Not just the largest city in the world by population but also one of the fastest-changing, Shanghai pulsates with life and energy. The city’s age-old attractions may be well documented, but when it comes to the most stylish and fashion-forward, visitors will find the myriad options hard to navigate. You’re in luck, though – thanks to their prime locations, Fraser’s Shanghai properties make ideal bases to discover the hip heart of the city…
Just like the city, Shanghai’s dining scene is a cosmopolitan cocktail of influences from around the world, with no lack of Michelin-starred names or innovative protagonists in the mix. For a meal you’re not likely to forget, don’t miss Ultraviolet, a 10-seat restaurant in a secret location by avant-garde pioneer Paul Pairet, which serves up a multi-sensory experience enhanced by 360-degree projections, soundtracks and even scents tailored to each course. Other world-class fine-dining options include the eponymous signature restaurants of Michelin rated chefs like the French Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Argentine Mauro Colagreco, both located at the prestigious address of 3 on the Bund, or Table No 1 by British chef-of-themoment Jason Atherton.
Destination dining aside, Shanghai also shines with its young, daring chefs, whose smaller dining rooms serve inventive cuisine with a generous side of charm. Reservations are recommended at the 20-seat Goga, or go for fun tapas at ‘happy Spanish restaurant’ El Willy. Then there’s the city’s hidden courtyard cafés and ambient-filled family cooking eateries, to be discovered with a stroll in the Parisian-feel streets of the city’s former French Concession; Yongkang Road and Fumin Road are two great places to start.
Streets of style
When it comes to shopping, start at the top by heading straight for Shanghai’s own Fifth Avenue, Huaihai Road, the preferred shopping stretch for discerning locals and tourists alike. The six-kilometre boulevard is home to a number of upmarket malls, department stores and flagship boutiques ranging from high street offerings to unique boutiques such as Louis Vuitton (the shop at Lippo Plaza is home to the brand’s first in-store atelier) and also Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’s futuristic shoe brand United Nude. Another nearby fashion hub is the lifestyle district of Xintiandi, where Xintiandi Style is a must-visit. The polished one-stop mall is home to everything from cutting-edge local names like Uma Wang to international labels at multibrand boutique Alter to experimental works by young designers fresh out of fashion college at Raffles Privato. Shanghai has a wealth of lesser-known shopping troves too. Fashionistas in the know head for the independent boutiques around the parallel streets of Changle Road, Julu Road and Nanchang Road – incidentally Shanghai’s prettiest and leafiest arteries – whose wares are carefully curated by young entrepreneurs who offer a cosy experience and friendly service, often with invaluable fashion advice thrown in. A world away from the polished malls, browsing for a new outfit feels more like visiting old friends in a quaint village – albeit one with the city’s most innovative young designers and cool concept stores.
It pays to take the time to trawl the neighbourhood for fashion-forward steals or that unique statement piece. However, if you’re in a hurry, head straight for multi-brand favourites like independent Chinese designers showroom Xinlelu, casual-chic menswear store Aegis, or Korean and Taiwanese styles at Roommate. Then stop to grab a fun souvenir from Madame Mao’s Dowry, an artistic, retro-cool shop centered around fun Mao memorabilia.
Drink to it
From unassuming whiskey bars to molecular gastronomy cocktails, Shanghai’s bars offer so many options for all tastes. Wind down after a work day at Bundside hotspot Bar Rouge, where you can drink in both the breathtaking night skyline as well as your choice of tipple, which come sized for sharing in colossal versions from the Afterwork menu. Neighbouring Latin-themed bar Unico offers award-winning cocktails such as Cosmopolitan de Malbec, made with the Argentinean wine. Xintiandi may be Shanghai’s best-known entertainment district, but the city’s denizens prefer Sinan Mansions, home to sleek molecular gastro-bar Alchemist and chic cocktail lair Yucca. To soak in some of Shanghai’s famous party vibes, head for the drinking holes in the lively nightlife zones of Yongfu Road and Hengshan Road, anchored by expatriate favourites El Coctel and The Apartment as well as Zapatas. If you’ve put your dancing shoes on, head for perennial dance floor favourites such as Hollywood and Lola (Building 4, 570 Yongjia Road), or sashay past the velvet ropes at guest-list only M1NT nightclub, packed with a beautiful crowd flanked by a stunning 17-metre long shark tank. If you can’t decide among them all, M2 makes for a compelling option for more than its big-name DJs and awe-inspiring dance acts. Cheers!
Shanghai insiders’ tips
Freelance Singaporean photographer Rolento Ong has lived in Shanghai for the past eight years, and counts the lively Sichuan restaurant Ba Guo Bu Yi (1018 Dingxi Lu) as a must- visit. “They do a short bian lian (face-changing) show daily at 7:45pm, and the pork ribs are always sold out – order the dish in advance and book a table on the second floor for the best view of the stage.” The jazz lover also recommends Cotton Club, one of the city’s earliest live jazz venues, an atmospheric bar with daily performances from a superb international roster.
Spanish Telecom engineer Enrique Perez moved to Shanghai five years ago. He recommends Legend Taste (1025 Kangding Lu) for great Yunnan food with alfresco terrace dining. “Order the Grandma’s mashed potato, cheese with shrimp and mushrooms, and any fish on the menu – they’re all amazing.” Japanese-style sochu bar Mokkos (Room 103, 1245 Wuding Xi Lu) is another hidden gem. “It’s small and cosy; full of friendly people from everywhere in the world.” For authentic Chinese gifts at a great price, I suggest that you stay away from the tourist shops and instead head for arts supplies store Marie’s (850 Xikang Road) for good quality paintings as well as Chinese calligraphy and stone engraving equipment.