The perfect mix of old and new, this mega city is home to more than 24 million people! There’s never a dull moment in Shanghai.
You could come to Shanghai and spend a fortune, swanky restaurants and expensive tourist attractions are on every street corner, but it is possible to do Shanghai on a budget, I’ve listed our favourite free (or as close to free as possible) things to do in Shanghai below.
Free Things To Do:
The Bund is number 1 on every travel guide to Shanghai, it’s easy to see why. The views are amazing, you have old shanghai on one side and the beautiful glittering skyline of Pudong on the other side of the river. We visited Day and night, both times were really busy and we had to take these photos over the top of other people’s heads.
A walk along the East side (Pudong side) of the Huangpu river also offers great views but it’s less crowded. To get across the river you will need to use some form of public transport. The cheapest and most fun way to get across is to use the public ferry (not one of the expensive sight seeing ferries) it only costs 2¥ and you get a great 360 view of the Shanghai skyline. The subway is less interesting but also affordable, a one way ticket costs 3¥. There is a tourist tunnel that you can walk through but at 90¥ each I thought it was an absolute ripoff. (We took the ferry and even though it wasn’t technically free it was only 23 pence which is why I’ve included it in this list.)
The Shanghai 1930’s street is a representation of what a typical street in Shanghai would have looked like at that time. They also have some interesting facts about daily life during the 1930’s on the wall in English for visitors to read. You’ll find the street in the People’s Square subway station.
People’s Park was closed for renovations during our visit but we have on good authority that it’s a must see destination in Shanghai. Our friend who lived in Shanghai for 7 years recommended it to us.
The Shanghai urban planning exhibition is only free if you buy a ticket to any of the other major attractions like the various observation decks around the city etc. Otherwise you will need to pay 30¥ to enter, so I’m cheating putting this one on the list but it’s really worth the £3.37. It’s crown jewel is on the 3rd floor where there is a massive scale model of Shanghai as it is today, test your geography skills and see if you can spot your hotel. (The Green Tree Inn is on there!) They also have a great 360 degree movie which made me a little sea sick but was interesting to watch.
Tianzifang heritage area is a maze of old streets recently renovated into a tourist paradise, the narrow alleyways hold all sorts of treasures including souvenir shops and restaurants, all contained in traditional old houses.
Nanjing Road is the opposite to Tianzifang, step into the neon light future and find a good place for a coffee overlooking the street. It’s a great place to people watch and see where China’s future is headed.
Where To Eat:
There’s a small row of around 6 restaurants opposite the Frazier Residence, they are local authentic restaurants at very reasonable prices and most menus contain pictures. We had an absolutely delicious meal there (the name was in Chinese) for much less than in other areas of town.
The subway system in Shanghai is one of the best in the world, its extensive and has A/C. Trains run every few minutes and a single ticket costs between 2¥ to 5¥ depending how far your going. The subway is crazy busy during rush hours but any other time it’s fairly relaxed.
Getting to the city from Pudong airport is really easy, the cheapest option is to take the metro, but it’s really slow. You also have an option of a high speed Maglev (magnetic levitation train – wow!) which can get you into the city in just 8 minutes. One way tickets cost 50¥ or a 80¥ for a return. It will drop you off at Longyang Road subway station and it’s easy to get anywhere in the city from there.
If you arrive after 23:00 the trains will have all stopped for the day, there is a night bus that operates from 23:00 to 05:00. If you take a taxi it will cost between 120¥ and 160¥ depending on what part of the city you’re staying.
Where To Stay:
We stayed at the Green Tree Inn next to Tangqiao subway station, the rooms were clean and modern and it’s handy for getting around but there is a night club on the ground floor which plays loud music all night so I’d give it a miss if your a light sleeper. Luckily for me I sleep like the dead.
We paid £13 per night by using our hotels.com reward points but rooms usually cost around £35 per night, which is pretty good value for Shanghai.