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The best things to do in Shanghai this winter

Eat, drink, relax or get active with these great cold-weather ideas

Nip winter blues in the bud with these awesome cold-weather activities in Shanghai.

Warm up with winter street snacks

Chestnuts roasting on the street corners of Shanghai herald the coming of the winter months. Within a few blocks’ walk throughout the city you’ll find carts selling sweet potatoes and chestnuts fresh from their ovens. Warm up along your morning commute with other local snacks on this hit list of breakfast street food in Shanghai.

Indulge in hot chocolate


There may or may not be a correlation between our increased intake of hot chocolate and our growing preference for over-sized sweaters in the winter. Shanghai’s cafes offer up a sweet selection of re qiaokeli, from thick infusions of dark cocoa that are best ladled up with a spoon to DIY bowls of steaming milk served with a hulking chunk of solid chocolate. Here are five of our favourites.

Dip into the best hotpots in town

When the winter chill seeps into your bones, one of the best ways to warm up is with a group of friends hunkered over a steaming hotpot. Time Out picks the best hotpot restaurants in town, from Shabu Shabu chains to spicy Sichuan style broths and even one with a completely organic menu. If you're particularly health conscious, check out our list of the best healthy hotpots around.

Gather around the grill

Turn up the grill and fire up your taste buds at the myriad Korean joints in Shanghai. From eateries staffed by 'volunteer' North Korean students to cheap street-side bimbimbaps and the best of Gubei, we've got a full guide to Shanghai's Korean restaurants.

Order in

Bears do it, bees do it - maybe they're onto something. Some of us prefer to enter hibernation mode during the winter months, so it's a good thing food delivery is just a few clicks away. Check out these vegetable delivery box services and online grocery stores. Getting out your pyjamas? Forget about it.

Play Chef

Winter is the best time to get into a kitchen and whip up some hearty, home-cooked meals. Expand your repertoire with courses at cooking studios around the city. From Michelin-level kitchens to cutesy Hello Kitty-fied studios, Time Out scoured town for cooking classes and presents the ultimate guide to your culinary success.

Check out the bird's eye view


Look down on all of chilly Shanghai from inside the balmy peak of China’s tallest building. It’s the widest panorama available to date. If you’re into superlatives, this 127-floor monster has got you covered. It’s the second tallest building in the world after Dubai’s 828-metre Burj Khalifa – and lays claim to the world’s fastest elevators. It has the world’s highest restaurant, highest hotel lobby, highest swimming pool with a view, highest wind turbines, and hopefully highest central heating system.

Get a good a dose of culture

Take shelter from the cold by spending an afternoon in one of Shanghai’s many museums. The city has so many world-class exhibition centers; it can be hard to know where to start. Hit up these headliners before tracking down some smaller and more unusual alternatives.

Knead your worries away

Our bodies work extra hard in the winter, fending off pollution, cold, and… more pollution. This winter, take advantage of the wide variety of places in Shanghai to pamper your body and soul with massages and other spa treatments. We've listed our favourites this year here.

Visit a bathhouse 

As we head into winter, there are few better ways to while away a chilly day than heading to one of Shanghai’s bathhouses. Where else can you spend hours doing the essential things in life: watching television, napping, snacking on treats while lounging around on heated floors, playing table tennis with friends, and of course, getting your body scrubbed down from head to toe? We picked two of the best.

Upgrade your wardrobe

There is really only one redeeming factor to the arrival of winter in Shanghai: the excuse to revamp our wardrobes with a trip to the fabric market. Bring a photo of that couture jacket you’ve been coveting, and leave with a version of your very own, tailored to size. Plus you can expect the price to have a nice cut too. Read about when the Time Out team got measured up for customized pieces earlier this year.

Foster a new friend


What better way to get those warm snuggles than chillin’ on the couch with a furry friend? Winter is one of the toughest times of the year for animal shelters, and you can help by taking in a foster pet, which is generally cost-free for volunteers. If you want to learn more, reach out to People for Pets, Best Friends China, Jaiya’s Animal Rescue or Second Chance Animal Aid, and stay tuned to Time Out’s Weekly fluff blog to meet animals who need foster and forever homes. 

If you don't want to take on a pet full-time, you can also get in touch with Spare Leash to become a pet sitter.

Curl up with a good book (about China)

Curl up by the fire and pluck out one of Time Out’s best Chinese books since 1900. We called in the experts: 25 literature lovers and sinologists, including publishers, authors, translators, literary agents and academics, who were kind enough to share their top ten best Chinese fiction books and top ten works of non-fiction published since 1900. 

As well as many great books that didn't make it on to our best of list, we've included our judges' reasons for choosing each book, an invaluable insight into what makes them such good reads.

Jump around

There’s no doubt about it: the best way to warm up is to get active. Shanghai has no dearth of indoor activities to keep you moving this winter. For a more traditional sport, try one of many indoor wall climbing clubs or golfing centers. For a more wacky experience, try out bubble football, where you’ll be encased in an inflatable sphere while kicking around a ball, trampoline studios or laser tag.

Let it go, let it go

When Suzhou Creek freezes over for the winter, it’s time to embrace your inner Elsa with a trip to Shanghai Disneyland. Frolic through the castle lit up an icy blue, get your heart rate going on Tron Lightcycle, and join in with all the other Elsas young and old at the interactive show, Frozen: A Sing-Along Celebration. Here are some tips to make the most of your trip to Disneyland.

Visit a Christmas Market

Get into the festive spirit and sort all your Christmas gifts with holiday markets, fairs and bazaars around Shanghai this winter. We've got the full list of Christmas markets in Shanghai here.

Head to Yuyuan's lantern festival


Every year when winter is at its darkest the market at Yuyuan garden becomes a glowing spectacular of Chinese lanterns and lights, with a central theme of the zodiac animal of the year. This winter's festival will kick off in the middle of January and will be celebrating the year of the rooster - expect some clucking great lights.

Strap on your skates

Time Out Family glided around six of the coolest indoor ice skating rinks in Shanghai to find out which ones are ice cold and which are just plain vanilla.

Escape the room

There’s nothing like being trapped inside the dungeon of a mad scientist, surrounded by aliens and having to crack a code to crawl your way out to make you forget about the frigid weather outside. Head over to a room escape like Mister X or X-Room with a group of friends to warm up your brain for the evening.

Sweat it out

Stay strong this winter. We've got the full run-down of the best places in Shanghai to get fit, from bells-and-whistles chains to budget community centres.

Get crafty

Pottery Workshop 3

Want to avoid being stuck inside with idle hands? We've got you covered. Time Out tried a selection of the city's craftiest classes, including pottery, screen-printing, woodworking and soap-making workshops - find more info on all of them here.

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