Shanghai in two days

The best of Shanghai in 48 hours

Enjoy a leisurely look at Shanghai's culture, shops and cheap spa treatments and nightlife on your second day in the city


After your exhausting first day (see ‘If you’re only in Shanghai for a day’), head to Tianzifang for the morning  – here, a series of tight narrow lanes are crammed with shops, art studios, cafes and restaurants.

It’s tourist-y, and a lot of the goods on sale are fairly generic, but it’s still a charming spot to wander around for a few hours and there are gems to be found. We like Link Shanghai, for beautiful illustration books and tote bags, and Shanghai Code, for retro glasses and lamps. You can grab lunch at Tianzifang, which is packed with Western restaurants. A good option is Kommune, a cool cafe with an outdoor seating area, serving decent sandwiches and drinks.



In the afternoon, catch a cab to M50, a series of studios and galleries that form the centre of Shanghai’s art scene (note: most galleries close on Mondays). Though Shanghai’s art scene isn’t quite considered as exciting as Beijing’s, there are a growing number of top quality homegrown artists. The best galleries at M50 include ShanghART and OV Gallery, which often showcase talented local artists; and M97, which is just down the street from the M50 complex, and which shows high quality photography from Chinese and international artists.


If you’re feeling brave and ready to get naked, you might want to try a bathhouse, a disorientating but classic Shanghai experience that involves de-robing and taking a series of hot baths in single sex areas, before donning pyjamas and going upstairs for massages and general relaxation. Take a taxi to Xiao Nan Guo, a large hotel-like building (the bathhouse is behind the building where you’ll get dropped off) which is one of the most fun and family-friendly bathhouses in town – there’s no funny business here, and it’s usually packed with locals.

As you go in, you’ll get given a pair of slippers and a key. Leave your shoes, head into the changing rooms and get naked. The bathing areas are included in the 58RMB entry fee, but things like massages and scrubs are extra (don’t worry: it’s not a rip-off). After bathing, you get given regulation pyjamas and ushered upstairs, where you can have foot massages while reclining on laz-e-boy chairs, play shuffleboard (like table-top curling), watch one of the truly bizarre nightly shows, or eat at the excellent Shanghainese restaurant on the top floor. You won’t see tourists here, but that’s part of the fun of it.


For dinner, hop in a cab to Shunxing, a stunning modern take on an old Sichuan Province teahouse on the western edge of the French Concession, where traditional Sichuan opera is performed nightly from 7.40-8.10pm (don’t sit too close, as the unnecessary accompanying house beat is loud). The Sichuan food, by a chef from the province’s capital Chengdu, is excellent, from fatty pork slices with chillies, peanuts and chives to ribs in glutinous rice and vermicelli with baby cabbage and sautéed garlic.


el Coctel
After dinner, it’s time for a drink. Head to the intersection of Yongfu Road just north of Fuxing Road, a little stretch of bars and clubs which has become a key going-out area in town. For a drink, we’d recommend El Coctel, a gorgeous space which serves some of the best classic cocktails in the city; Rhumerie Bounty, a pirate-themed bar which specialises in rum (rums are mashed with ingredients like ginger and lychee); or, if you head south of Fuxing Lu, Kiitos is a cool, dark-lit Japanese cocktail bar that serves well-mixed drinks that aren’t ludicrously expensive. If it’s a weekend and you feel like dancing, The Shelter is the centre of Shanghai’s underground dance scene – it’s literally an old underground bomb shelter, and the dark, sweaty space plays host to the very best local (and sometimes international) DJs. 

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