Let's be honest, who doesn't love a freebie in a new place? It saves money, could result in a fun day out, or may be a disappointment, but you'll never know if you don't take the risk.
Whilst most things in Shanghai are at a reasonable price anyway, and considerably cheaper than what it would be in the UK, there are a few good locations where you can explore the area for free. Some of them are very popular and for good reason. Some of these you may not have heard of but should definitely have a look into if you ever find yourself taking a break to Shanghai.
Obviously it doesn't involve the cost of transport but that aspect is ridiculously cheap anyway, especially if you stick to buses and the metro.
It's what Shanghai is famous for. The promenade stretches from the North to South of the Bund. You can get a variety of views of the Bund, get those good angles for photos and enjoy watching the crowds emerge from the roads to the Promenade at night.
East Nanjing Road
Possibly the most famous shopping street in China, East Nanjing Road provides a little for everyone. With plenty of restaurants and street food to lots of shops and a few good shopping malls, you can easily spend a few hours wondering down this very busy street. I always find it better to go down at night (not because it's less busy, it's actually more busy at night) because you see a lot more entertainment on the street from performances by locals, which can be very humorous to watch.
Yuyuan (not the actual gardens though)
The gardens unfortunately aren't free (although they are very cheap to get tickets for to enter anyway) but everything else is. Wander around the old shops, embrace the delicate Chinese architecture and buy a few Chinese treasures from the mini stalls jotted around the area.
A little tip: Avoid getting a taxi around this area as they rip foreigners off massively. Walk down the road for a couple of minutes or just cross the road and they should charge by the meter.
M50 (apart from some galleries)
The art district of Shanghai where artists hideaway in their studios producing some of the most creative and original art in the city. With a few studios open for the public, and others asking for a small fee to enter, you can view old film photography to modern paintings. And, of course, you can get creative yourself by making the most of the well-known graffiti wall and posing against it.
The place for all foodies to bond over and try all sorts of the best Chinese dishes. As well as indulging in some tasty food, you can also find some cute boutique shops selling elegant small arts and crafts, many handmade crafts.
The pretty aisle serves you traditional with a hint of modern China. A very picturesque area which is a favourite amongst tourists, an ideal space to get an Instagram-worthy photograph.
1933 is the oldest slaughter house on Earth and you definitely get that sort of vibe when walking around this building. They have renovated it into shops, studios, offices, cafes and also includes a gym, which is why it has become so popular in the recent years to tourists and locals, especially as it is free to enter.
One specific place within the building which stood out for my sister and I is the dog cafe, although you have to pay RMB50 to go in and play with them (which sounds a lot for just that).
Read more about my time at 1933 here.
Known as the Venice of Shanghai, Zhujiajiao is an ancient water town meaning the only way to get around is by foot, bike or boat. This water town is very popular for it's historic sites including temples, pagodas, gardens and galleries. It is free to explore and walk around but costs a little to enter the sites and take a ride in a boat.
I went in my first semester in November and absolutely loved it. We bought a package deal which gave us entry to all the historic sites and included a boat ride, all for about £6! You can read about my time in Zhujiajiao here.
It sounds a little odd, but the shopping malls in Shanghai are massive and can lead to finding some hidden gems. Shanghai is the home to some incredible and huge shopping malls, some which you can just spend the day in exploring because they are that big, and you will find them everywhere. The two malls which I really enjoyed exploring and stood out amongst them all were K11 and ...because they both had more than just shops and restaurants; there were studios which had workshops you could try out including cooking, painting, and decorating, how amazing does that all sound? Some of these would be at a small cost but even just walking round and having a look at people doing it can be interesting for some.