The ‘Venice of China’-Zhujiajiao Shanghai

We spent just enough time in Shanghai (specifically Zhujiajiao Shanghai) to qualify as ‘visiting Shanghai’. Actually, even that’s questionable. We had a ten hour layover on our way to Cambodia so we decided to try our luck with the rumored 72 hour layover visa to make it to the area of Zhujiajio Shanghai. You see, to get into China, we usually have to fill out paper work in advance for a $200 visitor’s visa. Ouch. BUT, if you have a connecting flight within 72 hours, you can get in for free. Umm…do you even have to ask? I really thought that it would take more work to get in but all we had to show was a copy of our itinerary. It was so easy, that as I heard the stamp hit our passport, I felt like we were sneaking into the country.
Zhujiajiao area in Shanghai feels like a Venice getaway
We knew that with only 10 hours inside the city, we really wouldn’t have as much time as we wanted. So we decided to narrow down what we wanted to do to just the Zhujiajiao Shanghai area, a region which we were told was just a short hour ride outside of the city. Well it may have taken just an hour if you didn’t start from the airport and if you took the right bus (I guess that last part was our mistake. Make sure you grab the bright pink buses for the express!) But since it took us an hour from the airport to the city, then another two hours because we took the wrong bus, it ended up taking a solid three hours to reach our destination. But man, was it worth it. Even though this area is a known tourist attraction for both foreigners and Chinese, it was well worth a visit.
Zhujiajiao shanghai
Called ‘The Venice of China’ for its sprawling canals and traditional boats floating along it,  Zhujiajiao Shanghai made you feel as though you stepped back in time. We had a blast looking through the souvenir shops and getting lost in the vast network of teensy alley ways. It’s a place I really want to visit again because by the time we got there, we only had an hour and a half before we had to head right back to the airport again. It was the closest we’ve ever been to missing our flight because by the time we got to our gate, it was already boarding! Although I’m glad we made it on our flight to Cambodia, the side trip to Zhujiajiao was well worth the rush. 
Zhujiajiao shanghai
Zhujiajiao shanghai

Zhujiajiao shanghai

Zhujiajiao shanghai
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  • Sam M

    It’S so Pretty! I heard that Xi’an has canals like this too, but we never made it over to that part when we were in China. These pictures make me want to go back and visit Shanghai!

  • destination-insights

    Nice & amazing pictures, I really like this places to for sure a lot of traveler really like this too.

    Best Travel Blog

  • Alice Min

    Hey that’s my uncle’s restaurant in the third picture! The one with the red lanterns in front of it. 😀
    I lived in Shanghai when I was a kid, and I definitely recommend visiting the Jewish Refugee museum. It’s tiny and out of the way, but there’s a lot of great history there and the guides are fantastic! Other than that strolling along Hauhai Lu at night is beautiful. It’s a high end shopping street (so everything is way overpriced) but it’s lined with beautiful old trees imported from France and little mansions and surprisingly quiet on the weekdays.

  • Heather Marie

    SO COOL…. i want to be there right about now. i always think that the short and sweet trips are sometimes the best, you work really hard to take it all in!

  • Nicole Marie

    wow wow wow!!

  • M and L

    SO pretty! That’s neat you were able to visit without a visa. Too bad you hopped on the wrong bus. I always stress when things don’t go as planned… looks like you two handled it well :)

  • Melanie Fontaine

    I’ve never been to Shanghai, but my mother went to university there and insists it’s the most beautiful city in China! I hear the harbour is great, but the colonial parts of town are probably worth a visit, too. I hope I get to visit some time soon! :)

  • Britta Marie

    man those pictures are gorgeous! glad you at least got to visit, do you think you’ll make your way back there??

  • Z

    I love the photos and the story makes it even better. Layover exploring is the BEST. A bunch of my friends got to do it in Paris once and they came back with the funniest stories.

  • Rachel

    How gorgeous are those photos! I would love, love to visit!!

  • Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    That 2nd to last shot should be on the cover of a magazine, gorgeous!

  • Pamela


  • Quyen Nguyen

    How beautiful. I can’t wait! I am going to China next year and this is definitely on my list. I’ve had the layover trip as well (9 hours), but in Tokyo, and it was MADNESS! I loved every bit of it!

  • courtnirae

    You always have such interesting photos of your travels! I loved hearing about this trip, so much to discover =]

    A Golden State of Mind

  • Cornelia

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • Cornelia

    It looks so calm and beautiful – I can definitely see where the “Venice of China” comes from. Glad you were able to make the trip and share these photos!

