Shanghai for First-timers

If you’re looking to explore China’s history visit Beijing... If you’re looking for a good time visit Shanghai.

A trip to Shanghai is an eye-opening experience. Nicknamed “Whore of the Orient” during the Golden Age of the mid-1800s to mid-1900s, the city was once rife with opium dens, brothels, gambling houses and a strong crime trade. Populous and ever-morphing Shanghai has since transformed into the “Pearl of the Orienta sophisticated playground for expats and socialites, where the trials and triumphs of capitalism are omnipresent and all-embraced.

Typified by flashing neon lights, a bustling cityscape and one of the world’s most recognisable skylines, Shanghai is a trend and pace setting showpiece of China’s economywhere the East first met the West with exciting new-world assertiveness.

If you’re looking to explore China’s history visit Beijing... If you’re looking for a good time visit Shanghai. Flashy mega high-rises tower into the air, showcasing opulent restaurants and shopping facilities; while the streets are abuzz into the early hours of the morning with lively bars and nightclubs.

Where to Stay

Conveniently located at Xintiandi Plaza, in the heart of downtown Shanghai, the 88 Xintiandi is designed with luxurious comfort and style. Set in the city's former French Concession, the hotel’s modern and beautiful interiors match its upscale shopping, dining and nightlife surrounds.

Located in the centre of Shanghai's smartest shopping street, Nanjing Xi Road, The Portman Ritz-Carlton also offers great access to Shanghai’s touted retail scene. The hotel fosters a warm and relaxed ambience and embraces local culture.

Close by the Bund, the Astor House Hotel is within easy reach of Shanghai major attractionsincluding the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, People's Park and Shanghai Museum. Retaining the essence of its colonial-era architecture, the hotel offers 116 rooms, including Celebrity Rooms (where names such as Einstein and Chaplin have stayed). Just minutes away, styled with art deco interiors, The Peninsula offers luxury accommodation on the historic Bund. The hotel’s 235 rooms pay homage to the city’s history, while featuring modern technology and fittings.

Within the Jin Mao Tower in Pudong, The Grand Hyatt overlooks the famous Oriental Pearl TV Tower and provides easy access to the Shanghai World Financial Centre and Yuyuan Garden. Once the world's tallest hotel, the Hyatt has 88 floors and 12 restaurants, including Cloud 9a cocktail bar famous for its Star Trek interiors. Located on the famous Huangpu River, Pudong Shangri-La Hotel also enjoys spectacular views of the Bund and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower from two signature buildings, the elegant River Wing and the exclusive Grand Tower.

Where to Eat and Drink

A waterfront promenade of restaurants and bars, the cosmopolitan Bund comes alive at night with revellers and the reflections of Pudong’s lit-up skyline. Rooftop or alfresco dining overlooking the city’s most famous street makes for a memorable Shanghai experience. Book a table on the open-air balcony of M on the Bund, or enjoy a romantic dinner at The Cupola atop Three on the Bund. A hotbed for the glamorous and trendy, the Bund also hosts a number of popular nightspotsincluding Bar Rouge’s Sky Lounge, Zeal at South Bund 22, M1NT and Shelter.

One of China’s first lifestyle centres, the Xintiandi district also typifies Shanghai’s cosmopolitan nature. Located in the centre of the city, the precinct is divided into two blocks, the South Block hosts global restaurants, cafes and bars; while the North Block is lined with Shikumen buildings and international restaurants. Taiwanese chain, Din Tai Fung is one of the Xintiandi district’s most renowned eateriesa favourite haunt for Chinese celebrities and locals.

On the eastern side of the Huangpu River, the city’s newest and most recognisable district, Pudong hosts Shanghai’s famous skyline. As China's financial and commercial hub, the area is populated by a number of business towers, which house world-class restaurants and bars. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower features a 91st floor revolving restaurant that showcases panoramic views of Shanghai; while the Shangri-La Tower also displays stunning views of the city from an impressive array of restaurantsmost notably Jade on 36.

Where to Shop

Shanghai is a shopping mecca. Shopping streets overwhelm quaint neighbourhoods, mega complexes reach skyward, while some of the city’s most historic centres accommodate trendy and modern retail precincts.

Shanghai’s shopping areas are distinctively divided into "Four Streets and Four Cities".

Nanjing Road is the most famous of the streets and one of the world’s busiest thoroughfaresa six kilometres long stretch of malls, outlets and stores spread over two sections, east and west. Huaihai Road is celebrated for its elegance, showcasing top-end international designer brands. North Sichuan Road is a bargain hunter’s go-to, offering inexpensive titbits. While Middle Tibet Road caters for Shanghai’s food and tourism shopping needs.

Yuyuan Shopping City is the city’s most renowned shopping city, specialising in Chinese goods, arts and craft, precious stones and metals and jewellery. Shopping and entertainment plaza, Xujiahui Shopping City sells upmarket and mid-range priced goods. New Shanghai Shopping City is grand and opulent, offering first class facilities and amenities. While Jiali Sleepless City is a great destination for souvenir shopping.

How to Get There

  • Virgin Australia operates codeshare flights with Singapore Airlines to Shanghai from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Darwin.
  • Our partner, Agoda takes the hassle out of planning accommodation in Shanghai with great hotel deals. 
Words by Alice Nash - Published 13 April 2012
Quick Facts 
Population 23 million
Time Zone GMT + 8
Languages Mandarin, Wu Chinese (Shanghainese dialect)
Currency Chinese Yuan Renminbi
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