My younger sister is an actor and was coming up to the end of her contract on a touring show that had taken her all over the US for about 9 months – such a fun job! Of course, constantly being with other people had taken its toll on her introvert heart, and she desperately needed to get out and see some new things. So, one week after her contract ended, we strapped on our backpacks with passports in hand, and hopped on a 6am flight to Chiang Mai with a brief stopover in Shanghai (shout out to our mama for driving us to the airport at 4am).

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flying over snowy mountains flying over the ocean

1 quick flight to San Francisco, a 3.5-hour layover, and a 14-hour flight later, we touched down in Shanghai ready to stretch our legs, explore and take in as much of the city as possible in the single night we had! Now, neither of us speak a lick of mandarin, so it was quite the adventure trying to find our hotel – but with kind smiles, expressive hand gestures, and extremely helpful people who pointed us in the right direction (after many laughs at our attempts to communicate with each other, not knowing the other’s language) we made it, dropped our bags, and stepped right back out the door.

what to do in shanghai china with one day

Shanghai is an incredible city and even on a Wednesday night, there was plenty to do and see! We read a few lists of the Top 10 Things To Do in Shanghai and settled on the Yu Garden and Yuyuan Market, a bustling, albeit touristy, market with shops offering a variety of trinkets, street-side carts with snacks, and a range of restaurants from quick-serve to sit down. We popped into one of the quick-serve restaurants, ogled at the food options and had a good laugh at the meal descriptions that had been translated into English – especially the Mixed Beef Knife Surface. Still couldn’t tell ya what they were serving with that plate.

eating the street food tofu in shanghai china

Both of us being vegetarian, we walked around until we found a bowl of cubed tofu in a sticky brown sauce, and grabbed two bowls. It’s definitely true what they say about American-Chinese food verses the real deal, and unfortunately, the sauce wasn’t quite what we were expecting. We left a bit hungry, so our next goal was finding a restaurant to sit and relax, and that’s when we came across Lost Heaven – the name felt particularly fitting, so we thought we’d give it a try. It did not disappoint!

Here’s a great list of some other vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Shanghai!

With bellies full of delicious food and Cabernet Sauvignon, we ventured back to our AirBnB. Right outside the restaurant, there were a few taxi drivers who wanted to give us a ride “un-metered” and quoted us a fair that was around the same price as the hour drive from the airport! We’d read that this is a pretty typical experience for tourists, especially late at night, so we were ready to walk around a bit in order to hail a taxi that would give us a honest fair – just step out into the middle of the street and wave one down.

Ready to book your Shanghai adventure? Find amazing deals on where to stay in Shanghai, right here!

Back at our AirBnB, we fell asleep quickly and woke up early to watch the sunrise from our room with a view! Our AirBnB was in a fantastic location close the Bund River and only a few minutes drive from many of the attractions in the city. As the sun rose over the river and the buildings, we watched as people began their days on the streets below, and enjoyed some flavorful fresh fruit purchased the night before. When the time came to head back to the airport, we said goodbye to our one-night home, strapped on our bags once again, and stepped into the road to hail a taxi back to the airport. The city looks much different during the day, and I’m already looking forward to visiting this magical city once again.

watching the sunrise over the bund river in shanghai china watching the sunrise over the bund river in shanghai china fresh dragonfruit in shanghai china

Next stop, Chiang Mai!