Best Shanghai day trips

Best Shanghai day trips

Ultimate xiaolongbao tour, China's top sex museum or a search of your inner Zen -- all can be done within a day from Shanghai downtown

After touring Shanghai's downtown for a few days, everyone needs a break from the car horns, jackhammer drills and blasting TV screens on public transport.

With the upcoming Lunar New Year rush, retreating into nearby suburbs and lazy water towns become a convenient way to gain inner peace.

And here are five of the best Shanghai day trips.

Best Shanghai day tripsWe dare you to take a basket of xiaolongbao from the bottom.

Shanghai day trip 1: Nanxiang

The home of xiaolongbao is just an hour away from downtown Shanghai.

According to legend, the owner of a cake shop decided to experiment with the popular steamed bread he sold in the nearby Guyi Gardens in 1871. 

The result is what we know today as the delicate, pleated dumpling with the delectable soupy interior. 

Start your tour with xiaolongbao's original home, the Guyi Garden Restaurant, where they still dish out steaming dumplings by the dozen.

If you’re still craving another soupy dumpling, wander around the corner to Gulong. At this 100-year-old shop, you can watch women crafting the dumplings by hand.

Afterward, work off all that dough with a stroll through the flower-filled Guyi Garden (entrance RMB 12). 

How to get there: Take Metro Line 11 to Nanxiang Station. Just outside the metro station, take bus No. 2 to the first stop, which pulls over right outside the garden. Or, take a RMB-14 taxi ride from the metro station.

More on CNNGo: Best xiaolongbao restaurants in Shanghai

Guyi Garden Restaurant (古猗园餐厅), 218 Huyi Gong Lu, near Guyiyuan Nan Lu 沪宜公路218号, 近古猗园南路, +86 21 5912 1335, 8 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

Guyi Garden (古漪园), 218 Huyi Gong Lu, near Guyiyuan Nan Lu 沪宜公路218号, 近古猗园南路, +86 21 5912 56597 a.m.-6 p.m. (north gate); 6 a.m.-5 p.m. (south gate), www.guyigarden.com

Gulong Restaurant (古龙饭庄), 220 Guyiyuan Lu, near Minzhu Jie 古猗园路220号, 近民主街, + 86 21 5917 6809, 9 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Best Shanghai day tripsYes, this photo has been strategically cropped.

Shanghai day trip 2: Tongli

Tongli is like any other water town surrounding Shanghai with one big exception -- it’s the home of the Museum of Ancient Chinese Sex Culture (entrance RMB 20).

The 7,000-square-meter museum displays the collection of Shanghainese professor and sociologist Liu Dalin (刘达临) and is set on the grounds of a former girls' school with manicured gardens -- a perfect place to showcase its outrageously phallic sculptures.

Inside the halls, captions in English and Chinese offer some historical context on more than 1,000 pieces of pottery, artwork and, uh, handheld devices.

The oldest exhibits date back 8,000 years. 

Combine a visit to the museum with a stroll through the Old Town’s (entrance RMB 80) canal-laced streets where locals fish with cormorants and wash their clothes in the waterways.

How to get there: Tour buses leave daily at 8:30 a.m. from the Shanghai Tourist Distribution Center at Shanghai Stadium for RMB 130 round-trip. The trip takes 90 minutes each way and returns in the late afternoon. Alternatively, take a train to Suzhou and then a local bus into Tongli.

More on CNNGo: 8 strangest Shanghai museums

Museum of Ancient Chinese Sex Culture 中国古代性文化博物馆, no address, follow the signs inside Tongli Old Town, admission: RMB20, 7:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m.; Tongli Tourism Bureau, +86 512 6333 1140

Shanghai Tourist Distribution Center, 666 Tianyaoqiao Lu, under the No. 5 platform of Shanghai Stadium 天钥桥路666号, 上海体育场5号扶梯下, 6:30 a.m.-7 p.m., +86 21 6426 5555, www.chinassbc.com 

Best Shanghai day tripsGet out of the city for the day, and bring home dinner.

Shanghai day trip 3: Chongming Island

In Shanghai, a large number of taxi drivers hail from Chongming and they always say the air is cleaner in their nearby island home. We tend to agree with them.

