10 things to do in Shanghai on a budget

All photos are mine, unless stated otherwise.

Even though Shanghai is a very modern, expensive city, there are still many things to do there for those who are on a budget. I have mentioned 10 things to do below, with short explanations and examples. And guys! Some of them have links to earlier blog posts I have written, so check them out! (The links are in this colour) Enjoy 🙂

1. Visit the museums

Most of the museums in Shanghai are free of charge, and will teach you a lot of history about the city. Some of the most popular museums’s in the city include Shanghai Museum (上海博物館), Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre (上海宣传画艺术中心), Shanghai Natural History Museum (上海自然博物馆), China Art Museum (中华艺术宫) and Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre (上海城市规划展示馆).

Shanghai Museum

2. Strolling the streets of Shanghai

There is no better way to see Shanghai, or any city for that matter, than strolling the streets. There are many unique streets in Shanghai that will show you different parts of the city, and there are many opportunities to witness how the city has changed. Some of these streets include Tianzifang (田子坊), the Bund (外滩), Xintiandi (新天地) and West Nanjing Street.

Tip: if you want to go shopping (not for budget-people!), the best streets are the East and West Nanjing Streets.

the streets, RANDOMS.JPG
East Nanjing

3. Explore the Ancient Water Towns

The scenery and athmosphere in these towns are lovely, and there are several around Shanghai. Most of them are free enrance, but do remember that if you want to do any of the attractions within the town it will cost you money. Some of these attractions could for example be cooking courses or a boat-trip. Popular towns are Zhujiaojiao Ancient Town (朱家角), Qibao Ancient Town (七宝镇) and Fengjing Ancient Town (枫泾).

Tip: also check out Zhaojialou Ancient Water Town, and their foodmarket!


4. Get inspired by Shanghai’s Iconic M50 Art District

Also called 50 Moganshan Road (莫干山路50号),  or just “M50”, this place is a popular contemporary art district in Shanghai. It houses more than a hundred different artists whose studios are open to the public, for free. It is often mentioned as one of the must-see’s in Shanghai (which I totally agree to), and has been compared to New York’s SoHo!

Tip: go check out the incredibly long graffiti wall that stretches around the M50 entrance. It’s awesome.

50 Moganshan Lu

5. Visit one of Shanghai’s Parks

Most of them are free of charge, and every one of them offer something different. You see; in Shanghai the parks are not only a place for relaxation and a picnic, they are the cultural meeting place. You will find people practicing their tai chi, old women dancing or people sword practicing. To put it simply – there is something for everybody.


6. Take the metro

The metro is the cheapest way to get around Shanghai. Tickets usually start at about 4 RMB (and ends up at 10 RMB at most), which will take you a long way. There are metro stops for almost every place you want to see in Shanghai. Most of them have easily understandable names, and tells you where you are going, like the metro stops Xintiandi, West Nanjing Road, East Nanjing Road, Jing’An Temple, Lujiazui and so on… But, if you want to see such as the Bund, which does NOT have a metro named after it, then you need to check out the Shanghai metro map – or go online.

PS: the closest metro stop to the Bund is East Nanjing Road.

Photo found here.

7. Walk around Shanghai’s Old Town

Most people end up in Shanghai’s Old Town because they want to visit the YuYuan Gardens. The gardens are not too expensive to visit, but if you don’t want to spend any money you can just walk around in the old town instead! It’s free, interesting and shows you a part of Shanghai you probably haven’t seen yet.

Shanghai Old Town

8. Buy a Shanghai hop-on hop-off bus pass

The Shanghai sightseeing buses are a great idea for those of you who only have a short layover in Shanghai. The tickets are split into 24hrs and 48 hrs, for CNY 30 and 50 per person. The bus will take you on a tour around the must-see’s in the city, and includes free map, earphones and audio guides.

the bund 12.JPG
The Bund

9. Embrace the local food

The food in Shanghai is delicious, and includes a lot of seafood, buns and dumplings. There are a variety of both meat dishes and vegeterian dishes, and please note that the chinese loves tofu! Tofu is everywhere. As well as Shanghai’s own xiaolongbao; steamed buns served in steamed bamboo baskets, often considered a kind of “soup-dumpling”.  It’s delicious, and can be found on every streetcorner. Also look for the traditional jiaozi (dumpling) and baozi (the typical breakfast food). Noodles, wontons and soups can also be found around Shanghai, and usually for a very cheap price.

shanghai dumpling.jpg
Photo found here.

10. Visit a market

Shanghai is a heaven for food-lovers, but it is also a heaven for all kinds of other things. You can find almost anything at the markets in the city. Flower markets, fabric markets, camera markets, food markets – no matter what you are looking for, you’ll find it in Shanghai.

Looking for tailored clothes? Check out the South Bund Fabric Market or the Fake Market under Shanghai Science and Technology Museum. Tip: check out the Pearl Market.

Looking for flowers? Check out the Caojiadu Flower and Bird market, the Hongqiao Flower Market or the Xizang Nan Lu Flower and Bird Market.

Looking for food? Check out the Muslim Market, the Jiashan Market or the questionable (but popular) Shouning Lu Market.

Muslim Market

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