Shanghai's best manicures

Our top seven nail treatments in the city

Ah, the agony of choice. Sifting through a city teeming with dozens of nail bars, salons and spas, here's our file on the best manicures for all budgets.

Best for friendly Service

American Style Nails

American Style owners Chu Fan and her husband, who previously ran a successful nail bar in New York for ten years, have a steady list of loyal regulars at their Dapu Lu salon, and will greet you as an old friend – even if it’s your first trip.

After being strictly reprimanded over the state of our nails, we witness one of the most thorough clean-up operations to have ever taken place in Shanghai. Buffing, filing, soaking and cleaning are all carried out with intense and dutiful vigour, and you can join in a cheery chat with the surrounding beauty therapists, or spend the 90 minutes leafing through one of the many magazines. At one point the staff – who are all family – burst into a loud rendition of Rod Stewart’s ‘Sailing’; it’s impossible not to join in.

This is far from the swankiest place in town, sitting on the second floor of a run-down department store, and the decor inside is strictly functional. But at these prices you can’t argue (40RMB for a basic manicure, 50RMB for a pedicure), and you’re bound to leave with a smile on your face.

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Best for a quickie

Art Nail Bar


Sitting comfortably on the junction of Changshu Lu and Changle Lu, Art Nail Bar is popular with locals and expats alike. It’s a tiny space, and usually packed; you may need an appointment. This is a good bet for a no-frills mani-pedi, and if your language skills aren’t up to scratch, you’re likely to get a free Mandarin lesson thrown in from the chatty team of women running the show.

Settle back and enjoy treatments for as little as 68RMB for an express pedicure and 49RMB for an express manicure (58RMB for gel); perfect for a lunch break since it only lasts 25 minutes. You can up the ante to a deluxe pedicure for 168RMB, and treat yourself to a full foot soak and scrub. The location and speedy, friendly service make this one of our top choices in town, but we know we’re not the only ones who think so – make sure you book ahead.

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Best for a bargain

Flower Fingers

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There’s a lot to love about Flower Fingers. It’s cosy and clean, has friendly staff, and is one of those places where the neat decor suggests prices will be much higher than they actually are. The popularity of their original Wulumuqi Lu branch has seen them recently open a new outlet on Changle Lu, which is also well-fitted out, and usually pretty busy. We regularly opt for a manicure here – it’s an extremely bargainous 49RMB for OPI colour, including a thorough tidying of cuticles, an arm and hand massage to finish, and plenty of tea.

The spot also offers a range of massage therapies and beauty treatments. All in all, treatments at Flower Fingers are an absolute steal – and there’s an attractive membership card option, with an additional 800RMB credit available when you buy a 3,000RMB card, plus 40 percent off everything until Spring Festival.

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Best for artsy nails

Nail It


Having moved from a charming lanehouse on Julu Lu to another harming lanehouse on Wuding Lu, Nail It remains the same at its core, offering high-end manicures and fabulously fun nail art. Prices start at 138RMB for a manicure and OPI colour, and 338RMB for a CND Shellac manicure; but the appeal of this comfortable little salon is in its overwhelming choice of nail art.

Started by a former fashion writer, creativity is at the heart of everything Nail It does. The unique designs – from classy to kitsch (check out the ‘vampire’ look below) – do come at a cost however; per nail, you can expect to pay between 5-50RMB depending on the complexity of the artwork. We opted for a simple galaxy feature nail, which cost us an additional 20RMB per nail on top of the manicure. It’s pricey admittedly, but if you’ve got some cash to splash, why not?

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Best for organic manicures

Get Nailed

It’s probably no surprise to learn that varnishes and gels have a fair amount of chemicals in them, so if you want to keep your nails a bit healthier, an organic choice could be a good move. Get Nailed stands out from its many competitors thanks to its use of organic nail varnish, a difficult-to-find product in Shanghai.

Admittedly, the colour range is limited, but prices remain very affordable, starting from 88RMB for a basic manicure with organic colour, to 228RMB for a Japanese Shellac Manicure. Staff are friendly and the nail bar also offers a host of other beauty services such as eyelash extensions and waxing.

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Best for reliable quality

Helen Nail Spa


With three branches dotted across the city, Helen Nail Spa never disappoints in terms of quality, reliability and overall professionalism. We particularly like the Nanchang Lu edition, which weaves around a two-storey town house and tucks comfy chairs and therapy rooms into every nook and cranny.

Whatever the location, Helen always delivers with its friendly staff and great service. A wide range of varnishes makes it a firm favourite for many manicure devotees and though it’s not the cheapest option in town, it won’t break the bank either – prices start from 98RMB for a basic mani.

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Best for something totally different

LR House

Given that we spend most of our lives locked inside a virtual world, it makes sense that ‘digital nails’ are now a thing. Tucked away in the underground InShop mall beside Jingan metro station, LR House looks to be a fairly smart and standard Shanghai nail bar, except it’s one of the few places in the city where you can get Metaverse holographic nails – stick-on patterns that leap and dance when you hover your phone over them. Gimmicky it may be, but it makes for excellent WeChat fodder, and therefore must be taken seriously.

LR House is a very convenient stop off, with a wide range of nail art, gels and polishes including Japanese, OPI, LR and CND Shellac (ranging from 398-588RMB). Added nail jewellery will set you back between 5RMB and 20RMB each.

Holographic nails are a quick and novel way to bling up your nails and get people talking: it’ll cost you 188RMB for ten, and it takes a mere 20 minutes to get them onto your fingers. Nails get buffed down (colour can be removed without extra charge) before you choose from a range of wacky patterns and motifs such as princesses, sheep and leopard print. They look a bit like My Little Pony on acid, but hey, if that’s the look you’re after, this is the place.

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