Bargain pampering in Shanghai

The best places to treat yourself without breaking the bank

Flower Fingers

Manicure at Flower Fingers, 49RMB

There’s a lot to love about Flower Fingers. It’s cosy, clean and has friendly staff. And clearly we’re not the only ones who think so – the popularity of their original Wulumuqi Lu branch has seen them recently open a new outlet on Changle Lu. We regularly opt for the manicure here – an absolutely bargainous 49RMB for OPI colour, a thorough tidying of cuticles and an arm and hand massage to finish.

Flower Fingers offers an attractive range of treatments, including oil massages (188RMB for an hour), pedicures from 118RMB, and acupuncture sessions starting from 158RMB; as well as waxing, cupping, and eyelash extensions. They’ve also got one of the best membership deals in town, with a 1,000RMB credit getting you a quarter off all treatments.

Flower Fingers 344 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu. See full address details.

Jasmine foot bath at Congzhou Foot Massages, 50RMB

There are a lot of foot massage spots around town, but Jingan stalwart Congzhou stands out as a firm favourite. Don’t be put off by the rough-round-the edges appearance of its Jiaozhou Lu locale; the foot massages are consistently excellent, and the staff always have time for a chat. Plunge your feet into a bucket of steaming hot water, settle back with a cup of tea, and relax as the masseurs go to work.

A modest 50RMB gets your tired feet an hour of vigorous pampering, including a soak in jasmine water, massage and oil rub. It’s a Chinese massage, so some parts can be painful to the uninitiated – but it’s believed that this can help alleviate problems elsewhere in your body. Bonus!

Congzhou Massage Building 6, 273 Jiaozhou Lu, near Xinzha Lu. See full address details.

Cucumber and milk body scrub at Xiao Nan Guo, 68RMB

The body scrub at Xiao Nan Guo is thorough, to say the least, and features some curious elements to boot. To get this treatment, you must already be inside the Xiao Nan Guo bathhouse (88RMB entry for adults), which means you are already minus clothes (although of course in segregated sections). Any initial embarrassment is soon forgotten though, as the professional staff get to work and our skin is thoroughly cleansed, scrubbed and generally refreshed and revitalised.

It’s at this point that things start to get a bit gastronomical: our face is lathered with a cucumber face mask, and body cleansed with milk (this is a no-frills place, mind you, so don’t be surprised if the milk is from Family Mart). At the end we are given some more milk to cleanse our face – we try to make sure not to swallow any – and then are thoroughly rinsed off. Afterwards, we feel a mixture of perfect relaxation and shell shock. If you opt for this treatment, we suggest kicking back in the bathhouse sauna afterwards to really get your money’s worth.

Xiao Nan Guo 3337 Hongmei Lu, near Yanan Xi Lu. See full address details.

Oil massage at Yu Massage, 230RMB


Yu Massage is consistently one of our favourite massage spots in Shanghai. Although the prices might have crept up a little over the last year, the standards have remained just as high, meaning Yu still offers great value for money. Their newer Huangpi Bei Lu spa (they’re also on Wuyuan Lu) is impeccably laid out and decorated, and with its low lighting and quiet rooms and corridors, is always surrounded by an air of calm, despite being just off the bustling People’s Square.

We go for the standard oil massage, the cheapest therapy offered, and choose from a selection of scented oils. Most of the numerous masseuses on Yu’s books are excellent and polite almost to a fault, but once you’ve been a few times, you can remember the one you like best and stick with them. The masseuse we had on our most recent visit was strong but gentle, starting with the back and working down our legs, arms and shoulders, sorting out all those knotted muscles. Strongly recommended for an end-of-week unwind at a wallet-friendly price.

Yu massage 199 Huangpi Bei Lu, near Weihai Lu. See full address details.

Tuina massage at Aroma Age, 80RMB weekedays 11am-6pm


Aroma Age is a comfortable, clean and cheap option for a traditional Chinese therapy, with attractive decor and a top-notch massage. You keep your clothes on, but you still get the luxury of a single room. The therapist starts with our back, moves down to legs, then we flip over and the front of our legs come in for some pretty tough kneading, before wrapping up with a head massage.

Chinese massage is used as a therapeutic practice rather than as a relaxation process; when it hurts, the idea is that it’s freeing up the flow of qi (energy) in your body. But that’s all down to personal taste; the masseur was very conscientious about asking whether the strength was okay both before and during our session. A notch up from many cheap blind massage places and well worth skipping off work early for.

Aroma Age 11 Zhenning Lu, near Zhaohua Dong Lu. See full address details.

Head and shoulder massage at Dragonfly, 98RMB


Dragonfly’s new Jingan Kerry Centre outpost is everything a spa should be; a labyrinth of rooms behind tinted doors, with candles, gently cascading water, and soothing music. The head massage here is among the best we’ve found across the whole city, taking in head, shoulders, neck, arms and fingers. On our visit, the comfy Lazyboy- like chairs recline, we are wrapped in a blanket with a heated bean bag placed across our belly, and we quickly drift off to a happy and immensely relaxing place.

The therapist is professional and thorough, working through knots in our neck and shoulders without disturbing our peaceful state. Get here before 2pm and you can enjoy a half-hour session for just 98RMB. Otherwise opt for an hour at 188RMB – still an absolute steal for a treatment that left us without a care in the world.

Dragonfly Jingan Kerry Centre, 1218 Yanan Zhong Lu, near Changde Lu. See full address details.

Hand treatment at SkinCity 5.5, 225RMB

Sleek urban spa SkinCity 5.5 is one of a clutch of massage joints and spas found on the Dagu Lu strip, but it’s one of our favourites to head to. Best known for its thorough, luxurious facials, SkinCity can be a little pricey, but if you’re looking to budget there are a few options that are a little lighter on the pocket.

For 225RMB we try a full hand and arm treatment, which includes a kneading massage of the wrists, fingers and arms, an exfoliating scrub and moisturising. It also features a slightly baffling heat therapy, where our arms are coated in moisturising cream, wrapped in plastic cling film, and thrust into long oven gloves which reach up to the elbow, before being heated like mini-electric blankets. During the treatment, it’s all a bit bizarre, but afterwards our arms have never felt so soft.

If you want to ease the price down a little further, opt for the straight up hand and arm massage for 150RMB, which works out all the aches and pains in your muscles without the heat paddles.

SkinCity 5.5 76 Dagu Lu, near Shimen Yi Lu. See full address details.