Ready to get out of Shanghai for a little while? Whether you're in the mood to escape to a relaxed getaway in the woods, snooze in the back of a slow boat through the canal of a watertown, climb mountain slopes, learn more about Chinese history outside of a book or do some island hopping, we've got some suggestions for your Shanghai weekend getaway.
Mogan Shan: Fresh Air and Relaxation
Mogan Shan was once the favorite getaway for Shanghai's elite—first for foreigners looking to get away from the muggy Shanghai summer, then for rich and powerful locals who wanted to do the same thing. Today, a weekend getaway to Mogan Shan isn't limited to the wealthy.
Guesthouses like Prodigy [Qíjì Hùwài Jīdì, 骑迹户外基地, (86 021) 6471 8853], Moganshan Lodge and Naked Retreats offer reasonable rates for individual travelers or groups wanting to rent a villa. A trip to the mountain getaway is less about ticking top attractions off your list—although there is a museum of sorts set up in a house where Mao Zedong slept this one time— relaxing. Take the time to wander, explore and sleep late.
How to get to Mogan Shan:
Catch a bus from the Shanghai North Long Distance Bus Station (Chángtúqìchē Běiqū Kèyùn Zhàn, 长途汽车北区客运站) located at 80 Gongxing Lu (Gōngxīng Lù, 公兴路80号) to Wukang (Wǔkāng Zhèn, 武康镇). From there, take a taxi to your guesthouse or hotel.
Learn more in our Mogan Shan travel guide.
Tongli: Sex and the Watertown
After too long spent browsing travel guides and the Internet for more information about one of those watertowns you've always wanted to visit, they can all start to blend together. Even if you're having a hard time knowing your Zhujiajiaos from your Qibaos, this one's easy: Tongli is the home of the China Sex Museum.
An RMB 80 ticket gets you into Old Town (Tónglǐ Gǔzhèn, 同里古镇) where you'll find most of Tongli's attractions, which include a number of beautiful gardens like the Garden of Retreat and Reflection, temples and other historic architecture like the Three Bridges. The Sex Musuem will cost you an extra RMB 20 (less than you paid for a lukewarm Carlsberg last weekend), but it's well worth it to explore the collection of statuary and art from China's past unlike anything you'll see in any other Chinese museums.
As a bonus, a weekend trip to Tongli can be combined with a little time in beautiful Suzhou, which is still worth checking out at least once if you haven't already seen the variety of attractions in Suzhou.
How to get to Tongli:
Take a fast train from Shanghai Railway Station or Hongqiao Railway Station to Suzhou (about 25 minutes; click here for the schedule) and then take the hour-long bus ride to Tongli.
For more on where to stay and what to see, check out our Tongli travel guide.
Huang Shan: Misty Mountain Slopes that Inspired Poets and Artists
The jagged tops of Huang Shan shooting up above the trees and clouds looks like something out of a surreal scroll painting (the idea had to come from somewhere, right?). While there are several spots in China where you can see similar scenery, Huang Shan is one of the most popular and for good reason. The dreamy scenery has long inspired poets and artists, and today, well-maintained trails traverse the Yellow Mountains among the 70-some-odd peaks.
The Peak Circuit takes in many of the most popular vistas and sights. Off the mountain, Huangshan the city is less a tourist attraction and more a place to stay. However, it's worth stopping at Tunxi Old Street for some shopping or exploring along the stone-paved pedestrian street.
Be warned: this is a popular spot and best avoided during major holidays if you aren't a fan of crowds. While warmer weather can potentially make for a more crowded Huang Shan weekend getaway, winter generally sees smaller crowds.
How to get to Huang Shan:
From Shanghai South Station, buses depart seven times daily (RMB 150). Alternatively, take the overnight train from Shanghai Railway Station (RMB 93-263). If you're pressed for time, you can also fly.
Check out more places to see in our Huang Shan guide.
Nanjing: Chinese History Preserved in the 'Southern Capital'
Nanjing served as the capital to several kingdoms before the Ming Dynasty came to power and made the city the imperial Chinese capital. Later, it became the capital of both the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom that sought to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and the Nationalist Republic of China before they left the Mainland. That's an awful lot of history in one place.
The ancient Nanjing City Walls still stand (something that can't be said of the 'Northern Capital'—Beijing) as do buildings important to many of the governments that controlled the city including the Presidential Palace, Sun Yat-Sen's Mausoleum and the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History Museum. The Memorial Hall of the Nanjing Massacre is also a popular, but very sombre, sight in the city.
Less interested in history? Like West Lake in Hangzhou, Nanjing has a number of natural attractions right in the city. Xuanwu Lake just north of the city center once had an imperial getaway on an island that's a park today. The lake is surrounded by gardens, walking paths and the Taicheng City Wall on one side.
Also just outside the center of the city, Zijin Shan is to Nanjing more or less what Mogan Shan is to Shanghai but much much closer. The cool mountain slopes can be easily climbed or ascended by cable car and/or plankway. A short drive away, Tang Shan Hot Springs have a centuries-long reputation for their healing waters.
With many of the sites of interest located near the city center, it's easy to take in plenty of Nanjing's attractions on a weekend getaway.
How to get to Nanjing:
Fast trains leave from Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station, Shanghai Railway Station and Shanghai West Railway Station as early as 7 am for Nanjing and take between an hour and 15 minutes to two hours. See the full schedule here.
Find out more in our Nanjing travel guide.
Shengsi Island: Weekend Excursion Across the Water
A number of island escapes are surprisingly close to Shanghai, including the Zhoushan Archipelago (Zhōushān, 舟山) off the coast of Ningbo. Shengsi Island is a reasonable three-hour ferry from Shanghai and, like Mogan Shan, it's great if your aim is to just relax. Unlike its Zhoushan cousin Putuo Shan, there aren't a lot of sights on Shengsi Island, nor is it known for its incredible scenery (see: Huang Shan).
A weekend trip to Shengsi Island is a getaway to somewhere new away from the crowds and a bit off the beaten path. Beaches, abandoned villages and even old World War II gun fortifications can be found around the island. As with much of coastal and island China, seafood isn't hard to find, especially the island's famous hairy clams (máo gé, 毛蛤).
How to get to Shengsi Island:
Also known as Sijiao Shan (Sìjiāo Shān, 泗礁山), the island can be reached from Shanghai via Metro Line 4 Nanpu Bridge Station. From street level, walk to 1588 Waima Lu (Wàimǎ Lù, 外马路) where you can purchase tickets to the island. Tickets include a shuttle bus to the ferry, which takes approximately three hours.