Shanghai's best swimming pools and water parks

The best places to splash out this summer

When the temperatures rise in Shanghai, there’s only one place to go – the pool. And there’s a fair few to choose from. But whatever your style or budget, Time Out has got you covered.

Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao 

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ENTRY 10,000RMB per year for a membership card 

INCLUDING Access to pool and gym 

The 30 metre-long pool at the matter of factly named Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao is just one design feature away from being merely another hotel pool in Pudong. Yet that design feature is a spectacular one. While not technically outside, the swimming pool, located on the 24th floor, juts out from the building with glass windows in the bottom, creating what the hotel dubs a ‘pool in the sky’ and a swimming experience that enables you to look down to the pavement below from within the water. It’s a little unerring watching pedestrians taking photos of you as you swim above their heads, but the hotel reportedly consulted aerospace designers and expert architects to ensure that the structure was safe, and it results in one of the most memorable swims in the city. 

Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao is at 1088 Xiuyan Lu, near Henghe Zhong Lu, Pudong.


Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental

Sofitel-Sheshan-OrientalENTRY 300RMB 

INCLUDING Access to indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, steam room and fitness centre It’s hard to overstate the luxe factor at this lovely pool. A total 4,400 square metres of crystal-blue swimming territory awaits you, with outside pools surrounded by a man-made sandy beach, rows of loungers, bars, palm trees and faux-Mediterranean architecture. It’s a little bit of a journey from the centre of town, but is walkable from Sheshan station on Line 9 and not being downtown only helps to add to its retreat vibes. 

As you’d expect, everything inside is also rather wonderful, with shiny clean changing rooms, top-notch gym and general loveliness. But this level of decadence doesn’t come cheap; entry is 300RMB just for the pool. A far better option is to get the brunch deal however; fork out 368RMB for the brunch buffet, and 568RMB to include free-flow Champagne and drinks, and you can get all-day access to the pool as well, dishing up plenty of tanning and indulgence. 

Sofitel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental is at 3388 Sichen Gong Lu, near Jiasong Nan Lu, Songjiang district. 


Shimao Riviera Garden

ENTRY 200RMB for adults, 100RMB for kids 

INCLUDING Access to indoor and outdoor pool, sauna and fitness centre 

Part of a posh Pudong residential complex, the Shimao Riviera Garden pool is situated inside a clubhouse which is largely used by the occupants of seven towers’ worth of luxury service apartments. These surround the outdoor pool, and so along with the general footfall through the compound, it means there’s little to no privacy when swimming al fresco. However, the space itself is appealing; the sort of place a Miami resort pool party might groove in, with an enormous aquamarine pool (plus wave machine), faux-beach, deckchair area, and bar. Inside there’s also a smart and expansive pool, with a massive hot tub, sauna and steam room. Choose your visiting time wisely – given it’s part of a residential property, the pools fill up with kids come evenings and weekends. 

Shimao Riviera Garden is at Building 5, 1-2 Weifang Xi Lu, near Pucheng Lu, Pudong. 


Purple Mountain Hotel

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ENTRY 150RMB for adults, 80RMB for kids 

INCLUDING Access to outdoor pool and indoor gym facilities 

The Purple Mountain Hotel might not be in the most glamorous part of town – stranded in a nondescript part of Pudong somewhere between Lujiazui and Century Park – but this means that it’s excellent rooftop pool often flies under most people’s radars when the sun comes out. There are two pools – one for adults and one for kids (the latter is half the depth of the former, at 1.5 metres) – and views across the eastern side of the city from the fifth floor terrace they sit on. As with many pools around town, swimming caps are compulsory, but it’s a minor annoyance for what is likely to be a largely undisturbed, uncrowded swim. 

Purple Mountain Hotel is at 788 Dongfang Lu, near Zhangyang Lu, Pudong.


