Standing proud as one of most populated cities in the world, Shanghai’s ultra modern hedonism, breathtaking skyline and fast paced lifestyle, make this city one of the most exciting metropolises in the world. Built on the banks of the Huangpu River, Shanghai’s was once a humble fishing village that now houses over 20 million inhabitants. Colonised by the English, French and Japanese, the city has undergone a complete metamorphosis. Arguably the biggest change of the last 30 years is the ever-expanding urban district of Pudong and its gargantuan skyscrapers.
While you can visit everything in the guidebook, Shanghai’s unique character is best experienced by simply watching daily life unfold around you, like bumping in to an elderly man walking down the street in a plaid pyjama suit with a dog in fluorescent Nike trainers. Indeed, Shanghai is a fabulous mixture of traditional Chinese culture and western culture… on steroids.
What to Know
Due to its history of colonisation, Shanghai has what can only be described as a brilliant mix of aesthetics. The city has seen its fair share of international visitors over the years, and this melange of cultures can be most easily observed in its architecture. From the tree lined French Concession to the jaw dropping mega structures of Lujiazui you’ll never cease to be amazed! As the pride of Shanghai the Bund has become the epitome of elegance, hosting an eclectic mix of European style buildings. To the East is one of the most impressive collections of skyscrapers in the world. A particular highlight is the new Shanghai Tower, standing at a whopping 632 meters tall!
Shanghai weather can be very extreme – summers are hot and humid with highs of 40°C, and winters can get pretty cold, especially as most houses do not have central heating!
What to Do
First stop is The Bund to gaze at the timeless colonial buildings on the west bank of the river and glitzy skyscrapers to the east. Then take a stroll down the world’s longest and busiest shopping street, Nanjing Road. Take in some of the local Chinese culture at Yu Garden and taste some delicious Shanghai style dumplings. Don’t miss out on the Propaganda Museum to learn about the persuasion tactics used in the Mao era. A trip to Shanghai would not be complete without a visit to one of the best bars in Shanghai, Vue Bar. However, if sipping champagne on a skyscraper while lounging in a Jacuzzi isn’t really your thing, opt for the rowdier of nights out with the Drunken Dragon Pub Crawl. Either way, you will experience an awesome night in Shanghai.
Love museums? Shanghai has them in abundance. Head to Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai Museum and the Propoganda Museum to soak up the local culture. For an edgier take on design, the M50 Gallery on Moganshan Road is a must-see, and the Natural History Museum is a hidden gem for anyone with a couple of hours to kill.
Shopping more your thing? wander up the Nanjing road, flash your cash on the glitzy Huaihai road or get lost in the massive Jing’an Kerry center. If you are after something a little more cultured then head to the Dongtai Road Antiques Market or Tianzifang for a whole array of trinkets and collectables to take home.
Escape the bustling streets of the city by taking a seat in Fuxing park, located in the old French Concession, this park was built over a 100 years ago in French style fit for royalty!
Watch as locals fly elaborate kites, sing to the birds, paint traditional calligraphy, play heated games of Mahjong and dance anything from classical ballroom to Zumba. Depending on the season, your best chance to catch a glimpse of these activities is early in the morning, but if the weather is nice and it isn’t too hot they will continue well into the afternoon.
What to eat
If you are getting hungry, there are plenty of options along the streets of the Former French Concession. If you are looking for something a little more upmarket, Xintiandi is the place to go. This is a renovated area of town where traditional Chinese style homes, the Shíkùmén (stone gate houses), have been converted into a variety of dining, shopping and entertainment venues.
If a true taste of Shanghai is what you want, find a small local restaurant, close your eyes and point to something random on the menu. A very popular dish in Shanghai is stir-fried tomato with egg, and it is definitely worth a try! If a quick bite on the go is what you need, Shanghai has a bustling street-food scene.Xiao long bao, or Shanghainese dumplings are definitely the must-try dish in this city. Grab some from a vendor or a family-run restaurant: wherever you find them these delicious treats will not disappoint!
Once you’ve exhausted yourself running around the city, it might be time to truly relax while sipping a delicious cocktail in one of Shanghai’s various bars. From shirt and tie classy to flip-flop casual, Shanghai has everything you could possibly be looking for. For the classier establishments head back to the Bund for The Vue, Char, The Roosevelt, Glamour Bar, New Heights, or Bar Rouge. For a breathtaking view without breaking the bank visit the Captain’s Bar which is a hostel with an awesome bar on the top.
Shanghai also has plenty of casual bars conveniently located in the FFC. For a more down to earth vibe, make your way over to Yongkang Road, a lively bar street where the drinks are cheap and pretty much anything goes. If you are looking to sip on a quality micro brew, Shanghai Brewery or the Boxing Cat Brewery is the place to go. Shanghai is definitely a city with endless possibilities. Whether you’re craving rest and relaxation or an all night drinking fest, Shanghai has what you need.