At Dongtan National Nature Reserve, peruse the park from boardwalks suspended over the wetlands. Watch as locals try to catch the tiny crabs scurrying around the salt water marshes, and keep your eyes open for migrating birds.

Afterward, Dongping National Forest Park is a great place to rent a bike and cruise through the plentiful, flat paths that trace through the trees. Once you get out of the main walking areas, the crowds disappear. Bring a lunch and stop in one of the gazebos to refuel.

How to get there: Ferries depart daily from Baoyang Port (宝杨路码头) in Baoshan District. Sightseeing buses run directly from Shanghai Tourist Distribution Center every Saturday and Sunday for RMB 120 round trip.

Or, take bus Shen Chong (申崇一线) from Shanghai North Long Distance Bus Station and head directly to Chongming Island for RMB 12. From Nanmen town, you can navigate time-consuming local bus lines or hire a taxi to drive you around the island.

More on CNNGo: 5 best nature getaways on Chongming Island

Dongtan Wetland Park (东滩湿地公园), Dongwang Lu, Dongtan, next to a windmill 崇明东滩东旺路, 风车旁, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., +86 21 3936 7000, www.dongtanshidi.com  

Dongping Forest Park (东平国家森林公园), Beiyan Gong Lu, between Jianshe Lu and Panlong Lu 北沿公路, 建设路蟠龙路间, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., +86 21 5933 8028, www.dpslpark.com   

Best Shanghai day tripsFor whom the bell tolls in Songjiang.

Shanghai day trip 4: Songjiang

Shanghai's southwestern suburb is home to the city’s oldest mosque as well as a Buddhist temple and pagoda.

Start your spiritual day trip with a visit to the 14th-century Songjiang Mosque.

Wander past gravestones inscribed in Arabic and Chinese and darkened prayer halls where you’ll find local Muslims quietly worshiping. 

It’s nice to rest in the shade of a traditional landscape garden and savor the solitude.

Afterward, take a short walk up the street to the Xinlin pagoda and Buddhist temple, originally built 700 years ago.

If you’re feeling a little too Zen after those two visits, ramp up your energy with a trip to the nearby Shanghai Film Studios or Thames Town.

How to get there: Take the Metro Line 9 to Songjiang Xincheng Station (松江新城站). From there, find a forest green taxi to take you to the mosque and temple, just a quick ride away.

More on CNNGo: Finding your Z-spot in Shanghai

Songjiang Mosque (松江清真寺), 21 Gangbeng Xiang, near Huating Laojie 缸甏巷21号, 近华亭老街, +86 21 5782 3684, admission: RMB 6, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (last entry at 4 p.m.)

Xilin Pagoda (西林塔), Zhongshan Zhong Lu, near Xilin Bei Lu 中山中路, 近西林北路, +86 21 5781 3454, admission: RMB 10, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Best Shanghai day tripsYour hike in Sheshan might just turn into a religious experience.

Shanghai day trip 5: Sheshan

A mountain can do wonders for escaping the city’s smog.

Start your day with a quiet moment in the grandiose Sheshan Basilica, a towering structure marking the top of the hill. 

This granite church was completed in 1935, and serves as a pilgrimage destination for Catholics every May.

Afterward, check out Shanghai Sculpture Park, where dozens of artworks are scattered around a man-made lake.

Conclude your day on the mountain with a relaxing dinner at Le Méridien She Shan. During the summer months, you can enjoy a bonfire, barbecue, and thatched huts overlooking the lakes and parkland.

How to get there: Take Metro Line 9 to Sheshan Station (佘山站), then walk 30 minutes to the mountain’s sites. Or take a RMB 14 cab ride directly from the metro station.

More on CNNGo: Shanghai church tour

Shanghai Sculpture Park, 1158 Linyin Xin Lu 林荫新路1158号, +86 21 5779 8090, admission: RMB 120, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Le Méridien She Shan, 1288 Linyin Xin Lu 林荫新路1288号, +86 21 5779 9999, www.starwoodhotels.com

Sheshan Basilica (佘山天主教堂), +86 21 5765 1521, 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Schmitt is a Shanghai-based writer.
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