Published: 01 April 2015 by: Rhonda Bannister

Shanghai's luminous skyline, photo: Sanches1980, dreamstime

It’s a crowded, boisterous city of 20 million who work hard and like to party even harder! Shanghai is one of the world’s most exciting cities and has such a trendy, action-packed nightlife, you’ll find it hard to find the energy to get out of bed in the morning and keep going! If you only have a few days here it helps to know where the locals like to dine, shop and boogie the night away, so with a little help from a knowledgeable expat, here’s our top picks. 

Related article: Helen Wong Creates Four Day Golf and Spa Itinerary in Shanghai

Yu Yuan garden, photo: Dan Bannister

Eat

There’s no shortage of fantastic places to dine in this city but if you want to find a trace of the history that made this city famous in the early 20th century head to Xintiandi, located in the centre of the city south of Huaihai Zhong Lu. Tastefully restored old Shikumen-style Shanghai buildings have created an entertainment precinct that’s a celebration of fine food and head- turning bars and nightclubs. Good restaurants include Villa du Lac for Chinese/ French set in a beautiful villa, Crystal Jade for Dim Sum, Simply Thai for the best Thai food, Va Bene for great Italian; Le Platane for French food and Fountain (next to Shanghai Tang) for wine bar/oysters.

Mr & Mrs Bund Bund 18 at 6/F Zhongshan Dong Yi. This modern eatery, run by Chef Paul Pairet who enjoys an international reputation as an innovative maestro, serves up family-style French food in a casual atmosphere. Not cheap but then what is in Shanghai?

Bonito Tapas and Wine at Rm1101, Bldg 1, 508 Jiashan Lu, Luwan, casual and stylish new Spanish restaurant that’s getting rave reviews for its Mediterranean – inspired food and excellent wines at realistic prices.

Jean-Georges Restaurant at 4/F, 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, The Bund. Often referred to as THE best restaurant in Shanghai, this is the place to go for a special occasion or romantic dinner.

Bars

Glamour Bar at 7-20 Guangdong Lu (under the restaurant M on the Bund) is where all the expats hang out and it’s easy to see why. Created to look like a 30s Hollywood film set with a sunken lounge area, silver columns and parquet flooring with orange backlighting, this is one uber-cool nightspot.

Yong Foo Elite, 200 Yongfu Road in the old French Concession is an elegant 30s villa and is a great place to relax with a drink and soak up the luxurious Asian inspired atmosphere. There are three bars to choose from, the Crystal Bar with its stunning columns carved from solid, natural crystal, the elegant Mission Bar and the intimate Starshine Nook bar ... martini anyone?

Lounge 18, Level 4 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu – great bar and fantastic décor in Bund 18 building where you’ll hear some of the best lounge DJs in Shanghai. You can also go upstairs to Bar Rouge, another famous night spot.

Life-wax models of 'Old Shanghai' seen at the History Museum, photo: Dan Bannister

Visit

Yu Yuan – traditional old 16th century Chinese garden set amidst a bustling bazaar which can get very crowded (like everywhere else in this city!). Fabulous dumpling shops and tea houses and plenty of ho-hum souvenirs.

Shanghai Museum – Renmin Square. Home to a fabulous, world-class collection of ancient Chinese art and artefacts, some dating back over 30,000 years including ancient bronze, ceramics, paintings, calligraphy, sculpture, jade, coins and ming and qing furniture.

Urban Planning Museum – Renmin Square. See the yesterday, today and tomorrow of Shanghai. Gaze in awe at the scale model of Shanghai and its proposed development until 2015 – the magnitude of the development is simply incredible!

The Oriental Pearl Tower – Century Ave Pudong. Enjoy the all-encompassing views from the viewing area of this 468 metre-high TV tower – the tallest in Asia. On the ground floor spend an hour wandering through the History Museum for an overview of “Old Shanghai”. It’s absolutely fascinating with life- like wax models set in all sorts of every-day scenes which really brings the 19th and early 20th century history of this city to life.

The Bund area – explore on foot to see the graceful old buildings that started Shanghai on its road to being one of the world’s most exciting cities. The Bund has been regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years, is less than one mile in length, and is the city’s most popular tourist destination. The view from the Bund at night is a fascinating sight as the entire Pudong skyline (across the river) is illuminated, including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Jin Mao Tower. Also see the Bund from the water with a cruise along the Huang Pu River onboard the Oriental Pearl which departs from Jinling Pier.

French Concession – By the 1930s, the French Concession was at the height of its glamour and today it still retains an aura of sophistication. For the best walking tour, start at the intersection of Ulumuqi (pronounced “woo loo moo chee”) and Fuxing (pronounced “foo shing”) Roads and roam the tree lined boulevards and streets where you’ll find up-market but well priced art galleries and cute shops selling everything from jewellery to table linen.

Related article: Helen Wong Shares Her Knowledge and Tips For Travelling in China

The famous and fabulous Bund, photo: Bertrandb, dreamstime

Shop

Pearl City – 558 Nanjing Dong Lu (pedestrian mall). Pearls in all shapes, sizes and price ranges. Jewellery can be made to order and you can even design your own. There’s other jewelry as well such as heavy chunky necklaces, bracelets and bangles.

South Bund Fabric Market – 399 Lu Jia Bang Lu. This is the place where you can choose the fabric and have your clothes made. Take some pictures of the styles you would like made and they’ll whip you up a pattern. Bargain for fabrics and tailoring!

Dong Tai Lu Antique Markets – This is an interesting place to pick up some great little trinkets, statues, crockery and the like.

Art – Warehouse art galleries are located along Moganshan Lu – No 50 is where most of them such as Eastlink, Bizart and ShanghART are located. There is also an art lane on 212 Wending Road called Dadi Artists Street where they do amazing copies so take a photograph of your favourite painting and have it copied ever so cheaply.

Bustling bazaar of Yu Yuan, photo: Dan Bannister

Don't Miss

ERA – Intersection of the Time; held nightly at the Shanghai Circus World, this is an incredible multi-media acrobatics theatrical performance that is mind-blowingly stupendous! You won’t believe what these performers get up to – the best I’ve ever seen. 

The Maglev – The fastest way in the world to get from a city to an international airport is on board the Maglev Train which runs from Pudong, travels at 430kph and takes seven minutes 20 seconds to complete the 30km journey!! 

Related article: China Short Breaks

Fact File

Climate:

The city has four distinct seasons and generally the warm spring and cool autumn months are the more comfortable while summer and winter are far less pleasant. Overall, Shanghai enjoys a mild and moist climate with temperatures highest in July and August. The coldest period is from the end of January to early February but from March to May the weather is pleasant so this is the best season for traveling.

Travel with:

The China Specialists, Helen Wong’s Tours.

Fly with:

China Eastern Airlines flies to Shanghai from Sydney and Melbourne.

Stay:

Every top name hotel is in Shanghai but if you want a very good hotel at a reasonable price and don’t mind using the metro, the Hua Ting Hotel and Towers, a five-star hotel located within the city’s bustling Xu Jia Hui business district is the one. It also has the best gym and spa centre I’ve seen in any hotel and it’s free for guests.  

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