25 things to do in Shanghai for 25RMB or less

Where to work out, chill out and get cultured on the cheap

Smashed Piggy Bank With Coins from seniorplanning.org

Despite what you may have heard about Shanghai – a city famed for being expensive – there's still plenty of fun to be had on a tight budget. Whether you're chasing a cheap workout, a free culture trip or date ideas on a budget (paired with a bargain dinner), here's 25 great things to do that won't cost you more than 25RMB (or, even better, are free).

Work out at...


1. Lululemon community classes
The cult Canadian yogawear brand organises a load of regular free workouts around city, from Zumba and yoga to outdoor cycling and running.
Follow lululemonathletica on WeChat for the class schedule and booking information.

2. FitFam
Feel the burn without burning through a month’s salary with this community fitness club. FitFam holds free HIIT, yoga and running sessions all over the city.
Follow FitFamShanghai on WeChat for the class schedule and to book a class.

3. Nike Run Club
With groups for different distances and speeds, this popular (and free) running club has a route for all levels of fitness. Runners set off from the flagship Nike store most nights of the week.
Nike Flagship Store, 717 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Sinan Lu (6075 2478). Sign-up for the session through the NRC app (Nike+ Run Club).

Photograph: Sh.eastday.com.

4. Century Park’s 5km running track
Cough up 10RMB park entry and run to your heart's content around Century Park's scenic 5km running track.
1001 Jinxiu Lu, near Fangdian Lu, Pudong.

5. Yuanshen Indoor Stadium
Offering use of its basketball courts for 10RMB per hour and free reign of the skate park every day before 5pm, Yuanshen Indoor Stadium gives you the flexibility to elevate your heart rate while showing off your mad skills.
655 Yuanshen Lu, near Zhangyang Lu, Pudong (5860 2330).

Photo: UTPMedia/nforce sports

6. Be a spectator at Shanghai Community Sports Club
Technically not a workout, but you can get your spectator fix for free by cheering on one of the many local clubs at the Shanghai Community Sports Club. You can watch everything from cricket, football and rugby to ultimate frisbee and Gaelic football. Plus, all that jumping up and cheering takes a lot of energy. Check the club website for the match schedule.
2700 Zhangyang Bei Lu, near Wuzhao Dadao.

Catch free movies at...


7. Time Out’s Top 100 Mainland Film Screenings
That’s right, we’re doing our part to keep you entertained for grand price of nothing. One Sunday a month, Time Out Shanghai screens one of the greatest Chinese films of all time with free gourmet popcorn (and stellar views) at Glam, M on the Bund. For more details send ‘Film’ to our official WeChat (timeoutshanghaieng) to book your spot.
Seventh Floor, Five on the Bund, 20 Guangdong Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu (6239 3751).

8. The Pearl Movie Nights
Every Tuesday night at 8pm, The Pearl Theatre screens a cinematic gem on the big screen. The screening is paired with an all-night burger deal offering a bacon cheeseburger, fries and a beer for 88RMB. Plus, cash in on the pre-screening happy hour deal from 6-8pm.
471 Zhapu Lu, near Haining Lu (137 6488 0062).

9. Roxie Cinema
The last Wednesday of every month LBT bar Roxie shows a queer classic with free popcorn and buy-one-get-one free drinks deals from 6 to 9pm.
Roxie, Second Floor, 359 Kangding Lu, near Shaanxi Bei Lu (5121 3849).

Get cultured at...


10 & 11. Fuxing Park and the former residence of Sun Yat-Sen
A great spot for people watching, Fuxing Park is bustling at all hours of the day (and it's free to enter). Whether you’re in the mood to listen to ayis belting out their favourite songs or multiple renditions of Kenny G hits, or to watch group tai chi practice, this park has it all. And you can continue your cheap culture trip at the former residence of the father of modern China, Sun Yat-sen, just round the corner (20RMB entry).
Fuxing Park, 115 Yandang Lu, near Fuxing Zhong Lu.
Former residence of Sun Yat-Sen, 7 Xiangshan Lu, near Sinan Lu (6437 2954).

WeChat Image_20170727101925

12. The Marriage Market
Who needs online dating when People’s Park hosts the real deal every Saturday? Meander through rows of eager parents and grandparents advertising their single offspring.
Nanjing Xi Lu, near Huangpi Bei Lu.

