Shanghai’s glittering cityscape and diverse nightlife makes for an exciting weekend, says Lee Cobaj
Vital, glamorous Shanghai is China’s most cosmopolitan city, home to 25 million people (nearly 200,000 of them millionaires), more than 1,000 gleaming skyscrapers, glitzy malls, luxurious hotels, fascinating museums, contemporary arts districts, the world’s longest subway system and the planet’s fastest train. On the surface it appears to be modernity incarnate, but take the time to delve beneath Shanghai’s eye-catching surface and you’ll find a city steeped in tradition, where long alleyways are still strung with billowing laundry, where brides pose in red princess dresses on the steps of art deco buildings and old couples ballroom dance under weeping willow trees in pretty public parks.
Shanghai is also a booming foodie destination, with everything from street stalls serving xiaolongbao dumplings and mom-and-pop shops dishing up sensational seafood to homely hideaways specialising in rustic French dishes and fancy-pants Michelin-star restaurants. And that hedonistic nightlife Shanghai was famed for in its heyday? It’s back. After dark, drink craft beer in woody microbreweries, sip cocktails while staring at the Bund, dance the night away in futuristic nightclubs or hang out in jazz bars being wooed by octogenarian musicians. It’s a lot to pack in so get plenty of sleep on the flight out, you’re going to need it.
Morning: Start your day with a stroll around People’s Square mingling with pensioners practising tai chi. Afterwards, wander along Nanjing Road all the way to the historic Bund, Shanghai’s famed strip of waterfront art deco and neoclassical buildings, making photo stops at the triangular Peace Hotel, the Customs House and the elegant old Bank of China building.
Afternoon: Shoot up 118-storeys in the world’s fastest elevator to the planet’s highest observation deck in the Shanghai Tower, Earth’s second tallest building. From here, you can look down upon the 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Center, the sinewy Huangpu River and the Bund.
Evening: After dark, Shanghai’s skyline is out of this world — and there’s no better way to see it than with a drink in hand at one of the city’s rooftop bars. Start at Flair on the 58th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel, then nip across the water to M on the Bund and the new Woobar at the W Hotel.
Morning: For a curated introduction to Shanghai’s fabulous food scene, sign up for a Hands-on Dumpling Delights food tour with Untour Shanghai. The tour spends two hours winding through the former French Concession making pit stops for crisp bing pancakes, soupy potstickers and airy prawn dumplings, followed by a one-hour cookery class.
Afternoon: Indulge in Shanghai’s favourite hobby — shopping. Head to Tianzifang, where a warren of old shikumen buildings have been transformed into a hip ’hood packed with slick design studios, quirky boutiques and stalls selling souvenirs, as well as a clutch of cool cafes and lively restaurants.
Evening: Standing out among Shanghai’s many stylish restaurants is Fu He Hui, which has taken earthy Chinese vegetarian cuisine and elevated it to celestial levels. Expect rare mushroom soup served in teapots, delicate eggplant rolls smeared with teriyaki sauce and smoking black bean ice-cream.