- Local Time
More than China’s showy commercial heartbeat, Shanghai is now gaining attention for its cultural cachet, too. Every year seems to usher in more landmark museums, while art fairs lure deep–pocketed collectors. For luxury goods, style hounds head to Huaihai Road for big–name flagships and to the French Concession’s leafy streets for indie boutiques.
Where to Stay
- shanghai-the-puli-hotelThe PuLiFor the tranquility
- shanghai-hotel-indigoHotel IndigoFor the nightlife
- shanghai-The-Langham-XintiandiThe LanghamFor the lavish afternoon tea
- shanghai-fairmont-peace-hotelFairmont Peace HotelFor the art-deco vibes
- shanghai-urbn-hotelURBNFor an eco-friendly stay
- Shanghai-city-guide-Le-Royal-Meridien-ShanghaiLe Royal Méridien ShanghaiFor the proximity to shopping
Eat & Drink
Dim sum at Crystal Jade Sit at the communal table at the centre of the restaurant and you’ll get a front seat to your neighbours’ choice dishes. Point if you want what they’re having, or simply scroll down the menu for dim–sum favourites. The kitchen also does a roaring trade in deep–fried Mandarin fish, a traditional Chinese dish.
Quickie dumplings at Fu Chun Xiaolong The menu at this cafeteria–style dumpling house is printed in Chinese only. Use your charades skills to order the specialty xiaolongbao, tidy cases of dough with a soupy filling that seeps onto your tongue when devoured in a single bite.
Peking duck at Xindalu–China Kitchen Shanghai is not a duck town, but this Bund–side Hyatt brings the tradition south. Juicy, crispy birds come from an open oven at the centre of the room and arrive with thick sauces, spices and sugar (for dipping the roasted skin), to be carved tableside in ceremonial fashion.
Spicy eats at Guyi Hunanese is right up there with Szechuan for mouth–numbingly spicy shredded pork and steamed fish. Here, it’s all about the chili–and–garlic–flecked ribs. Take a number (and a beer) and sit outside on the steps while the tables turn.
Gourmet coffee at Sumerian Coffee Single–origin coffee beans are roasted in house at this laid–back café in the Jing’an District. Slurp your way through a guided tasting session on Saturday and Sunday mornings, or grab a java to go and explore the surrounding neighbourhood: To the north is a century–old synagogue; to the south, luxury fashion flagships abound.
Drunken chicken at “Old Jesse” This location is the first and truest of the Jesse restaurant family, which serves hand–me–down Shanghainese recipes. Try the Jishi pork (tender glazed pork belly) and the Jishi Chicken Chicken (“drunken chicken”) in a cramped split–level townhouse.
Pork belly at Hai by Goga Enter the Shanghai Education Hall and take a tiny elevator to the seventh floor; then step onto a covered rooftop terrace with just 36 seats and a view of the Xuhui district. The pork belly was rated one of the top three in Shanghai, and the seared scallops with crushed cashews are a must.
Japanese whisky at Bar Constellation This location is the more atmospheric of this small chain of Japanese speakeasies. Deep crescent–shaped booths accommodate parties of wild–haired creative types dressed in duds from the surrounding boutiques. Grab a stool at the backlit bar for the best service.
What to Do
Contemporary art at Long Museum (West Bund) Homegrown architects Atelier Deshaus paid homage to the dour concrete of mid–century Shanghai with this soaring, light–filled sanctuary, commissioned by two billionaires for their private collection. The vast main gallery shows a wealth of vibrant paintings. Get a closer view of this striking collection from the mezzanine balcony.
Temple and magnolia trees at Yu Garden Leave the chaos of the surrounding market streets for this 16th–century Ming sanctuary shaded with magnolia and gingko trees. Temples and tea houses with classic swooping clay roofs perch on rocky outcroppings, and the famous “crooked bridge” zigzags across a koi pond. Give the official restaurants a pass; you’ll fare better strolling to the Zhaozhou Road hawkers near Xintiandi.
Microbreweries and fine dining in Xintiandi This community of traditional shikumen houses was rebuilt, then leased to new–generation boutiques and fine–dining restaurants. On warm days, head to the bustling cafés and wine bars that line the piazzas. Head to Danshui Road, at Xintiandi’s western edge, for cocktail joints, microbreweries and snack bars that are mash–ups of Asian and Western tastes.
Gallery hopping in the Former French Concession Explore Shaanxi South Road metro, where hawkers tow wood carts past upstart boutiques like Culture Matters. Duck into the shady streets behind the Shanghai Library and peer past iron gates to deco manors. Behind stone walls on Wukang Road, Ferguson Lane claims some fine cafés, galleries and boutiques.
Souvenirs in Tianzifang Locals teamed up with artists and crafters to save this maze of residential alleyways from developers, opening makeshift galleries to pay the rent. Homegrown fashion labels are popping up along Taikang Road, outside the gates of the enclave.
Mooncakes at Shanghai First Foodhall This famous four–storey emporium features everything from fresh fruit and mooncakes to dried mushrooms and duck tongues. The black sesame, scallion and pork sheng jian bao from Yang’s Fried Dumplings, tucked away in the far corner of the top floor, are to be missed at your peril.
Karaoke at Fame KTV KTV is what the Chinese call karaoke, and it’s practiced without irony deep into the night. The private party rooms are lined with leather banquettes and wide–screen TVs. Servers keep you lubricated with champagne, spirits and nibbles as you belt out the standards.
Pancakes and steamed buns with UnTour Food Tours Take a three–hour all–you–can–eat breakfast excursion around the Former French Concession and sample fare from the tried–and–tested pancake–flippers, bun–steamers, egg–scramblers and dumpling–fryers. The CNY472 fee is reasonable, considering the constant flow of coffee and insider tips. A similar night–market tour includes bottomless beer.