Ever-changing and developing at a breakneck speed, this heaving metropolis in China always offers something new. Here’s your one-stop-shop guide to making the most of Shanghai in just 24 hours.
8am–11am: Stuff yourself with street eats
Set yourself up for the day with a stomach-stretching three-hour breakfast on Untour’s walking street food tour ($98). The trip leads you through favourite local breakfast spots in the former French Concession.
Xiao long bao
11am–noon: Snag a genuine propaganda poster
Continue your journey through the former French Concession towards the Propaganda Poster Art Centre. Hidden in the basement of a faceless housing complex, it’s not the easiest place to find but totally worth the hunt for the large collection of genuine Communist propaganda posters – some of which you can buy for as little as $40.
Noon–2.30pm: Tour the Jewish Refugees Museum
Tucked up in Hongkou district, the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum and surrounding area are well worth a few hours. Housed in the Ohel Moshe Synagogue complex, the museum gives an insightful look – via original artefacts, historical photos and personal recollections – into the decades during which the neighbourhood was home to Jewish refugees who fled the Nazi regime in Europe.
2.30pm–4.30pm: Explore the M50
The M50 Art District is home to a number of modern and contemporary art galleries. While smaller than its Beijing equivalent, 798, it is still one of the best places to see modern art in the city.
The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
4.30pm–5pm: Hop aboard the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel to Lujiazui
The Bund, what a beauty. But you can see it properly later. Now it’s time to go under the river. No Shanghai experience would be truly complete without a go on the bizarre Bund Sightseeing Tunnel to Pudong ($10.40 one-way, $12.40 for a round trip). Leaving from Chenyi Square near the Peace Hotel, the ride on the underground capsule features psychedelic visuals and even stranger audio commentary, setting the tone for the high-rise futurism of Lujiazui.
5pm–7pm: Grab a drink with a view
You’ve earned a drink, so rock up to Flair on the 58th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Pudong. The view from the open-air bar is simply jaw dropping – it feels as if you can almost reach out and touch the Oriental Pearl Tower. The drinks are a little pricey (from $23) and there’s a minimum spend for the terrace tables. But you’re only here for 24 hours, so you best do it right.
How the Shanghainese relax
7pm–8pm: See Shanghai’s oldest jazz band
Head to Puxi for the Jazz Bar at the iconic Peace Hotel, where every night from 6.30pm Shanghai’s oldest jazz band – its members are 82 years old on average – plays old standards. Members of the band played together in 1947 in what was the city’s first-ever all-Chinese jazz band and watching them at this recreated old bar is a must-do Shanghai experience.
8pm–10pm: Do dinner and drinks on The Bund
The choices are endless but you can’t go wrong at Three on the Bund, which has everything from chic Korean BBQ spot CHI-Q to laid-back-yet-classy Italian joint Mercato, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s refined Shanghai outpost.
10pm–midnight: Catch a show at Yuyintang
The heart and soul of the city’s rock scene, Yuyintang is one of the oldest gig venues in Shanghai. It’s one of the only spots in the city that consistently puts on a wide variety of original live music, from local bands to international acts.
Midnight–3am: Go highbrow barhopping
Drop into neighbourhood favourite Union Trading Co – the creative, ever-changing cocktail list never disappoints and neither does the service. And only a short stroll down the street you’ll find speakeasy Speak Low, the first mainland China bar to be honoured in The World’s 50 Best Bars Awards, placing at number 15 in 2016.
3am–6am: Wind up for some late-night dancing
If you’re still moving through the wee hours, there’s really only one place to go, and that’s Celia. A haven for Shanghai’s late-night crowds, the club usually gets busy from 2am (and stays open ‘til 9am).
6am–8am: People-watch in the park
Finish your trip with a relaxing wander through one of Shanghai’s picturesque parks. Fuxing, Zhongshan and Huashan parks are always bustling with early morning activity, with Shanghainese people both young and old practising tai chi, dancing and diablo as well as sometimes flying kites.