8 free (and one almost free!) things to do in Shanghai

Excursions, photo ops and museum visits in China's biggest city that won’t break the bank

The Bund

The Bund

For gorgeous views

The Bund

For picture-perfect snaps of Shanghai’s iconic skyline, head to The Bund. This riverfront boardwalk draws plenty of crowds from dusk to dawn, but we highly recommend taking a stroll along the place at night for dazzling views of the city and its well-known buildings such as the Oriental Pearl Tower. Zhongshan East 1st Rd, Wai Tan, Huangpu District

For art enthusiasts


Occupying a former industrial area known as Moganshan Road, M50 is recognized as one of China’s art hubs for budding creatives. The precinct features a slew of modern and contemporary galleries, and because these venues are always putting up new exhibitions and installations, it’s a great place to see art without forking out a single cent. 50 Moganshan Rd

For history buffs

Shanghai Museum

Founded in 1952, Shanghai Museum is home to ancient Chinese artifacts, including more than 120,000 precious relics such as calligraphy works and sculptures. One of the main highlights is the museum’s collection of ceramics, many of which once belonged to the Liangzhu culture — said to be the Yangtze River’s last Neolithic jade culture — and are a very rare sight these days. Entry is free, but the museum only receives up to 8,000 visitors daily. 201 Ren Min Ave, Huangpu District; +86 21 9696-8686

Shanghai Museum
The Shanghai Museum (photo by Ostill / shutterstock.com)

For Instagram addicts

Former French Concession

Need that Insta-worthy backdrop for your #OOTD? Head to the Former French Concession (FFC). Once an area designated for the French, the FFC today consists of Shanghai’s Luwan and Xuhui Districts. This part of town is lined with gorgeous trees, conserved mansions and quaint shops — just take a stroll and you’ll find free photo opportunities in just about every corner. Luwan and Xuhui Districts

Former French Concession
The former French Concession (photo by Fotos593 / shutterstock.com)

For shopaholics


Speaking of the FFC, those who want to get some shopping done should pop by this alleyway enclave chock-full of stalls selling one-of-a-kind clothing, jewelry, accessories and plenty of souvenirs and other quirky knick-knacks. This is also a good chance for you to practice your bargaining skills with shop owners and see what kind of deals you can score. 210 Taikang Rd

For nature lovers

Sheshan National Forest Park

Located about an hour away from Shanghai’s city center, Sheshan National Forest Park in Songjiang is worth the trip if you’re looking to escape the crowds for a day. Divided into four main sections — East Sheshan Park, West Sheshan Park, Tianmashan Park, and Xiaokunshan Park — the park has over 12 mountain peaks, so there are a lot of hiking routes to choose from. Sheshan Township, Songjiang District

Sheshan National Park
Sheshan National Park (photo from shutterstock.com)

For a spot of culture

Jing’an Temple

The Buddhist Jing’an temple is a sight to behold. Covered in grand hues of gold, red, and deep brown, this majestic structure is over 700 years old and is a protected national treasure. It boasts one of China’s largest jade Buddha statues as well as many other stunning statues of historical figures and ancient gods. The entrance fee is about RMB50, but time your visit well and you may get in free during important Buddhist festivals and dates like the first and fifteenth day of each lunar month. 1686 Nanjing West Rd

Jing'an Temple
Jing’an Temple (photo from shutterstock.com)

For foodies

Xiao Yang Sheng Jian

Sorry, food fiends, but there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but this option comes pretty close. To eat like a local, hit up Xiao Yang Sheng Jian (also known as Yang’s Dumplings) for pan-fried pork buns and sheng jian bao (better known all over the world as xiao long bao or soup dumplings). The brand has been around since 1994, and there are more than 30 branches across Shanghai. Best of all? The dumplings cost between RMB8 to about RMB16 for four. 269 Wujiang Rd, Jingan District; +86 21 6136-1391

Written by

Samantha David

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