Beijing VS Shanghai, Which is Your Pick for Visiting

For tourists coming to China for the first time, with only several days, you must have run into problems in choosing cities to visit and arranging itinerary. Here i would like to answer one of the most asked questions, Beijing or Shanghai, which is better visit. For your easy and clear reading, i make a sharp contrast table about Beijing and Shanghai, and a detailed introduction following the table.

Table for Beijing VS Shanghai

  Beijing Shanghai
status capital of China, policital hub, first tier city business center, first tier city
tour days 3-7 days 3 days
cityscape/best places Forbidden City, Great Wall, Tianmen Square, Temple of Heaven the Bund, Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai Disneyland, Yuyuan Garden
garden imperial garden/ Summer Palace private garden/ Yuyuan Garden
things to do visit Forbidden City, climb Great Wall, take rickshaw in hutong, boat cruise, watch show visit Yuyuan Garden, cityview in Oriental Pearl Tower, boat cruise, watch show
excursion Mutianyu Great Wall, all sections of Great Wall, Tianjin Zhujiajiao Water Town, Suzhou, Hangzhou
cuisine Beijing hot pot, Peking duck, zha jiang mian drunken crab, xiao long bao, sheng Jian
food street Wangfujing food street, Yandai Xiejie Chenghuangmiao old street
shopping  Wangfujing, Sanlitun Nanjing road
cruise boat cruise in Kumning Lake,  Summer Palace boat cruise in Huangpu River
show Kong Fu Show Shanghai Acrobats
old street Hutong Long Tang
old residential building courtyard/ Siheyuan Shikumen
144-hour visa free transit covering Beijing, Tianjin, and Hebei province covering Shanghai, Jiangsu province and Zhejiang province


Choose Beijing over Shanghai:

  • Looking forward to a city full of Chinese things.
  • If you are interested in China history and culture, please pick Beijing over Shanghai.
  • If you are a hiker, Great Wall in Beijing won't never let you down, cause it has several sections of Great Wall.
  • If you want to buy Chinese antiques, Beijing with sevearl antique streets, has more choices for you.
  • If you have 5 days and want to cut down trip expenditure, we have a 5 DAYS BEIJING BUDGET TOUR.
  • If you want to have a winter vacation, Beijing has snow scenery and skiing.

beijing hutong

( Above picture/ Beijing hutong)

Choose Shanghai over Beijing:

  • Looking forward to a city full of western things, Shanghai is more western  than Beijing.
  • Want to see MODERN CHINA, want to see beautiful cityscape and night view, please go to Shanghai.
  • If you are having a family trip, or want to have fun, Shanghai Disneyland is tailor-made to you.
  • If you are a buyer for electronic devices or want to go to wholesale market, Shanghai would be your perfect destination.
  • If you are insterested natural landscape,  you could have  packages of Shanghai + Hangzhou, or Shanghai+ Huangshan.
  • Shanghai excursion:  5 Days Shanghai and Hangzhou Tour7 Days Tour from Shanghai to 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. Beijing is the capital of China, and one of the biggest entry cities in China, and one of the frequently used entry cities to tourists, most big international cities have international flights to Beijing.

Shanghai flights: international flights to Shanghai land in Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport. Shanghai is the business center in China, and also one of the biggest entry cities. Shanghai 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, and best places in Beijing, also 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, and they are 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 Tower, Nanjing Road, Huangpu River cruise, Shanghai Disneyland Park. Others are also recommended by us, like Shanghai Museum, City God Temple, Zhujiajiao Ancient Town, Xintiandi, and Tianzifang.

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Beijing Weather VS Shanghai Weather, Best Time to Visit 

Beijing is a big city in northern China, hot in summer, and frigid in winter, and 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 a southern city in China, hot and wet in summer, cold in winter, and it snows a little in winter.

Best time to visit Shanghai: April to November

Shanghai Weather from January to December

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Beijing VS Shanghai: Beijing Is Worth Visiting Longer

► How many days to stay in Beijing? Beijing has a lot attractions for tourists and visitors, thus I suggest 3-7 days to visit Beijing. 5-6 days cover 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.

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


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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 Forbidden City
  • Climb 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 Peking Duck, Beijing hot pot and Zha Jiang Mian
  • Watch Kongfu Show at Red Theatre

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 Park
  • 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 Tower
  • Take boat cruise on Huangpu River, see night scenery of the Bund and Lujiazui

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Beijing VS Shanghai: Beijing Is More of China Than Shanghai in Culture

Representatives of Beijing Culture: historical and cultural sites, courtyard and Beijing hutong, Beijing style food, Peking opera.

Summer Palace
(Above picture/ Summer Palace )

Beijing is an ancient city, and has been capital and national center for a long time in history, with many historical and cultural sites, such as imperial palace, garden, temple and mausoleum. Another representative of Beijing Culture in residential is courtyard 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 style, and local people like to eat jiao zi and noodles, Beijing Zha Jiang Mian shouldn’t be missed by eaters. In Beijing streets, you could see lots of Beijing local food and snacks, like dou zhi.

Representatives of Shanghai Culture: private garden, water town, high-rise buildings, shopping paradise.

Yuyuan Garden
(Above picture/ Yuyuan Garden )

Shanghai is vigorous and diverse modern city, and has built its name as a business center of China. Private garden and water town are big parts of Shanghai culture and also Jiangnan culture. Private garden belonged to the rich and was built with Jiangnan style. Water town is made due to its landscape, especially in Jiangnan area. While shikumen is its old residential buildings, and Long Tang 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 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. Xiao Long Bao and Sheng Jian are two 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 Tower, Shanghai Tower, Shanghai Financial Center, and Shanghai Jin Mao Tower. Historical Buildings of the Bund were built in the 19th century for foreigners in China at that time, with foreign architecture styles. Oriental  Pearl 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: Both of Them are Convenient to Getting around

In getting around, Beijing and Shanghai are almost the same, they have convenient transport and busy metro lines, public bus lines and bus lines.

Beijing Trade Center
(Above picture/ Beijing Trade Center)

Getting around in Beijing. Beijing is about 16,000 square kilometers, with extensive metro lines and public bus lines. Around 20 metro lines would bring tourists to most places in Beijing, with a contrast with public bus, it has a bit higher fare. Beijing airports and railway stations have busy lines to almost everywhere in China.

the Bund

(Above picture/ The Bund & Huangpu River)

Getting around in Shanghai. 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 available if you want to go to any other cities in China. From Shanghai to Suzhou or Hangzhou, high speed train only takes 1 hour.

Beijing VS Shanghai: They have 144-hour Visa Free Transit

Beijing and Shanghai both have the 144-hour visa free transit policy, and their difference lies in covered areas.

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 China tour in the case you only have several days. In fact Beijng and Shanghai are two gorgeous cities, and attractive to tourists, if you have much time or another China tour, i highly recommend you visit both cities.


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Shanghai VS Hong Kong, Which Would You Like to Visit

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Top Reasons to Visit Beijing

Top Reasons to Visit Shanghai

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