Free Things to Do in Shanghai, China

Shanghai is one of China’s top destinations for business and leisure travelers alike. Apart from winter, when the windy weather drives many people away, the city is always busy. To keep your trip affordable without depriving yourself of pleasant weather, try to avoid the peak months of September and October and the extreme heat of July and August.

For the best rates and experience, late March and late October are the ideal times to visit. To keep your trip’s expenses within your budget, take your time exploring all the popular budget hotels in Shanghai. You’ll find the perfect combination of rates and amenities that best suit your travel preferences.

Shanghai, China

Image via Flickr by Jannes Glas.

It’s hard to choose which attractions to visit while you’re in Shanghai. Even the free attractions are plentiful, and it might take you a while to visit them all. Here are some of the most entertaining and educational options to help you refine your itinerary.

Free Museums to Explore

Yu Yuan Temple and Shanghai Garden‎, Shanghai, China

Image via Flickr by Nouhailler

Museum entry fees often constitute a big item on a travel budget, so take advantage of all the free ones you can find. Start at the Shanghai Museum to explore one of mainland China’s most impressive collections of Chinese artifacts. Next on the list is the Art Palace, a free Shanghai museum that’s located in the China Pavilion of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. The 27 exhibitions explore Chinese art, and you’ll need a full day just for this museum.

The third stop on the itinerary is the Shanghai Natural History Museum, which often appeals to families with kids. As one of China’s largest natural science museums, it explores plant, animal, and human history.

Explore Shanghai Streets and Parks


Photo via Flickr by alberth2

There’s no better way to enjoy Shanghai’s architecture than by exploring its streets. Start with the Bund, which you’ll find on the south bank of the Huangpu River, to have a look at the skyscrapers. You’ll find 52 unique buildings in retro styles that range from Gothic to Baroque.

In Tianzifang, you can view the 1930s architecture and enjoy arts and crafts. Afterward, head to Xintiandi for a pedestrian experience that combines traditional Shanghai with modern elements. Last, visit Wukang Road to tour 37 historical sites.

The parks in Shanghai allow you to experience Chinese culture and lifestyle, and you can enter most for free. Plan to visit them in the morning if you’d like to join locals for exercises like tai chi and dancing — even sword dancing! You’ll also hear locals play the erhu, which is a traditional two-string bowed instrument.

Shanghai From Up Top

Photo via Flickr by ^Joe

To enjoy breathtaking views of Shanghai, visit the Grand Hyatt’s lobby on the 54th floor of the Jin Mao Tower. You’ll see the surrounding area from this ideal vantage point, including Bund, the Huangpu River, and the nearby skyscrapers. Consider visiting at night to see the city’s awe-inspiring lights.

With all of these free attractions at your fingertips, you’ll never have to worry about blowing your travel budget in Shanghai.

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