The city of Shanghai is one of the biggest and most exciting cities in the world.

But Shanghai can also be unbearable at times, particularly during the humid summers.

The best time for your trip to Shanghai will depend heavily on you and your weather comfort range, as well as on what you most want to see and do.

So, keeping in mind that everyone has different weather preferences, I’m going to take a look at Shanghai’s seasons and what makes each of them a good (or bad) time to travel.

When is the best time to visit Shanghai?

If you don’t have time to read everything, the best time to visit Shanghai is in spring or fall outside of Chinese holidays.

But please keep reading for more details! I’ve included the highlights for traveling in each season.

Autumn in Shanghai

View of the Shanghai Tower form the Yu Yuan Garden

View of the Shanghai Tower form the Yu Yuan Garden. Image by Timothée Gidenne on Unsplash.

Fall in Shanghai is September, October and November.

Average temp.24 C (75 F)19 C (66 F)13 C (55 F)

Most travelers agree that this is one of the best times to travel to China. And so do I.

This is because:

  • The weather is pleasant
  • It’s a little quieter, with fewer tourists all taking photos of the same things
  • Hotel prices tend to be a bit cheaper, making this a great time to visit if you’re on a budget.

Shanghai has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons, and the weather is generally a little moist and mild year-round.

In autumn, the average temperature is fairly mild, but this is the edge of the city’s wet season, so make sure that you carry an umbrella along with you for those rainy days.

As for me, I’m torn about whether autumn or spring is my favorite Shanghai season. The first time I was in Shanghai was at the start of November and I found it quite cold, with winds that ripped right through me.

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But that’s probably just my thin Australian blood, so if you prefer cooler weather then this is one of the best times for you to visit.

The one drawback to traveling at this time of year is Golden Week. National Day is part of this week and it’s one of the biggest public holidays in China when everyone travels and explores.

So, it’s best if you avoid traveling to Shanghai in early October if you’d prefer to avoid the crowds. You can check all the Chinese holiday dates here.

If you’re going to travel to China in autumn, then here are some of the highlights at this time of year:

Mid-Autumn Festival

moon cake in hand

The moon cake is the delicious symbol of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

If you travel to Shanghai in autumn, you’ll get the chance to experience the Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival is held in September and it’s one of the most important in Chinese culture.

During this festival, Chinese people eat mooncakes, visit their families, and enjoy the full moon.

I absolutely loved this festival and not just because of the mooncakes! It’s a great chance to experience a unique Chinese festival with fewer crowds and craziness that seems to come with Chinese New Year.

Delectable hairy crabs

hairy crab dish Shanghai

The whole city gets excited for the hairy crab season. Image by Xiaoxiao9119 on Shutterstock.

If you enjoy seafood, then make sure you head to Shanghai in early November during the peak hairy crab season.

These unappetizingly named creatures come mostly from Yangcheng Lake, which is close to Suzhou, and you’ll find them all over the city in November.

The crabs are served plain and steamed, but they’re usually still quite expensive. And once you take a bite, you’ll forget about the cost and start planning your next crab meal.

My advice is to try them with a glass of yellow rice wine to fit in with the local people.

Spring in Shanghai

Shanghai water lillies

Shanghai in springtime. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

This is equally the best time to visit Shanghai.

Spring in Shanghai is in March, April and May. It’s a time of warm weather, pleasant breezes, and cherry blossoms and other flowers.

Average temp.9 C (48 F)15 C (59 F)20 C (68 F)

In Shanghai’s spring, it’s warm enough to be comfortable but not so hot that outdoor activities are a chore. You shouldn’t see any heavy rain during this season either, though a few rain showers are normal.

When you travel to Shanghai in spring, you might be surprised by all the flowers in the city. I know that I was.

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Shanghai is such a huge concrete jungle, that it can feel as if nature is another world away. But spring will prove otherwise.

Some of the best places to enjoy nature in Shanghai in the springtime are:

  • Shanghai Botanical Gardens for tulips and cherry or peach blossoms
  • Nanhui Peach Blossom Village, for peach blossoms
  • Gucun Park, which is located in Baoshan District and is the largest city park
  • Minhang Cultural Park, to see the white magnolia, the official flower of Shanghai
  • Caoxi Park, which is the oldest peony garden in Shanghai
  • Jiading Wisteria Garden, which is one of only three wisteria gardens in the world
  • The Yu Garden for spring activities and Qing and Ming architecture.

Spring is also a good time to enjoy other Shanghai attractions, such as the nearby water towns.

Water towns

foreign tourist at Zhouzhuang Shanghai Water Town

Private boat ride in Zhouzhuang Water Town. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

There’s nothing quite like exploring these beautiful little towns when the weather is pleasant and all the greenery is in bloom.

So, make sure you get out of the city for at least a day to see:

  • Wuzhen, which is the oldest of China’s water towns at more than 1,300 years old
  • Tongli, for the most authentic Song Dynasty experience
  • Xitang, for a tranquil, romantic experience
  • Zhouzhuang, one of the prettiest (but also busiest) water towns.

