A couple of posts ago, I recommended five things to do in Shanghai, one of which is to soak in the gorgeous city views. Apart from the banks of the Huangpu River (which divides the old-world Puxi area from the new-construction Pudong area), most of the best views belong to large, established restaurants or hotels. (The Shanghai World Financial Center is one notable exception: there, instead of purchasing a drink or food, you’ll pay $25 to ascend to the highest observation deck in the world, with angled glass walls and see-through floor panels that test the willpower—and stomach strength—of anyone with a fear of heights.)
If you want to immerse yourself in the enormity of the Shanghai skyline, I highly recommend visiting one (or all!) of the following five establishments.
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Flair (Ritz Carlton Hotel)
Because of Shangahi’s massive smog, the city doesn’t enjoy many sunny days. If you’re fortunate enough to be there when the skies are clear, head to the outdoor deck of Flair on the 58th floor of the Ritz Carlton Hotel. Be prepared to encounter a ton of people up there! The reward for wading through a sea of locals and a few tourists is well worth the effort, though: an awesome panorama of the Bund (the city’s waterfront area) and Huangpu River, and a spectacular eye-level view of the world-famous Oriental Pearl Tower.
For me the real allure of a trip to Flair is being at the same level as some of the tallest—and coolest-looking!—buildings in the world. As a city that refuses to build boring, square structures, Shanghai is an architect’s paradise!
Morton’s Steakhouse (Shanghai IFC Mall)
Adjoining the Ritz Carlton Hotel, the Shanghai IFC Mall offers a chichi shopping experience with stores such as Prada, Valentino, Cartier, and Tiffany. The mall also houses a Morton’s Steakhouse—and that’s where you should go if you’re in the mood for a view.
Why in the world am I recommending a visit to an American chain restaurant? Simple: it has an outdoor deck with a killer view of the Oriental Pearl Tower. Unlike Flair, which offers a from-high perspective of the tower, Morton’s is located on the 4th floor, where it provides an unparalleled view of the tower’s base and the crush of people there at all times of the day (with an especially interesting view during the lunch hour).
Puxi Area (The Bund)
The view of the Pudong skyline across the Huangpu River from the Bund is one of the best sights in the world. It will look even more amazing in 2014, when the Shanghai Tower is completed and becomes the second tallest building in the world. I can hardly wait!
Vue Bar and the Compass Bar
In the meantime, there’s still plenty to see from the Bund—particularly if you visit one of these two hotel bars with outdoor seating: Vue Bar (Hyatt Hotel), at the north end of the Bund; and The Compass Bar (Peninsula Hotel), directly above the heart of the Bund.
M on the Bund
If you’re up for a fine-dining experience with a view, check out M on the Bund. My brother lives in Shanghai and isn’t a fan of the place, but I’ve never once had a bad meal there and find the food to be particularly good. And I’m not alone in this opinion: M on the Bund consistently ranks among the top five restaurants in Shanghai with both food lovers and professional food critics.
Even though the food is excellent, the real draw of M on the Bund is its fantastic outdoor terrace with primo views. (Many restaurants have similar views, but only M on the Bund has outdoor seating.) If you’re going to have only one meal in Shanghai, I highly recommend splurging on an experience at M on the Bund.
Just the Tip of the Iceberg . . .
Shanghai’s vibrant economy, rich cultural offerings, amazing history, and booming population (with over 23 million inhabitants, it’s the most populous city in the world!) make it an incredible destination for a wide variety of travelers. If you’re ever lucky enough to visit this city, be sure to take in the stunning skyline.
I can provide many more recommendations than the ones mentioned here, but this list should at least get you started. If you make it to one of these places (or have suggestions for other venues with good views), I’d love to hear from you!