Top Five Free Things to Do in Shanghai
Shanghai is increasingly becoming an expensive city. With certain Shanghai attractions charging over 200 yuan for a family of four, a day out in the city can be depressingly expensive. But it needn’t be. This article will guide you to several brilliant things to do for free in Shanghai. Check out how to plan a day trip in Shanghai.
1. Visiting Top Two Free Museums
Shanghai has lots of museums, including some museums which are free of charge. China Highlights has recommended the top two museums which can be visited for free.
Shanghai Museum (上海博物馆): It is one of mainland China's best collections of ancient Chinese artifacts. The four-floor museum has collected more than 120,000 precious historical relics, including bronze ware, china ware, calligraphy works, paintings, jade articles, ancient coins, ancient furniture, and sculptures. You can easily spend a half day or more on learning about Chinese culture there.
- Opening time: 9am–5pm (last entry 4pm)
- Address: 201 Renmin Road, Shanghai (人民路201号)
- Transportation: Take bus 46, 71, 112, 123, 145, 916, 925 or Tunnel Line 6 and get off at People's Square Station (人民广场)
Shanghai Natural History Museum (上海自然博物馆): It can be a nice destination for a family with kids. The museum is one of China's largest museums of natural sciences, showing the history of ancient animals, human history, and the evolution of animals and plants, with specimens of animals and plants, mummies, fossils, models, unearthed historical relics, and ancient literature.
- Opening hours: 9am–5pm (closed on Mondays)
- Address: 260 Yan'an East Road, Huangpu District (黄浦区延安东路260号)
- Transportation: Take subway line 2 to Yuyuan Garden (豫园), leave the station from Exit 3, and walk about 2 minutes to the museum.
2. Appreciating Chinese Artistic Works
Shanghai Art Palace (中华艺术宫): It is a free museum in Shanghai, located at the China Pavilion of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Owning 27 exhibition halls, the museum shows the original and developments of modern Chinese art with plenty of art treasures (mainly oil paintings, printmaking, Chinese paintings, and sculptures). It is said that if you want to appreciate every exhibition there, at least one day is needed. ;
- Note: Entry to the electronic edition of the Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival (清明上河图) in Exhibition Hall 5 is 20 yuan (it is the only hall of China Art Palace with entrance fee).
- Opening hours: 9am–5pm (last entry: 4pm, closed on Monday)
- Address: 161 Shangnan Road, Pudong New District (浦东新区上南路161号)
- Transportation: Take subway line 8, and get off at Yaohua Road (耀华路).
50 Moganshan Road Contemporary Art Gallery: It is a place with the best phenomenon of artistic creation in Shanghai. A lot of modern Chinese artists thrive there by displaying their works, running their businesses on art, communicating and brainstorming with other artists, and meeting their audiences. It is said that more of the 400 or so daily visitors there are foreign friends.
- Opening Hours: daily (approximately) 10am-6pm
- Address: 50 Moganshan Road, Jing’an District (静安区莫干山路50号)
Recommended tour: Essence of Shanghai with Chinese Language Learning Experience
3. Leisurely Strolling
If you want to see Shanghai, there is no better way than by taking a leisurely strolling along the roads, especially those unique ones which have witnessed the changes in the city.
The Bund (外滩): Being at the bank of Huangpu River (the mother river of Shanghai), the Bund is the representative of Shanghai. There are two of Shanghai’s landmarks: Jinmao Tower and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and 52 unique buildings with retro architectural styles, like Gothic, Romanesque, and Baroque.
Tianzifang (田子坊): It is very popular with expats and tourists. You can appreciate the 1930’s architectures, strolling around to find your favorite arts and crafts, and enjoying some leisurely coffee time there.
Wukang Road (武康路): Built in 1907, it is said that Wukang Road has concentrated Shanghai’s 100 years of modern history. There are 14 excellent architectures and 37 historical sites.
Xintiandi (新天地): It is a pedestrian street combining a traditional Shanghai style with modern elements. Shopping, catering, entertainment, retracing the "old" Shanghai in the early 20th century, and experiencing the fashionable Shanghai are all available there.
Recommended tour: 4-Day Shanghai Memories Tour
4. Visiting Ancient Towns
There are several ancient water towns around Shanghai. Some of them have free entry (but the attractions within the towns charge an entry fee). The scenery and the ancient atmosphere in these water towns are no worse than those commercialized ones with tickets costing lots of yuan.
Qibao Ancient Town (七宝古镇): It is the nearest mini water town to central Shanghai, being accessible via subway (line 9) and public buses.
Zhujiajiao Ancient Town (朱家角古镇): Like the picture shown on the left, the graceful ancient town is well-decorated with water ways, 36 ancient bridges, traditional Chinese-style residences, and a natural lake — Dianshan Lake.
Fengjing Ancient Town (枫泾古镇): It is the most well-preserved ancient water town in Shanghai Prefecture. Architecture with hundreds of years of history is quite easy to come across there.
Recommended tour: Shanghai Memories & Zhujiajiao Ancient Lakes and Canals
5. A Personal Experience of Chinese Culture: Shanghai's Parks
Shanghai has lots of parks. Most of the parks are free of charge (only about 10 parks aren't; they usually charge lots of yuan).
Parks are great places to get a close look at and take part in Chinese culture, especially the life-style of Shanghai people. Folks head to parks early for morning exercises: doing tai chi, dancing, sword dancing, and practicing erhu (a two-string bowed instrument), which consist of unique Chinese-style morning exercises.
The most popular Shanghai tour: Three-Day Essence of Shanghai Tour
- Shanghai Weather
- How to Plan a Day Trip in Shanghai
- The Best Seven Museums in Shanghai
- The Top 9 Ancient Towns Near Shanghai — Which Should I Go To?
- Choose from Shanghai tour packages or tailor-make a Shanghai tour.
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- Things to Do With Kids