Located close to West Lake, this hotel is tastefully decorated and has new furnishings. Great if you’re looking for tranquility next to West Lake. Rooms start at $90 a night.

Luxury

  • Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West LakeMore of a resort than a hotel, the Four Seasons in Hangzhou is located next to West Lake. Surrounded by traditional Chinese Gardens, you won’t want to leave the hotel once you arrive. A fitness center, world class spa, and an infinity pool is just icing on the cake. Rooms start at $530 a night.

Check for more hotel options here.

Qinghefang Old Street at the south end of Zhongshan Street will have unique and original gifts for you to take home. Items ranging from silk, local teas, silver and more. You’ll walk under the bell tower to get between streets which looks awesome all lit up at night.

Suzhou:

Known for its canals and gardens, it has been dubbed “Venice of the East”. A short 26 minute train ride from Shanghai. The G line trains are the most efficient. There are buses that take you into the town or catching a cab isn’t hard as the train station is close to the town.

I stayed on the lively street of Pinjiang. Stroll along the canal and pop into one of the trendy cafes, including a cat cafe! I had one of the BEST milkshakes of my life here!

Accommodation Recommendations:

Budget

  • Hotel SoulLocated walking distance to Guan Qian Street. Large rooms, rooftop garden, fitness center and close to the subway. Rooms start at $50 a night.

Mid Range

  • Pan Pacific SuzhouThis hotel looks like a mini Forbidden City from the outside. The rooms are surrounding by oriental gardens and has tradition Chinese decor. If you’re looking for budget luxury, look no further. Rooms start at $80 a night.
  • Garden Hotel SuzhouGreat location. Located in the middle of old town. The hotel has a swimming pool, spa, and fitness center. Located within 35 minutes by car to both railway stations. Rooms start at $90 a night.

Luxury

  • Suzhou Marriot Hotel – Comfortable and clean rooms. Hotel is equipped with a swimming pool, sauna, and a gym. Has killer views of Suzhou city and a great breakfast. Prices start at $137 a night.

Search for hotels yourself here.

Take a riverboat tour to view the grand canal and visit one of the gardens, there are many to choose from the options are endless. We unfortunately were only here for a half a day and had to chose so we chose the canals over the gardens but I’ve heard only great things about the gardens (although be warned they are crowded.) And if you’re into museums check out the Suzhou Museum or the Suzhou Are Museum and you guessed it they’re FREE!


If you have more time, I would spend more than a day trip on these towns as they’re worth it! Follow me @imjess_traveling to see my explorations throughout China and the world.