From Art to Animals (and Insects): Shanghai's Best Museums

From Art to Animals (and Insects): Shanghai's Best Museums
By Susie Gordon ,

Whether you’re a tourist to Shanghai or a resident there’s no escaping the lure of Shanghai’s museums. If you’re the sort of person who thinks museums are just for geeks/bores/pensioners, think again, and give Shanghai’s a chance. Here is a selection of the best:

Shanghai Urban Planning Museum 上海城市规划展览馆View In Map
Shanghai seems to be in a state of constant flux – buildings going up left right and centre, construction sites on almost every other block, old derelict areas being razed – all rather confusing. So it’s good to know that there’s some thought behind it all. The Urban Planning Museum lays out these plans in a detailed and interesting way, showing through a series of displays and models what the city will eventually look like over the next generations. The highlights of the museum include the scale model of Shanghai which you can walk around on a raised walkway, and a room dedicated to the city’s harbour, in which you can pilot a mock container ship into port. Also, the names of some of the rooms, e.g. First Hall of the Master Plan, sound deliciously sci-fi.

Add: 100 Renmin Dadao, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6318 4477
Ticket booking: 021-63722077
Opening hours: Tuesday-Thursday 9:00-17:00, Friday-Sunday 9:00–18:00 (last ticket sold hour before closing); Closed on Monday
Price: 30 RMB
Getting there: Take subway line 1 or 2 to People’s Square

Shanghai Museum 上海博物馆View In Map
There’s a lot to see in this one. Said to be the best museum in China, it has over 120,000 pieces of Chinese art and artefacts from archaeological digs over the years, spread over four floors and eleven galleries. All the usual suspects are here – pottery, bronzes, statues, paintings, and all manner of ancient stuff from the historic dynasties. It’s not just what’s inside that’s interesting; the building itself is something of a curio. Depending on who you talk to, it either looks like a Han era mirror or a cooking pot – make up your own mind.

Add: 201 Renmin Dadao, Shanghai
Tel: 021 63725300 ext 132
Opening hours: Daily 9:00-17:00
Price: Free
Getting there: Bus No. 574, 71 123, 46 6, 934, 145; Subway 1 or 2

Shanghai Art Museum 上海美术馆View In Map
Almost tipping over into art gallery territory, but featured here mainly because of its name, the Shanghai Art Museum is a conglomeration of 12 separate galleries displaying both traditional and modern art. The building is a heritage site, and used to overlook one of Shanghai’s biggest racecourses. As well as permanent displays, the museum hosts regular visiting shows, and offers art classes to the public (starting at around ¥150).
Add: 325 Nanjing Xilu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6327-2829
Opening hours: Daily 9:00-17:00
Price: 20 RMB
Getting there: Take subway line 1 or 2 to People’s Square

Former Residence of Zhou En Lai 周恩来故居View In Map
There are plenty of “former residences” in Shanghai, thanks to a certain pride in Chinese history. They vary in quality and interest, but this one is worth a look. Outside it is typically turn of the century colonial, but the inside is bare, reflecting Zhou’s commitment to the revolutionary cause. Don’t miss the photography exhibition in the adjoining house, which was once the Shanghai office of the Communist party.
Add: 73 Sinan Lu, Luwan District, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6473-0420
Opening hours: Daily, 9:00-11:00 then 13:00-16:00
Price: 5 RMB
Getting there: Subway 1 to South Shaanxi Rd. 

Shanghai Natural History Museum 上海自然博物馆View In Map
This one is good family fun, and will appeal to the kids as soon as they clap eyes on the dinosaur skeleton on the first floor. Going up from there are displays featuring all sorts of animal life. There’s also an Ocean World.

Add: 260 Yan’an Donglu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6321-3548?
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9:00-17:00 (last ticket sold at 15:30)
Price: 5 RMB
Getting there: Subway line 2

Shanghai Wild Insect Kingdom 上海大自然野生昆虫馆View In Map
This one makes it onto the list thanks to being so downright bizarre. A life-sized giraffe welcomes you as you approach, giving a glimpse of what lies ahead. The word “insect” could easily be omitted from the museum’s name, as the focus seems to lie elsewhere. Aside from the bugs and creepy-crawlies you’d expect, there’s a panoply of creatures including tortoises (or ‘trotoises’ as the placard charmingly proclaims), goats, snakes, guinea pigs, and owls. Mind-bogglingly weird, but excellent fun.

Add: 1 Fenghe Lu, Pudong, Shanghai
Tel: 021 5840 5921
Opening hours: Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm, 9pm in summer
Price: 35 RMB
Getting there: Take subway line 2 to Lujiazui stop.

Propaganda Museum上海宣传画艺术中心View In Map
Also known as the Propaganda Poster Art Centre, this one is hard to find, thus not so well known, which is a shame as it’s probably the most interesting of Shanghai’s hidden gems. Located in the basement of an apartment block on Huashan Lu near Wukang Lu, the museum is the culmination of Yang Pei Ming’s lifetime’s hobby. Fearful that the propagandist poster art of the early years of the People’s Republic would disappear over time, he collected as much of it as he could (around 5000 pieces) and displayed it for the public. The museum is split into two rooms: one holds the permanent collection, and the other is a shop where you can purchase posters from a couple of hundred kuai to a couple of thousand.

Add: Room BOC 868, Huashan Lu, Shanghai
Tel: 021 6211 1845
Opening hours: Daily, 9am – 4.30pm
Price: 20 RMB
Getting there: Bus No. 113, 148, 543

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