China in a glimpse – One week travel itinerary
Day 1 – Traveling to Shanghai
If you will reach Shanghai in the morning or early afternoon, you might want to overcome the jet lag, with staying up until the evening. If nothing else, traditional Chinese foot massage will do you good. Chinese are masters in reflexology.
If you will be landing at the Pudong international airport you can reach the downtown by the underground line L2 or you can treat yourself with the bullet train Maglev. Reaching the speed up to 431 km/h, is indeed a spectacular experience for many. The cheaper, but also much longer option is taking the underground train, but if you still want to try the bullet train (not the Maglev though), you will be able to do this later if you follow our travel itinerary.
Hotel recommendation: If you are really not on a tight budget, I would recommend you to find a hotel around the Bund area and close to a metro station. This will make exploring Shanghai much easier. We stayed at the SSAW Boutique Hotel Shanghai, which has a perfect location, great breakfast, including with European food, spacious rooms, and friendly, informative staff.
Day 2 – Shanghai
You will have the complete day to experience some of the best things in Shanghai. Make sure to visit the gorgeous Yuyu gardens and the surrounding bazaar. If you want to avoid the crowds, be at the entrance as soon as they open. The bazaar area is also a good place to find traditional Chinese lunch – there are many good and low budget restaurants.
One of the must things to do in Shanghai is takin a walk along the Bund. It is recommended to visit the area during the day and evening/night.
Shanghai is a great place for many museums too and is up to you which one will you visit. There are so many, you can be busy for days. We loved the Natural History museum.
Overnight in the hotel SSAW Botique Hotel Shanghai.
Day 3 – Suzhou
Check out from the hotel and take the bullet train to Suzhou after breakfast. You will need around 30 minutes by train to reach the city. You can buy the train ticket at the spot, but if you are traveling in high season and for holidays or just don’t have time to spend waiting for the free train, make sure to book the tickets up-front and get them an hour before the departure at the cashier.
The city of Suzhou has two train stations so note you need to have the tickets for the Suzhou station and not for Suzhou North. The train will take you all the way to the big market, where you will already be amazed by the grand ancient fortification wall, which protected Suzhou in the past.
Head straight to your hotel, which should be somewhere around Guan Qiam pedestrian zone and after check-in, start to explore the city. If you don’t have any obstacles, wandering around the city on foot is always interesting. Visit the beautiful Taoist temple Xuanmiao, admire all the water canals and relax at the most famous Administrative garden, which is the largest in the city. Close to the Administrative garden you can also find the city museum, where ancient art work and handcrafts are on display and very interesting to see. The city museum is free of charge.
Enjoy your lunch in some of its many restaurants along the water canals. In fact, Suzhou is known as the East Venice due to its many water canals.
You might be tired from all day sightseeing, but make sure to find some extra energy for the evening walk too. The evening vibes at pedestrian zone Guan Qiam are definitely worth your while. You can also indulge yourself there with a traditional dinner.
Hotel recommendation: Hotel Soul Suzhou will be one of the best choices, as it is just steps away from the pedestrian zone Guam Qiam. The rooms are large, the breakfast is tasty and the location is great to explore the city too.
Day 4 – Suzhou
You have one more day to enjoy in one of the most important tourist cities in China, so take your time to really get to know it, without being in a hurry. It is time to find out more about the silk production, so head straight to the Silk museum, which is beautifully done and also completely free of charge. Did you know that Suzhou was the only city in the world, producing silk for centuries?
Just across the street from the Silk museum stands amazing Beisi pagoda – very impressive indeed. It is 76 meters high and you will see it already from a far.
Continue your day with visiting another garden – Master of Nets, which is a little less popular than the Administrative garden and is special mostly because of its Feng shui philosophy and also because it is under Unesco World Heritage Protection.
You could visit all these tourist attractions in Suzhou in a day, but you would need to be in a hurry, so that is why I would suggest you to really spend two days in the city. I found Suzhou much more pleasant to explore than Shanghai – and much cheaper too.
Overnight in the hotel Soul Suzhou.
Day 5 – Zhouzhuang
Start your day with a breakfast and then check-out from the hotel. Take the bus or a taxi to one of the most authentic water towns in China – to Zhouzhung. If you enjoyed the water canals in Suzhou, you will fall deeply in love with the water canals in Zhouzhuang. The town Zhouzhuang was my personal highlight on this one week travel around China.
The town is small, but it gets many daily visitors and that is exactly why it is best to stay here overnight and get to know the place from a totally different perspective. An evening walk along the canals, lightened with numerous lights, make the area so special and magical.
Hotel recommendation: A small, boutique Zhouzhuangsu Showyear Hotel can be find on the outskirts of the entrance to the old town. The location is great, as everything is close by. The traditional Chinese breakfast is included in the room rate.
Day 6 – Shanghai
You can reach Shanghai either taking a direct bus to Shanghai or travel back to Suzhou, where you continue your trip by the bullet train back to Shanghai. The second option might sound a bit tricky and more time consuming, but it is actually faster and also more comfortable.
As you have already found out, there are many great things to do in Shanghai, so an extra day you will spend here is sure a good news. If nothing else, you can use your last day in Shanghai for shopping. The city is perfect for it no matter if you are into genuine luxurious brands or their fakes.
Overnight in the SSAW Botique Hotel Shanghai
Day 7 – Departing home
Visiting China for one week only definitely is short, but I am sure it will be very sweet and interesting – also to see its different faces – from modern to traditional without needed to travel all around the country.
Traveling to China is for sure much more interesting if you have more time to spend in the country, but if you can get a bargain (error) flight fare, have a longer layout in Shanghai or maybe are visiting Shanghai because of a business trip, taking some time, even if it is just a week, will sure be worth your while.