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Things to Do in SH When It's Dead

Those staying in Shanghai, here are a few pointers on what’s open, what’s closed and how to deal with your crushing boredom.
Last updated: 2015-11-09

The city’s about to shut down and for those who are still here, reading this, you’re looking ahead at a week of quiet streets and sparse traffic, punctuated by bone-rattling explosions and firecrackers.

Many smaller restaurants are already closed. Most gyms will close tomorrow and Sunday, though some, such as Ambassy Club, are open with limited hours next week. Expect big shops, such as H&M, to remain open every day, but with shorter operating hours, closing around 6pm. Here's more detail on what's open, what's closed and what parties and dinners are going ahead.


Count on a good chunk of your favorite restaurants being closed for at least part of the holiday. Hotels are always open, though, so they’re your best bet. Sherpas will halt service at 2pm on February 9 but will open back up the following day. Henceforth it will be business as usual. Mealbay, on the other hand is going to power through the holidays. They’re never closing. Just be prepared for a limited selection of restaurants with both services. Nosh closes at 2pm on Friday and re-opens on February 12.

Not everybody’s closing their doors for the holiday, though. The LunchBox, a newly opened restaurant in the Xintiandi area is having a debut party on CNY Eve. 350rmb gets you in the door, and the cost includes a buffet dinner and unlimited beer and wine. Learn more about that right here.

For something a little more formal, there is Roosevelt Sky. They’ll be serving a Chinese-inspired dinner of stir-fried tropical lobster with ginger and scallion, steamed cod balls with assorted vegetables, braised wagyu beef spare ribs with baby cabbage and more. That’s 888rmb per person. Learn more here.

For a less traditional meal, there is that swish teppanyaki joint Ambrosia. They’ll be serving a CNY Eve semi-buffet featuring sashimi, traditional Chinese dim sum, an assortment of both Chinese and Western desserts and more. That’s 488rmb+10% per person. Includes free-flow juice, soft drinks, coffee and tea, sake and Paulaner beer. Learn more here.

Finally, is it Chinese custom to have a Chinese New Year resolution? Who knows? Maybe this year it’s high time to start. Why not expand your horizons and learn how to cook the local cuisine. Kitchen by the Garden is offering a course on how to prepare and entire Chinese meal with dishes like General Tso’s chicken and eggplant with oyster sauce. That’s 300rmb per person. Learn more about it here.

DVDs and Films

Let’s be straight, no matter what marvels we recommend here, you’re more than likely going to spend the next week sitting on a sofa, watching DVDs and trying not to feel.

Me too. Luckily, it’s awards season, so there are plenty of big movies in the stores. Of the nine films up for this year’s Best Picture Oscar, at least seven are available: Life of Pi, Argo, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook, Django Unchained, Zero Dark Thirty and Les Misérables. Of the ones we’ve seen, Zero Dark Thirty and Life of Pi are both winners. Argo’s entertaining and remarkable as being the first Ben Affleck film ever made that leaves you without the desire to stamp on the man's face. Luckily, Quentin Tarantino steps up to fill his shoes with a squirmingly awful Australian-accent in Django Unchained.

Also out: Hitchcock, the biopic staring Anthony Hopkins; Seven Psychopaths, which is a surprisingly smart, scatterbrain gangster flick; Cloud Atlas, the messy, over-long adaptation of David Mitchell’s spectacular 2004 novel; Stand Up Guys, a comedy mob movie with Al Pacino, Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, and of course the first part of The Hobbit, which will effortlessly drain away almost three hours of your life.

Not quite so new but one of my favorite films of the year is Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, staring Bill Murray and Jared Gilman. A little story about a 9-year-old eagle scout who falls in love and elopes with a neighbor’s daughter: that’s if you need something life affirming to distract you from your loneliness.

TV shows? The final season of 30 Rock has just come to an end and is in the stores. As good as ever. Boardwalk Empire season three… meh. Modern Family season whatever. That’s ongoing, or maybe just finished. Watch it legally online at VeryCD.

Hotel Deals

A number of hotels are running promotions that give you cut-price rooms or free benefits around Valentine’s Day. If you’re stuck in Shanghai, a night in a hotel can be one of the nicest ways to blow your bonus.

The Shanghai Marriott Hotel City Centre has a package on the night of the 14th that gives you dinner with sparkling wine at one of their three restaurants (you can choose), a deluxe room with a rose petal turndown, a bottle of sparkling wine in the room, a “romantic room fragrance” and two heart-shaped pillows, plus breakfast in bed the next morning. The pillows and room fragrance you can take home, as well as a souvenir photo in a frame from your dinner. Ahhh. Prices range from 1928rmb to 2278rmb, depending on which restaurant you pick. More info here.

URBN has this tasty offer, which has been going for a while but works over CNY, too: book a studio room and they'll upgrade you to a Garden View room and give you a bottle of red wine in the room. The package is 1400rmb net per room and also includes an a la carte breakfast and free tapas and drinks in the lounge, 5-7pm. And if you stay for two nights between now and February 16, they’ll give you a third night free. More on that here.

