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Beijing VS Shanghai, Which is Your Pick for Visiting

If you travel to China for the first time but with only few days, you may have questions about choosing which city to visit and how to arrange your limited time in China. Beijing or Shanghai, which is worthy of being visited. To give you an easy and clear reading, I make a sharp contrast and introduction between Beijing and Shanghai as following.

Beijing & Shanghai Contrast

  Beijing Shanghai
Status Capital of China, Policital Hub, First-tier City Business Center, First-tier City
Tour days 3-7 Days 3 Days
Best places Forbidden City, Mutianyu Great Wall, Tian'anmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Hutong the Bund, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Disneyland, Yuyuan Garden, Zhujiajiao
Garden Imperial garden- Summer Palace Private garden- Yuyuan Garden
Things to do Visit Forbidden City, climb up the Great Wall, take a rickshaw tour in Hutong, watch Kong Fu Show or Peking Opera, Great Wall Hiking Visit Yuyuan Garden, cityview in Oriental Pearl TV Tower, take a Huangpu River Cruise, watch Shanghai Acrobatic Show, visit Zhujiajiao Water Town
Excursion All sections of Great Wall (Gubeikou Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall and Jiankou Great Wall) Zhujiajiao Water Town, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Huangshan
Cuisine Beijing Instant-boiled Mutton, Peking Roast Duck, Noodles with Soybean Paste Fried Bun, Crab Shell Pie, Pork Chop, Wonton, Soup Dumpling
Food street Wangfujing food street, Yandai Xiejie Chenghuangmiao old street
Shopping  Wangfujing, Sanlitun Nanjing road
Cruise Boat cruise in Kumning Lake of Summer Palace Boat cruise in Huangpu River or Zhujiajiao Water Town
Show Kong Fu Show, Peking Opera Shanghai Acrobatic Show
Old street Hutong Longtang
Old residential building Courtyard(Siheyuan) Stone Gate (Shikumen)
144-hour visa free transit covering Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province covering Shanghai, Jiangsu province and Zhejiang province


Why Choose Beijing:

  • A city full of traditional Chinese characteristics;
  • Representative of Chinese culture and history ;
  • Experiencing the world wonder- Great Wall's beauty ;
  • Antiques shopping paradise for antiques collectors;
  • Low budget and few days, please click our 5 Days Beijing Budget Tour.

beijing hutong

( Above picture/ Beijing hutong)

Why Choose Shanghai:

  • Modern China characteristics;
  • Beautiful cityscape and night view;
  • Shanghai Disneyland is tailor-made for family trip;
  • Shopping paradise for electronic devices;
  • Convenient excursions with nearby cities like Hangzhou, Suzhou and Huangshan

Shanghai Xintiandi
(Above picture/ Shanghai Xintiandi)

Beijing Flights VS Shanghai Flights

Where is Beijing & Where is Shanghai, and the following map tells you.

map of Beijing and Shanghai
Click here to enlarge China City Map in English

Beijing flights: International flights to Beijing all land in Beijng Capital International Airport (PEK). Beijing is the capital of China and one of the biggest entry cities in China. Most  international cities have international flights to Beijing.

Shanghai flights: International flights to Shanghai land in Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA). Shanghai is the business center in China, and also one of the biggest entry cities in China which has regular internaional flights to most cities in the world.

Beijing VS Shanghai:Beijing has More Places to Visit

temple of heaven
(Above picture/ Temple of Heaven)

Best places in Beijing. Beijing are rich in tourist attractions. Best places in Beijing and must-visit attractions in Beijing are Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Yonghe Palace(Lama Temple), Panda House and Beijing hutong(Nanluo Guxiang & Yandai Xiejie), others are also recommended, like Houhai Lake, Jingshan Park, Beijing Bell & Drum Towers, Bird Nest, Water Cube. Many of them are UNESCO World Heritage sites, famous in the world. Beijing has 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites : Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, the Grand Canal, Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and Peking Man Site at Zhoukoudian.

enlightenedMore Readings: Beijing Attractions

the bund
(Above picture/ The Bund)

Best places in Shanghai. For best places in Shanghai, those on the list are Yuyuan Garden, the Bund, Jade Buddha Temple, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Nanjing Road, Huangpu River cruise, Shanghai Disneyland . Others are also recommended by Top China Travel, like Shanghai Museum, City God Temple, Zhujiajiao Ancient Town, Xintiandi, and Tianzifang.

enlightenedMore Readings: Shanghai Attractions

Beijing Weather VS Shanghai Weather, Best Time to Visit 

Beijing is located in northern China, hot in summer, cold in winter. It snows a lot in winter.

