Shanghai Museums Tour, Shanghai (Self Guided)

With its architectural diversity, powerful economic hubs and a vibrant social life, Shanghai is highly recognized as the symbol of modern China. It is also a city boasting a rich culture and a large number of museums that show the city's devotion to its history. Get ready to explore some attractive cultural sites of Shanghai in the next self-guided tour.
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Shanghai Museums Tour Map

Guide Name: Shanghai Museums Tour
Guide Location: China » Shanghai (See other walking tours in Shanghai)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.2 km
Author: emma
Shanghai Natural History Museum

1) Shanghai Natural History Museum (must see)

Located in what was once the cotton exchange, this is the largest natural history museum in China. It covers an area of 12,880 square meters and is divided into 4 sections.

The Shanghai Natural History Museum is housed in a grand British style colonial building. The stained glass windows in the lobby and mosaic flooring are the only remaining parts of the historic structure. It was converted into a museum in 1956 and the department of animals was opened in 1960. It has 240.000 exhibits consisting of plants, animals, Stone Age objects found in China and minerals. The museum seeks to educate visitors about the evolution of mankind.

One exhibition hall is devoted to objects showcasing the History of the Ancient Animals. There is a stuffed Mamenxi dinosaur placed in the atrium that is over 140 million years old with a length of 22 meters. The Hall of ancient anthropology has objects unearthed and restored to show the stages of evolution. The hall of animals has stuffed Chinese animals and rare species like the Yellow River Mammoth, a giant Salamander, a Giant Panda and an alligator from the Yangtze River. The museum also has a library with an impressive collection of documents and books on natural history.

Why You Should Visit:
Very affordable tickets (but short queue), free lockers to use, clean toilets, comfy in-house cafe with a good selection of food, and an interesting gift shop.
There is also the man-made landscape garden INSIDE the building and even an enclosed terraced garden with waterfalls that gives an awesome atmosphere.

Head to the top first and then work your way down.
Check out the Jing'an Sculpture Park outside the museum – really nice and cool!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5:30pm
Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA)

2) Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) (must see)

Located near People's Park in Shanghai, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) hosts temporary exhibitions of modern art by Chinese and international artists.

MoCA Shanghai was founded in 2005 by the Samuel Kung Foundation as the first non-profit, independent, contemporary art institution in Shanghai. The glass building that houses the exhibitions is a reworking of the former People's Park Greenhouse by Atelier Liu Yuyang Architects. The ground floor and first level of the museum have a total of 1,800 square meters (19,400 square feet) of exhibition space, with the two levels connected by a sweeping steel ramp. The 3rd floor is host to MoCA on the Park, a full restaurant equipped with rooftop patio and bar.

The museum has focused on the promotion of Chinese and international contemporary art with a set of diverse exhibitions that include both well-known and fledgling contemporary Chinese artists, as well as retrospectives for leading names of the fashion and creative world. More recently, MoCA collaborated with the Korea Foundation to present 'Nostalgia: East Asia Contemporary Art Exhibition', which included works from China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea. Other international exhibitions include contemporary art from Indonesia, Hungary, Italy, and India, and an exhibition on Finnish Design in collaboration with Marimekko. Furthermore, MoCA holds a biennale, 'MoCA Envisage', which focuses on Chinese contemporary art and considers its recent direction and themes.

Admission fee depends on the specific exhibition, and quality seems variable so best check online before going.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall

3) Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall (must see)

To make better sense of urban Shanghai and follow its development over the years, head over to the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, the building shaped as a white magnolia, Shanghai's official flower. Sporting four inverted tents for a roof, it looks to the future both in its design and its contents, and is most interesting for the insight it gives into the grand ambitions and the vision of the city planners. It is actually a good idea to include this place early in your visit to Shanghai, as it provides plenty of information on the history and future, from geology to transportation, and you'll also pick lots of tips and facts to share when you get back from your travels.

The Yangzi River delta is currently the world’s fastest-growing urban area and that is well reflected on the 3rd floor which houses the world’s largest model. Sprawling across 100 sq meters, the remarkable model can be viewed from a gallery above and depicts the Shanghai of the not-too-distant future (if all goes to plan). Unsurprisingly, it takes the form of a parade of skyscrapers and apartment blocks, including ones as yet unbuilt, plus all the urban transportation systems, detailed at a scale of 1:2000.

