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Time waits for no one in Shanghai. Nightlife in particular has a short lifespan in the Chinese port city, but even in the past few years of ups and downs, Shanghai has opened new shopping centers and clubs in abundance. “The crazy thing about COVID in the last almost two years now is that a lot of new clubs have been opening. While the rest of the world is kind of on pause or maybe a lot of venues are even closing abroad, there’s been about six new clubs opening in the past year,” says Tom Bray, co-founder of international creative collective and music promoter Yeti Out.
Even global trends that are relatively new to Shanghai have caught up quickly. “The Chinese streetwear landscape, it’s still very young compared to the rest of the world. Obviously in the States, streetwear culture has been around since the ’80s. Here I would say the time frame is 10, 15 years at most,” Bray says. But nowadays there’s an abundance of streetwear goods both real and fake, including dozens of Bearbrick-filled shops on Xinle Road, in addition to the more curated boutiques like DOE or Soulgoods.
While massive malls like K11 and Plaza 66 are abundant and filled with big name luxury brands, Shanghai shoppers are particularly savvy with online shops to score deals on vintage and imported goods. Others turn to more unofficial means to find new fashions. “There are also some very cool underground (literally) shops, but they would kill me if I mentioned them,” says Aric Chen, the Shanghai-based art curator and artistic director of Rotterdam’s Het Nieuwe Instituut.
Shanghai has gone through many mutations in its colonial history, and no site demonstrates its varied history better than the waterfront architectural mishmash along the Bund. But while certain fashions might have a short lifespan, there are plenty of traditions that persist in Shanghai -- if and only if they’re good. “People here like food, and they're pretty strict about the food. So a bad restaurant is going to go out of business,” says Shanghai-based artist Nik Kosmas of the city’s discerning taste. If that famed dumpling spot or speakeasy is still going after a few decades, you can rest assured it’s for good reason.
ENG — Buzz Generator
ENG has found quick success. Despite only opening its first store in spring 2019, the multi-brand retailer already opened a second outpost at the TX Huaihai Center. Standing for Explore, Navigate, Generate, ENG stocks buzzy labels like Heliot Emil, Telfar and Hyein Seo in a futuristic space where customers can shop product directly from a built-in vending machine, no human interaction required.
Canal Street — Subway Style
Designed by the designers at Shanghai’s Sò Studio to look like a New York subway car, Canal Street carries a mix of local and international brands like Ancuta Scara’s pointy-toed mules and P.A.M.’s flower-printed sweaters. The shop, found on the streetwear-lined Xinle Road, is home to frequent pop-ups from the likes of Kappa and Perrier and Takashi Murakami.
Terminal69 — Vintage Styles, Vintage Service
While many of Shanghai’s best vintage deals are found on Weibo or in unnamed underground shops, there are a few more accessible shops that offer an incredible selection, albeit with higher prices than what locals might find online. One of those is Terminal69, home to archive pieces from the likes of Margiela, but don’t expect superior customer service. “Terminal69 has a crazy amount of archive stuff. It's a pretty fun store, but the employees are just in there smoking and not paying attention to you. It has that kind of cool boutique experience,” says Kosmas.
DOE — Streetwear Classics
With three stores in Shanghai, DOE positions itself as a lifestyle brand as much as a clothing retailer. The streetwear emporium frequently hosts events and pop-ups and doubles as a coffee shop, but it’s also worth stopping in for the clothes alone, as the store stocks collabs from the likes of Nike and Patta and its own in-house line.
TX Huaihai Youth Energy Center — Next Gen Mall
The clue is in the name. “The new-ish TX Huaihai Center has become an epicenter for youth culture with its shops, street art exhibitions and teamLab-designed nightclub,” notes Aric Chen. The mall acts as more of a place for discovery than traditional shopping by focusing on pop-ups with the likes of DOE and Nikelab, along with coffee and tea shops dotted throughout.
The Beast — Apartment Envy
For shopping that doesn’t revolve around clothes, there’s The Beast. With home fragrance, high-end glassware, luxurious bedding and more, the home goods store curates the kind of environment we would all like to live in. The aesthetic is far from beastly, except for the high prices.
