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The Big Guide to the Best CNY in Shanghai

What's open, what's on, what to do... and assorted trivia!
2024-02-09 17:00:00

If you're sticking around for Chinese New Year here's a bunch of things you can do. As always, Shanghai still has lots of places to go, and plenty of things to do. Our suggestion is to use this time to take stock of the important things in life -- health, family, whatever -- and try to stay nicely toasted the whole week.

Happy Chinese New Year from the SmartShanghai team!

Cheat Sheet – CNY Knowledge

Celebrations commence on New Year's Eve (Friday, February 9) which goes by Da Nian Ye (大年夜) or Chu Xi Ye (除夕夜) depending on where in China you are. The family sits down to a big banquet, the Nian Ye Fan (年夜饭). That's also the night when the world's most viewed annual television is aired - Chun Wan (春晚), that four-hour Spring Festival Gala show that CCTV barrages the nation with every year.

The stroke of midnight marks Da Nian Chu Yi (大年初一). Then each subsequent day is designated for certain customs:

  • 1st day (February 10) : Dà nián chū yī (大年初一)- Bài Nián (拜年): It is essential for younger generations to pay New Year's greetings to their elders and for family and friends to greet each other. And for those with children at home, they also need to prepare lucky money. One of the traditions is that you can't put out any trash on that day.
  • 2nd day (February 11): In Chinese "正月初二 Zhēng Yuè Chū èr" - married daughters visiting their birth parents to renew family ties and relationships, in short "Huí Niáng Jiā 回娘家".
  • 3rd day (February 12): 正月初三 Zhèng Yuè Chū Sān,in short Chū Sān - a propitious day to welcome the God of Blessing, symbolizing the arrival of good fortune and blessings for the year ahead.
  • 4th day (February 13) 初四 Chū Sì- is dedicated to welcoming back the Kitchen God and reflecting on diligence and frugality through preparing a communal stew.
  • 5th day (February 14): 初五 Chū Wǔ or 破五 PòWǔ - This day marks the God of Wealth's birthday. Traditionally, people eat jiaozi, the most popular among them being "chasing the five poor," which refers to "poor learning, poor intelligence, poor literature, poor destiny, and poor communication." The earliest source is found in Han Yu's book "Sending Poor Writings." Every household needs to set off firecrackers, which are said to be able to take away all bad things from their homes and play a role in mitigating disasters.
  • 6th day (February 15): 初六 Chū Liù or 马日 MǎRi, Horse's Day. In mythology, it is commonly known that when Nü wa created humans, she first created six animals and finally created humans. People drive away the Ghost of Poverty by throwing out the garbage stored up during the festival.
  • 7th day (February 16): 初七 Chū Qī or 人日 Rén Rì, People's Day is the day God created humans. Normally, we are supposed to work this day but fortunately, we start to work on the 18th this year, emphasizing the importance of sustenance and prosperity through consuming grains and cereals..
  • 8th day (February 17) : "Chū Bā初八" or Gǔ Rì (谷日),A Day of Five Grains is dedicated to releasing and praying for blessings, symbolized by burning lamps and offering sacrifices to the stars. Taoism and folk culture regard the eighth day of the first lunar month as the day when the stars descend. They make small lamps to burn and offer sacrifices, known as Shunxing, also referred to as "Offering Stars" or "Receiving Stars." It is also said that the eighth day of the lunar new year is the birthday of foxtail millet. If the weather is clear on this day, it means there will be a bountiful harvest of rice; if it is cloudy, it means there will be no harvest.

More CNY knowledge is in this SmartShanghai article here.

Fireworks ?


In short, fireworks are only allowed outside the outer ring road, with a bunch of exceptions (e.g. not near kindergardens, hospitals etc), and not on heavily polluted days. Here's last year's official announcement from the city's government with all the details.

Open Venues:

Here's the selection of what's open, but always call ahead to make a reservation or use the Chope reservation button in the SmartShanghai listings.

Brunch Spots:

Pubs / Bars:

Cocktail Bars

Date Night / Valentine's Day:

Where to Watch The Super Bowl

  • Cages - Open on February 12, 6.30am for Super Bowl, then from 13th
  • Bubba's - Open from Feb 12 for Super Bowl
  • The Shed - Open daily during the holiday; Open from 6.30am for Super Bowl

Nightlife & Clubbing

From our Live Music suggestions from SmSh contributor Will of

As per usual, live music is pretty much non-existent over the holidays, with most venues - Yuyintang, Bandai Namco, Mao Livehouse, OKOK, and Modernsky Lab - ceremoniously ‘sealing up' last weekend. So yeah - don't expect any big gigs or touring bands swinging through til later in the month around February 23rd. Nevertheless, for those desperate for music of any kind, there are a few places where you can get your fix - rays of light in the wilderness that is Chinese New Year.