At the PuLi, get a deluxe king with breakfast, either at one of their restaurants or in the room, a bottle of red on arrival, complimentary mini-bar, free use of the health club and pool and free wifi for 1688rmb +15%. That’s good today until February 18, including Valentine’s Day. They also have some special dining options on February 14.

Bars and Clubs

Lots of places are shut already, and more will be closed from Saturday until next Thursday. A few are open on Saturday for a Chinese New Year parties, but closed the rest of the week. The Geisha and Arkham are already closed and have been since last week. Southern Belle is closed for the whole week, but re-opens next Sunday. Shanghai Rose is closed 9-13th. The Shelter is closed from Saturday until February 20. Bar Rouge is open on February 9 for their New Year’s Party.

Open: KTV, DingDongDisco’s excellent venue inside a dodgy old KTV bar, is open this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, but shut as usual during the week. The Apartment is open for the duration. Dada is also open throughout the week, and has this party on Saturday night for new year’s eve. Bell Bar is open throughout the break, but Saturday night there’s a private party.

Mook is open throughout the week and has a new, even-larger 3D mapping toy for punters to stare at. Shanghai Studio is open and has a DJ party every night of the holiday. Things kick off tonight with their “Release the Snake” party. Is that really the best they could do with that? Valentine’s night it’s 100rmb open-bar and the chance to hook up with someone special… so, just like every other night at Studio. 390 is also open for the duration, and has a Valentine’s party fashion / art show thing next Friday.

Shiva: business as usual, Wednesday to Saturday, 9pm-late. JZ is open all next week and has a different live act on every night for their Spring Jazz Festival. Kaiba: only the Wuding Lu location will be open. The Chalet is open every day in the evening but not for brunch. Windows, all locations open as normal.

For anywhere else, maybe call before you head over there. A full list of parties over the break can be found here. This is also a good page for Valentine’s parties and events.

Art and Activities

There are limited offerings on the arts front with most of the private commercial galleries shutting up shop for some much needed R&R. Of those we spoke to, Gallery Magda Danysz is closed until February 12; ShanghART through the 13th; and M97 'till February 11. It's a similar story with the privately run museums: MoCA is closing its doors until February 13; Long Museum's taking an extended break 'til February 18; and Rockbund reopens on February 12.

Choose wisely, though, and there's still lots to see. The pretty excellent Power Station of Art is bucking the CNY trend and opening an extra day — Monday, Feb 11 — during the holiday period. Nonetheless, calling ahead is recommended with staffing — and therefore visitor numbers — likely to be restricted. Both the Surrealism show and Biennial are still going strong, and definitely make an edifying day out.

Across the river, the final few weeks of Millet, Courbet and Naturalism is good for a visit at China Art Palace. As ever, that's free to get in but you'll need to book ahead. If that's too ma fan, there's always Jing'an Sculpture Park for a leisurely stroll sans ticket requirements; or, for sculptures more seasonal still, a flashy neon snake by Chinese artist Liu Yi is temporarily on show outside Xintiandi Style. For Jing'an-ites, Italian brand Bulgari has installed an enormous shimmering serpent at Plaza 66 that's worth a gander if you're in the area.

Good for a rainy day, Shanghai Ocean Aquarium is open throughout the holiday and with extended operating hours to boot. Even better, their fishy highlight of the month is the moray eel, which looks a little bit like a snake, kinda.

Lastly, it wouldn't be a holiday without an overload of sugary treats, and for that there's Chocolate Happy Land, recently opened up in the former Libya pavilion over at Expo. Any and everything from cars, terracotta warriors, Hello Kitty to, erm, underwear fashioned out of chocolate. Truth be told, this is probably more fun for families with young children, but hey, who's to judge? That's open from February 10 right the way through the holiday.

Other stuff

Then there’s other, more traditional Chinese new year things going on. At the City of God Temple on Saturday night there’s the usual CNY fair from 9:30pm-12:30am. That costs 80rmb to get in. There’s a blessing ceremony. Only 100rmb to be blessed. Bargain. And you can also ring the bell for good fortune. That also costs 100rmb. Presumably the good fortune kicks in after you’ve handed over 100rmb to ring a bell. Expect four trillion people.

Finally, and this is a serious plus, the New Star bathhouse out in Gubei is open as usual throughout the break. That’s a huge temple of warmth, oily rubs, splash pools, heated igloos, icy cold beer and good Korean food, all to be enjoyed in pajamas. Same goes for Xiao Nan Guo’s five-story bathhouse nearby: open for the duration. We got two words for that: fuck and yeah.

All pictures created by the students of Junior High School 185 in Queens, New York, as part of their Year of the Snake watercolor competition. Congratulations to seventh-grader Jowyn Chan, who won the big prize. Jowlyn, you're an inspiration to us all, young lady. Keep it up.