In a video room next door you can get taken on a virtual 3D trip around this plan, called the “Journey of Wonder in Shanghai”, which some are delighted to watch not just once but twice, and maybe even more times. For another excellent view, this time around as limited to People’s Square outside, don't miss the very pleasant top-floor café and gift shop.

Other floors have maps of more construction to come, and a collection of old photos of colonial-era Shanghai, which is most interesting if you’ve already grown somewhat familiar with the new look of the streets. If you're still fresh to the city, not to worry – once you've browsed Shanghai in this Exhibition Hall, you'll be ready to go into the details of actually visiting the city, so carry a notebook with you to take notes of the places you want to see.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5pm (last admission at 4 pm)
Sight description based on wikipedia
Shanghai Museum

4) Shanghai Museum (must see)

To take a very close and comprehensive look at many of the world's most well preserved exquisite artifacts, head over to the Shanghai Museum. Opened in 1952, it holds one of the best displays of ancient Chinese art and cultural exhibits with around one million pieces from China’s neolithic period to the Qing dynasty – a span of over 5,000 years.

The building’s form is based on an ancient Chinese pot called “ding”, and its layout is inspired by traditional cosmogony, with a square base to represent earth and a rounded roof to represent heaven. The inside houses 10 permanent galleries as well as 3 rotating exhibitions from around the world – all with well-displayed pieces that you're free to snap photos of without flash.

After a 15-minute wait to pass through security, this incredible museum is totally free to explore – though, due to a tight schedule, you may have limited time. Guided tours can be arranged and there are also audio guides for those who prefer to explore independently.

According to the brochure, "There are nearly 130,000 pieces of national treasures covering 21 categories: bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, jade and ivory works, bamboo and lacquer wares, oracle bones, seals, coins, and artifacts of the ethnic minorities." The best stuff, on the whole, is on the ground and top floors.

One of the star attractions is, of course, the ground-floor gallery of bronzes, some of which date back to 2200 BC. Many visitors are unfamiliar with this early aspect of Chinese art and therefore the exhibit may seem less appealing than others; however, the diversity of shapes and versatility is striking and the intricacy of the metalwork is evidence that the Chinese society of the time had a sophisticated level of technology.

The ceramics gallery that takes over the first floor proudly displays pieces from every Chinese dynasty, while the painting gallery on the 2nd floor features amazingly naturalistic images of animals that are very easy to respond to – especially the lively images of birds.

The top floor contains the most striking and colorful gallery, dedicated to the many Chinese minorities, which will likely come as a shock to anyone perceiving China as a monoculture. Next door on the same floor, the Ming and Qing dynasty furniture is more interesting than it sounds, and don't forget the bookstore on-site with a wide variety of beautiful books on China!

Clean bathrooms on each floor, a tea house on the 2nd floor, and don't forget the bookstore on the 1st floor with a wide variety of beautiful books on China!

Opening Hours:
Tuesday-Sunday: 9am-5pm (last entry at 4pm)
Free admission
Sight description based on wikipedia
Birthplace of Chinese Communist Party

5) Birthplace of Chinese Communist Party

July 23, 1921 was the day on which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded, but few people know that this "birth" actually took place in Shanghai's metropolis. It was here, at No. 106, that the CCP held its First National Congress, thus chartering the course of what later became the People’s Republic of China while transforming this unassuming shíkùmén block into one of Chinese communism’s holiest shrines.

Although there are elements of propaganda over it, it is still a good place to learn a bit about the events in 1921. There's a little exhibition hall housing some rather curious artifacts and pictures from back then, combined with exhibits related to broader Chinese history and Shanghai history in particular. In addition, one can see a waxwork diorama of young Mao Zedong and his fellow delegates. As it seems, the curators have done their best with the number of displays given the building's reduced size.

Visitors have to get a ticket to get in, but the tickets are free and easy to obtain from the building next door to the entrance. If possible, try to avoid being around the Chinese guided groups, as the space would immediately get really crowded.

