There's the bitter winter in Shanghai, which seems to last forever. And there's the equally long, sticky summer, when it's so hot anything you drink sweats out of your pores faster than you can gasp: 'Three lychee martinis, please.'
But in between the indoor seasons are two glorious windows of light weather when Shanghai's rooftops really come to life. Hidden all over the city, from the leafy corners of Puxi's French Concession to the tops of Pudong's skyscrapers, these Shanghai rooftop bars heave with the city's party-hard set until late into the breezy evenings.
It's not uncommon for these places to open and close within a season – the city's hottest nightspots are notoriously ephemeral. But there are a few stalwarts you can depend on to be open for business and serving up all sorts of icily intoxicating drinks year in, year out.
For one of the city's most historic locations, try the Terrace at the Swatch Art Peace Hotel. When it was built in 1908, as the Palace Hotel, this was the city's first roof terrace. Back then, guests would have been gazing across the Huangpu River at open countryside as they sipped their G&Ts. Nowadays – the hotel reopened after renovations in 2011 – you'll be looking at the megawattage of modern Pudong.
Equally glamorous is the terrace of Sir Elly's at the nearby Peninsula Hotel, which has seen some truly decadent parties over the last few seasons. The views from here, over the Bund and Pudong, are heart-stopping.
In a city as fond of skyscrapers as Shanghai, it's no surprise that there are a handful of bars where the views are as dizzying as the drinks. The Hyatt on the Bund's Vue is an old favourite, with a really special view of the bend in the river from the 33rd floor. Pristine white day beds to lounge on and a bubbling jacuzzi complete the vertically fabulous scene. The highest of all is Flair, a split-level patio deck on the 58th floor of the IFC Ritz Carlton. Let the panorama – which includes a knock-out view of the iconic Oriental Pearl TV Tower in all its pink glory – distract you from the wildly high drinks prices.
Not a big spender? Cocktails, outdoor terraces and dazzling views are a big ask if you've got a light wallet, but there is one place in Shanghai that delivers. The humble Captain's bar is on the 6th floor of Captain's Hostel, an ever-popular backpacker stop. The crowd is a mix of travellers and less-than-loaded residents, the cocktails are relatively cheap (if not expertly mixed) and the views of the Bund are just as lovely as anywhere else.
Header photo: The stunning view of Pudong from the terrace at Sir Elly's © Peninsula Hotel
Written by Helen Elfer
Have you visited any of these Shanghai rooftop bars? Which is your favourite? Share your Shanghai bar recommendations in the comments below.
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About the author: HelenElferHelen Elfer
Helen Elfer has been a travel journalist for seven years, living in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi before recently moving back to London. You can read about her experiences meeting Uighur rock stars, climbing coconut trees in Kerala, dabbling in the dark arts in England and more at www.helenelfer.com. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller and Time Out among other publications. Follow her on twitter @helen_elfer