As per tradition, C's Bar is holding down the fort for CNY refugees and those fortunate enough to avoid a gauntlet of relatives - with the Transmission Crew spinning vinyl on both Friday, February 9th and Saturday, February 10th.

Likewise, Specters, a safe haven for delinquents and rabble rousers of all ilk will be open for those in need for some fun. Drinks are nortoriously cheap too.

JZ Club is going strong throughout the entire week (minus the that first night) with a variety of bands and acts accommodating those in need. After that initial weekend of chaos - when the (also non-existent) fireworks have died down - expect other venues to gradually open - CAVE opens their doors to its patrons on Sunday, February 11th; The Pearl continues its roster of tribute nights on Tuesday, February 13th, and NEO bar returns to the delight of Yangpu residents on Wednesday, February 14th just in time for Valentine's Day.

Boteco in Found 158 celebrates the Brazilian Carnival with samba dancers and a carnival parade. Expect that to be packed.

Our suggestion - get a headstart on the Year of the Dragon, listen to some new bands, line up some shows and prepare for a very busy season of live music ahead.


Go visit Fotografiska

Fotografiska opened earlier this year on Suzhou Creek and should be on top of your list if you haven't been yet. Originally from Stockholm, Fotografiska is a contemporary museum dedicated to photography, art, and culture. They emphasize showcasing provocative and innovative visual art from a mix of local and international artists, aiming to cultivate a vibrant and inclusive artistic community. Click here to see their current exhibitions.

Closed only February 9 to 13. Conveniently, it's now super easy to buy entrance tickets (120rmb) directly through SmartShanghai right here. Huzzah!

Museum of Art Pudong

If you've been following SmartShanghai, you can probably tell that we really like MAP in Pudong. In its 2 years since they opened, it has become the go-to museum if you want to see well curated, large-room art shows. The big one currently on display is Zeng Fanzhi: Old and New, showing nearly 60 pieces spanning a creative period of 35 years of Zeng Fanzhi who stands as one of China's most prominent contemporary artists.

Close January 21-23. E-Tickets here.

Hello Kitty Cosmos 50th Anniversary Light Art Exhibition

Last chance to take your kids to this one (closes February 25th): Officially held by Sanrio, this light art exhibition celebrates Hello Kitty's 50th Anniversary for fans worldwide. Billed as an immersive fantasy space of everything Hello Kitty style. Besides the light art, four original artists have participated and created exclusive art pieces for this exhibition, offering tons of Instagrammable pictures.

Closed from Feb 09 to Feb 12, opens on 13th . Tickets here.

And a few more exhibitions

Beauty Changes: 100 Years of Italian Fashion and Costume is still on until end of February at No. 1 Waitanyuan, until Feb 29. More on that here.

Last chance to see Matisse by Matisse, the first-ever solo exhibition of Henri Matisse in mainland China. Open from February 13.

The 18th Century Masterpieces at Bund One Art Museum shows 72 exquisite artworks from the esteemed collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Italy with all your 18th century superstarts, including Francisco Goya, Canaletto, François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin. Open from February 13.

The 14th Shanghai Biennale is on at the Power Station of Art and should be good for a half day of art intake.

For fans of architecture, there is Heatherwick Studio: Building Soulfulness. This exhibition marks the largest retrospective of Thomas Heatherwick, the architect and designer of the Fosun Foundation and the UK Pavillion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo. This one unfortunately, only opens on February 18.

All Art Shows on SmartShanghai here.

Public Museums

Most of the larger museums open throughout the holidays, but be warned, they'll most likely be really packed (remember the entire country is on holidays). As of now, currently, tickets for The Shanghai Planetarium and the Natural History Museum have sold out.

Then there are a lot of smaller museums, checkout this older SmartShanghai article, Offbeat Museums. We recently re-visited the Shanghai Public Security Museum which seems to have recently added a section with famous Shanghai crime scenes. Well worth visiting if you are into that kind of stuff.

Watch the Lanterns at Yu Gardens at Lantern Festival

Now a yearly activity on the Shanghai agenda, Yu Garden is celebrating the beginning of Chinese New Year by hosting their annual Lantern Festival. Huge lanterns depicting ancient Chinese lore, this year of course Dragon themed, with enormous and beautiful designs weaving around your head and through the alleyways. Each day, enchanting lights adorn the surroundings, casting their glow at 4:30 pm, and the festivities conclude at 10 pm. Admission is free until February 10th, after that, it's 80rmb for adults and 50rmb for kids. We got pictures of this years show. Expect this to be packed, though. Open throughout the holidays.

Outdoor - Parks Parks Parks

After what feels like four weeks of constant rain, the weather forecast for the holidays actually looks pretty decent, with warmer temperatures and, yes, sunshine. Except for the tourist spots (Bund, Yu Garden), most of Shanghai is pretty empty, so it's a good time to hang out in a park.

