Shanghai: few cities in the world evoke so much history, excess, glamour, mystique and exotic promise in name alone.
Shanghai is home to the world's second-tallest tower and a host of other neck-craning colossi. But it's not all sky-scraping razzmatazz. Beyond the crisply cool veneer of the modern city typified by Pudong, you can encounter copious architectural styles. The city's period of greatest cosmopolitan excess – the 1920s and 1930s – left the city with splendid examples of art deco buildings, most of which survived the vicissitudes of the 20th century. And there's more: from Jesuit cathedrals, Jewish synagogues and Buddhist temples to home-grown lòngtáng (laneway) and shíkùmén (stone gate) housing, Shanghai’s diverse architectural heritage is like no other city's on earth.
Thirty years ago, Shanghai's dour restaurant scene was all tin trays and scowling wait staff, with international food confined to "exclusive" hotels. Today, the seriously good restaurant scene is varied, exciting and up-to-the-minute. Shanghai got its own Michelin dining guide in 2017, proving just how far the city has come. Food is the hub of Chinese social life, and it's while eating that people catch up, celebrate and clinch business deals. Inevitably, some of your best memories here will be culinary. Do as the Shanghainese do and make a meal of it.
Bearing in mind that Chinese shoppers constitute up to 46% of the global luxury-goods market, shopping is rarely done in half-measures in Shanghai. Retail therapy is one way of spending new money and the Shanghainese aren't called 小资 (xiǎozī – "little capitalists") by the rest of China for nothing, especially at the luxury end of things. But it's not all Prada, Gucci and Burberry. There are pop-up boutiques, bustling markets, cool vintage shops and young designer outlets. Beyond clothing, you're spoiled for choice, whether you're in the market for antiques, ceramics, art, jewelry… whatever is on your shopping list.
Entertainment & the Arts
Beijing often hogs the limelight as China’s cultural nexus, but for a town of wheelers and dealers, Shanghai is surprisingly creative. Many art galleries are exciting, offering a window into contemporary Chinese concerns, while nightlife options have exploded. Acrobatics shows are always a tourist favorite and you might grab the chance to catch some Chinese opera. Shanghai’s music and club scenes are vibrant: from unpretentious jazz and indie venues to all-night hip-hop and electro-dance parties, the city swings with the best of them.