Grand Plaza Club House

ENTRY 100RMB Mon-Fri, 150RMB Sat-Sun 

INCLUDING Access to pool, Jacuzzis and squash courts; and free towel 

One of the most popular outdoor pools in the Former French Concession, the Grand Plaza Club House is situated inside same the compound on Julu Lu as Mexican restaurant Maya, thus is known by many as the ‘Maya pool’. It’s a small swimming area with not much surrounding floor space, and packs out quickly with sun-seekers – mostly groups of friends settling in for a day of drinking. Chilled and well-located (and open to non-residents all year round). 

Grand Plaza Club House is at 568 Julu Lu, near Shaanxi Nan Lu, Jingan district. 


New Star

ENTRY 88RMB 

INCLUDING Access to outdoor pool, indoor baths, showers and upstairs chill out area 

The original branch of New Star is one of our favourite bathhouses in the city, but it may not seem like an obvious place to head to when temperatures outside are hitting the mid-30s with a hefty dose of humidity on top. Yet hidden out the back of the main bathing area is a great outdoor swimming area with a small section for kids, a medium-sized pool for adults and a handful of sun loungers on the side. It’s not the biggest outdoor pool in the city, but it’s rarely overly crowded. 

New Star is at Lane 258, 1 Jinhui Nan Lu, near Hongquan Lu, Minhang district. 


Mandarine City

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ENTRY Adult 100RMB, children 60RMB 

INCLUDING Pool entry 

Another pool located inside a housing complex, Mandarine City is popular with everyone – from families who live in the residence to Gubei daytrippers who get stuck into the pool bar, which serves both food and beer. It’s a large pool, though, so everyone manages to swim in harmony, and it probably helps that the site is a pleasant spot in itself – the adjacent tower blocks are shielded by a thick plantation of green trees. The trip to Hongqiao is certainly worth the while, and lots of people know it – it fills up fast. 

Mandarine City is at 788 Hongxu Lu, near Huaguang Lu, Minhang district.

The Langham Xintiandi

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ENTRY When you're a customer at Chuan spa where massages are an average of 800RMB, you’ll get pool access 

INCLUDING Access to gym, Chuan spa 

So it’s not exactly a regular pool membership, but if you can afford to splash out for a few treatments at the Langham’s Chuan Spa, then you’ll be able to splash out in its wonderful, cocoon-like subterranean pool. While some pools invite hundreds of lengths, noisy children or spring break parties, others simply suggest that you relax. The Langham’s – a cocoon-like room encased in sandstone-effect walls, and complete with underwater music – is so relaxing, in fact, that on our latest visit, we lay down on one of the absurdly comfortable wicker sun-beds and promptly fell asleep. 

The Langham is at 99 Madang Lu, near Taicang Lu, Huangpu district.


The Portman Ritz-Carlton

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ENTRY 24,500RMB per year 

INCLUDING Access to indoor and outdoor pools, sauna and fitness centre 

The Portman Ritz-Carlton Shanghai boasts both a glistening indoor and outdoor pool, large outside lounging area ripe for sunbathing, and swish changing rooms complete with Jacuzzis, steam rooms and sauna. The indoor pool is perfect for getting your exercise in, before you collapse on a sun lounger outside, and round off your visit by a hot blast in the steam room. The pool is free for residents of the Shanghai Centre serviced apartments upstairs, and so has a rather lovely community and family feel about it. Bring the kids and the family down for a mix of exercise and fun, with extremely friendly staff and excellent facilities to hand. 

The Portman Ritz Carlton is at 1376 Nanjing Xi Lu, near Xikang Lu, Jingan district.


The Peninsula

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ENTRY The Peninsula Wellness Membership has an annual fee of (gulp) 46,000RMB 

INCLUDING Access to the fitness centre, swimming pools, free parking, four one-day guest access passes, and discounts on treatments and classes 

It wouldn’t make much sense for one of the most decadent hotels in Shanghai to have a pool that was anything less than jaw-droppingly beautiful. In keeping with The Peninsula’s modern Art Deco theme, the tiles in and around the dome-shaped indoor heated pool are replete with characteristic lines and swirls, and set beneath a dazzling skylight. Swimming here is a transporting experience – and you might even take tea (or Champagne, whatever) on the adjoining terrace afterwards. 

