What are the five best things to see and do in Shanghai?

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Sophie Friedman

As a bustling metropolis, Shanghai offers all the attractions and activities you'd expect of a modern international city. But where the city truly makes its mark is in its ability to blend the here and now with the Old World and sometimes downright quirky elements that can make even a walk down the street an adventure.

1. Get a massage. If you feel like the masseuse is digging her elbows into your back with all her might, she is, and she probably will continue to do so for the entirety of your treatment. Traditional Chinese massage is intended to hurt a bit, but we guarantee that you will leave feeling rejuvenated. Massage parlors run the gamut in this city. You can indulge in luxe treatments at spots like Water's Edge, Shanghai; The Peninsula Spa by ESPA; or Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Peace Hotel. Or opt for something singularly Shanghai. Blind massages are a unique cultural experience worth trying out at least once during your visit. They are basically traditional, no-frills Chinese rubdowns, but are administered by registered blind therapists. It's believed that masseuses who lack sight have a heightened sense of touch, which means an intense massage for you.

2. 50 Moganshan Road. This popular street is the crux of Shanghai's contemporary art scene, featuring a vibrant collection of more than 100 artists' work. Get lost among the winding lanes and rebuilt factory spaces, while stopping to admire the elaborate graffiti displays.

3. The Bund by night. The Bund is one the most recognizable symbols of Shanghai. While providing a nice place to stroll during the day, the mile-long waterfront area along the Huangpu River is its most glorious after the sun sets. Grab a seat — and a drink — at hot spot Flair's outdoor terrace, on the 58th floor of The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, to take in the full view of the city's iconic skyline lit up in neon.

4. South Bund Fabric Market. If you can dream it, the tailors at Shanghai's South Bund Fabric Market can make it — and for a fraction of the price it would cost you back home. Bring in your favorite item of clothing to have it re-created in another color, or print out a picture of the latest designer duds you're lusting after to have your very own made in just a matter of days. Bespoke clothing is huge in the city; its well-dressed denizens get everything from coats to boots custom made.

5. Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar. In the midst of the enormous concrete jungle stands Yuyuan Gardens, one of the few remaining tourist sites from the Old City. Inside the garden walls, stroll through five acres of flowering plants, goldfish ponds and ancient stone bridges dating back to the 16th century. Surrounding the garden area is a fairly sizeable bazaar, featuring a maze of packed small streets and alleyways where vendors hawk souvenirs like personalized seals, handmade stamps that can have anything from your name in Mandarin to your Chinese zodiac sign. Your senses will be overloaded with the swarms of locals and tourists, the striking red and black buildings with curved roofs and the smell of the tempting xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) filtering in from the nearby food stalls.

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