My recommendation is to avoid the weekends, as that’s when you get all the day trippers.

Winter in Shanghai

Shanghai street in winter

The city gets surprisingly cold in winter, but it doesn’t snow. Image by Silvia Fang on Unsplash.

The winter months in Shanghai are December, January and February, with January usually being the coldest month.

Average temp.7 C (45 F)4 C (39 F)6 C (43 F)

This cold weather season is fairly mild compared to other parts of the world, meaning it’s still a good place to visit in winter for warm weather lovers like me.

It gets windy and chilly in the city, though it doesn’t snow.

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It can also get foggy in the early winter, so you might need to re-think that visit to the Shanghai Tower or Oriental Pearl TV Tower. You won’t see a thing.

Here’s what you can do and see in Shanghai in the winter:

Shop at the markets

Louis Vuitton decorated Christmas trees

A very Shanghai Christmas! Image by Guannan Wu on Pixabay.

Shanghai has amazing shopping year-round, but if you can stand the cold weather, then December is definitely a shopping highlight.

Although you’ll see the occasional Christmas tree, Chinese people don’t celebrate Christmas in a big way. But what they do celebrate is the tradition of shopping until you drop.

In December, the Shanghai weather is cool enough that you won’t mind wandering the streets in search of a bargain.

And this is the ideal time for you to explore the German Christmas markets that tend to pop up around the city, offering a real Christmas flare and some amazing shopping bargains.

I’m not a shopper, but I loved shopping for gifts in Shanghai during this season. You can unearth some truly unique finds if you dig deeply enough!

Spring Festival

Shanghai skyline at night with Oriental Pearl TV Tower in red

Red is the color of the Lunar New Year. Image by Li Yang on Unsplash.

If you visit Shanghai at the end of winter then you might get the chance to see the Chinese Spring Festival, also known as Lunar New Year. This festival lasts for one week and the whole country shuts down to enjoy it.

Everyone should experience Chinese New Year at least once in their lives. It’s filled with:

  • Fireworks and firecrackers
  • Parades with lion and dragon dances
  • Quirky TV specials
  • Shops and buildings decorated in red and gold.

The food is simply amazing at this time of year, with noodle dishes, dumplings, fish, and desserts of every description on offer everywhere, though the best feasts are behind closed doors in family homes.

Chinese New Year is based on the Chinese lunar calendar, so it’s held on different dates each year but usually it’s between late January and early February.

So, make sure you check the dates when you’re ready to travel and try not to travel too close to the start or end of the holiday as buses, trains, and planes will be absolutely packed.

Summer in Shanghai

Raining in Shanghai Water Town

Yes, this is a wet summer’s day at a Shanghai water town. Image supplied by Mike Cairnduff.

June, July and August are Shanghai’s warmest months. The weather at this time is hot, humid, and tumultuous.

Average temp.24 C (75 F)29 C (84 F)29 C (84 F)

To be honest, I would avoid traveling to Shanghai during the summer months, even if you’re used to the heat like me. The heat reflecting off all the metal and glass is stifling.

Not to mention that summer is the rainy season in Shanghai, so it can get really muggy and you might experience thunderstorms, hailstorms, heavy rains, or even a typhoon during your stay.

Summer is also the peak season for domestic tourists in Shanghai, during school holidays.

This means you’ll be walking around taking pictures in big crowds of overheated tourists. Your travel costs might be a bit higher too.

As I mentioned at the start, spring and autumn are the most comfortable times for your Shanghai trip. Winter would be a third choice.

Only travel to Shanghai in summer if you have no other option, or you love the tropical stickiness of a built-up city.

Psst! A quick travel tip

Are you heading to Shanghai soon?

If so, you’ll need a virtual private network (VPN) if you want to access your favorite websites and apps using hotel Wi-Fi.

This includes all your favorites including Google, Facebook, Insta, TikTok, WhatsApp, YouTube, as well as news sites and even Gmail.

You can refer to the best VPN for China page to make sure the one you choose works in the country.

Otherwise, tap on the button below for the one I recommend and use in China myself:

Just make sure you download the VPN before you arrive in China, as you won’t be able to access the VPN’s website once you’re there.

I hope you liked my article about the best time to visit Shanghai. Next, read my article on the best Shanghai travel tips. You’ll learn a thing or two.

Weather data courtesy of Holiday Weather. Main image credit: 峰 瞿 on Pixabay.

FAQ about the best time to visit Shanghai

Which month is the best to visit Shanghai?

The best months are April and May if you want to travel during pleasant weather.

Which season is the best to visit Shanghai?

Spring is a good choice for the most pleasant weather.

How many days do you need in Shanghai?

Seven days should be enough to see all the main sights, including a day trip to one of the water towns or another close city like Suzhou.

What is the coldest month in Shanghai?

It’s January, with an average temperature of about 4°C (39°F).

What is the hottest month in Shanghai?

It’s equally July and August, with an average temperature of about 29°C (84°F) in both months.