It’s no secret that Shanghai has upped its museum game in recent years. With culture being at the root of Shanghai’s energy and charm, the best way to gain a foothold of the city is to explore its impressive range of museums. While we’ll always have a soft spot for the more traditional museums like Shanghai Museum and Shanghai History Museum, their epic wait times and packed galleries don’t always result in the most enjoyable experience. Instead, a raft of privately owned spots like Aurora Museum and Guanfu Museum has recently been giving the behemoths a run for their money, making a visit to the museum no longer just a rainy-day alternative but a must-see on the itinerary. Read on to find out more about the best museums in Shanghai!
1. Aurora Museum
Designed by world-renowned Japanese architect Mr. Tadao Ando, Aurora Museum is as beautiful as its name sounds. The Roman-style columns and high ceilings are undoubtedly a display of opulence and European influence, not to mention that its interior is cleverly furnished with full glass windows that bring in an abundance of natural light and at the same time offer a panoramic view of Huangpu River. Of course, apart from its hauntingly beautiful décor, the museum is also well-regarded for its collection of pottery, jade artifacts, porcelain, and Buddhist sculptures dating from the Neolithic period to the Qing dynasty. Don’t miss the jade burial suit of 2,903 tiles, as well as the magnificent view of The Bund on the fifth-floor cafe. The museum even extends its opening hours to 9pm every Friday so that visitors can get a glimpse of the dazzling nightlights of Huangpu District.
Address: Aurora Building, 99 Fucheng Rd, near Dongchang Rd
Website: Aurora Museum
Opening hours: Tue - Thu & Sat - Sun: 10am - 5pm; Fri: 10am - 9pm (closed on Mon)
Price: 60 CNY (8.72 USD)
2. Guanfu Museum
Located on the 37th floor of China’s tallest building—Shanghai Tower—Guanfu Museum boasts the title of the highest museum in China and therefore has one of the best views of Shanghai’s central business district. It offers five distinct galleries that house over 500 artifacts, including gold, Buddhist art, furniture, silk, and an impressive ceramic collection from the Song dynasty (960 - 1279). The Shanghai branch is a relatively recent addition to Guanfu Museum, which started in Beijing as one of China’s privately run museums. Guided tours are available in English, Mandarin, and Japanese, but it comes with a fee and has to be reserved at least one day in advance.
Address: Shanghai Tower, 37/F, 501 Yincheng Zhong Rd, near Lujiazui Ring Rd
Website: Guanfu Museum
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 6pm; Mon: 10am - 5pm
Price: 100 CNY (14.54 USD)
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3. Shanghai Film Museum
Instead of going to the cinema, movie buffs can find themselves being equally delighted at Shanghai Film Museum, where detailed information on the history and craft of filmmaking is presented through multimedia presentations and interactive games. Spanning four floors, the museum not only contains a wide range of props and vintage filming equipment but also houses a 4D cinema, working production studios, as well as a lovely café. From recreating movie sound effects to strutting down the Walk of Fame with blinding lights and thundering applause, anyone who loves movies will have a fulfilling few hours spent here, appreciating the work that goes into their favorite movies.
Shanghai Film Museum
Address: 595 Caoxi Bei Rd, near Puhuitang Rd
Website: Shanghai Film Museum
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9am - 5pm (closed on Mon)
Price: 60 CNY (8.72 USD)
4. China Art Palace
Dubbed the Crown of the East due to its resemblance to an ancient crown, China Art Palace is the most eye-catching museum that this list has to offer. You’d be surprised to find only five levels in the 63-meter-high (206.7 ft) pavilion—each level is named according to its altitude, and the best way to explore the entire museum (if time is on your side) is to head to the top floor (49m) first, then descend floor by floor via ramps and escalators so that you get to experience what each of the 27 exhibition halls has to offer. With more than 1,400 artworks showcasing the origin and development of modern Chinese art as well as special exhibitions from other countries, it is almost impossible to leave without spending a good three to five hours in the museum, so set off early and don’t forget to pick up an audio guide on the 0m floor and the 49m floor if you need one, for a fee of 20 CNY (2.91 USD) along with a deposit of 200 CNY (29.07 USD).
China Art Palace
Address: 205 Shangnan Rd, near Guozhan Rd
Website: China Art Palace
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 6pm (closed on Mon)
Price: 0 - 20 CNY (0 - 2.91 USD)
5. Liuli China Museum
Colored glaze, or liuli in Chinese, is a decorative art medium unique to China as it is deeply rooted in Chinese history and religion. The term was first used to describe glassware during the ancient Tang dynasty (618 - 907), and it was subsequently found in Buddhist sutra, where the Light of Liuli signifies the elimination of greed and desire. Learn more about the delicate art of liuli and its religious significance at Liuli China Museum, where the oldest known liuli artifact and private collections of famous Chinese glass artists are showcased. Contemporary glass artworks of international guest artists are also featured in temporary exhibitions, so don’t miss them!
