The modern, fast-paced, cosmopolitan city that is Shanghai, is also an ideal city to get a colorful view into traditional Chinese festivals and events.
Old Shanghai and traditional Chinese culture thrive beneath the modern and impressive high rises of the city. Traditional festivals are celebrated hand in hand with modern or Western festivals such as Christmas or Halloween.
Here we take a closer look at festivals that hold importance and popularity in Shanghai and why you won't regret being part of the city to check them out. We recommend that you tie in at least one of these festivals into your Shanghai itinerary. This page will help you tailor your travel and match your dates as appropriate.
|February 10, 2024||Chinese New Year|
|April [dates not available]||Peach Blossom Festival|
|April [dates not available]||Longhua Temple Fair|
|April [dates not available]||Shanghai Grand Prix|
|April or May||International Tea Festival|
|April-May [dates not available]||Strawberry Music Festival|
|June 10, 2024||Dragon Boat Festival|
|June [dates not available]||MIDI Electronic Music Festival|
|Oct 1, 2024||National Day|
|December 25, 2024||Christmas|
1. Chinese New Year — February, 5 days
Let's start with the most obvious and the most important traditional celebration in Shanghai — Chinese New Year. Each year is welcomed under a different animal character according to the Chinese zodiac (2024 is year of the Dragon). CNY is the quietest time of the year for this city, so it means that a lot of shops and restaurants are closed for the 5 days of the holiday. But don't let that mar your plans to be in Shanghai...
Because most of the citizens migrate to their homes in the neighboring provinces, Shanghai lends itself to lots of peaceful exploring and gives you the chance to immerse yourself into lots of local dining options over a number of days — Jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) are a must eat at this time of the year.
The first day of these holidays is beset with vibrant fireworks in the evening which is not to be missed. Expect to have fireworks go off for a few more evenings if you are near festive folks with access to rooftops. You will also be privy to random dragon dances on the streets, red lanterns and many other decorations all across the city and decorated temples. Check out Longhua and Jing'An temples for sure as well as Yu Gardens, where you can get to watch the traditional lantern parade on several days in the evenings.
2. National Day Holiday— October, 7 days
This is also called the Golden Week in Shanghai. The official date for this celebration falls on October 1st each year, a day when the government plans out a full day of public-facing celebrations, including the famous fireworks display on the Bund. This holiday is a great opportunity to be in Shanghai and witness the grand celebration over a number of days, and get to be a part of it.
You can look forward to lots of walking, especially on the eve of Oct 1, when people walk along Nanjing road to gather at the Bund for fireworks. The atmosphere is very festive, and you can indulge in special food or live music sprinkled across the city. Most bars will host National Day specials or parties which you can be a part of.
You can also attend the National Day Brunch and concert that is held at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center, with tickets at around. This is also a very good opportunity to explore the museums in the city which will be not too crowded.
Beware Transport Stress
Shanghai, being the financial hub of China, is home to a significant population of migrant workers who return home during holidays to visit their families and home towns. This results in a surge in crowds traveling out of the city — same as during CNY. If you plan to travel into or out of Shanghai, take into consideration delays or steep costs or unavailability of tickets, so ensure you plan in advance and have buffer time on hand.
3. Music Festivals
Shanghai is fast emerging as a vibrant venue for some high profile international music fests. Of note, Strawberry Festival (End April-Early May, annual), Concrete and Grass, previously called Echo Park (mid September, annual), MIDI (end April — early May) along with a host of other local festivals bring all genres of music, performers and fans together. Expect some great lineups year on year for Hip Hop, Rock, EDM, Jazz and lots of Indie music.
Typically, these would be over a period of 2-3 days, with full-duration tickets going at RMB 600 approximately, and around RMB 200 per day. This is decided by the fest organizers. For information on dates and tickets and help with how you can merge a fest with your China trip, give us a shout.
4. International Tea Festival — April or May, 4 days
This is a grand event for the tea fans. This event started in the early nineties, and has evolved into a world famous gathering of tea lovers and traders and attracts thousands of tourists who seek knowledge about this medicinal drink. You will find any and all kinds of teas here, and you can also watch customs like tea dancing.
Experience the elegant tea ceremonies at Songyuan Teahouse in Zhabei district (1667 Gonghexin road/ 1667 共和新路路)which is where it all started. They serve tea-based dishes, desserts and more which are elaborately prepared by experts and also hold performances and operas which are all about tea and its rich history.
5. Peach Blossom Festival — March end to early April
Typically Nanjing has been better known for the seasonal peach blossoms but Shanghai has been attracting visitors to its spring blossoms, which get more and more impressive each year. Shanghai has many parks — large and small — that add to the greenery of the city all year round. During spring time, these parks become the centre of attraction for those who want to view the enthralling peach blossoms.
The best spots for you to go to to see these blossoms include:
- Shanghai Botanical Gardens (1111 Longwu Road/ 1111龙吴路),
- Gucun Park (1 Huandao Road/ 1环岛路附近Zhenhutai路),
- Chenshan Botanical Gardens (3888 Chenhua Road, near Jiasong Road/ 3888辰华路，嘉松附近的陆),
- Tongji University (50 Chifeng Road, near Siping Lu/ 赤峰50号，近四平路，杨浦区),
- Century Park (1001 Jinxiun Road/ 1001锦绣路，浦东) and
- Haiwan National Forest Park (1677 Suitanghe Road). Entry tickets can be anywhere between RMB 20 to 60 depending on where you go.
The biggest blossom festival is held at Nanhui Peach Blossom Village (289 Beimen Road, Huinan Town/ 289 北门鲁，惠南镇，南汇区) which is a bit far from central Shanghai but definitely worth a trip to. We have written in more detail about Shanghai's famous peach blossoms here.
6. Longhua Temple Fair — April, 1 day
This is the oldest temple in the city and holds one of the most traditional festivals in the city in April.
This is a 400 year old custom, where you can get to see performances on folklore, traditional dances, blessing rituals by people dressed in Han costumes and more. You can indulge in local delicacies and shop for traditional souvenirs. In fact, given the timing of this celebration, you can also enjoy the peach blossoms at this location.
More details on this can be found in Shanghai Longhua Temple Fair article.
7. Christmas — December 25
Over the years, Christmas in Shanghai has become hugely popular. This Western celebration has been embraced by Shanghainese in a big way and the scale and number of markets that pop up around Christmas time has risen significantly — the biggest one being Christkindlmarkt.
We can make visiting Shanghai during a festival even better!
And a reminder that we, at China Highlights, have the right team of experts at your service, to help create the right itinerary just for you and help you experience one or more of these festivals during your trip .
Feel free to contact us or let us customize a tour for you that combines a festival with the best of Shanghai.
See our recommended 3-day Shanghai tour for a starting point for your tailor-made journey of discovery.