Of all the cities in China, Beijing tops most lists but Shanghai, with its 24 million inhabitants, is also massively popular.
It goes without saying that if you visit China, you should probably spend time in Shanghai, where Buddhist temples are just a metro ride away from massive skyscrapers. None of the large cities in the People's Republic of China can compare to Shanghai, not even Beijing.
Shanghai as a city, with its religious buildings, business districts, and the international airport, is representative of modern China. There are plenty of great reasons to visit Shanghai when you go to China.
In this article, we’ve some advice about the best time to visit China and Shanghai. Shopping, Buddhist temples, art galleries, the old town, and Chinese food are all on the itinerary.
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Travelling to China When There Are Important Events
A trip to Shanghai is an opportunity to enjoy some of the many events going on throughout the year. Heading when there’s something special going on is a great way to make the most of your time there.
The first of January is the New Year, even in China! You can hear the bells ringing from the Longhua Temple, a great sight in the middle of a beautiful Chinese garden. The fireworks launched over the Huangpu River light up the entire city including the Shanghai Tower and the Jade Buddha Temple.
The Chinese also celebrate the Lunar New Year, which coincides with the Spring Festival in China. This is the most important festival on the Chinese calendar. This is when there are dancing dragons and friends and family exchange money to wish each other good fortune. There’s no better place to enjoy this than in Shanghai or Beijing.
The Lantern Festival marks the end of the Chinese New Year with Chinese lanterns being launched into the sky to commemorate the legend of a God that wanted to burn the city but the lanterns made him think it was already on fire. This is a great time to enjoy Chinese cuisine too!
The last festival at the start of the year is when the peach trees bloom and the legendary dragon grants wishes. This festival takes place at the Longhua Temple in Shanghai.
From September to December, there are plenty of events organised such as the Mid-Autumn Festival, the National Day of the People's Republic of China, the Shanghai China International Arts Festival, and the Shanghai Marathon. There’s no lack of things to do in Shanghai!
Visiting Shanghai in Spring and Summer
Visiting a foreign city is a great idea, but you need to make sure you do it at the right time. Spring in Shanghai sits between the rainy season and soaring temperatures. This means it can be nice but once it gets hot, it’s very humid and can quickly become unbearable.
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Here are the averages between March and August:
- In March, temperatures range from 10° to 15°C
- In April, temperatures range from 15° to 19°C
- In May, temperatures range from 20° to 24°C
- In June, temperatures range from 24° to 27°C
- In July, temperatures range from 24° to 32°C
- In August, temperatures range from 23° to 32°C
If you’re not sold on the heat, you probably want to visit during March, April, or May. It can be difficult to enjoy your stay if it’s too hot. If you’re planning a trip to China, we recommend heading in spring as the summer fluctuates between unbearable heat and heavy rains, just like in Chengdu.
The cost of flights will vary across the seasons. Return flights to Shanghai in March start at £350. Of course, flights can reach nearer £1,000 in July and August. It’s always nice to walk along the banks of the Huangpu River with the sun shining on you. Spring is also home to a lot of local and national festivals.
Visiting Shanghai During the Cold Periods: Autumn and Winter
Westerners wanting to visit Shanghai during autumn may have understood that it’s probably the best time to visit in terms of the weather. We recommend visiting in September, October, or the start of November.
Winters in Shanghai can be mild but January should be avoided as temperatures plummet and rain is common. The more the temperatures drop, the worse the pollution in Shanghai gets. Avoid December, January, and February if you can.
Here are the highs and lows between September and February:
- In September, temperatures range from 20° to 27°C
- In October, temperatures range from 14° to 22°C
- In November, temperatures range from 9° to 17°C
- In December, temperatures range from 3° to 11°C
- In January, temperatures range from 0° to 8°C
- In February, temperatures range from 1° to 9°C
Beware of the winter months and in because there are plenty of busy events like the Chinese New Year which can make finding cheap accommodation almost impossible. The cost of flights from the UK to Shanghai in September average around £400. In December, they’ll increase slightly.
In short, autumn is the time to go.
Find out more about budgeting for a trip to Shanghai.
How Much Time Should You Spend Visiting Shanghai?
Just like any trip to Asia, you’ll probably want to spend longer than you would travelling to somewhere in Europe. This is even more so the case when travelling to China and Shanghai. You need to spend at least a week in order to get the most out of your time and your money.
Everything you want to visit in Shanghai will take some time. Split your activities into half days in order to give yourself more time. You’ll need even more time if you’re big kids or have kids with you wanting to visit Disneyland!
Shanghai is home to plenty of permanent attractions including the Bund, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center, Yangtze River cruises, the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, the Jin Mao Tower, the view of the downtown Shanghai skyline or the financial district, and the maglev train and you see where everything you want to see before choosing where you stay.
There are many districts to visit during your stay including:
- Huangpu District
- Pudong District
- Xuhui District
- Jing'an District
- Changning District
- Yangpu District
- Hongkou District
- Minhang District
It's worth mentioning that the Huangpu District and Xuhui District are home to the Former French Concession, an interesting example of the west in the east!
If you want to visit other cities like Suzhou, Hangzhou, or Nanjing, you’ll need even more time. If you want to see most of what Shanghai has to offer, take at least two weeks!
There are many sites to discover in modern China outside of Shanghai including the Sichuan and Guangzhou provinces, Beijing, the Temple of Heaven, and many a traditional city.
Now you should know a bit more about when to head to China and Shanghai. If you’d like to find out more, check out our other articles on the matter. You could also learn some Chinese with private tutorials from one of the many talented tutors on Superprof.
If you'd like to learn some Chinese before you go to Shanghai, you could consider enlisting the help of one of the many talented tutors on Superprof! The tutors on the site offer three types of private tutorials to help you learn the lingo: face-to-face tutorials, online tutorials, and group tutorials.
Face-to-face tutorials are taught with one student and one tutor and tend to be the most costly per hour. However, they're usually the most cost-effective type of tutorial since every minute in the lesson is spent focusing on you as the student. Additionally, the tutor will also be spending time outside of the lessons finding resources and planning the time they'll spend with you.
Online tutorials are similar to the face-to-face tutorials but take place either on a call or over webcam. Thanks to the internet, you can now video conference tutors from all over the world and be taught for less per hour. Of course, online tutorials can lack intimacy and while not ideal for hands-on subjects, they're great for language lessons. Your tutor might even be from China!
Finally, with group tutorials, you and some friends (perhaps the people you'll be travelling with) can get in touch with a private tutor to plan lessons that you'll all attend together. While these tend to be the cheapest per student per hour since the cost of the tutor's time is shared, you'll also get far less one-on-one time with your tutor.
Each different type of tutorial has its pros and cons and it's really up to you, how much you'll need to learn, how you want to learn, and what your budget is going to be for Chinese language lessons before you go.