Shanghai, China

From it’s humble beginnings as a small fishing village, the Shanghai of today has exploded into one of the largest epicenters in the world. Neo-classical French and British buildings still remain from the days of their concessions, but have been transformed into corporate store fronts, sleek restaurants and luxury boutiques. A super player on the world financial stage as well, Shanghai has become a playground for Asia’s elite, bringing with it a range of things to do and see. We tried to get a small taste of it all, and have some favorites to share-

Must dine

  • Jia Jia Tangbao (Dumplings). For less than $10 USD, you can sample a variety of the best soup dumplings in Shanghai. Handmade and fresh to order, these dumplings come still steaming to your table. Get there early as popular selections do sell out by late afternoon. Insider tip: Order the side of sliced ginger as well. It makes all the dumplings taste even more scrumptious.
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum is Yan’s Cafe, tucked away in a tutor chalet within the French Concession. A decadent high end Italian restaurant headed by an Italian chef, Fan’s serves a limited menu of savory dishes ranging from handmade pasta to antipasti, and an array of Italian and French wines. The entrance is beautifully decorated with a fresh floral arrangement, and seating is relaxed with cushioned arm chairs and coffee tables. Our recommendations: Beetroot pasta and the Spinach pasta ravioli’s. Insider tip: There isn’t a website we’ve been able to find, but if you go to Boom Cafe & Bar, ask one of the bartenders to point you in the right direction.

Suggestion cred: Matteo

  • Salon de The, de Joel Robuchon. An indulgent experience, compliments of Joel Robuchon, owner of the most Michelin stars in the world. Here you’ll succumb to decadent French pastries, finger sandwiches, macaroons and deserts. With French wines for sale by the bottle as well, this is the ultimate treat!

Must imbibe

  • Boom Cafe & Bar. Located in the French Concession, this is a quaint yet quirky pub, with a customized drink menu and inviting bartenders. Great spot for happy hour.
  • Hyatt VUE. Head up to the lounge in the sky to watch the sun go down and the lights come up over The Bund. Enjoy a glass of wine as you relax your feet in the hot tub on the rooftop with the energy of the city around you.
  • Bar Rouge. One of The Bund’s hottest nightlife spots. Insider tip: There is a strictly enforced dress code (guys- pants and closed toed shoes) so make sure to dress accordingly if you’d like to visit.

Must caffeinate

  • Zoo Coffee. This is a local coffee shop in the North Bund that’s worth stopping into if you’re in the area. The shop fully steps into character with a life-sized giraffe posted up at the entrance to greet you, a guerrilla sitting at the window working away on his laptop, and a pair of pandas hiding in the trees behind the communal tables. Animated spot, and the coffee doesn’t disappoint either.
  • Staytion Coffee & Bake. Another great coffee shop in the North Bund, with above par bagel sandwiches and coffee.

Must visit

  • The Bund. One of Shanghai’s most legendary districts, you’ll quite possibly feel like you’re in Europe with the old neo-classical and Renaissance buildings surrounding you. Stop into the Fairmont Peace Hotel for afternoon tea, window shop the many designer store windows, or simply walk along the boardwalk looking out across the skyline. Insider tip: It’s also a fantastic setting for the photographer at heart.
  • Former French Concession. An up and coming neighborhood, and new favorite for ex-pats and travelers alike. Roam around the tree-lined streets with old French villas, stroll in and out of small shops, grab a piece of fruit from a street vendor, sit down at one of the many hidden coffee shops, sneak a peak of a man getting his hair cut by a local barber in an alley way, stop into a pub for a pint or prosecco, or dine at a classy restaurant. A day in the French Concession will surely be full of random surprises and encounters.
  • Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. This is an impressive display of Shanghai’s past, present, and future. Five stories in all, you’ll learn about the humble beginnings of Shanghai as a fishing village, how it’s become the city it is today, and it’s plans for the future. What’s most impressive about this place is it’s enormous scale model of the city- the biggest scale model in the world according to the Guiness Book of World Records. Your audio guide will explain each neighborhood and notable building.
  • The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. You’ll read about this in most literature about Shanghai, but don’t be fooled. Although novel, with a price tag of 70 yuan / person, it’s a slightly over priced, very tacky “ride” consisting of a disconnected montage of light sequences, with a bizarre narration to go alongside, that takes you across the Huangpu River to Pudong and back.
  • If you do make it to Pudong, be sure to walk the circular walkway high above street level. There are easy exit points to get to The Super Brand Mall, queue up to go to the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower, or simply take a picture of the second largest building in the world, the Shanghai Tower.
  • Visit the waterfront on the Pudong side. Take in incredible views of The Bund, and watch as an astonishing number of boats go by.
  • Disney World Shanghai. Brand new as of June 2016, this is said to be Disney’s most technologically advanced park yet!

Must try – chains

  • Happy Lemon. This is a bubble tea chain, but supposedly the first to mass market the beverage. We tried it out and can say we thoroughly enjoyed. Try their standard milk tea with pearls.
  • Bread Talk. Another chain, but if you’re having a sweet craving, head here. The pastries are all delicious (we had many), affordable, and with a line consistently out the door, also a local favorite.

Must know – apps & services

  • Uber works only if you have your phone unlocked, as drivers call you before they pick you up. If you don’t have your phone turned on, the drivers won’t be able to get a hold of you and will cancel the ride, so we found it to be mostly useless.
  • DiDi Taxi. If you have a Chinese phone, download Didi (also available through WeChat). It works just like Uber but is a fraction of the price.
  • If you need to do laundry while in Shanghai, give Laundry Express a call. At 59 yuan / load, they’ll come to pick up your clothes and have them back to you next day, wrapped in tissue paper and a satin bow. The best part is they’re Eco-friendly.

Must check sites

These sites are great to check to see what’s happening while you’re in town:

4 comments

  • Hi!

    This post just brought back great travel memories to Shanghai! Thanks for linking my afternoon tea review at The Peace Hotel too. Hope you enjoyed the tea :) Happy travels!

    – Bethany

    • Bethany, I loved your write up! Shanghai was incredible! I’ve always loved a nice afternoon tea, and although I don’t have a post about it, if you’re ever in San Francisco, looking for tea, try the rotunda at Neiman Marcus or the Farimont Hotel. Cheers! -Lori

  • I am loving following your travels.! Several high school students we have taken care of are from Shanguai. Where are you headed next?

    • Thanks Sarah! I’m so happy you’re enjoying our stories. We went to Mongolia after Shanghai and then Croatia after that to volunteer with a team of marine biologists to help them with their bottlenose dolphin research, studying threats and communication pattern disruption of the population in the Adriatic Sea. It’s been quite a ride! We’re in Spain now; Portugal and Morocco to follow. Hope you’re well and give Heather a big hug for me!:)

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