Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Shanghai Museums Tour (Self Guided), Shanghai

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 or 3.9 Miles
Author: emma
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Shanghai Natural History Museum
  • Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA)
  • Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall
  • Shanghai Museum
  • Birthplace of Chinese Communist Party
  • Shikumen Open House Museum
  • Sun Yat-Sen's Former Residence
  • Zhou Enlai's Former Residence
  • Shanghai Liuli China Museum
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 get a sense of urban Shanghai and to trace its development over the years, make beeline for the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. Shaped as a white magnolia – Shanghai's official flower – this building sports four inverted tents for a roof and is quite advanced in terms of both design and contents, offering insight into the grand ambitions of Shanghai city planners. It is actually a good idea to visit here early on your trip to Shanghai, as it gives plenty of information on the history and future of the city, from geology to transportation, with lots of useful facts and tips to benefit from.

The Yangtze River delta, whereat the city is located, is currently the world’s fastest-growing urban area, which is something well reflected in Shanghai’s largest scale model on the 3rd floor, outlining the city's not-too-distant future (if all goes to plan, that is) sprawled over 100 sq meters. Not surprisingly, it takes the form of a parade of skyscrapers and apartment blocks, including those yet unbuilt, plus all the urban transportation systems, detailed at a scale of 1:2,000.

In a video room next door you can take a virtual 3D trip around this plan, called the “Journey of Wonder in Shanghai”. Another excellent thing to observe is the bird's eye view over the People’s Square opening from the top-floor cafe and gift shop.

Other floors feature maps of upcoming construction projects and collection of old-time images of colonial-era Shanghai, which is most interesting if you're already 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 detail by actually walking the streets, so make sure to carry a notebook and take notes of the places you might want to visit.

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

4) Shanghai Museum (must see)

For a close and comprehensive look at many of the world's best-preserved exquisite Chinese artifacts, head over to the Shanghai Museum. Open since 1952, it holds one of the best displays of the ancient Chinese art comprising nearly one million exhibits spanning over 5,000 years – from China’s neolithic period to the Qing dynasty.

The building itself reminds of an ancient Chinese “ding” pot, and its layout has been inspired by traditional Chinese cosmogony wherein a square base represents earth and a rounded roof represents heaven. Inside there are ten permanent and three rotating international exhibitions with the items so well displayed that one can snap a photo without even using a flashlight.

After about 15-minute wait to pass the security, you are free to explore the museum at will, although, because of a tight schedule, the actual visit time may be limited. The museum runs guided tours, as well as offers audio guides to those preferring to walk independently.

According to the museum brochure: "There are nearly 130,000 pieces of national treasures covering 21 categories: bronze, ceramics, calligraphy, paintings, jade and ivory works, bamboo and lacquer wares, oracle bones, seals, coins, and artifacts of ethnic minorities."

One of the museum's highlights is, undoubtedly, the ground-floor gallery of bronze with some of the artifacts dating back to 2200 BC. Very few visitors are familiar with this early period of Chinese art and therefore such exhibits may appear somewhat less appealing to the eye than the others. However, the diversity of shapes and versatility is striking and the intricacy of the metalwork attests to the sophisticated technology available to the ancient Chinese.

The ceramics gallery, on the first floor, proudly displays pieces from practically every period of Chinese history, while the gallery of paintings, on the 2nd floor, features amazingly naturalistic images of animals – especially birds.

The top floor contains the most striking and colorful gallery, dedicated to the many Chinese ethnic minorities, which may appear somewhat shocking to those perceiving China as a monoculture. Next door, on the same floor, is the display of the Ming- and Qing-period furniture which is more interesting than it sounds.

Clean bathrooms on each floor, a tea house on the 2nd floor, and before leaving the museum, don't forget to check out the on-site bookstore for a wide choice of beautiful books on China, in case you're interested in any!

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am-5pm (last entry: 4pm); free admission
Sight description based on wikipedia
Birthplace of Chinese Communist Party

5) Birthplace of Chinese Communist Party

July 23, 1921, is the day the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was founded, but very few realize that its "birth" actually took place in Shanghai. It was here that the CCP held its First National Congress, thus charting the course to what later became the People’s Republic of China and subsequently transforming this unassuming shikumen block into one of China's most venerated communist shrines.

Despite elements of propaganda, this place gives a fairly good account of events of 1921. There's a little exhibition hall with curious artifacts and photographs, combined with the exhibits related to the broader Chinese history and Shanghai history, in particular. Among other things displayed here is a waxwork diorama of young Mao Zedong and his comrades. The curators really have done a good job fitting so many displays into a relatively small space.

In order to get in, you'll need a ticket, but the tickets are free and provided next door to the museum entrance. Once inside, seek to avoid guided Chinese groups whenever you can, as the space gets crowded almost immediately.

Overall, a visit to this 'shrine' of Chinese Communism is a great contrast to the hum of Starbucks just around the corner, jam-packed with locals guzzling their chai lattes and enjoying free Wi-Fi – a 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 “Paris of the East.” The carefully restored building is fascinating to wander around, skillfully evoking the life of early 20th-century Chinese gentility before the communist era.

The “shikumen” style housing was typical and unique of Shanghai's middle class back in the 1920s and 30s. At the time, there were nearly 9,000 shikumen houses in the city, with most of Shanghai's elderly population having been born there.

The house-museum 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 grandparents' 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 the old alleys opening out onto the central plaza, Xintiandi is a great place to wind down or linger over a coffee after a visit to the museum, surrounded by upscale restaurants and shops, and with plenty of outside seating for people watching.
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.
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 or 0.7 Miles
Shanghai Introduction Walk I

Shanghai Introduction Walk I

Perhaps more than any other Chinese city, Shanghai deserves to be called the “face of modern China.” Despite modern look, the city emerged on a map as far back as 751 AD. Shanghai County was established under the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century, although the city character, as we know it today, began to take shape in the aftermath of the first Opium War in 1842. The post-war treaty opened...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.6 Km or 1.6 Miles
Shanghai Introduction Walk II

Shanghai Introduction Walk II

hanghai's Old Town is a vast area, once walled off, when the city was split between foreign concessions. On this walk, you are going to have a chance to appreciate Shanghai's traditional ancient architecture en route to the large open-air market and delightful Yuyuan Garden, plus explore the trendy Xintiandi and Tianzifang districts for the exquisite shopping and entertainment the city...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles
Historical Religious Buildings

Historical Religious Buildings

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 or 5.5 Miles
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 or 2.3 Miles

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...