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Shanghai: Yayoi Kusama @ MOCA | © macchi / Flickr
Shanghai: Yayoi Kusama @ MOCA | © macchi / Flickr | macchi
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The 7 Best Things to Do in Shanghai If You Don’t Drink

Picture of Monica Liau
Updated: 29 September 2017
Shanghai is one of those wild cities with a reputation for late nights laden with booze. However, for those of a non-alcoholic persuasion, never fear. Whether you don’t drink as a rule or just need some time away from the sauce, there are loads of ways to enjoy the best that Shanghai has to offer without feeling like you’re missing out.

Ride a bike

Join the masses, and take to the streets to explore Shanghai on two wheels: there’s no better way to feel like you’re a part of the city fabric. An added bonus is that Shanghai’s topography is almost entirely flat, so long distances never seem like an uphill battle. Revel in the tree-lined streets of the former French Concession; see a different side of the Bund by biking along its southern end on Maojiang Road, or cross over into Pudong (you can take your bike onto the ferries) and revel in the wide roads. Don’t own a bicycle? City bike sharing is pretty painless thanks to Mobike and Ofo.

Get your art on

While Beijing often gets more credit as far as culture goes, Shanghai’s art scene is nothing to turn your nose up at. The Pearl of the Orient boasts an enviable collection of breathtaking contemporary art spaces and smaller independent galleries that draw big-name artists and up-and-coming talent alike. Plus, many of the galleries sit in awe-inspiring buildings that deserve almost as much attention. Don’t miss the Long Museum, Art Labor, and MOCA.

Shop till you drop

Whether you’re looking for high-end designer wear, local boutiques or antiques, Shanghai has got you covered. If an all-in-one shopping experience is what you’re after, check out unique shopping malls such as IAPM, which has designer boutiques and a great food court, or K11 Art Mall, which hosts both art exhibits and eco-friendly stores, restaurants, and shops. For some outdoor time (and more one-of-a-kind finds), wander the boutiques that are tucked along the tree-lined sidewalks of Wukang Road, Nanchang Road, and Julu Road.

K11 Shanghai
K11 Shanghai | © kyoiphoto / Flickr

Go for a massage

There is nothing more relaxing than being pounded back into shape by a massage professional. Luckily, Chinese people are firm believers in massages to help maintain health and even cure ills by encouraging circulation, aligning the skeleton and drawing out bad humors, and reputable massage parlors are both abundant and reasonably priced. The traditional massage method of tuina literally means “push and pull” and will soon have you walking a little straighter. Or put a little spring back into your step with a foot massage.

Sip tea

Take part in the age-old Chinese pastime of sipping tea and nibbling snacks with friends at a teahouse to while away the afternoon. In addition to popular green varieties, make sure to try delicate white teas or fermented Pu’er teas that pack a punch up front but slowly mellow to a hint of sweetness. While perhaps a more civilized experience than a beer garden, tea gardens by no means need to be a sedate (boring) experience. Bring a pack of cards, board games and some of your best friends for a fun, engaging afternoon. If your game looks fun enough, you may even draw in new pals from other tables.

Or swig coffee

Tea is still the main beverage of choice in China, but cool coffeehouses abound in Shanghai, with perfect places to meet with friends or snuggle into a corner with a good book. The coffee isn’t bad either. More and more cafés are more than just their pretty interior; many will carefully source and roast their beans from exotic locales in Asia, Africa, and South America. They then brew with the coffee accouterment of your choice; they boast a collection of instruments that would make a scientist blush.

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Puzzle it out

Exercise your brain at Mr. X Mystery House, where you and your friends can choose from a range of “missions”—from a skeleton king’s mausoleum to the mysterious German fortress. You are then locked into a room together and given a range of clues that will hopefully help you solve the riddle and get yourself out in one piece. The sets are intricate, and the special effects are pretty cool. Get ready to go on a hair-raising adventure that requires skill and a sense of humor.

Mr. X Mystery House, Bldg 1, 550 Jumen Road, Shanghai, China, +86 (021) 3304 1233