Shanghai restaurants, street eateries & nightlife areas
Expect aromas, flavours and textures that expand your worldliness.
Some travellers put food at the top of their 'reasons to visit Shanghai' list. They've heard about the xiao long bao dumplings, glazed duck, di shui dong ribs, braised eggplant and mapo doufu (spicy tofu). They also know about Shanghai's 26 Michelin-starred restaurants, the enter-by-stealth speakeasies and spectacular rooftop bars. If you're reading this you're probably one of these travellers, so pep-talk your palate in preparation for Shanghai.
Some of the best bars in Shanghai have front doors that are challenging to find. In true speakeasy style, they require you to know about a secret lever or button.
Find the best street food in Shanghai
There's mouth-watering street food almost everywhere you go in Shanghai, but if you're looking for the biggest variety in one spot, visit Fangbang Xi Lu. Situated in an old part of the city, it's a non-stop feast with street food vendors and regional restaurants all packed into one dense strip. Breathe in the enticing smells of pan-fried chili tofu and sizzling pork ribs as you seek out the perfect cheap meal alongside the locals.
Wujiang Road is another famous snack street in Shanghai. It's a short, twisty alleyway packed with hundreds of options - very Chinese and very cheap, but no English menus. Or head to Yuyuan Market, where you'll find restaurants and vendors serving some of the best Chinese food in Shanghai, but with English menus to make it easier. Here's a golden rule to remember when selecting a dumpling vendor - the longer the queue, the better the dumplings.
Shanghai Chinese restaurants don't get more authentic than the city's most famous eatery, Shanghai Classic House (Shanghai Lao Fandian) in Old Town. Opened in 1875, it still bears the hallmarks of its origins, particularly on the third floor where you'll find an exhibition of evocative old pictures. Definitely one of the best Chinese restaurants in Shanghai, this establishment represented China's traditional Benbang cuisine in the acclaimed food documentary A Bite of China.
For not-so-traditional Shanghai fine dining - including Japanese, French, Spanish and modern Shanghai cuisine - there are hundreds of options. In 2017, 26 Shanghai restaurants were included in the Michelin Guide list and several of these can be found in the Changning District. There's also a concentration of highly-reviewed restaurants around the People's Square. Most of the best restaurants in Shanghai can be booked online using the Time Out site, which greatly simplifies the reservation process. Time Out also has an excellent Shanghai restaurant guide.
Shanghai nightlife - speakeasies, dance clubs and shows
Some of the coolest bars in Shanghai have front doors that are challenging to find. In true speakeasy style, they require you to know about a secret lever or button. Once you're on the inside you can appreciate the prohibition-style decors, beautifully-dressed waiting staff and extensive drinks menus. Look for The Bunker or Xixi Bistro in Xintiandi, Barules in the Former French Concession, Speak Low in Fuxing Zhong Lu and Shrine or Second Moment in Changle Lu.
You can dance your dumplings off in Shanghai, if you know where to go. Unico in Huangpu District is a Michelin-star restaurant by day and a dance club by night; Dada in Changning District isn't fancy, but it has the best DJs in Shanghai; Revolucion on Yanping Road is super-hip and happening, in a poppy kind of way; and Mansion is artsy with plenty of throbbing techno, deep house and hip hop. The dance club scene is always evolving, so ask the locals for their newest recommendations.
If you want to catch a show - a really big show like Cats - make getting to Shanghai Culture Square your goal. Part of Shanghai Grand Theatre Arts Centre, this performance space focuses on bringing Broadway theatre to China. Even if you can't get tickets, make sure you drop in to see the massive LED rainforest installation in the lobby.
For a really grand night out, book ahead for an opera, ballet or orchestral production at Shanghai Grand Theatre. The 10-storey structure has three theatres, so there's bound to be something that tickles your fancy.