Overall, there's a fascinating contrast between this 'shrine' to Chinese Communism and the hum of the Starbucks right around the corner, jam-packed full of locals guzzling their chai lattes and using the free Wi-Fi – and a visit here is worthwhile just to see this juxtaposition of old and new, communism and capitalism...
Shikumen Open House Museum

6) Shikumen Open House Museum

The Shikumen Open House Museum recreates the interior of an authentic "stone-gate" house in Shanghai when the city was known as the Paris of the East. Its carefully restored two storys are fascinating to wander around, skillfully evoking the life of early 20th-century Chinese gentility before the communist era.

The “shikumen” style of house was the typical residence of middle class households in the 1920s and '30s unique to the city of Shanghai. At the time there were nearly 9000 shikumen houses with most of Shanghai's elderly residents having been born in them.

The house has eight well appointed exhibition rooms stretched over three floors: the living room, the study room, the master bedroom, the daughter's room, the son's room, the kitchen, the grandparent's room and the prayer room, each containing pertinent everyday objects of the era: from children's books and toys, to typewriters, kitchenware, furniture, toiletries and the like. A top-floor display details how the surrounding Xintiandi neighborhood came about, admitting that most of it was built from scratch.

Paved and pedestrianized, with old alleys opening out onto a central plaza, Xintiandi is a great place to wind down or linger over a coffee after your visit, with upscale restaurants and shops and plenty of outside seating for people watching.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 10:30am-10:30pm; Fri, Sat: 11am-11pm
Sun Yat-Sen's Former Residence

7) Sun Yat-Sen's Former Residence

The former residence of Dr. Sun Yat Set is a European style building located in Xinagshan Road, Shanghai. It was here that the author of modern China and his wife Soon Ching Ling lived between 1918 and 1925.

The former residence of Dr. Sun Yat Sen in Shanghai is often called the birthplace of modern China. It is in this house that the great revolutionary thinker wrote many of his well known books including the Doctrines of Sun Wen and the Plans for China’s Development. The house continued to be the residence of Madame Sun Yat Sen after his death in 1925. In 1961, she gave the house to the government to be preserved as a memorial to Dr. Sen. It was opened for public viewing in 1988.

Visitors to the house are greeting by a bronze statue of Dr. Sun Yat Sen. The interiors are preserved and the original furniture and furnishings used by the couple are on display. All the books and personal effects like the spectacles used by Dr. Sen can also be viewed and the memorial has many pictures and photographs showing his life and times. On his birth and death anniversaries, flower tributes are offered by the Municipal Government, his family members, local people and visitors in honor of his valuable contribution to Chinese history.

Operation hours: Saturday, Sunday: 9 am - 4 pm.
Zhou Enlai's Former Residence

8) Zhou Enlai's Former Residence

Premier Zhou En Lai stayed at this Spanish Villa located in the former French Concession during his visits to Shanghai. It was also the office of the Communist Party of China.

The former residence of Zhou En Lai is located in a beautiful neighbourhood with many quaint European homes. The ivy covered villa has three floors and a small courtyard garden. It once belonged to a wealthy French merchant and covers an area of 850 square meters. Today, Zhou’s statue can be found in the garden. The former residence of Zhou En Lai was used more as an office than a residence during his lifetime. He gave press conferences here and met foreign dignitaries before and after the communist takeover.

The house is now preserved as a museum. The Buick that Zhou En Lai drove is still parked in the garage and the office rooms of the Communist Party are preserved like they were during his lifetime. His neat bedroom with threadbare blankets and Spartan furniture is on display and a dorm that was used by other communist officials when they came to stay is preserved. Visitors can also see photographs and documents about the life and achievements of Zhou En Lai.
Shanghai Liuli China Museum

9) Shanghai Liuli China Museum

The Liuli China Museum in Tianzifang district, Shanghai is a repository of glass Chinese art and artefacts. The Museum displays an array of Chinese glass ornaments. It also features the collection of its founder, Loretta Hui –Shan Yang. The founder is a well known Taiwanese actress who has won the Golden Horse Award for best actress at the Taipei Film Festival twice and the best actress award at the Asia Pacific Film Festival. She has dedicated herself to the revival of traditional Chinese glass sculpture. She revived the art of cire-perdue glass casting and has adapted the technique to suit Chinese artistic designs.

Operation hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 am - 5 pm.

