If all goes well I'll be going to Shanghai at some point in early 2014 and I'd love to know if there are any great day trips I should make while I'm there. Train would be my preference since I'm not crazy about driving abroad. Thanks!
Suzhou would be an obvous choice.
Nice historic town that you can reach in less than 2 hours by train from Shanghai.
With the speed chinese trains have these days it's probaply less than an hour to get there, but it was a couple of hours when i went there a few years ago.
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ShanghaiShanghai, in the city, the day trip are mostly Pujiang River Cruise, warking alone The Bund (the Bund). The main attractions in Shanghai city you visit are normally: Jade Buddha Temple, Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai Museum, Oriental Pearl, Nanjing Road.Or, if you like to go shopping, good places to go is Yuyuan Market for arts and crafts, souvenirs...
If you like travel by train, you can take bullet train from Shanghai to Suzhou, there are many watertowns, you can go for one day, such as Zhaojialou Water Town, Tongli Water Town Tongli. And also the gardons here are best and well preserve Chinese gardon such as Humble Administrator Gardon.....
The main attractions I thought you should not miss are the water towns and Chinese ancient gardons. I also plan to these places this year or next year.
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Since Shanghai is a river delta, the metropolis is surrounded by quaint little "water towns" a short distance away. Two come to mind. Zhujiajiao (朱家角) and Tongli (同里). They are similar in appearance but differ materially in that Zhujiajiao is closer (an hour by bus) and more touristy/tourist friendly while Tongli (about 2 hours by bus) is more authentic but harder to reach. I've been to both, I like Tongli better because it is quieter but language may be more of an issue here. Both are great short getaways from the crowded city. Try the tea houses in both those towns, its my favorite part of the experience.
you can take the fast train to Hangzhou in about an hour, the city marco polo called the most beautiful in the world.
some of the best food i have ever had in China, and serene views of the west lake. it is like a lake geneva in the middle of China.
If you are looking for a trip back in time then go for a day trip to one of the water town outiside of Shanghai. Xitang an ancient water towns in the south of the Yangtze River is a good option but you can as well visit Zhouxhuang; although when I was still living in china the latest was already a bit too touristy.