This is a guest post.
Shanghai, one of the largest cities in the world and the largest city in mainland China, is a bright beacon of modernity and culture that beckons to any would-be traveler to China. Although not the most expensive place in the world, Shanghai is still not the cheapest city to travel to, and especially not compared to other cities in China. Whether you’re looking to extend your time in Shanghai for as long as possible, offset the cost of your flight, or keep to a strict budget for your time there, it can be nice to know the low-cost and free options available to you in the city. Here are some ideas:
Visit a Museum
Keen on learning about the history of China? You’ve come to the right place! The Shanghai Museum has one of the best collections of ancient Chinese artifacts in mainland China, including jade and bronze works, china wares, calligraphy, and more. Or if you’re more interested in the art side of Chinese culture, head over to the China Art Museum (also known as the Shanghai Art Palace) to study the development of Chinese art in its collection of prints, paintings, and sculptures. Both of these museums are free to enter and explore.
For a look at Chinese art in action, check out the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre. Although not free and a little tricky to find, this museum offers a fascinating look into Chinese culture and history during the last half century, and at only about $3.50 to enter, it’s well worth the price of admission.
Take a Stroll
Shanghai will have your inner architect squealing if you know where to go. Wander through one of the idyllic ancient water towns to see traditional Chinese architecture in both buildings and bridges. Many of the water towns charge an entrance fee upwards of $15, but you can also visit some of the towns for free, such as Fengjing, which is probably the best preserved of the water towns, or Zhujiajiao, with its natural lake.
Return to the city feel and take a stroll around Tianzifang, an artsy neighborhood full of coffee shops, galleries, and 1930s architecture. Or if you’re looking for a prime spot for a photo op, head to the Bund, Shanghai’s waterfront neighborhood. Here, you’ll get a good view of the skyline of the city, from towering skyscrapers to classic Gothic, Romanesque and Baroque buildings.
The most famous temple in Shanghai is the Jing’an Temple, which holds both Buddhist and Daoist icons. The original temple burnt down in the late twentieth century, but new buildings have been constructed since and keep true to the historical temple. The temple offers free admission on the first and fifteenth of each lunar month except the first, and even the normal admission price is not too prohibitive. It’s well worth going inside to see the largest jade Buddha statue in China, as well as a Ming era copper bell and other important artifacts.
Go on a Walking Tour
One way to see a lot of what Shanghai has to offer is to take a walking tour. But who wants to pay to have to meet up at a certain time and follow around a huge group of people? These days, more and more travelers are using their smartphones to make their travels easier, and because of this, there are some great apps out there that maximize your flexibility.
For Shanghai, check out Every Trail’s Shanghai walking tour app. This will guide you through your walk and tell you all about the important sights—and better yet, it’s free! Just remember that to protect your personal information and access any sites blocked by China’s Great Firewall, you probably want to set up a VPN on your iPhone or other smartphone device prior to travelling abroad.
Chow Down on Budget Eats
Of course, your visit to Shanghai gives you the chance to try authentic Chinese food—but dining in restaurants can get pricey unless you know where to go. Try heading to Fangbang Xi Lu. Have a look through the market and grab some fried noodles, fried dumplings, or wontons. Behind the market stalls, there’s a whole string of restaurants that serve up some great regional dishes.
Actually, there are a lot of great options for street food in Shanghai—but you’ll obviously want to be careful about where you go. Look for a busier place with hot, fresh food and you should be fine. If you’re still a little skeptical, though, check out TimeOut Shanghai’s list of cheap eats around the city and you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy!
From history to cuisine to culture, Shanghai can’t be beat! This bustling metropolis offers a fascinating look into Chinese traditional ways as well as being a fun place to hang around parks and people-watch or explore your more artistic side. Although not the cheapest city in China, you don’t have to break the bank during your visit as long as you’re savvy and do a little prior planning. Enjoy your time and explore and Shanghai will find a special place in your heart!
Jess Signet is a travel writer and blogger who never in one place for very long. Her parents were travelers and she inherited their love of travel. Jess loves writing about her travel experiences and sharing travel tips and stories with others.
Image credit: https://pixabay.com/en/shanghai-sky-building-street-879060/