Shanghai's quirkiest museums

Our guide to the best off-the-beaten track museums in Shanghai


Shanghai has so many museums it can be hard to know where to start. Time Out track down some unusual alternatives to the big ones.

China Tobacco Museum

Opposite the imposing headquarters of Zhonghua Tobacco, the China Tobacco Museum is the largest venue of its kind in the world. A bewildering array of smoking paraphernalia is spread over three floors, though there’s no mention of the fact that China is also a world leader in smoking-related deaths.

Free admission.

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728 Changyang LuFree

National Anthem Gallery

Beneath the National Anthem Memorial Square near to Tilanqiao Prison and the Jewish Refugee Museum (see above), the National Anthem Gallery is dedicated entirely to ‘The March of the Volunteers’. Unsurprisingly, the gallery is filled with nationalistic fervour (in English and Chinese), though there are some genuinely interesting diversions en route such as a small section devoted to American singer and supposed Communist sympathiser Paul Robeson, plus a giant central mural.

Free admission.

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151 Jingzhou LuFree

Shanghai Sports Museum

Shanghai Sports Museum might sound like an all-encompassing temple to competitive activity, but it’s actually rather limited to one exchangeable exhibition and a permanent Olympics exhibition. The exhibition currently on display is "Shanghai and the NBA," a tribute to the NBA's presence in Shanghai. The exhibition displays photos, memorabilia, trophies, figurines and more. The cheesy memorial to the Olympics is not much to write home about, apart from maybe the graphic depictions of naked ‘wrestlers’ – but that’s only if you’re really desperate.

Free admission

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150 Nanjing Xi LuFree

Shanghai Glasses Museum

China’s first and only glasses museum displays hundreds of different frames and lenses, some of which date all the way back to the Song dynasty (960-1279). Almost everything is in Chinese, but museum worker Miss Tian offers explanations in English as best as she can. Bizarrely, you’ll learn about how some animals see the world: horses, for example, have dichromatic vision which means they see blue and green colours of the spectrum but cannot distinguish red.

Free admission.

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533 Baochang Lu

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