Chinese New Year (CNY) or Spring Festival or Lunar New Year is one of the most important festivals in China, and one that should be experienced first hand. If you are planning to be in Shanghai during this time, there is a lot going on in the city that begs a trip!
Shanghai is one of the best cities to be in (in the world) if you want to experience a Chinese holiday through both modern and traditional lenses.
The crowds will be less in the city with many shops and stores closed in the first few days of the holiday. However, all major stores and department stores in addition to all tourist spots will remain open. In fact, take advantage of this time to explore most of the city at your leisure.
Chinese New Year in Shanghai: 7 Ideas
1. Yuyuan New Year Folk Art Lantern Festival Lights
uyuan Shopping Mall has created an immersive holiday scene experience interpreting traditional Chinese culture. In addition to seeing the lanterns in Yuyuan Garden, there are delicious foods, exciting activities, and New Year goods with full discounts.
2. Guangfulin Blessing Temple Fair
At Guangfulin Cultural Site in Songjiang District, visitors can enjoy the profound historical heritage and the underwater museum for 40 yuan.
3. ZhujiajiaoFolk Customs Experience
Zhujiajiao Water Town is open all day long. Zhujiajiao is a great place to experience folk customs through the strong New Year atmosphere, festive decorations, and locals’ celebrations.
4. New Year's Eve Flower Show at Shanghai Botanical Garden
Centering on the New Year's Eve flowers that have been widely loved in recent years, exhibitions will include horn orchids, snail orchids, horn orchids, and petunias.
5. Shanghai New Year Customs Exhibition
See famous artists’ Spring Festival couplets and calligraphy, shadow puppets, folk handicraft shows, the New Year reunion photo studio, and more.
6. Zuibaichi Spring Festival Activities Garden
As well as lots of lanterns, there are Dashen poems, Dong Qichang paintings and calligraphy, Songjiang’s Twenty-Four Sceneries, and other Shanghai intangible cultural heritage elements.
7. Fangtayuan New Year Amusement Park
Tianfei Palace blessing activities include hitting the auspicious bell, hitting the big blessing drum; tying the wishing belt, prayer cards, safety talismans, and lighting up New Year lights.
Traditional Rituals and Events to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Shanghai
Chinese New Year is celebrated for two weeks in Shanghai. Most of the traditional rituals and events take place in Yu Garden (one of the oldest, most popular traditional spots in the city including shopping and eating options), the Bund, Nanjing Road (the most commercial street in the city), and of course the many temples in the city, such as Jing'an Temple.
Shanghai Yu Gardens Lantern Festival
Yu Yuan is the place to be during the Lantern Festival. The most famous lantern show in the city is held there at 269 Fangbang Road (方浜路269号) for 31 days through CNY. No entrance fee. (Watch out for entrance restrictions on busy days.)
Yu Garden also hosts a Temple Fair where all kinds of merchandise and local snacks are on sale along with traditional performances.
Annual Longhua Temple Celebration
Of special note, the Longhua Temple at 853 Longhua Road (龙华路853) holds one of the most elaborate, grand celebrations in the city. 108 Buddhist Monks are invited to climb the pagoda in this temple and strike the bell at midnight to begin the new year.
Longhua Temple holds this customary event annually, and it is the only one to host it since it is the oldest temple in the city. Striking of the bell is symbolic of the beginning of the new year and is seen as an act of driving away evil spirits. Also check out Jade Buddha Temple at 170 An Yuan Road (170安远路).
Shanghai Disney Chinese New Year Celebration
In Shanghai Disney Resort, over the holiday period, you can enjoy colorful, exciting New Year activities, plentiful New Year food, and New Year merchandise.
Guyi Garden Spring Festival Fair
The annual temple fair at Guyi Garden is a good option to witness traditional entertainment and various blossoming plants everywhere. Dragon/lion dances and stilt parades are part of this festival. Dates are yet to be announced.
Shanghai Happy Valley New Year Lantern Festival
The annual multi-themed festival will bring to you displays of artworks from 100 craftsmen, lanterns produced by 100 teams, a 65-hectare (160-acre) firework and lantern viewing area, and 10 million bright and magical lanterns. Something not to be missed! Tickets this year are sold at RMB 80 (Mon - Thu) and RMB 100 (Fri to Sun).
Traditional Chinese New Year Food in Shanghai
Food is the most important part of this celebration. Different dishes symbolize different myths, legends and culture in China. We have a detailed article about Chinese New Year Foods here.
In Shanghai, some of the most delicious food that you must try out include:
- Rice dumplings or tangyuan as they are known in Shanghai (yuanxiao is the other common name of this) are very popular in Shanghai.
- Takecai (Tacai in Northern China) is a popular vegetable dish during CNY in Shanghai. It is symbolic of eliminating bitterness in the new year.
- Xunyu (/sshywnn yoo/) is Shanghai's special fish dish, and fish is a must at Chinese New Year.
- Shanghainese New Year Cake or Nian Gao is a version of the traditional cake made from sticky rice and sugar and there are glutinous and non-gluten versions of this cake.
- Babaofan is a type of rice pudding that is immensely popular.
Some Tips for Touring Shanghai during CNY
1. CNY is a busy time in China and you should be aware that hordes of Chinese nationals travel to their hometowns. This puts a lot of stress on public transportation such as air travel, trains, and buses. See Chinese New Year travel>>
2. Select your travel dates carefully and avoid the peak start and end dates as people are rushing to get out and get to their families as early as they can and then return just in time to get back to work the next day.
3. Select air travel over other means, as this is most likely to be (a) available and (b) reliable. Train and bus travel will be a bit more risky and could be prone to overcrowding or being sold out.
4. This is the perfect time for you to plan some walks around the city, especially in and around Jing'an Temple area, Xintiandi, Tianzifang, the Bund area, and the Former French Concession. There are lots of quaint narrow lanes, home to the famous Shanghai lane houses. You will find old colonial houses where historic figures used to reside.
5. Plan way ahead. If you are thinking about visiting Shanghai in February 2019, we recommend you book your tickets now or contact us immediately.
Let China Highlights Help You Tour China at New Year
We hope the above gives you a good idea of Shanghai during CNY and why you should visit. China Highlights can tailor-make a special trip that's just for you, customized to your interests and budget. We offer the best travel experiences for you, your family, and friends when it comes to exploring China.
All our tours are customizable. Here are some suggestions for your visit.
- 2-Day Charming Shanghai and Watertown Tour
- 5-Day Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Watertown Culture Tour
- 5-Day Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou Bullet Train Tour