Best massages in Shanghai

Best massages in Shanghai

Six spots to hit for top-notch Shanghai rubdowns, from a TCM-inspired treatment to a no-frills blind massage

One of the greatest luxuries of living in China is an abundance of spas of varying sizes offering massages.

Shanghai seemingly has one on every corner, and they range from budget-busting five-star hotel spas to the neighborhood blind massage joint.

Here are our picks of the top six Shanghai massages. All are relatively kind on your wallet, though first-timers should take note that some therapists can be quite vigorous. As the old saying goes: "no pain, no gain."

Da Ban (大班)

Best massages in ShanghaiDa Ban combines massage with an all-you-can-eat buffet and customized movie screenings.

When you can’t decide between dinner and a massage, step into Da Ban.

The Dagu Lu location is particularly popular with foreigners, while Chinese tai tais flock to the Xiexu Lu branch.

You absolutely must book ahead of time.

Gather up a group of friends and book into one of the private rooms, which sport flat-screen televisions and DVD players.

Though Da Ban has a selection of DVDs, we recommend bringing your own so you’re not trapped watching the fifth installment of "The Fast and the Furious" dubbed in Chinese.

Go for the two-hour set -- a 60-minute foot massage and 60-minute full-body traditional Chinese massage -- for RMB 218.

Regulars know to buy a membership card, which knocks 10 percent off the list price.

Included in your massage is an endless parade of juice, soda and tea plus fresh fruit, fried rice and assorted other local bites.

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Da Ban (Dagu Lu branch), 370 Dagu Lu, near Lao Chengdu Bei Lu 大沽路370号, 近老成都北路, +86 21 6340 0366, noon-midnight
Da Ban (Xiexu Lu branch), 595 Xiexu Lu, near Dapu Lu 斜徐路595号, 近打浦路, +86 21 6302 3466, noon-midnight

Sooth Wind (和风保健)

Best massages in ShanghaiAfter a night of bar-hopping, relax your muscles with a two-hour massage.

A stone’s throw from the cacophony of Yongfu Lu and right next to Boxing Cat Brewery is this serene, clean spot, perfect for an after-hours massage.

The location is ultra convenient and the interior itself is soothing.

Kick off your shoes, settle back into a plush chair and let the experienced technicians knead your calves, ankles and feet, stretching your toes and ensuring no muscle goes untouched.

The rooms here are large enough to hold you and a host of pals, providing ample space for gossip.

Go for the two-hour package: it includes an hour-long full-body massage and an hour-long foot massage for RMB 138.

More on CNNGo: Is massage good for you, or does it just feel nice?

100 Fuxing Xi Lu, near Yongfu Lu 复兴西路100号, 近永福路, +86 21 5465 8058, 11 a.m.-1 a.m.

Body Talk (玄香馆)

Best massages in ShanghaiBody Talk is for TCM aficionados.

Anyone wanting to test the waters of traditional Chinese medicine without diving straight in should pay a visit to this spa in the former French Concession.

On offer are a slew of TCM treatments, including acupuncture, cupping and moxibustion, in which mugwort herb is used to stimulate blood flow. If you’re just easing into TCM -- and especially if needles make you nervous -- we recommend a nice, simple massage, which will also help stimulate blood flow as well as loosening you up.

If you’re slightly braver, go for the 60-minute men’s health package (RMB 680), which starts off with a none-too-gentle but certainly stimulating stomach massage. (The package is good for women, too.)

Once the massage is done, a mugwort stick is lit and used to warm acupuncture points to improve the flow of qi, which, according to the Chinese, is absolutely essential for good health.

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3/F, South Block, 30 Sinan Lu, near Nanchang Lu 思南路30号南栋3楼, 近南昌路,+86 21 3330 1667, 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.,

Bamboo Leaf Retreat (清云居)

Best massages in ShanghaiBamboo Leaf provides a calming retreat among the Lujiazui concrete jungle.

Lujiazui may be Shanghai’s financial hub, but among the towering skyscrapers and luxury malls, a budget-friendly oasis survives.

Bamboo Leaf combines the best Chinese and Western massage joints with professional, English-speaking staff and wallet-friendly prices.

We recommend a 60-minute aromatherapy massage (RMB 228); you can choose from complementary rose, lavender and sandalwood-scented essential oils.

Bamboo Leaf Retreat also claims that aromatherapy helps with fat-loss, though we can’t attest to that.

The spa’s weekday afternoon promotion is also worth noting: from Monday to Thursday, deduct 20 percent from every massage on the menu except for the Chinese Massage, which is RMB 99 for 60-minutes.

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Room 403, 68 Yincheng Zhong Lu, near Lujiazui Huan Lu 银城中路68号, 近陆家嘴环路, +86 21 5010 6656, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.

Dragonfly Retreat (悠庭)

Best massages in ShanghaiThe nationwide massage label provides a variety of services, from Chinese style massage to facial and manicure.

No Shanghai massage list is complete without Dragonfly, which has 10 locations spread across the city, in old lanehouses, new high rises, and everything in between.

The staff members are eminently professional and English is widely spoken, making it ideal for that first foray into massage.

It’s also an ideal spa for couples, as several locations have romantic double treatment rooms.

A major selling point is that every room here is so dark and quiet, you’ll forget you’re sharing this city’s sidewalk space with 23 million other people.

For the ultimate indulgence, go for the 60-minute “top-to-toe” massage (RMB 320), in which two masseuses go to work, treating you to a foot, head, shoulder and arm massage that leaves you loose as a noodle.

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20 Donghu Lu, near Huaihai Zhong Lu 东湖路20号, 近淮海中路, +86 21 5405 0008,

Yilin Blind Massage (艺林盲人按摩)

Best massages in ShanghaiHead to Yilin for a truly authentic Chinese massage experience.

Though it's certainly no frills -- decor is sparse and lighting bright -- this blind-massage spot provides a fun, truly authentic Chinese massage experience.

It also gets high ratings from discerning users of Dianping, one of China’s most popular listing sites.

The smiling staff in cheerful red polo shirts are a mix of blind and partially sighted, and each one has a number; staff no. three, 15, 16, 27 and 35 come highly recommended and are happy to tackle your troublesome knots.

A relaxing one-hour body massage will run you just RMB 62, but don't expect to doze off: the masseuses here are talkative, chatting with each other and peppering you with lifestyle suggestions -- ("sleep more!", "drink green tea!") -- and the stroke technique used is deep and firm rather than soft and gentle.

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No. 1, Lane 100 Nandan Dong Lu, near Tianyaoqiao Lu 南丹东路100弄1号, 近天钥桥路, +86 21 6464 3786, 10 a.m.-1 a.m.

Sophie Friedman is an exiled New Yorker living in Shanghai. 

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