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11 ways to survive Chinese New Year in Shanghai

Eat cake, see lanterns, experience Disney magic and more

Staying in Shanghai this Spring Festival? Given the millions of people trying to leave, we don't blame you. Keep yourself busy during the break with our guide to the best things to do this Chinese New Year in Shanghai.

Eat niangao at Xiandelai


Juliana Phang

Niangao, or 'Year Cake', is a glutinous rice cake (although the Shanghai take on it actually uses non-glutinous rice), and is a must-eat during Spring Festival. Places all over town will be serving it up, but for a real taste of tradition, head to old Shanghai eatery Xiandelai on Yunnan Nan Lu for their version served with paigu (pork ribs).

Experience some Disney magic

米奇惊喜现身击鼓仪式为游客带来新春祝福 Mickey makes a surprise appearance during drum ceremony to send wishes to guests

Shanghai Disneyland are celebrating CNY with a host of Spring Festival performances, decorations and food. Catch a dragon dance with a Disney twist, try the specially prepared CNY cuisine at the Wandering Moon Teahouse and, of course, meet all of your favourite Disney characters. For more information, including info on the special CNY ending to their Nighttime Spectacular, see our event listing.

Explore Shanghai on foot


What with the city being quieter than usual, it's a great time to get out and discover parts of Shanghai you never knew existed, such as Longhua's abandoned railway. We've chosen over a dozen of our favourite walking routes for you to try – you can find them all on our Shanghai walks page.

Burn off those holiday pounds at Spinback


If you're feeling conscious about the amount of food you've consumed over the festive period, then a spinning class might be the solution. Spinback Fitness on Jiashan Lu welcomes music requests prior to classes making it one of the friendliest, most fun and cathartic fitness pay-offs in town.

Join a Chinese family for the holidays


Citymaster, a company who connect expats and travellers with locals in China, are offering the opportunity to spend New Year with a Chinese family, with host families in locations all across the country. You can choose to stay here in Shanghai or venture further afield to cities such as Xiamen, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xian, Dali and more. Find more information here.

Visit a water town


As they're normally packed with tourists, this might be the best time of year to take a trip to a water town. Go and experience the tranquillity (and Instagrammable scenery) of Nanxun, Zhujiajiao or Xitang. Take a look at some our favourite water towns here.

Explore Shanghai by bike


With the streets near-empty, there's no better time to hop on your bike and see the city. Cycle around Century Park, Suzhou Creek, or one of the several brilliant cycling routes we've highlighted in our guide to some great Shanghai cycling routes. If you don't have your own bicycle, you can always unlock a Mobike, Ofo, or Xiaomingdanche.

Check out Mr Li's rabbit lanterns

mr li

While we can't guarantee that he'll be there – although he usually is, so it's worth a gamble – on the corner of Jumen Lu and Mengzi Dong Lu, a little way south of Madang Lu station, you should be able to find Mr Li, one of the few people left in Shanghai still making traditional rabbit lanterns (the lanterns carried by children during the Lantern Festival that signify reunion and harmony).

Last year we discovered that Mr Li has a rival in the world of of rabbit lantern production. You can find his competitor (unnamed) selling his lanterns on Fangbang Zhong Lu (near Yuyuan). He's there at the moment, so go check out his wares!

Go out out


A lot of your favourite restaurants and hangouts may be closed (find out what's open and closed here), but there's still some nightlife to enjoy over the holiday period.

Catch a movie


There are plenty of great films to catch over the Spring Festival period. The Greatest Showman, The Commuter, Wind River and more. See our list of the best films in cinemas this February here.

Celebrate the Lantern Festival


Held annually on the 15th day of the first Chinese lunar month, the Lantern Festival marks the end of Chinese New Year. A celebration with an approximate 2,000-year history, the date to be saying ‘Happy Lantern Festival’ (Yuanxiaojie Kuaile) this year is Friday March 2.

Yuyuan Garden in the Old Town area is an extremely popular spot during the Lantern Festival. It gets done up with an array of beautiful lanterns and lights, but be warned, it gets extremely busy. Expo Park in Pudong and Guyi Gardens in the Jiading district are also worth checking out, but again, expect big crowds.

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