The views from the Grand Hyatt Shanghai are amazing. Located on the 53rd to 87th floors of the Jin Mao Tower, it’s the tallest hotel in the world and in some of the rooms your bed looks on to floor-to-ceiling windows so you wake up with an omnimax-style view of the Bund. In the pool on the 57th floor, you feel like you’re swimming in the sky.
Cloud 9, the bar on the top floor, has an in-house fortune teller, magician and paper-cut artist who work the tables and the rooms have interactive televisions where you can access the Internet via infra-red wireless keyboards. All the rooms are situated around a central atrium and if you sit in the Patio Lounge and look up, you get a spectacular view up the 33-storey hollow channel [Jin Mao Tower, 88 Century Boulevard, Pudong. Tel : (86-21) 5049 1234; shanghai.hyatt.com].
For an introductory overview of Shanghai, try the Jin Jiang Hotel’s tour bus which departs from the hotel’s south gate every half hour. You can buy a ticket on the bus [18 yuan (HK$17)] and the entire loop takes an hour, with numerous stops at sights such as People’s Square, the Shanghai Museum, the Bund, Pudong and the Old Town. Although there is no narration, you can alight and reboard as often as you like during the day as long as you hold on to your ticket [59 Mao Ming Lu (S). Tel: (8621) 6258 2582; www.jinjianghotelshanghai.com].
The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre on the edge of People’s Square has a giant sprawling scale model of Shanghai with replicas of every current and planned building in Shanghai. On the Pudong side, there is a planned skyscraper complete with open-air walkway that dwarves even Jin Mao Tower [50 Renmin Da Dao. Tel: (8621) 6318 4477].
The Shanghai Grand Theatre hosts a wide variety of colourful performances from Chinese ballets to Shanghai Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra recitals to Chinese and Western opera. Yo-Yo Ma brought his Silk Road Ensemble here. The 10-storey building with an arc-shaped roof by French architect Jean-Marie Charpentier is a striking addition to People’s Square [300 Renmin Da Dao. Tel : (8621) 6372 8701; www.shgtheatre.com].
Don’t miss the Old China Hand Reading Room in the heart of the old French Concession. It’s a coffee-shop-cum-bookstore filled with antiques and you can sit and read books all day to the sound of classical music plus buy books on old Shanghai. Owned by a photographer and a hangout for Chinese artists, writers and intellectuals, it’s the closest thing Shanghai has to the salons of old Europe [27 Shao Xing Lu. Tel : (8621) 6471 2526].
Jazz and blues fans shouldn’t miss the dark and intimate Cotton Club where top local jazz musicians perform regularly. Big international names, including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, have been known to drop in unannounced for a late-night jam [1428 Huai Hai Zhong Lu at Fu Xing Xi Lu. Tel : (8621) 6437 7110].
Goya, an intimate lounge bar similar in style to Pavilion restaurant in Hong Kong, is a must. About 50 different blends of Martini are served to a soul/funk soundtrack – a real rarity in China [357 Xin Hua Lu. Tel: (8621) 6280 1256.
Mao Ming Nan Lu [corner of Nan Chang Road, Lu Wan. Tel : (8621) 6472 5264].
Face, in the old Ruijin Guest House, is a fabulous place for drinks or dinner. There’s a bar on the ground floor with comfy antique furniture, opium beds, a pool table and friendly staff. The Lan Na Thai restaurant is upstars (request a table on the balcony) and the Hazara Indian restaurant is outside in a mock Rajasthan tent [118 Ruijin Er Lu. Tel: (8621) 6466 4328].
1221 is terrific and everyone who knows Shanghai well eats there. The modern/traditional Shanghainese food is exquisite and inexpensive and Chelsea Clinton visited when she was last in town [1221 Yan An Xi Lu, near Pan Yu Lu. Tel: (8621) 6213 6585].
Xintiandi (New Heaven On Earth) is a 30,000-squre-metre outdoor entertainment complex set in renovated traditional shikumen houses (Ma Dang Lu and Tai Cang Lu). Many of the Western restaurants are overpriced but the Xinjishi restaurant is one of my favourites for a lunch stop when touring the city. It doesn’t take bookings so make sure you get there early – staff won’t seat anyone after 2pm. La Maison Patisserie is also yummy and the French owner makes the best thick hot chocolate.
For an overview of who’s who in Shanghai, dine at M on the Bund. There’s a spectacular view overlooking the Bund, Huangpu River, Oriental Pearl Tower and the tallest building in China and third tallest building in the world, Jin Mao Tower. If you’re planning a visit over China National Day (October 1) or Chinese New Year, book a table way in advance to view the dazzling firework display from the terrace. A must-have is the decadent pavlova that could easily sate two [7F, 5 The Bund (corner of Guangdong Lu). Tel : (8621) 6350 9988; www.m-onthebund.com].
For fine dining, everyone goes to M on the Bund but locals and local expats who crave “real” food head to either the Hunan-influenced Di Shui Dong [56 Mao Ming Nan Lu at Chang Le Lu. Tel: (8621) 6253 2689] or Union Restaurant aka Lian Yi Can Ting [Mao Ming Nan Lu (south) between Huai Hai Lu and Fu Xing Zhong Lu]. When I bring guests seeking a “when in Rome” dining experience these never fail to impress.
Di Shui Dong is always packed, but you don’t have to wait long for a seat. It serves excellent filling food, such as zi ran pai gu (beef ribs which blow Tony Roma’s out of the water).
Meanwhile, Union Restaurant is a down-to-earth family-style eatery serving traditional home-cooked Shanghainese food at no more than 40 yuan a head.
Both have English menus and are within walking distance of the bars on Mao Ming and Xintiandi if you fancy an after-dinner drink.
Everyone I have taken to a massage parlour where the masseurs are blind has raved about it being a highlight of their trip. The masseurs provide a wonderful stress-relieving session from rigorous pressure point to gentle rubbing styles.
You can find them all over town but I recommend Jing Xuan Blind Man Healing Massage Centre [670-674 Yi Shan Road. Tel : (8621) 6483 4318], which is clean, inexpensive (about 50 yuan an hour) and the staff are well trained.
There are some great markets in Shanghai. The Dong Tai antiques market [Dong Tai Lu at Fu Xing Lu] at weekends is great for jewellery and Chinese curios while Xiang Yang market [Xiang Yang Nan Lu at Huai Hai Zhong Lu] is the “Stanley” of Shanghai, where you can find clothing, luggage and knock-off watches and bags. With both, bargaining is crucial but if you’re not up to it, it’s still great fun to mingle with the masses.