With the weather in China warming up, we’ve made it our mission to discover the best free things to see and do in Shanghai. From underrated street art that hasn’t yet hit Insta to cool art exhibitions; from glowing skyscrapers to forest-like parks, we’ve compiled a list of our favourite free things to do in the futuristic city of Shanghai.
One of the most memorable views in Shanghai, and even all of China, is the Bund. Luckily for visitors, the attraction is free of cost to see. The best time to visit is before sunset, when you’ll get a spectacular view of the Huangpu River and Shanghai’s glowing skyscrapers. The best place to glimpse the panoramic scenery is at Pudong Binjiang Avenue. For a small fee, there is also the option of being amidst the scenery by riding on the Huangpu River Cruise.
The Bund, Zhongshan East 1st Road, WaiTan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Residing by Suzhou Creek is Shanghai’s very own contemporary art hub. Named after its actual address – 50 Moganshan Road – M50 showcases hundreds of art studios and galleries from up-and-coming Chinese artists. The talent on display is free to view and the gallery owners are more than happy to answer any questions you have (as long as they can speak English).
M50, 50 Moganshan Road, Putuo Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Whether it’s a leisurely stroll or a bike ride, you won’t want to miss the Former French Concession when visiting Shanghai. Here you’ll find tree-lined avenues, European Cafes, and Tudor houses. Although there are several different parts to the Former French Concession that can take a whole day to visit, we recommend a trip to Wukang Lu, a stunning and quaint area dotted with outdoor cafes and wine bars. Tianzifang is also a fun, up-and-coming area with authentic Chinese souvenir shops and tasty food stalls to choose from.
The Former French Concession, Wu Kang Lu, Xuhui Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Just on the outskirts of Shanghai, this is a fun getaway from the city. The trail consists of four different parks: East Sheshan Park, West Sheshan Park, Tianmashan Park and Xiaokunshan Park, attracting tourists with its beautiful scenery and cultural sites. With more than 2,000 varieties of plants and 100 species of birds, East Sheshan Park is the ideal option to satisfy those craving adventure.
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Located in the heart of People’s Square, MoCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), is a free and welcoming environment for the public to discover works of contemporary artists. For over a decade, MoCA has remained on the pulse of cultural shifts in contemporary art and design, offering Chinese contemporary art based on different monthly themes such as “concretisation” and “eco-fashion.”
Museum of Contemporary Art, 231 Nanjing W Rd, RenMin GuangChang, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
At the weekend in Shanghai, you can make your way down to People’s Square to watch one of China’s oldest traditions that has managed to stay intact despite the city’s modernisation. On Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 5pm, hundreds of parents and grandparents will gather at the park with an umbrella in their hand, that has a piece of paper or “resume” attached to it. It contains straightforward information like their child’s age, profession, zodiac sign and accomplishments. Whilst you may not agree with the *ahem* questionable matchmaking process, watching from the sidelines is acceptable as long as you don’t attempt to intervene.
People’s Square, Huangpu, Shanghai, China
Tianzifang is a favourite spot with tourists for good reason. In this artsy section of Shanghai, you will find hundreds of cafes, bars and trendy restaurants with 1930s architecture. There is also a variety of arts and crafts shops to help you get your creative juices flowing. Enjoy simply strolling through this lively area, which offers insight into the daily life of a Shanghaier, but be careful because there’s plenty to tempt your wallet!
Tianzifang, 10弄 Taikang Rd, DaPuQiao, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, then Fuxing Park is your naturesque getaway. With French influence and a Chinese-style layout, Fuxing Park is a cultural feast for the eyes. In the park, you may stumble upon saxophone players belting out a Kenny G song or find locals doing Tai Chi and square dancing. In the evenings, the elderly play cards with each other or do group exercises. A trip to this park is a unique opportunity to witness how the average local Chinese person mingles and relaxes in their spare time.
Fuxing Park, 516 Fuxing Middle Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
With four floors to explore and over 120,000 ancient artefacts to see, you can easily spend a day wondering around one of Shanghai’s most cherished museums. There is also the option to get an inexpensive audio tour, to help bring the different artefacts you come across to life.
Shanghai Museum, 201 Renmin Ave, RenMin GuangChang, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China