Best time to visit Beijing: April to November, September and October would be a perfect visiting time.

Beijing Weather from January to December

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Shanghai is located in southern China, hot and wet in summer, cold in winter, and it snows a little in winter.

Best time to visit Shanghai: April to November

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Beijing VS Shanghai: Beijing Is Worth Visiting Longer

► How many days to stay in Beijing? Beijing has a lot of attractions that are worth visiting, thus TCT suggests you to spend 3-7 days to stay in Beijing. 5-6 days tour that covers Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Jingshan Park, Temple of Heaven, Mutianyu Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Bird Nest, Water Cube, Summer Palace, Beijing Hutong, Yonghe Palace(Lama Temple), and Panda House. 2 days for Great Wall Trekking, and you may know that Great Wall has several sections, which are most tourists’ pick for hiking in Beijing.

Most Popular Beijing Tour Recommended

► How many days to stay in Shanghai? Shanghai has less attractions than Beijing, 3 days are enough for a Shanghai tour. 3 days could cover Yuyuan Garden, Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai Museum, the Bund, Oriental Pearl Tower, night cruise on Huangpu River, Shanghai Disneyland , Zhujiajiao Ancient  WaterTown. For Shanghai excursions, tourists could extend your tour to Suzhou for Humble Administrator’s Garden and Tongli Water Town, or 1-day tour to Hangzhou for West Lake, and 2-3 days to Huangshan.


Beijing VS Shanghai: Things to Do

Things to do in Beijing

Mutianyu Great Wall
(Above picture/ Mutianyu Great Wall)

  • Visit best places in Beijing, especially the Forbidden City
  • Climb up the Great Wall, Great Wall trekking
  • See panda at Panda House, Beijing Zoo
  • Stroll in Beijing hutongs, have hutong rickshaw and hutong bike tour
  • Take Boat cruise on Kunming Lake in Summer Palace
  • Eat Beijing food in Wangfujing Street, especially Beijing Instant-boiled Mutton, Peking Roast Duck and Noodles with Soybean Paste.
  • Watch Kongfu Show at Red Theatre or Peking Opera

enlightenedMore Readings:

      Beijing Activities
      Top 10 Things to do in Beijing

► Things to do in Shanghai

Shanghai diseyland park
(Above picture/ Shanghai Disneyland Park )

  • Visit Shanghai best places and Shanghai landmarks : Yuyuan Garden and the Bund are highly recommended
  • Visit China water towns, like Zhujiajiao Ancient Town in Shanghai, Tongli Water Town in Suzhou
  • Have a great activity day in Shanghai Disneyland
  • Watch acrobatics show in Shanghai Centre Theatre
  • Eat Shanghai food and go shopping in Nanjing Road
  • Have a bird’s view of Shanghai in Oriental Pearl TV Tower
  • Take boat cruise on Huangpu River, see night scenery of the Bund and Lujiazui

enlightenedMore Readings: Shanghai Activities

Beijing VS Shanghai: Beijing Owns More Chinese Cultural Characteristics

► Chinese Cultural Characteristics in Beijing : historical and cultural sites, courtyard and Beijing hutong, Beijing style food, Kong Fu Show, Peking opera.

Summer Palace
(Above picture/ Summer Palace )

Beijing is an ancient city which has been the capital and national center of China for a long time in history, with many historical and cultural sites, such as Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and Lama Temple etc.  Another representative of Beijing Culture in residential is the courtyard(Siheyuan) and Beijing hutong. Courtyard is the name of ancient residential buildings in Beijing, and hutong is referred to alley or lane in residential areas.

Beijing is a northern city, with northern eating habbits. Local people like to eat dumplings and noodles. The Noodles with Soybean Paste is one of the specialty of Beijing. Tourists must have a try when travel to Beijing. In Beijing streets, you could see lots of Beijing local food and snacks, like Dou zhi.

► Chinese Cultural Characteristics in Shanghai : private garden, water town, high-rise buildings, shopping paradise.

Yuyuan Garden
(Above picture/ Yuyuan Garden )

Shanghai is vigorous and diverse modern city which has built its reputation as a business center of China. Private Yuyuan Garden and various of water town are two big parts of Shanghai culture and also Jiangnan culture. The famous Yuyuan Garden once was belonged to the rich  built with Jiangnan style. Water town is made due to its landscape, especially in Jiangnan area. Shikumen is old Shanghai residential buildings, and Longtang is referred to old alleys in shikumen buildings.