We have a full list of Parks in Shanghai here. The one that's really worth checking out is the new Shanghai Expo Culture Park that we wrote about here. It's part of one of the most audacious urban renewal projects currently under construction in Shanghai. This project also includes the new Shanghai Grand Opera House, the Shanghai International Equestrian Center, the Shanghai Greenhouse Garden, and, of course, that big mountain you see on the way to the airport.

Don't miss the Shanghai Garden, an impressive 50,000-square-meter Chinese garden that looks like an AI-rebuilt Yu Garden on steroids. And, last time we checked, no one knew about it.

See a Show at The Pearl

The Pearl - thebubbling club/lounge/theatre in a historic old temple in Hongkou, regularly hosts cabaret theater and cover bands. They've stepped up their game, and if you haven't visited in a while, it's worth a visit; they've put on some really nice shows recently. The food is also pretty decent, so it's worth going for dinner before a show. For the CNY holidays they are back open on February 13 with their Imagine Dragons & CP Tribute show, then the Adele & Sam Smith Tribute Concert Valentine's Special on Valentine's Day, Ladies Rock - Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Pink Tribute on Thursday and The Beatles and the British Invasion on Friday. Click any of those links to buy e-tickets directly through SmartShanghai.

Activities! So Many Activities!

RIINK - The neon-lit, loud, fun, fabulous Shanghai's most popular (and possibly only) roller disco is open through the holidays, and you should really go and try it because they are offering a really neat deal for SmartShanghai readers. For 138 RMB, you get one skate rental and one drink (including booze). And during the holidays, they offer free skate rentals for everyone born in the year of the Dragon (1996, 1984, 1972; ID required). Open daily.E-Tickets here.

Suzhou Creek Cruise - Suzhou Creek has offered boat tours for a couple of years, but recently the city has extended their route all the way up to the Bund and added nicer open-air boats. While Suzhou Creek doesn't have the most beautiful scenery in all of Shanghai, it has come a long way from the wretched tongue of toxic sludge it once was. We have a step by step guide on how to buy tickets here.

Motrix VR Games - This isa great option for older gamer kids and gamer parents looking to take it up to the next level. Motrix VR is a virtual reality gaming venue, but what sets it apart is the trio of cooperative escape room games they've got from Ubisoft: "Escape the Lost Pyramid" and "Beyond Medusa's Gate" are based on the Assassin's Creed franchise, while the third, "Dagger of Time," is based on Prince of Persia. These are legitimate VR games for the discerning gamer. Open throughout the holiday. Tickets here.


We will continue including Teamlab in these roundups until the last SmartShanghai reader leaves the city. It's a) really good and b) we are a ticketing agent, so this pays our rent. But really... it is one of the more memorable experiences in Shanghai.

A futuristic wonderland of a museum, created by the Japanese digital art collective teamLab, is a fantasy world spread across many rooms. With endlessly changing and interactive projections, it creates a disorienting trip akin to that bit in "2001: A Space Odyssey" where things get super weird, leading to sensory overload. It's only the second one in the world, after the original in Tokyo..

Open daily. Purchase your tickets here.

Ice Skating

The biggest outdoor ice skating rink (that we could find) is outside the Sinar Mas Plaza. The large outdoor skating rink comes with light shows in the evening and a nice river view. Price includes basic skating equipment. Walkers and instructors are also available on site for newbies. - Open daily

See our full list of Ice Rinks in Shanghai here.

Get Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh

The Jinmao Tower Skywalk - The world's highest skywalk, where you walk around the outside of the Jinmao Tower 340 meters above the streets below, is open every day during the holidays. The minimum age to take the walk is 10 years old. Open daily throughout the holidays.Get your e-tickets to this one here.

Magic Jungle, the high ropes course that you see when you walk along the North Bund, right next to the International Ferry Terminal, is open throughout the holidays. A clear day will offer you a spectacular view across the river while you are suspended 60 feet in the air. Suitable for both kids and adults, it opens daily with adjusted opening hours, check out listing. And get your e-tickets here.

The Shanghai Tower Observation Deck, on the 118 floor, is open every single day from 8.30am-10.30pm.

Hot Springs for Hot People on Vacation

Oriental Springhas proven to be a huge hit with expats since it opened. The facilities are clean, well-appointed, and there are so many options for relaxing, whether it's in the resting rooms, the various hot pools, the saunas, or taking part in their massage services. They are open throughout the holidays, and with everyone out of town, this might be a really nice and quiet spot to enjoy the three-floor water resort with fifteen outdoor pools and five indoor saunas.

Open daily. E-tickets here.

Happy New Year!

From everyone at SmartShanghai, we wish you a happy, lucky, and prosperous 2024 year of the DRAGON! Rawwrr!