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9 ways to make the most of Chinese New Year in Shanghai

Enjoy your time off with boozy brunches, traditional dinners, family day-trips and more

Photograph: courtesy X Bar
In need of a holiday? Right on cue, Chinese New Year is nearly upon us bringing seven days off work from Thursday 11 to Wednesday 17. With overseas excursions off the menu and most of us staying put in Shanghai, things are looking a little different this year. But in between all the lanterns and decorations, there's still heaps to do. From traditional dinners to boozed-up brunches to craft workshops, here are the best ways to usher in the Year of the Ox.
Eat a traditional Chinese New Year dinner

Eat a traditional Chinese New Year dinner

Eating copious amounts of food in big groups is a Chinese New Year staple (and fortunately one that's also designed to bring you luck and blessings) with top Chinese restaurants all over the city putting on special Year of the Ox-inspired menus.


Hakkasan is doing a ten-course sharing set featuring steamed red-star groper and Sui Tang Li's special includes deep-fried yellow croaker fish, an enormous poon choi with stewed abalone and more. Meanwhile, the gala menu at Canton Table serves ten guests with mains like steamed Alaska crab and roasted suckling pig with caviar. For something a little less traditional, funky Guizhou-inspired restaurant Oha Eatery is doing a five-course drink-paired menu until Tuesday 16.

Boogie past your bedtime

Boogie past your bedtime

Never the city to need an excuse for a drink, there's tons of places to let loose in Shanghai over the break. Specters is open throughout the holiday throwing parties basically every night of the week, while The Rooster is ushering in the Ox with three hours of unlimited booze for 200RMB. Elevator brings in 11 DJs to go back-to-back on Wednesday 10 before they take a well-earned three-day break. Carry the grooves over into the next day at X Bar's New Year’s Eve celebration and then into the weekend for Space Panda's Sunday night anti-Valentine's party at UP that promises 'full-on sweet love vibes'.

Pretend you're somewhere sunny

Pretend you're somewhere sunny

As great as it would be to have the ability to jet off somewhere hot for the holiday like we normally do, don’t dwell. Instead head over to Coco Flamingo at Egg's bright confines from Friday 12 to Monday 15 for a Miami-themed pop-up. Bartenders Charlie (Craft Republic) and Colin Tait (Shake) will be mixing heady rum-based cocktails to go alongside Cuban sandwiches, while Florida's own DJ BO provides tropical tunes. For more vacation vibes, drape yourself in glitter and colour at SakeMate on Saturday 13 for its Favela Beach party with deals on Brazilian food, caipirinhas and a DJ laying down Latin beats through the night.

Get out and about

Get out and about

Being 'stuck' in Shanghai doesn't mean you need to stay cooped up inside during the holiday. Rather, use it as an opportunity to get clued up on the streets around you. Culture Shock Tours is lending a helping hand for that with three different holiday walks which talk and take you through Hongkou (Sunday 14), the ancient city (Tuesday 16) and then around the winding streets and Art Deco buildings of Old Xuhui (Sunday 21). If you’d prefer to see the city at your own pace, browse our guides of the neighbourhoods around Shankang Li and Wuyuan Lu (just call ahead to make sure venues are open).

Indulge at brunch

Indulge at brunch

Brunch is the beating heart of any proper Shanghai holiday and there are plenty of spots open for you to booze all day long with a few egg-based dishes thrown in to soak it all up.


For starters, Tomatito and Highline are extending their brunches with free-flow add-ons from Saturday 13 until Sunday 21. If you can't wait until the weekend, The Captain's brunch is running now through to Monday 15. Cages is adding free-flow Budweiser and prosecco to its breakfast buffet on Sunday 14, which coincides with a viewing of UFC 258. Also on Sunday, The Westin Bund Center Shanghai's well-known buffet brunch is making a special Chinese New Year appearance complete with entertainment (including lion dancing) and the regular DIY cocktail station.

Catch some classic Chinese blockbusters

Catch some classic Chinese blockbusters

Broaden your movie knowledge and go catch some Chinese blockbusters on a sizable projector at Commune Reserve's Movie and Beer Nights. For the bumper CNY edition, spread over six nights, they will be screening Lost on Journey (Friday 12), Lost in Thailand (Saturday 13), How Long Will I Love You (Sunday 14), Lost in Hong Kong (Monday 15) Detective Chinatown (Tuesday 16) and Detective Chinatown Vol 2 (Wednesday 17). Enhance the screenings with buy-one-get-one offers on select craft beers for the duration of each film.

Learn a new skill

Learn a new skill

While the lanterns look lovely and we're all for pigging out on massive meals, there are other ways to immersive yourself in the spirit of Spring Festival. Learn to play traditional Chinese games like mahjong at Learn, Play, Ganbei held at laidback lounge Chill Out! on Wednesday 10. On Saturday 13, get hands-on at Kebabs on the Grille's Chinese Calligraphy and Vegan Sweet Dumplings Workshop. Or learn how to make your own lucky jewellery at designer Fernanda Sung's Chinese Knotting Jewelry Workshop at Pierogi ladies on Wednesday 17. To sign up for any of the sessions, scan the QR codes on the flyers above. 


Alternatively, go all-in on a four-part Thai Massage Workshop with Byler Holistic that'll run through the basics of northern-Thai massage routines from Saturday 13.

Put your feet up

Put your feet up

Not everyone wants to go all gung-ho during a holiday, we get that. Shanghai moves at such a hectic pace that a break like this provides the perfect opportunity for a bit of wind-down me-time. So, if you're dead-set on staying put at home, order massages, facials, cocktails and more straight to your front door with Shanghai's great at-home services.

Take the family out for a day-trip

Take the family out for a day-trip

Celebrate the arrival of the new season (and the improvement in weather) with a family day trip to Chenshan Botanical Gardens (open daily 8am-5pm) for an afternoon of nature appreciation. Getting there might seem like a journey but when you’re basking in paths lined with pretty pink cherry blossoms it will be worth the trek. Otherwise there’s always the reliable Disneyland trip where Mickey and friends will be dressed up for the occasion with special Year of the Ox performances as well as light shows and more.

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By: Rupert Hohwieler

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