13. Shanghai Postal Museum
Step back into a time before mass communication and sticker fights. Built in 1924 the Shanghai Postal Museum is a historic landmark and has more to offer than a killer stamp collection. Corinthian columns and horse drawn carriages fill the space that leads to a romantic rooftop terrace overlooking the Bund. Plus, this little trip down memory lane won’t cost you a jiao.
395 Tiantong Lu, near Sichuan Bei Lu (6396 6666).


14. Propaganda Poster Art Centre
The basement of a residential tower block hosts one of the city’s best museums, the fascinating Propaganda Poster Art Centre, drawing together a collection of over 5,000 propaganda posters. Not to be missed, and an absorbing trip for just 25RMB entry.
Basement, Bldg B, 868 Huashan Lu, near Zhenning Lu.

15. Yunnan Nan Lu food street
Sure, it’s touristy, but you can find all the Shanghai favourites – xiaolongbao, congyoubing, shengjianbao – at this street-food haven, and you’ll easily feast for less than 25RMB.


16. M50 art district
Despite some fierce competition from the West Bund art area, M50 remains one of the most innovative places to see free art in the city. The capital of contemporary art in Shanghai, it’s set amongst a backdrop of Insta-worthy refurbished old factories with chic concrete floors and unfinished ceilings. As well as housing a load of galleries churning out free (or very cheap) and exciting exhibitions, it’s also home to outdoor murals, sculptures and the iconic graffiti wall.
50 Moganshan Lu, near Xi Suzhou Lu.


17. The Power Station of Art
You could easily spend the best part of a day making your way around this enormous art museum. The converted power station is China’s first state run contemporary art space and – except for special exhibitions –entry is usually free.
200 Huayuangang Lu, near Miaojiang Lu (3110 8550).

18. Free walking tour
Play tourist for a day at this walking tour that kicks off at 10am daily from People’s Square Metro Station (Exit 3). The three-hour tour guides you through Shanghai’s history, explaining its evolution from a humble fishing village to a huge cosmopolitan city. You’ll hear the stories of the Art Deco architecture, the old Ming dynasty gardens and temples and much more. The tour is technically ‘donation based’, which means you can tip your guide whatever you feel like. Visit freetour.com/shanghai to book.
The tour leaves daily at 10am from People’s Square Metro station (Exit 3).


19. Qibao Water Town
Some of Shanghai’s water towns are a mission to reach, but one of the easiest – and cheapest – to get to is Qibao (which conveniently sits on Line 9). It's not the most impressive of all the water towns, but for the price of a metro ride you can see a slice of historic Shanghai.
Qibao Old Street, Qingnian Lu, near Bei Hengli Lu.

20 & 21. The Confucius Temple and secondhand book market
The city’s Confucius Temple in Old Town is also the home of its longest-running secondhand book market, set up weekly in the early hours of Sunday morning. Pop by and pay just 10RMB entrance fee for the temple – or stick to the outside vendors for free. The rest is up to your bartering skills.
215 Wenmiao Lu, near Zhonghua Lu.


22. 1933 Old Millfun
One of the city’s most fascinating architectural feats, the former abattoir is a massive four-storey Art Deco maze and the perfect spot for some free exploration. Each floor is connected by a succession of ramps, abducts and spiral staircases that most readily recall an MC Escher drawing – initially designed to control the flow of cattle being processed within the building, these now primarily serve as a unique backdrop for a unique photoshoot.
611 Liyang Lu, near Haining Lu (6888 1933).

Get creative at...


23. Unravel
Pull up a chair for the next instalment of this roving live storytelling series. Every month Shanghai residents spin their stories based on a set theme. It’s a welcome dose of humanity in this vast city, and it’s free. (Got a tale to tell or want to know where the next one's gonna be? Get involved by emailing unravelshanghai@gmail.com).

24. Drink and Draw
Flex your creative side and unleash at Shaving in the Dark’s monthly Drink and Draw sessions at Smash. A pen-to-paper session for all skills levels, all the drawing materials are provided, you just bring the talent – or the enthusiasm, at least. Smash’s happy hour is extended through the event, which means drinks from 25RMB.
Smash, 685 Dingxi Lu, near Niuqiao Lu (6282 1395).

25. Literary Shanghai Writing Collective
Literary Shanghai has launched a new writing collective for writers of all kinds to meet, share and discuss their work. The group, which aims to support and encourage novellists, poets, translators and editors, is free to join and usually meets at Garden Books. Check literaryshanghai.com for more information.

Even more great things to do on a tight budget