Free Things To Do in Shanghai
- #1View all Photos
Shanghai's picturesque waterfront, known as "the Bund," is where you'll find those classic skyline photo ops. With the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center and other skyscrapers standing across the Huangpu River, the view (on a clear day) stuns. And behind you, gorgeous European-style buildings housing restaurants and shops (Nanjing Road is just around the corner) line the waterfront boulevard, affording plenty of activities.
Though a gateway to other attractions, the views from the Bund were the only thing on most travelers minds. Visitors consistently report being in complete awe of Shanghai's skyline, so much so that some said skipping this attraction would be like skipping the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Most agreed the best time is to go at night – the skyscrapers illuminated in different colors create an unbeatable photo op. Not only that, but smog can occur during the day, and depending on the weather, can hinder one's first-time viewing experience. But whichever time you decide to visit, know that many other people want to experience this picture perfect moment too – so expect crowds around the clock. And considering the immense tourist traffic the Bund receives, vendors and pesky hawkers set up shop here too.
- #2View all Photos
Located on the People's Square near Nanjing Road, the Shanghai Museum is hard to miss thanks to its distinct architecture (a circular building atop a square foundation) and remarkable size. And you really shouldn't skip this historical gem. Frequently called one of the best museums in China, this expansive museum houses a diverse collection of artifacts (more than 1,000,000 to be exact) that chart the nation's history. Highlights include ornate calligraphy, exquisite jade carvings, thousand-year-old bronze works and traditional Chinese garb.
English-speaking travelers, in particular, praised the museum for its presentation of both Chinese and English exhibit descriptions. Others loved the vast amount of historical articles available for view and appreciated the comprehensive history lesson they were able to get out of it. Keep in mind: Since there is no entrance fee, you're likely to encounter many others looking to take advantage of this freebie, so come early if you can.
- #3View all Photos
Located 29 miles west of downtown lies the Venice of Shanghai, Zhujiajiao. This ancient water town saw its heyday during the Ming Dynasty, when its success as a commercial hub resulted in the construction of its picturesque waterways. The area remains composed of numerous canals with bridges connecting visitors to scores of charming narrow streets. Expect to find tiny cafes down back alleys, friendly boatmen offering rides and hole-in-the-wall shops selling souvenirs. Though recent visitors found strolling Zhujiajiao lovely, reviewers strongly suggested visiting during the week, as the big weekend crowds can hinder the experience.
Admission to Zhujiajiao is between 30 to 90 yuan ($4 to $13); the difference in price depends on what attractions you wish to visit within. Getting there, however, can be a challenge. The easiest way to reach Zhujiajiao is to take a taxi from downtown Shanghai, which should cost you between 150 to 200 yuan (about $22 to $30) each way. But, if you'd like to save some dough, take the hour-long bus ride from the Puanlu bus station near People's Square in Shanghai. This will only set you back 12 yuan (about $2). Just make sure you get on the Hùzhu Gaosù Kuàixiàn bus line.
- #10View all Photos
Whether or not you have money to burn, consider visiting Nanjing Road to witness the hustle and bustle of Chinese commerce. The Shanghai equivalent of New York's Fifth Avenue, Nanjing Road stretches six miles total and boasts retailers from all over the world in addition to local shops and department stores. In the daylight, you'll admire the graceful architecture of the surrounding buildings. At night, you'll marvel at the illuminated logos and brand names that line the avenue.
The main drag has been designated a pedestrian-only street, but that doesn't mean you can ignore traffic. Thousands of shoppers clog this main artery on a regular basis, so come prepared to power through the crowds. And if you are planning to spend some cash, make sure you do so wisely. Recent visitors said they didn't do much shopping because it was difficult to find a bargain. However, travelers were taken by the atmosphere of the lively thoroughfare and recommended going to witness the life of the area for that reason alone (though many strongly cautioned against engaging aggressive hawkers that permeate some parts of the street). Some even said vendors followed them, but not for very long. The best thing to do is to completely ignore them. Prostitution can also be found on Nanjing Road, so it's best not to bring children along.
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