Liuli China Museum
Address: 25 Taikang Rd, near Sinan Rd
Website: Liuli China Museum
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9:30am - 4.30pm (closed on Mon)
Price: 50 CNY (7.27 USD)
6. Power Station of Art
Anyone can tell from the massive 165-meter chimney that Power Station of Art literally used to be a powerplant, but it has recently been transformed into the country’s very first state-owned contemporary art museum for the 2010 Expo. Having hosted some of the city’s biggest art shows, including the 2014 Shanghai Biennale and a massive retrospective of Andy Warhol’s work, Power Station of Art—figuratively speaking—has also been the generator of Shanghai’s new urban culture, providing a rich source of inspiration for local artists and a platform for the public to learn and appreciate contemporary art. Don’t miss the free guided tours held every Sunday from 1pm to 4pm in the exhibition hall!
Power Station of Art
Address: 200 Huayuangang Rd, near Miaojiang Rd
Website: Power Station of Art
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 11am - 7pm (closed on Mon)
7. Shanghai Museum
Teeming with tourists at any time of the day, Shanghai Museum errs on the side of touristy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time. On the contrary, it has easily one of the most impressive collections of historical artifacts in the country. It houses masterpieces of Chinese art that date back as far as the Neolithic period, along with signage that provides a monumental overview of more than 6,000 years of traditional artwork in various media—including bronzes, ceramics, sculpture, ink painting, calligraphy, furniture-making, and even costume design. These artifacts are spread across 11 galleries over four levels, and audio guides are available in more than eight languages. If the sheer quantity of relics is too overwhelming to handle, keep a lookout for the free guided tours at 10am and 2pm that are conducted by trained volunteers in Mandarin. Not to mention, the museum has waived its entry fee since 2008, which means that a trip to Shanghai Museum is completely free of charge.
Address: 201 People’s Ave, near Huangpi North Rd
Website: Shanghai Museum
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9am - 5pm (closed on Mon)
8. Shanghai Starry Art Museum
Unlike your traditional museum, Shanghai Starry Art Museum houses neither ancient relics nor famous art pieces. Instead, it features many uniquely themed rooms that are designed for photo taking, the most popular one being Starry Sky 3.0—a 20-square-meter (215 sq ft) booth filled with dazzling fairy lights that form the perfect interstellar backdrop for your Instagram photos. Other rooms boast mesmerizing art installations and illusionary artworks that play with your perception, so don’t miss out on this opportunity to step up your Instagram game!
Shanghai Starry Art Museum
Address: Basement 2, Pier 16 Shopping Center, 531 Zhongshan E Second Rd, near Longtan Rd
Opening hours: 10am - 9pm (daily)
Price: 58 CNY (8.43 USD)
9. Suning Art Museum
Located in Changfeng Ecological Business Park, Suning Art Museum is another privately owned museum on the list. Established by Zhang Guiping, the chairman of Suning Universal—a property and hotel business—this museum features more than 3,000 antique works dating back to the Tang dynasty (618 - 907) as well as a modern art collection. The main exhibition hall has been designed to resemble a Chinese garden and is strategically divided into five sections for easier viewing. After touring the exhibitions, you may want to capture some photos of the lovely French-style architecture surrounding the museum.
Suning Art Museum
Address: Block C3, Suning Tianyu International Plaza, 99 Danba Rd
Website: Suning Art Museum
Opening hours: Wed - Mon: 10am - 5pm (closed on Tue)
Price: 60 CNY (8.66 USD)
10. Shanghai Natural History Museum
Located within Jing'an Sculpture Park, this natural history museum houses over 10,000 artifacts from all seven continents, with numerous exhibit spaces that take you right from the Big Bang to a lifelike recreation of a busy African savannah to scale models of early Chinese agricultural communities. One of the most striking exhibits here is the 140-million-year-old complete skeleton of the dinosaur mamenchisaurus, but if you prefer roaring interactive dinosaurs to a skeletal structure, then there are those too! The 4D theater and hands-on ocean-life exhibit tanks also make it the perfect spot for your kids’ learning journey.
Shanghai Natural History Museum
Address: 510 Beijing West Rd, near Chengdu North Rd
Website: Shanghai Natural History Museum
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 9am - 5.15pm (closed on Mon)
Price: 30 CNY (4.36 USD)
A great way to fly under the tourist radar
Museums are a great option if you wish to escape the crowds of a highly populated city like Shanghai and, at the same time, seek to truly understand the local culture and heritage. If you want to avoid any miscommunication with your cab driver, check out smartshanghai.com for printouts of the Chinese addresses of these museums. Last but not least, bon voyage!
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