Have you ever laid eyes on Shanghai’s skyline? Surely, it’s one of the most beautiful on Earth. I mean you’ve got everything, from the towering, new-aged skyscrapers and iconic architecture of Lujiazui’s bustling financial district, to a stunning collection of 50+ buildings of varying architectural styles lining the city’s gorgeous waterfront promenade known as the Bund.
And then there’s the city itself. The people—some 25 million, mind you—the mouthwatering local cuisine, the rich culture, the fascinating centuries-old Chinese history intertwined with modern-day lifestyle.
How about the wide variety of shows and festivals, or the city’s extensive transportation, sprawling shopping hubs, and energetic nightlife?
So, let’s do it. Let’s cross China’s largest city off your travel bucket list. The only question now is: When’s the best time to visit Shanghai?
Shanghai’s Peak Season Goes from Warm to Scorching Hot
Spring and summer are great times of the year to visit Shanghai. The warm temperatures slowly settle into the city at the tail end of March, of which is also the perfect time to view China’s spring cherry blossoms in full bloom.
Shanghai days become consistently brighter, too, paving the way for plenty of exciting outdoor activities like riding ferryboats and cruises up and down Huangpu River, hanging out at rooftop bars and observatories, attending music festivals, viewing Tai-Chi on the Bund, riding roller coasters at Shanghai Disneyland, and shopping at Yuyuan Garden and East Nanjing Road.
By summertime (June-August), Shanghai morphs into a brutal heat zone, with temperatures averaging between 75 and 90 degrees. You’ll see many locals carrying open umbrellas to block out the sun, and plenty of ads for pool parties across foreign social media accounts. Additionally, July-August is typhoon season, so you can be sure that Shanghai will receive a few sporadic days of rain.
With the influx of domestic and international tourists flocking to Shanghai during the summer, it’s safe to say that June through August is one of the busiest times of the year in the city.
The Autumn Breeze Feels Good in Shanghai
In autumn, Shanghai’s weather gradually cools and the evening breeze encourages everyone to get outside for leisure activities. By the way, I’ve seen the most spectacular sunsets over Shanghai during late walks along Riverside Promenade in September.
Fall is relatively ‘chill’ in Shanghai. The city typically picks up steam only in September when Mid-Autumn Festival moves millions of delicious mooncakes and local treats in and out of town, and during China’s National Holiday, or Golden Week, when Shanghai becomes one of the country’s hottest tourist destinations.
Shanghai Winters are Brutal, But There are Still Some Things to Experience
Stay far, far away from Shanghai from December through March. Temperatures fall between an unbearable 30-50 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezing cold air is sure to slice through your winter coat with ease. January and February, Shanghai’s arctic months, have produced icy snow as well, though it’s not often.
If you’re built Ford-tough for the cold, hey, Shanghai might just be a winter paradise. However, if you’re like me, a California native that enjoys year-round sunshine and life on the beach, chances are you’ll need to bundle up with gloves, a beanie, thermals, wool socks, a thick face mask, and hand/feet warmers.
Plus, from January through March there are usually days to weeks on end of gray, cloudy skies, and if you’re prone to seasonal depression it can negatively affect your trip. Expect to feel even worse if the skies are polluted!
Nevertheless, I will say that there are some cool things to experience in Shanghai during the winter. Although Christmas isn’t a popular nationwide holiday in China, you could ring in New Year’s Eve at one of Shanghai’s jamming, foreign-friendly night clubs. Chinese New Year, Spring Festival, and the Lantern Festival (Usually held in late Jan-Feb.) are great times of year to experience Chinese culture and traditions. If you’re an avid photographer, I’d say visiting Shanghai during these holidays is best.
So, when is the best time to visit?
The best time to visit Shanghai is in May, June, September, and October. Warm to hot temperatures in late spring/early summer months will make any and everywhere you want to explore in Shanghai possible, and the autumn breeze in Sept. and Oct. provides a perfect escape from the blistering July/August heat.
So, now that you have a good idea of when to travel to Shanghai, here’s the next most important to ask: Economy or first class? Hmm…that’s a tough one! Safe and happy travels!