Walking Tours in Shanghai, China

Create Your Own Walk in Shanghai

Create Your Own Walk in Shanghai

Creating your own self-guided walk in Shanghai is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
City Orientation Walk II

City Orientation Walk II

Shanghai's old town is a vast area, once walled off when the city was split between foreign concessions. On this walk, you'll get a chance to appreciate the traditional ancient architecture of Shanghai en route to the large open-air market and delightful Yuyuan gardens, plus explore the trendy Tianzifang district for the exquisite shopping and entertainment the city has to offer!

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 km
The Bund Sightseeing Tour

The Bund Sightseeing Tour

The Bund is one of the most famous attractions in all of Shanghai. It represents the historic and architectural heritage of one of the most important ports in China. This row of 52 beautiful buildings has for decades facilitated economic relations between China and other countries. Take the following self guided walk to witness the historic buildings along the Bund of Shanghai.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 km
City Orientation Walk I

City Orientation Walk I

Perhaps more than any other Chinese city, Shanghai deserves to be called the “face of modern China.” Opened for centuries to foreign trade, the city has turned into the country's largest and most populated metropolis. The variety of local attractions, both ancient and modern, is enormous and includes the historic Bund area, massive skyscrapers, museums, theaters and more. This walking...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 km
Places of Worship in Shanghai

Places of Worship in Shanghai

The flourishing city of Shanghai is made up of a broad mix of cultures, with a large Western influence. This metropolis features a great number of places of worship that reflect the religious dedications of many of these cultures. Most of the churches and cathedrals are located in the central areas of the city, so they are surrounded by other wonderful, cultural landmarks. With this tour, you will...  view more

Tour Duration: 4 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.8 km
Souvenirs Shopping Walk

Souvenirs Shopping Walk

Leaving Shanghai without calling local specialty shops and procuring something truly original to bring home, as a souvenir, would be a pity. Nanjing Road – Asia's longest and perhaps most famous thoroughfare – is a popular destination replete with shopping and dining opportunities. Lovers of antiques will find Shanghai's Old City particularly interesting. Take this walk to explore...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 km
Children's Entertainment Tour in Shanghai

Children's Entertainment Tour in Shanghai

Shanghai is one of the largest cities in the world, a destination packed with modern architecture, historic sites, museums and other attractions. It is also one of the most fun cities in China with attractions for children, including amusement parks, aquariums and one of China's best zoos. This tour guide highlights some of the fun places in Shanghai for the little travelers.

Tour Duration: 1 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.4 km

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

15 Uniquely Chinese Things to Buy in Shanghai

15 Uniquely Chinese Things to Buy in Shanghai

Prepare a Shanghai surprise for your loved ones back home! Bring them a piece of exciting China from one of the country's most iconic destinations. Luckily, the choice of things fit to do the job is enormous. All you need is a knowledgeable advice on where to go to get a fair price and decent...

Tips for Exploring City on Foot at Your Own Pace

Whether you are in Shanghai for a quick stopover or have a few days to see the city in more detail, exploring it on foot, at your own pace, is definitely the way to go. Here are some tips for you to save money, see the best Shanghai has to offer, take good care of your feet while walking, and keep your mobile device – your ultimate "work horse" on this trip - well fed and safe.

Taking Care of Your Feet

To ensure ultimate satisfaction from a day of walking around the city as big as Shanghai, it is imperative to take good care of your feet so as to avoid unpleasant things like blisters, cold or overheated soles, itchy, irritated or otherwise damaged (cracked) skin, etc. Luckily, these days there is no shortage of remedies to address (and, ideally, to prevent) these and other potential problems with feet. Among them: Compression Socks, Rechargeable Battery-Powered Thermo Socks for Cold Weather, Foot Repair Cream, Deodorant Powder, Shoes UV Sterilizer, and many more that you may wish to find a place in your travel kit for.

Travel Gadgets for Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone or tablet will be your work horse on a self-guided walk. They offer tour map, guide you from one attraction to another, and provide informative background for the sights you wish to visit. Therefore it is absolutely essential to plan against unexpected power outages in the wrong place at the wrong time, much as to ensure the safety of your device.

For these and other contingencies, here's the list of useful appliances: Portable Charger/External Battery Pack, Worldwide Travel Charger Adapter, Power Converter for International Travel Adapter, and Mobile Device Leash.