10 Totally Free Things to do in Shanghai

When you first start living in Shanghai, especially if you are a recent graduate, you might find cash to be a bit tight.

You’ll find that Shanghai has thousands of things to do for fun, but many of those have a price tag attached to them.

The places on our list below are here because they are 100% free to visit. It's our attempt to get you started in Shanghai with a list of 10 Totally FREE things to do in the city!

#1: Get Cultured at Shanghai Museum

Shanghai Museum

Shanghai Museum - The Shanghai Museum is a major landmark situated alongside People’s Park and People’s Square. The museum contains over 120,000 pieces of ancient Chinese art and relics, including jade, calligraphies, broze and seals. The museum sees 2 million visitors a year and ranks 23rd in the world in attendance. If you want to beat the crowds, try to avoid a weekend. 

Address: 201 Renmin Avenue, Huangpu District (Accessible via People's Square metro stop on Line 1/2/8)


#2: Explore the Chinese Pavilion at China Art Museum

China Art Museum Shanghai

China Art Museum - Housed in the former China Pavilion from the 2010 Shanghai Expo, the building is a sight to behold. Resembling an upside-down pyramid, the bright-red structure evokes an ancient Chinese crown. Use the museum visit as a time to check out the old Expo grounds, which have fallen into a rusted state while waiting to be redeveloped.

Address: 205 Shangnan Lu, Pudong District (Accessible via China Art Museum metro stop on Line 8)


#3: Appreciate Urban Art at M50

M50 Shanghai

M50 - Lots of art to look at on this list. M50 is an art district housed in a former manufacturing center. Artists and various galleries have set in to use the space as studios and galleries. Check out Moganshan Road for the famous Graffiti Wall. It may not last much longer as it may be overcome by the always-redeveloping Shanghai.  

Address: 50 Moganshan Lu, near XiSuzhou Lu, Putuo District (Accessible via Zhongtang Road metro stop on Line 4)


#4: Check out the Sculptures of Red Town

Red Town Shanghai

Red Town - Shanghai’s other creative space, Red Town is also filled with galleries and studios, often playing host to many art openings. During spring and summer, the central courtyard is overrun by children, but laying down on the hill with a book or a picnic is something worthwhile. Red Town has a couple cafes worth a look and has some fun outdoor installations to see.

Address: 570 Huaihai Xi Lu near Hongqiao Lu (Accessible via Hongqiao Road metro stop on Line 3/4/10)


#5: Picnic in Fuxing Park

Fuxing Park Shanghai

Fuxing Park - Speaking of picnics, there may be no better place than Fuxing GongYuan. Located in the former French Concession, it has a wide open green space where you can lay down in the grass and enjoy the nice weather. Awesome location to check out some tai chi and to people-watch, if you’re into that (and who isn’t?).

Address: Entrance corner of Chongqing Lu and Fuxing Lu, or go to 105 Yandang Lu near Nanchang Lu (Accessible via Xintiandi metro stop on Line 10)


#6: Walk, Jog, or People Watch in Century Park

Century Park Shanghai

Century Park  - Century Park is Shanghai’s largest park. You can reach it via subway (Line 2, less than 20 minutes from People’s Square) out in Pudong. Great for running, hanging out, picnics and any other park activity you can think of. Century Park has also been the hosting site for Midi music festival on multiple occasions.

Address: 999 Meihua Lu, Pudong New District (Accessible via Century Park metro stop on Line 2)


#7: Bike the Former French Concession

Former French Concession Shanghai

Former French Concession exploring - During good weather, particularly sunny days, a stroll or bike ride through the Former French Concession (FFC) is as good as it gets. Cafes, boutiques, alleyways, embassies, and beautiful artchitecture (art deco, French, and more) are sometimes hidden in plain sight throughout the tree-lined streets. Here are 3 routes to get you started:

  1. TimeOut Shanghai’s quick guide gets you through the FFC on a 1.5 hour route, starting near the Shanghai Library (Line 10) subway stop.
  2. ChinaHighlights’ Former French Concession walk focuses on some of our favorite streets: “Wukang Lu, Fuxing Lu, Tai'an Lu, Dongping Lu, Julu Lu, Taojiang Lu, Wulumuqi Lu, Yongfu Lu, Xinle Luand Changle Lu.” Also begins near the Line 10 Shanghai Library stop.
  3. The Former French Concession in Shanghai is so large (8KM), it’s impossible to hit all of it in one day- this one is unique in that the route covers the eastern area of the FFC.

Accessible via multiple metro stops: Shanghai Library on Line 10, Shaanxi South Road on Line 1, Changshu Road on Line 1/7, Hengshan Road on Line 1


#8: Climb the Steps at 1933

1933 Slaughterhouse Shanghai

1933 Building - This historic building was previously a slaughterhouse, but underwent renovations in the last 5 years. Ownership loosely calls it a “creative hub”, but Randomwire sums it up with: “Poorly constructed ‘design’ shops and overpriced restaurants seem to be permeating what could have otherwise been a very successful urban renewal project.” However the views and architecture make it a must-see, and still worth a visit and walk through historic Hongkou district.

Address: 29 Shajing Lu near Haining Lu, Hongkou District (Accessible via Hailun Road metro stop on Line 4/10)


#9: Explore Hongkou's Jewish Quarter

Hongkou Shanghai

Hongkou District exploring - While you’re visiting the 1933 building, take the opportunity to explore Hongkou a bit. It’s easier done via bicycle, since the subway doesn’t pass through all these areas. Hongkou housed thousands of Jewish refugees during WWII, and was at once a Jewish ghetto. A walking tour can be found here, and a more general tour here.


#10: Stroll Through Xuhui Riverside Park

Xuhui Riverside Park Shanghai

The West Bund & Xuhui Riverside Park - Accessed via Line 7 (Middle Longhua Road / Longhua Zhong Lu), walk south from the subway station along Dong’An Lu. You’ll see red cranes in the distance- that’s the Xuhui Riverside Public Open Space, and just beyond it, the Huangpu River. At the West Bund you’ll find a rock climbing wall, skate park, basketball courts, and more. One of our favorite things to do is hang out between the skate park and the water. Seeing the endless stream of large freighters and cargo ships drift by can be almost calming, but a reminder of the non-stop resource development.  

Address: Dong’an Road & Longteng Avenue, and/or Fengling Road & Ruining Road (Accessible via Middle Longhua Road on Line 7) 


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About the Author
Author: Mike

Mike is SmartIntern's co-founder and a 6-year Shanghai resident. With beginnings in the Midwest, USA, he brings a sense of midwestern hospitality to the SmartIntern team. You'll be likely to spot Mike riding a bike through Xuhui district, grabbing a cocktail at Arcade, and dropping into Ippudo for a hearty bowl of Japanese Ramen. 

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