As China’s largest city, Shanghai certainly has the space and the scenery to grab your attention. The city offers a poignant mixture of old and new, with its futuristic skyline and high-speed rail network delivering an insight like no other into modern China.
Just down the road, you’ll find areas swamped with history. As one of the earliest open ports in the country, it has a fierce colonial heritage and its older architecture tells its story so well.
Shanghai is a place where eastern and western cultures blend beautifully but exploring one of the country’s most fascinating cities comes at a price. It is important to remember however that, as with any city break, Shanghai is only as expensive as you make it.
With a bit of research, you’ll find tons of fun freebies to fill your Shanghai itinerary. Here we share the highlights that don’t cost a penny so you can enjoy the best of Shanghai on the tightest budget.
Hit the streets
With such a diverse scene to offer, one of the best things to do is to explore the city on foot. This fun freebie will provide hours of entertainment with every part of Shanghai offering something new to see.
Tianzifang, a shopping area based in the lively and charming French Concession area of the city, is a particular favourite. It’s a rabbit warren of small alleyways, each of which is lined with quirky shops, bars, and Chinese street food stalls.
Finish your day of exploration by enjoying a walk across the Bund as the sun goes down. The Bund’s waterfront comes alive at night with Shanghai’s traditional and modern landmarks lit up to create the most mesmerising display.
Visit the museum
Find out more about Shanghai’s fascinating history and heritage by visiting the Shanghai Museum. The museum is bursting with treasures and relics, with its collections showcasing the country’s best bronzes, jades, ceramics, and calligraphy. With four floors to explore there’s a lot to take in and plenty of opportunities to learn much about Chinese culture.
Why not continue mixing modern and traditional by exploring Shanghai’s street art scene? World-famous street artists have done their best works here, leaving the city and its roads and alleyways bursting with colour. M50 in the city’s Moganshan Road Art District is of the most popular places to see modern art at its most cutting edge.
Here Alice from Teacake Travels reveals more about what to expect from this vibrant and ever-evolving neighbourhood:
“What is so fantastic about this space is how it continues to pulsate, contort and change continuously. One week you may gawp at a T-REX, furiously blasting its way out of a wall to devour every bone in your body.
Return there again in two weeks time and that dinosaur has been overpowered and exterminated by a mesmerising lady in white, staring right through you in a truly beautiful way.”
Explore the city’s greener side
For a huge, cosmopolitan city, Shanghai is home to a number of great parks. These green spaces will leave you feeling half a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city’s urban areas.
Century Park, Fuxing Park, People’s Park, Xujiahui Park, and Zhongshan Park are among the best, but there are many more to explore. Please note, whilst most parks in Shanghai are free to enter, some charge admission.
Discover more reasons to visit two of China’s most vibrant cities with our guide to Shanghai and Beijing.