Originally opened as the Shanghai Race Club in 1934, and having undergone several incarnations since, this iconic building now houses the Shanghai History Museum. Opened in 2018, the museum covers the city's history over three floors, spanning the Shanghai area's political, social, economic and cultural evolution from 4000 BC to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. You're bound to gain some insight, political propaganda notwithstanding.
The well-chosen displays on the 2nd floor showcase the Shanghai Majiabang (approximately dated to the 4th or 5th century BCE), Songze and Liangzhu periods and beyond. Particularly insightful is the documentation of the ways in which geology influenced the area's early development – the relationship between land and water was skillfully managed by inhabitants to make it the thriving trade city that it later became. The 3rd and 4th floors focus on the colonial strivings for Shanghai – specifically the 19th-century period of British, French and US dominance – and the way that the Opium Wars influenced the commerce, trade and wealth of the city and devastated its population.
Expect archaeological findings, interactive digital displays, maps, dioramas, and recreations of Shanghai street scenes. Count on spending a couple of hours here; you can finish by having food or drink at Roof 325 on the 5th floor.