We asked Jason Wang, Chef Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai, to gather the savviest sight-seeing suggestions he could find—not just his own, but also those of other local connoisseurs, including some he works with every day at the Hotel. Divided by the mighty Huangpu River, Shanghai is a city of two halves. On its western bank runs the elegant early 20th-century esplanade known as the Bund, now home to upscale shops and restaurants. On the eastern bank lies Pudong, a business district full of eye-catching skyscrapers. The streets of Shanghai offer seamless transitions between ancient traditions and futuristic trends.
Dance the Night Away
Couples still waltz nightly on the second floor of the Paramount Ballroom, a 1930s Art Deco institution that was restored and reopened in 2001 and immediately re-established its reputation as an essential player on the city’s party circuit. The dancing is not all so decorous, though. There are regular theme nights like live music and hip-hop ladies’ night.
For something more sophisticated, look into Zeal, Bar Rouge and M1nt on the 24th floor of a building just off the Bund—the Pudong views are a revelation—where a 17-metre (55-foot) mirrored aquarium, through which meander a dozen or so whitetip reef sharks, confronts you as you enter. Loud and just a little rapacious like its sharks, this is the kind of place where they let off indoor fireworks whenever anyone orders a bottle of Dom Pérignon, which happens with amazing frequency.
See the Future
Among the fastest, and certainly most surreal, ways to reach the business district of Pudong is via the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel that runs beneath the Huangpu River. This 647-metre (2,100-foot) rail link is a procession of glass capsule-like carriages that zip through a hallucinogenic light show, a riot of flashing neon, fibre optics and multicoloured bulbs. It’s a trip in every sense, as is emerging onto the street in Pudong—the city’s excessively high-rise business district—where landmarks include the surreal-looking Oriental Pearl Tower and the 101-storey, 492-metre-tall Shanghai World Financial Center, no longer the highest tower in the world but an immense structure nonetheless. Be warned, though: From its three observation platforms on the 94th, 97th and 100th floors, you may be above the clouds.
Tai Chi Time
A 30-minute walk from Four Seasons, Jing An Park is a tiny pocket of greenery among the high-rises, and well worth visiting in the early morning. Soon after daybreak, hundreds of people gather to perform tai chi, the graceful martial arts–based exercise that’s as important an aspect of local morning rituals as teeth cleaning. Later in the day here you might witness ballroom dancing, fan dancing, even a chorus line of women no longer in their first youth putting the finishing touches to tap routines, their instructor barking commands in Mandarin through a megaphone to flap, slap, brush, scuff and riffle.