Soulgoods — Beijing Imports
Originally based in Beijing, Soulgoods’s tiger logo is now an iconic symbol of China’s still young streetwear scene, appearing not only on the brand’s puffers and hoodies but also collaborations with the likes of Converse. Alongside the in-house line, the Shanghai shop is also the place to discover fellow local brands.
Haidilao — Family Meal
Hot Pot, the soup-based DIY meal usually eaten in a group, is a local obsession, and therefore a must try while in Shanghai. “If you have a bunch of friends and you want to go experience the true, ultimate hot pot, you go to a place called Haidilao,” says Kosmas. Fear not: if you go alone, the staff will bring a teddy bear to sit with you. However, those with a Western stomach should be forewarned that a first time hot pot can be difficult on the digestive system.
Sober Company — Asian Fusion Done Right
Don’t be fooled by the name, the stylish Sober Company is as much a bar as it is a restaurant. Spread out over multiple floors, the eatery and speakeasy bar serves Asian fusion cuisine like tom yum egg drop soup as well as inspired, decadent cocktails made with ingredients like Darjeeling tea and bergamot sorbet.
Yang’s — Dumplings Worth Waiting in Line For
Shanghai has no shortage of street food, to go alongside the fine dining restaurants. But, “the snack you must try is the fried shengjianbao soup dumplings,” says Chen. “My favorite comes from Yang's.” The long-running dumpling spot has locations throughout the city, serving sesame and scallion topped fried soup dumplings and little else.
Slab Town — Caffeine Fix
“They kind of look like something out of like Portland,” Bray says of Shanghai’s new coffee chain Slab Town. Oregon isn’t necessarily what you would look for in Shanghai, but the PNW does know its coffee culture, and the ultra modern coffee shop offers a tranquil respite with an indoor-outdoor space serving top notch flat whites and lattes.
Heim — House Party
A spate of new clubs has opened in Shanghai, and will continue to open, but one of the standouts of a new crop is Heim. With a mix of house, techno, and disco vibes, the appropriately named venue has the feeling of being in someone’s home as much as a club. The multi-floor space is cozy without feeling overly crowded.
Ying Yang — Nineties Nostalgia
“Most nightlife venues here, if you’re talking about nightclubs, have a lifespan of four years, maybe five years if you're lucky. Cocktail bars and cafes, even less,” notes Bray. Speakeasy-style cocktail bar Ying Yang meanwhile has been around since the ’90s. The owner, Kenny, helped popularize house and techno music in Shanghai decades ago and is still a frequent presence at Ying Yang, regaling customers with stories of Shanghai’s ’90s club scene while chain smoking and drinking tea. “He just kind of sits with you and tells you mad stories and shows you like his vinyl collection,” says Bray.
The PuLi — Glass-Walled Luxury
With a luxury spa and the Michelin-starred PHÉNIX restaurant on site, it’d be easy to spend all day at The PuLi, despite its central downtown location. From the third-floor infinity pool, you can even take in views of the nearby Jing'An Park. And for once, the goods in the minibar are free of charge.
Fuxing Park — Community Gardens
Home to French-style gardens, a statue of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, lush fountains and more, Fuxing Park is a major gathering spot for young and old alike for everything from games of mah jong to tai chi and dance sessions. “When the weather is nice out and you go to the park at like nine o'clock, it'll be like, they have sound systems and there's like 400 people in the park just raving,” Kosmas says.
The Bund — Architectural Survey
Spread out across a mile-long stretch of the Huangpu River, the Bund is perhaps the best example of Shanghai’s eclectic architectural styles, with the waterfront area is home to buildings exemplifying Art Deco, Beaux-Arts, Neoclassical, Gothic Revival, and more. Though beautiful any time of day, the Bund area is especially majestic at night with its incredible array of buildings lit up.
M50 Art District — Art Open House
The site of a former textile mill, M50 is home to more than 100 art galleries and studios open to the public, with the works of many up-and-coming artists. “Make sure to stop by the Antenna Space, ShanghArt and CC Foundation galleries, as well as the Chronus Art Center for new media art,” Chen adds.