World ? Asia ? China

China: In One Week

Only a week in the Middle Kingdom is a tall order; you could spend 10 years exploring China, and still only scratch the surface. Because of the vast distances involved (both getting to China, and getting around the country), if you have just 1 week, stick to the two main centers of change, Beijing and Shanghai, and their environs.

Day 1: Arrive in Shanghai

Arrive at the flashy new Pudong International Airport and enter China's latest and gaudiest development zone at 430kmph (267 mph) on the maglev. Climb to the 88th-floor observation deck of the Jin Mao Tower to get your bearings and then cross the Huangpu River using the equally bizarre Bund Sight-Seeing Tunnel. Finish the day with dinner at Jade on 36 and an evening stroll along the Bund.

Day 2: Shanghai Museum and Yu Yuan Gardens

The Shanghai Museum's bizarre shape makes this museum China's answer to the Guggenheim; its unique architecture and many galleries deserve at least a morning's exploration. After exploring the museum, wander around Yu Garden (Yu Yuan); it makes for an interesting afternoon, especially when combined with souvenir shopping in the surrounding bazaar, and then a relaxing pot of green tea in the floating teahouse. If you have any shoe leather left, try an after-dinner stroll along one of Shanghai's main shopping arteries, Nanjing Road, where very few places close before 10pm.

Day 3: Shanghai's French Concession

The French Concession area is one of China's best preserved collections of colonial buildings, but is also full of modern surprises, such as the ambitious new Xin Tiandi, a mega restaurant and retail development and a great stop for lunch. Nearby Huaihai Zhong Lu is where the fashionable spend their yuan at foreign-owned department stores and boutiques.

Day 4: Transit Day

Allowing a full day to transfer from Shanghai to Beijing will make the process far easier and more relaxed. Once in Beijing, decompress in your hotel before exploring the city.

Day 5: The Forbidden City and Tian'an Men

Plan at least a morning to explore the Forbidden City, Beijing's premier attraction, and an afternoon to see nearby sights like Tian'an Men Square. A roast duck dinner and Chinese opera make for an excellent introductory evening to the capital.

Day 6: Exploring the Back Lakes

Check out Frommer's walking tour that takes you among the fascinating, winding Back Lakes hutong. In the afternoon visit the Summer Palace, the grandest imperial playground in all of China. It's already a big day, but try to leave some room in the evening for an acrobatic performance.

Day 7: The Great Wall

Finish your whistle-stop tour of the Middle Kingdom literally on a high. The views from atop the Great Wall at Badaling are tremendous; if you're after a challenge, considering also navigating Simatai.

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