As a modern city, Shanghai welcomes fashion from all over the world, which also makes it a shopping paradise, and are inclined to construct high-rise buildings and big shopping malls. In the Bund, tourists could see the prosperity of Shanghai from those giant-like buildings standing in Lujiazui. People could buy fashionable and expansive things, and also cheap things in Shanghai, since shanghai has been one of the biggest export and import cities.

Shanghai is a southern city and a part of Jiangnan area, and local people love sweet-tasted food, and exquisite desserts. Fried Bun, Crab Shell Pie, Pork Chop, Wonton and Soup Dumpling are popular snacks in Shanghai.

Beijing VS Shanghai: Shanghai Has More Famous Skyscrapers  

CCTV Tower
(Above picture/ CCTV Tower)

Beijing Cityscape & Landmark. In Beijing, modern buildings famous for outstanding looks are Beijing National Stadium(or the Bird’s Nest), Beijing National Aquatics Center(or the Water Cube), CCTV Headquarters, National Center for the Performing Arts, and China Zun. The Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube were built for 2008 Summer Olympic Games, China Zun is a high-rise building for office in Beijing CBD. These buildings have amazing exteriors, shining in night, perfect for shooting, and tourists could visit these cool buildings, and take great pictures.

Oriental Pearl Tower
(Above picture/ Orienta Pearl Tower )

Shanghai Cityscape & Landmark. Landmarks in Shanghai are Historical Buildings of the Bund, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Financial Center, and Shanghai Jin Mao Tower. Historical Buildings of the Bund were built in the 19th century by foreigners in China at that time, with foreign architecture styles. Oriental  Pearl TV Tower is a TV tower for Shanghai TV, together with Shanghai Financial Center and Jin Mao Tower, it has transparent skywalk for tourists to have a bird’s view of Shanghai, and also has famous restaurants and recreations for tourist and visitors.

Beijing VS Shanghai: Convenient Public Transportations

When refers to nearby cities excursions, both Beijing and Shanghai  have convenient transportations connecting: metro lines, public bus lines, bus lines, flights and high speed trains.

Beijing Trade Center
(Above picture/ Beijing Trade Center)

Beijing Public Transportations. Beijing is about 16,000 square kilometers, with extensive metro lines and public bus lines. Around 20 metro lines could bring tourists reach to the famous sightseeing sites in Beijing, compared with public bus, it costs a bit more.  Except for flights, the high speed trains are also well-developed in China recent years. Beijing has the high speed trains to most of the cities in China which is faster and more comfortable than ordinary trains.

the Bund

(Above picture/ The Bund & Huangpu River)

Shanghai Public Transportations. Shanghai is around 6,340 square kilometers, covered by busy metro lines and public bus lines. Tourists could take metro or bus to every places in Shanghai, and metro is our first recommendation. Shanghai ports, airports, and railway stations are also available if you want to go to any other cities in China. From Shanghai to Suzhou or Hangzhou, it only takes you 1 hour for the high speed train.

Beijing VS Shanghai:  144-hour Visa Free Transit

Bothe Beijing and Shanghai have the 144-hour visa free transit policy with different covered areas. The 144-hour Visa Free Transit is applied for foreigners who transit to the third country or region, and the origin and destination must be different. After the border inspection agency free issues temporary entry permits for passengers, they can stay visa-free for 144 hours in the designated administrative areas, the visa-free hours is counted from 0:00 on the next day of entry.

Beijing Capital International Airport
(Above picture/ Beijing Capital International Airport)

Beijing 144-hour visa free transit policy. It is available to citizens from 53 countries, in the case that they have a connecting international ticket flying to the third country within 144 hours. Those tourists coming from any these ports, Beijing railway station, Beijing airport, Tianjin airport, Tianjin port and Shijiazhuang airport, could stay 144 hours in Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei province.

Shanghai Pudong International Airport
(Above picture/ Shanghai Pudong International Airport)

Shanghai 144-hour visa free transit policy. Shanghai has implemented the policy to citizens from 53 countries. Those people could stay 6 days in Shanghai, Jiangsu province, and Zhejiang province in the case that they have transit flights in any of these ports, Shanghai Pudong International Airport, Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport, Shanghai Railway Station, the Port of Shanghai, Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal, Nanjing Lukou International Airport, Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport.

From the above comparison, I believe you must have a general idea about Beijing and Shanghai, and could decide which city to visit for your China tour. In fact , both Beijng and Shanghai are two gorgeous cities that are popular among tourists, if your time permits, TCT would highly recommend you to visit both cities and to choose a 6 DAYS BEIJING AND SHANGHAI TOUR.

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