The Peninsula is at 32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Beijing Dong Lu, Huangpu district.

Jingan Sports Centre 

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ENTRY 30RMB Mon, Wed, Fri 7-8.30pm; 35RMB Mon-Fri 3.30-9pm; 40RMB Sat-Sun 

INCLUDING A 90-minute session 

A thoroughly utilitarian sort of pool that offers the full Chinese swimming pool experience – including the requisite swimming cap and a cursory consultation with a doctor upon joining, who all being well will issue you with a health certificate (for 5RMB) permitting you to swim. The 25 x 50m nine-lane pool is designed for competitive swimming, and while not everyone uses it for this, it’s a good place to get some lengths in. Try to drop by in the evenings when it’s a bit quieter. 

Jingan Sports Centre is at 151 Kangding Lu, near Jiangning Lu, Jingan district.

Shanghai Stadium 

ENTRY 30RMB 

INCLUDING An hour in the indoor pool 

This is not a luxury option by any means, but it’s still one of the best budget pools if you want a swim without having to join up to a fancy health club. Changing rooms are strictly functional, but the swimming area is huge, meaning you can often avoid the crowds that plague many public pools. Separate teaching pools and children’s areas also help thin out the hordes. Be aware though that it can still get crowded – head here early in the morning or around evening meal times (5-7pm) for a quieter experience. You’ll be given a ‘health check’ the first time you visit, though as at most public pools this usually involves nothing more daunting than a blood pressure check. And you’ll need to wear a swimming cap, for extra sex appeal. 

Shanghai Stadium is at 1111 Caoxi Bei Lu, near Lingling Lu, Xuhui district. 

Oriental Sports Centre

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ENTRY 20RMB (Weekday before 3pm), 40RMB (Weekday after 3pm), 70RMB (Weekend before 7pm), 20RMB (Weekend after 7pm)

INCLUDING A 90-minute session 

There’s no mucking around here – this is a seriously good pool (if you want a serious swim). The grand complex hosted the FINA world championships in 2010, and qualifying for the 2012 Olympics too; inside there’s an Olympic size pool as well as a diving pool (the latter sadly not open to the public) – and now that the kids’ ‘water park’ area is somewhat depressingly drained, this isn’t the place to go if you want to splash around. Be wary that the main pool often gets busy at weekends, so swimmers are advised to turn up early. There’s also an impressive outdoor pool over the road which is open through July and August (and an indoor skating arena if you prefer your pools frozen). 

Oriental Sports Centre is at 701 Yaoti Lu, near Linpu Lu, Pudong.

Dino Beach

ENTRY 260RMB for adults, 130RMB for kids Mon-Fri and 180RMB on weekends 

Shanghai’s oldest water park was starting to show a bit of wear and tear by the end of last summer and they continue to charge high prices for generally terrible food and drink, but Dino Beach still proves a popular destination for a young, splash-happy crowd. The dinosaur-themed park features a host of slides, a fake beach, wave pool, water-top assault course and a dedicated range of attractions for younger children. There are extra charges for renting lockers etc and the food and drink is overpriced and generally poor quality, but the Line 12 extension has made it more accessible than ever for a few hours of water-based entertainment. 

Dino Beach is at 78 Xinzhen Lu, near Gudai Lu, Minhang district.

Playa Maya

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ENTRY 120RMB for adults, 100RMB for kids 

While Dino Beach is more established, Playa Maya is edging it out as the preferred water park destination this summer thanks to the addition of a 30,000sqm ‘Magic Watertown’, which opens this year from 16 June to 3 September. So along with the Playa Maya classics like the eight-pronged Big Octopus slide and the Lazy River, there are five new family play areas, an extra four slides that are 17 metres high and a hundred metres long, and a ‘water battlefield’ area including 12 water slingshot launchers and ‘water balls’ for 48 people to play in at a time. Oh yes. 

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Playa Maya is at 888 Linhu Lu, near Linyin Avenue, Songjiang district.

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