Shànghǎi: few world cities evoke so much history, excess, glamour, mystique and exotic promise in name alone.
Entertainment & the Arts
Běijīng often hogs the limelight as China’s cultural nexus, but for what is essentially a town of wheelers and dealers, Shànghǎi is surprisingly creative. Many art galleries are exciting, offering a window onto contemporary Chinese concerns, while nightlife options have exploded. Acrobatics shows are always a favourite and you might grab the chance to catch some Chinese opera. Shànghǎi’s music and club scene is a vibrant place: from unpretentious jazz and indie venues to all-night hip-hop and electro dance parties, the city swings with the best of them.
Bearing in mind that Chinese shoppers constitute up to 47% of the global luxury-goods market, shopping is rarely done in half-measures in Shànghǎi. 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, funky vintage shops and young designer outlets. Beyond clothing you’re also spoiled for choice, whether you’re in the market for antiques, ceramics, art, Tibetan jewellery…whatever is on your shopping list.
Thirty years ago, Shànghǎi’s dour restaurant scene was all tin trays and scowling waiting staff, with international food confined to the dining rooms of 'exclusive’ hotels. Chinese cooking was everywhere, of course, but it was pedestrian stuff. Today, you simply don’t know where to start – the mouth-watering restaurant scene is varied, exciting and up-to-the-minute. Food is the hub of Chinese social life. It’s over a meal that people catch up with friends, celebrate and clinch business deals, and spend hard-earned cash. Some of your best memories of town could be culinary, so do as the Shanghainese do and make a meal of it.