  • Kayli Schattner

    This looks so beautiful. I love how quaint it looks. Shanghai is definitely on my list!

  • Hopeless Adventurer

    how beautiful! who knew that China would have such crazy visiting restrictions! You’re lucky you didn’t go the visa route, we’re currently in the process of that battle with a working via over in Europe, so much money and headache.

  • Delia Monk

    And to think I was just coming to terms with the fact there is no time to visit Shanghai on my current trip through China… Have to add I am loving this country far more than I expected. Colourful, tasty and full of life – all of my favourite things!

  • Helene in Between

    now you have an excuse to go back!! this looks so pretty! I definitely want to visit Shanghai!

  • The Bradleys

    Absolutely loved honeymooning in China and hope to go back!! Although I preferred Beijing, I would love to see this part of Shanghai! Hong Kong is also spectacular. What a beautiful country eh?

  • Amy Lee Scott

    Your photos are so lovely! This really does look like a place back in time. I have never heard of it but it’s totally going on my travel bucket list now :)

  • Rachel

    You guys are so brave!! We recently had a 12 hour layover in Hong Kong, but I didn’t even look into whether it was possible to get a visa into the country easily….our layover was from 7pm to 7 am so I figured it wouldn’t be too exciting in the middle of the night. Still, it’s really brave that you left the airport and had those adventures in such a short time period!

  • Stacey Greene

    This place looks beautiful!!! I’m so glad you were able to visit 😀 Can’t wait to see more!

  • Sarah Shumate

    Your pictures are beautiful! I had heard how pretty China was, but I’ve never been. Hong Kong is the closest I’ve come to being in China.

    We just got back from Amsterdam last week and it was my first time visiting anywhere with canals. There’s something about living or staying near water – it has such a calming effect on my normally high strung personality! :o)

  • Treasure Tromp

    so fantastic!! This looks incredible. I wanted so badly to go out and explore the city during our layout. Instead I had to deal with somehow getting my bags checked for the next flight (quite the dilemma!) I hope that I can make it back sometime!

  • Jenna

    Ah! This is so so cool! I’ve been to Beijing, but would absolutely love to get to Shanghai… aside from the transport mishap, it sounds like you guys used your time well :)


  • Erica

    What a great experience! And totally worth it by the looks of things :)

  • Just Dont Tell Anyone

    wow! it does really look awesome! reminds me bit of Venice, bit of Amsterdam.. :)) perfect views!

  • Saxon @ Lets Drink Coffee, Darling

    Beautiful! You’re brave for even leaving the airport during layovers. I had 13 hour layovers in Guangzhou and Los Angeles but I was petrified that I’d get lost and not be able to get back to the airport before my flight.

  • Susannah

    What a wonderful layover! I can imagine it would have been stressful to almost miss your flight. These pictures are making me miss Taiwan (where I grew up) so much!

  • Caroline

    Ha, SOLID use of a layover! Visas to China have gotten SO expensive in recent years, glad you escaped on the cheap!

    I was just in Shanghai for a day on Sunday – we usually only go for a few hours on our way to/from the international airport, so it was nice to get some quality time with the pretty city! I’ll be posting about it tomorrow morning, but we mostly stuck around Nanjing Road and the Bund this time!

  • ChoThueXe PRO

    i wish i travel to Shanghai once

    cho thue xe 4 cho

  • Megan C. Stroup

    That layover visa is pretty awesome! Kudos to you for figuring that out ahead of time. Also, shameless plug: I host a Travel Tuesday series on my blog, and I’ve recently brought it back after a hiatus. I’d love it if you could link up sometime! :) You can see my post from today here:

    I always enjoy your beautiful pictures!

  • Oleah Olaguera

    wow, that’s so cool. i didn’t even know such a city existed in china.

    xoxo, Oleah

  • Kaeley @ My Mind’s Lens

    I wish I had known about this when I was there! We spent 4 or 5 days in Shanghai during my study abroad trip (which was a total of 3 months in China). If you go back, visit YuYuan Tourist Mart for trinket-type goodies, and Yu Garden which is right next to it. Also, you eat at the rotating restaurant and visit the observation tower of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower (Dongfang Mingzhu). Finally, take a walk along the Bund, and take a ride in the Shanghai Bund Sightseeing Tunnel.

  • Chantal

    So pretty!

  • Seattle

    ah beautiful photos :]

  • Casey Martin

    This area looks amazing! Great use of your layover :)

  • Becky Kozak

    Wow, that looks incredible!! You are so brave leaving the airport, I’d be so worried I’d miss my flight!!

    I had no idea China had anything like that, wow!

    xo Becky