Characterized by a humid subtropical climate, four distinct seasons, and relatively good air quality. The most pleasant seasons in the city are spring and autumn because the former is comfortable and warm and the latter is generally sunny and dry.
The other two seasons, however, are less enjoyable: Winter often feels chilly and damp and summer feels hot and wet.
Spring – Warm and Comfortable
Shanghai steps into spring in March and strolls out in May. The climate in this season makes it the best time to visit the city, with an average temperature of around 15 °C (59 °F). Flowers are in full bloom, causing the whole city to be immersed in the fragrance of flowers.
Temperatures range from 5 ºC (41 ºF) to 12 ºC (54 ºF) in March, 11 ºC (51 ºF) to 18 ºC (65 ºF) in April and 16 ºC (60 ºF) to 23 ºC (74 ºF) in May.
Long-sleeved shirts, thin sweaters, or coats are advisable for this season.
- Spring Outing: Shanghai people like to go on “spring outings”. Exploring on foot scenic spots in Shanghai like the Bund, Yuyuan Garden, and the French concession region is a good chance to experience the authentic life of local people at your own pace.
- Admire the Flowers: Appreciating flowers such as sakura, magnolia denudate and peach blossom has long been a tradition for the local people. Good places for seeing flowers are Shanghai’s Arboretum, Gucun Park, and other parks.
It would be wise for travelers with pollen allergy to wear a mask and to bring anti-allergy medicine with them.
Summer – Sweltering and Wet
Summer lasts from June to September. It feels sweltering hot and generally is a time for abundant rainfall.
Shanghai experiences the so-called Plum Rain Season from mid-June to early July. During this period, the weather is unpredictable, with intermittent showers and sunshine, and occasional freak thunderstorms.
From late August to mid-September, the city is susceptible to typhoons, which may bring heavy rain and disturb your travel plans.
The hottest time in Shanghai in July and August, with on average over 10 days when temperatures exceed 35 ºC (95 ºF). Temperatures range from 20 ºC (68 ºF) to 27 ºC (81 ºF) in June, 24 ºC (76 ºF) to 31 ºC (88 ºF) in July/August and 20 ºC (68 ºF) to 27 ºC (81 ºF) in September.
Bring cool clothes such as T-shirts, skirts, and shorts; with sunglasses and an umbrella to protect from the strong ultraviolet radiation on sunny days.
- Participate in Indoor Activities: Participating in indoor activities should keep you cool, for example, going to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Ocean Aquarium, or to a traditional acrobatics show.
- Go Boating in One of the Water Towns: It is wonderful to cruise on the river in Tongli or Zhujiajiao Water Towns, to enjoy nature and let the breeze caress your face.
- Go Shopping: The biggest discounts are offered in summer. Nanjing Road and Xintiandi are strongly recommended.
Zhujiajiao Water Town: Homes still surviving from the Qing (1644–1912 AD) and Ming (1368–1644 AD) dynasties are dotted around the town. And you can also see distinctive stone bridges, gardens, and temples, buy special souvenirs and taste local snacks in Zhujiajiao.
If you stay for the evening, open-air Kunqu opera performances and classical music shows take place every summer.
Better avoid the hottest time of day around 14:00 hrs. And remember to dress in cool clothes and to drink more water than usual, to guard against heat stroke and dehydration.
Autumn – Cool and Dry
Autumn is from October to November. It is generally cool and dry, which makes the season good for travel. Although the rainy season comes to an end in October, the weather tends to be changeable, with occasional rainy days and sudden cold snaps.
The temperature ranges from 14 ºC (58 ºF) to 22 ºC (72 ºF) in October, and from 8 ºC (47 ºF) to 17 ºC (62 ºF) in November.
Wear thick coats or jackets and warm trousers in the mornings and evenings to cope with the relatively low temperatures. But long-sleeved shirts, thin sweaters, or light coats would be enough in the sun.
- Eat Steamed Crab: This is the best time to eat crab, for crab meat in this season is both fresh and delicious.
- Appreciate Chinese Parasol Trees: At the end of fall, the whole city is carpeted by the leaves of the Chinese parasol tree, creating a magnificent scene. Go to places like Sinan Road and the French concession region, to appreciate this special season.
Autumn is the high season for travel, so if you decide to come, try to book early. Besides, it may be misty in the mornings, so it would be wise not to go then to certain scenic spots, such as tall buildings, expecting good views.
Winter – Chilly, and Damp
Winter begins in December and carries on to the following February. During those months, cold and humid northwesterly winds blow from Siberia, resulting in chilly and damp winter. Temperatures, especially at night, often drop below freezing, though it rarely snows.
The coldest period is from the end of January to early February, with temperatures ranging from 0 ºC (32 ºF) to 7 ºC (45º F) in January and from 1 ºC (34º F) to 8 ºC (47º F) in February. In December, the average low and high temperatures are 2 °C (35 °F) and 11 °C (51 °F), respectively.
Avoid catching a cold by dressing warmly. Clothes such as down coats, sweaters, gloves, thick pants, and warm shoes, are needed to keep warm.
Chinese New Year usually falls in late January or in February. It is the most important festival in China to celebrate a year of hard work, have a good rest, and relax with family, as well as to wish for a lucky and prosperous coming year.
Every year when it comes, Shanghai hosts a series of celebrating events at which you will have the opportunity to experience authentic Chinese customs to your heart’s content.
Activities include the countdown activity at the Bund on New Year’s Eve and the Temple Fair in the City God Temple area around the time of the Lantern Festival which symbolizes the coming back of the spring.
The less pleasant weather means that this is the low tourist season in Shanghai, so travel and accommodation expenses will generally be lower.
Mind you, if Chinese New Year happens to fall in late January, transport will be afflicted by the annual “spring rush”. If you are around and want to travel at that time, you’d be well advised to book your travel in advance.
How to Arrange Your Visit to Shanghai
Travelers wishing to spend only a short time visiting Shanghai should try to see the essential sights, such as The Bund, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and Nanjing Road.
It might save you some trouble if a visa is not needed. For example, you may like to take our 4-Day Shanghai Relaxing Tour to help you truly appreciate the city.
Another good option would be a tour of the city plus the nearby water towns or cities; see 4-Day Shanghai and Suzhou Highlights Tour.