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Things to Do in Shanghai When You’re Broke


China’s Shanghai is one of the largest cities in the world, with countless things to do and try; here are some of the best things to do in Shanghai when you’re broke or on a budget.

Updated: 2018-02-22, written by Nicholas MacKenzie

things to do in shanghai with little money
Nanjing Road, Shanghai. Taken by Wikimedia Commons user AndrewHorne.

Shanghai is an amazing city, being a cultural hotspot in China with an endless amount to see and do.  At the same time, the city can be pricey, with new reports calling it one of the most costly metropolises on the planet.  Below is a list introducing how to experience some of Shanghai’s best attractions without breaking the bank. Enjoy!

The Bund – Dinner on the Huangpu River

The Bund is a great place to soak in the architecture of this unique city and the general feeling of Shanghai. Old, colonial buildings on one side of the Huangpu River, and towering, neon skyscrapers on the other give tourists unique vistas and excellent photographic opportunities.  One of the best ways to appreciate these amazing views is to get on a tour boat and cruise down the river in the evening.  Bring a thermos of hot green tea and some mouth-watering, freshly made street food for a fantastic night out on the river.

Want more on China? Check out our China Destination Guide Overview.

Xiaolongbao – A Taste of Shanghai

These “soup dumplings” are prepared and served everywhere in Shanghai.  The dumplings are made of fresh pork and wafer-thin flour pouches which when cooked are full of mouth-watering soup.  Served in bamboo steamers with a side dish of vinegar, 6 dumplings should cost about 8 RMB (~$1.30), making this a cheap and delicious meal.

Jin Mao Tower – Great Views and Cheap Drinks

Have a drink in stylish surroundings without emptying your wallet in one of Shanghai’s highest bars: Cloud 9.  The bar is located in the Jin Mao Tower and a wonderful place to enjoy a drink on a clear night whilst overlooking the myriad of lights blanketing this huge megalopolis.  Between 5-7pm, drinks are buy-one-get-one-free, and other happy hour deals are available.

Yu Yin Tang – Check Out a Local Gig

If overpriced lounges are not your thing, then take in some music at Yu Yin Tang.  The concert venue is Shanghai’s oldest and most popular place to check out live gigs.  Regularly showcasing local talent, as well as inviting acts to perform from abroad, makes the bar is a great place to experience some of the city’s live acts for only around 40 RMB at the door.  The unassuming mood at the bar, great staff, and welcoming regulars also make it an excellent place to meet people.

Shanghai Museum – Fascinating History in the Center of the City

A perfect way to spend an overcast or rainy day, the museum has exhibitions of Chinese bronze work, porcelain, ethnic dress, fine art, and calligraphy.  Head down to the museum and check out China’s rich cultural and historical tapestry now – without paying a cent!

Chenghuang Miao – Shopping and Treasure Hunting

Chenghuang Miao is a market located next to Shanghai’s famous Yu Gardens (and also refers to its namesake temple).  It is a perfect place to pick up Chinese tea, art, or souvenirs without spending all your RMB.  Those who also enjoy treasure hunting and searching for knickknacks will find Chenghuang Miao exceptionally charming as shops in the area sell a huge selection of statues, vintage posters, teapots, and even opium pipes.  Remember to bargain for everything or face forking out five times more than your shopping is actually worth!

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