Shanghai loves badminton. It's the game for anyone, anywhere, on almost any occasion. Yes, you can play outside in the park, in an alley, on a free sidewalk, but most games take place at public gymnasiums. Which you have to book. It's a pain in the ass usually, so we've figured out the process for you at eight popular indoor badminton courts in downtown Shanghai. You will need your own birdies and badminton racket. Oh, and be prepared to show your suishenma at the door.
Before Getting Into It… A Few Notes
Public gyms are the most popular but some residential complexes have private indoor badminton courts for residents, and occasionally they let the public rent courts by the hour. Some public schools and universities also allow people in for a fee, depending on the mood of the bao'an and COVID restrictions. For example, the once-popular courts at East China Normal University’s gym have closed due to COVID.
There's an app called Qu Yundong (趣运动) for finding out which "private" courts in Shanghai are open to the public. You can also reserve your courts straight from there. That's kinda cool. Search for it in your App store or find its Mini Program in WeChat.
Lastly, you need some Chinese for badminton. For one, the Qu Yundong app is in Chinese. For two, you need to communicate with the staff guarding the courts. For three, you'll need Chinese to make friends at the court.
But that's all part of the badminton experience.
Book a Court and Go Play
Classes, Coaching, and Clubs
Anyone can work up a good sweat playing badminton, but playing badminton well is a whole other matter. Most classes are organized by the coaches themselves, not the stadiums. They find a suitable court to host classes, or they let the students figure out the logistics, and come to the court you've booked. You'll need Chinese for this. Here are three options:
Coach Xu and his team organize classes for both kids and adults. Most of the times their classes are held at the courts inside a residential complex in Putuo. They have many long-term students. One on one classes are 3,000rmb for 10 sessions, which includes the cost of the courts.
Wen Zhen Badminton Training
Wen Zhen organizes badminton training for both kids and adults around different stadiums in Shanghai. Classes are in small groups of four to six, priced at 3,600rmb per 20 sessions. Adult classes are usually scheduled from 7pm-9pm on Fridays and Sundays.
Yi Yi Sports Training
Yi Yi Sports provides badminton coaching to kids and adults. Classes are held at different stadiums around Shanghai, or they can send the coach to your desired venue — but you need to sort out the booking yourself. One-on-one badminton classes for adults is priced at 1,599rmb per 10 hours, excluding the court fee.
Finding a Community
If you're new to town or want to have some buddies to practice your moves, there are groups which organize events regularly. Smash is an expat-friendly badminton club organized by Shanghainese entrepreneur Cai Jin, who we spoke to in 2018. They do regular game nights on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at different stadiums. Cai Jin takes care of the booking, and you need to pay a small fee to cover the cost of the court.
There's a no-name local club organized by a guy whose web handle is Yin Bing (饮冰) — they're probably the biggest badminton club in Shanghai, and info about game nights is posted on their Douban page or directly in their WeChat groups. Games are usually in Pudong, at Yuanshen Sports Center Stadium or private courts nearby. A small fee is involved to cover the court. Yin Bing's WeChat ID is 187 1776 0067. Make sure you notify him that you're looking to play badminton. Tell him about your level and he will sort you into a suitable WeChat group.
A badminton-only stadium in Putuo, located inside a residential complex. You can book a court time to go play, but it's a good place to take classes with a coach. The five badminton courts at Mei Jia are mainly for training, and they will prioritize prime hours for students.
How to Book: By phone: 6212 8556.
Using the courts costs 70rmb per hour. Or get a membership of 30 hours for 1,950rmb.
Adult one-on-one training is 260rmb per hour, minimum 15 classes.
This placed used to be the "Huangpu Sports Center Stadium," but got renamed. Also not to be confused with Huangpu Worker's Stadium, which has the best ping pong hall in Shanghai. This place is a three-minute walk from Nanjing Dong Lu Pedestrian Street and is among the oldest public stadiums in the city. It went through some renovation work in the last three years or so and has 10 badminton courts.
How to Book: In-person. So popular you can only book for the same day, meaning you go to the front desk when they open at 10am to book a spot for that afternoon or evening. Maximum two hours per person.
Before noon: 30rmb/hour
After noon: 50rmb/hour
Yuanshen is the biggest badminton venue in Shanghai, with 20 indoor badminton courts.
How to Book: In-person only. Go to the front desk and reserve a time slot for that week. Book early! Courts run out fast. You can call 5852 8127 and check availability before you go.
Monday to Friday: before 2pm, 35rmb/hour
All other days and times: 55rmb/hour
A massive, 19,000 sqm sports complex completed in 2011, Shanghai Oriental Sports Center is known for its professional swimming pool and diving facilities — the 2011 International Swimming Federation’s World Championship was held here. The indoor gymnasium has courts for racquet games, basketball and table tennis, including 12 badminton courts.
How to Book: Through Qu Yundong! Search for 东方体育中心 (dongfang tiyu zhongxin) or call 2023 8841.
5pm onwards and on weekends: 60rmb/hour
Sometimes called the Xuhui Swimming Center, this gymnasium is best known for its swimming pool. There's a strong community vibe to this place. There are four badminton courts tucked in the back, popular with nearby residents.
How to Book: Book through Qu Yundong. Or search for the gymnasium's WeChat account: 徐汇区青少年水上运动学校.
From what we've heard, the system refreshes every day with new time slots released at midnight.
Monday to Friday: 40rmb/hour from 7am to 10am, and 60rmb/hour from 11am onwards.
Weekends and holidays: 80rmb/hour
Luwan Stadium is big enough for 3,500 spectators and really popular for its running track, football field and basketball courts. It's hard to reserve a time slot.
How to Book: There are 12 badminton courts. You have to go in-person, which involves talking to a grumpy old uncle responsible for the booking. It can be… a little exhausting.
Go in in the morning; they start at 10am. Arrive no later than 10.15am — everything gets fully booked by 10.30am. You can only reserve a court for the next day for a maximum of two hours. Call 6445 1045 for any other questions. Bring some cash, just in case.
From 40rmb to 60rmb per hour, depending on the day and time.
This public gymnasium is located just behind Shanghai Center, and was remodeled last year with a new archery range and a shared gym. The tennis, badminton and basketball courts are a bit worn-down but popular with all the office workers in the area blowing off steam at lunch and after work.
How to Book: The gymnasium has 10 badminton courts, but if you want to play, book early. Check availability and book through the Qu Yundong app or through the gymnasium's WeChat account: jingantiyuguan1. Choose "changguan yuding (场馆预定)".
Don't no-show! A new policy will blacklist you for no-showing, so don't be a jerk: call to cancel if you can't make it.
Workdays before 2pm: 60rmb/hour
Workdays after 2pm and weekends: 80rmb/hour
This is a large, modern complex with various fitness facilities, including an indoor swimming pool which often hosts professional competitions. There's an ALDI on the first floor and Cages on the third. Built in the last five years, the center is part of a larger Jing'an government initiative to promote health and wellness among its citizens.
How to Book: Drop in at the badminton court and get a deposit card. You won’t need a Chinese ID card for that. Minimum deposit is 300rmb, and you can use the money for both swimming and badminton. When you want to book, make a phone call to 6251 0770. You will need Chinese.
The place has four badminton courts in total, and you need to reserve one week ahead of time. Sometimes the place is reserved for training by national badminton teams — in 2020, the courts will be available after October 31.
Before 4pm: 50rmb/hour
After 4pm: 60rmb/hour