From budget to luxury enjoy this beautiful city no matter your price point
Literally meaning “City on the sea,” Shanghai reminds me a bit of Hong Kong in that it’s a shopper’s paradise, complete with malls, stores and all the boutiques you can imagine (there’s also that high China tax, so keep that in mind when purchasing). But what makes it so different from our current home is the density (it is much less crowded), it’s waterway (a river as opposed to the South China Sea) and the fact that it’s located in mainland China (buh-bye, free Internet access and social media). The vibe here is cool and almost European, and this city is definitely worth visiting for a day (or more!) to see why people have been coming to the Paris of the East for centuries. If you’re lucky enough to be one of the passport holders that don’t require a visa for a layover here, make the most out of your time in Shanghai by following this handy guide!
The Basics – Almost anything you forgot back home can be purchased here, but it is worth bringing a Mandarin language book (or translator) with you, because if you’re going to the local spots, most people do not speak English. Shanghai has seasons, so depending on the time of year you travel, be sure to pack the appropriate clothing and gear (raincoats, anyone?).
Where to stay
Splurge: Want to spend the night in Shanghai like a royal? Stay at the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai On The Bund. This hotel is posh and luxurious, and rooms are bigger than most flats in HK. With 260 high-end rooms and suites, it is housed in a historic building and has a spa, restaurants and The Long Bar (trust me – go here for a drink and listen to some talented jazz musicians). The location is perfect, just a few steps away from the glorious Bund. My suite was equipped with a king size bed (it was so comfy I almost didn’t want to leave the room), television in the bedroom and one in the bathroom mirror (you read that correctly – it popped up with a remote control). Even the toilets here are fancy – if you walk by, the sensor notices and the lid pops up! – and are equipped with a Japanese bidet.
Waldorf Astoria, 2 Zhongshan East 1st Rd, WaiTan, Huangpu, Shanghai
Budget: Can’t justify spending $2,400 a night (although the Waldorf is totally worth it!)? Then try Les Suites Orient Bund Shanghai, Hotel Indigo Shanghai on The Bund, or the Grand Central Hotel Shanghai. There are also quite a few service apartments within the Bund area that are reasonable and highly rated.
Where to eat:
Gotta have something to get you going in the morning, so start with a healthy breakfast. Here are a couple of options:
Splurge: The Grand Brasserie
If you’re lucky enough to stay at the Waldorf Astoria, you’re in for a real treat. Breakfast at the Grand Brasserie in the hotel is not only delicious, the variations and offerings are plentiful, no matter if your preference is western or eastern. It’s even given a number three rating on Trip Advisor as best breakfast spots. It’s expensive, but should easily fill you up for a day of sight seeing.
Budget: Yang’ s Fry-Dumpling
Prefer to go quick, cheap and local? Head to this popular spot. It whips up dumplings that are tasty and inexpensive. Located upstairs in the food plaza (3/F), it offers three flavours (vegetarian, meat and prawn), and a batch of six cost 18 RMB. Order your food at the counter, pay and just wait for the dumplings to arrive (service is said to be quite quick). Close to the West Nanjing station.
Yang’s Fry-Dumpling, No.269, Wujiang Road, F2, Huangpuhui, Shanghai, China, +86 21 6136 1391
What to do:
If you had breakfast at Yang’s, you’re not very far from the Jing’an Temple and the Jing’an Park. Originally built in 247 AD, the Buddhist Jing’an Temple has seen its fair share of renovations and looks much more modern than it should be. It has two halls – Hall of the Heavenly King and the Mahavira Hall. You must purchase a ticket to get inside (30 RMB) but you can stay as long as you like.
Across from the Jing’an Temple is the Jing’an Park, something I could have spent all day in (I spotted a plaque that called it Shanghai Civilised Park!). It’s a beautiful, calm and open area filled with lush green grass and, oddly, quite a few feral cats who the locals seem to adore and cater to. I went on a beautiful Saturday morning and it wasn’t crowded at all, which was a break from normal HK crowds. Admission is free, and if you have some time on your hands, make the trek across to the Jing’an Sculpture Park, as it has some incredible sculptures and, from what I hear, an even better Natural History Museum.
If you’ve worked up an appetite by visiting the temple, looking at all the art, and enjoying being in a tranquil setting all day, head over to Bali Laguna, an Indonesian restaurant for dinner. Situated on a pond in the middle of the park it has lovely views and a serene setting. Sip cocktails outside while you gaze at the beauty around you – it’s the perfect way to end your day.
Jing’an Temple, 1686 Nanjing W Rd, Jing’an Si, Jingan Qu, Shanghai
Jing’an Park, 189 Huashan Rd, Jing’an, Jingan Qu, Shanghai
Jing’an Sculpture Park, 500 Beijing W Rd, Jingan Qu, Shanghai
Bali Laguna, (In Jing’an Park) Entrance on 189 Huashan Road, Jing’an Qu, Shanghai
Save your energy and make sure to take a walk along The Bund (the area in central Shanghai that lines the Huangpu River) at night. Even though it’s beautiful to see any time of day, at night this part of the city comes alive, and its lights reveal a spectacular vision highlighting the city’s beauty. All the historic and surrounding buildings are lit up, and the walkway along the Bund is alive with vendors, and people. The vibe is electric.
Highlights: The mosaic ceilings at Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the museum in Astor House Hotel, the movie poster gallery in Peace Hotel, and Lovers’ wall.
Sassy tip: The entire walk is 1.5 kilometres, and you can start at any point. Some recommend beginning at the Broadway mansions and finishing at the Meteorological Signal Tower, but any walk you do will be worth the trip here. The full walk takes about 2.5 hours.
Budget: Begin at Yuyuan Old Street, a jumble of street vendors, food vendors (you can grab something to eat if you’re in a hurry to spend some RMB!) and a bargain hunter’s delight. Haggle hard, as that’s the game here. Shopping is from 8am to 7pm daily, but we’ve heard it’s great fun to check out at night as well. The area is lined with restaurants and other shops as well (even a Starbuck’s, for the mid-morning caffeine top-up you may need).
Splurge: About a 30-minute walk (or 15-minute cab ride) away is a much more high end shopping area on Nanjing Road. If you feel like a day of #treatyoself, head to Plaza 66, an exquisite mall featuring high-end stores to window shop (or splurge in!). Make sure to go to the three-level Louis Vuitton store and marvel at the leather chaise lounge that costs only US$500,000 (three, please). The mall is complete with every luxury designer brand imaginable (there are more than 100 shops and flagship stores).
Although not open yet (it’s set to open in early 2018), keep an eye out for the opening of two Michelin-star restaurant Marea, launched by Chef Michael White. Located on the third floor of Plaza 66, the 85-seat restaurant will feature Italian seafood mirroring his New York namesake. Make sure you order the fusilli with roasted octopus. You won’t be disappointed.
If your budget isn’t quite that high (don’t we all wish), the area surrounding Plaza 66 is filled with high street stores (a massive Zara is across the street) and other boutiques that may not hurt your wallet as badly. Down the block you can find a large Sephora, Uniqlo and even a couple of Chinese department stores.
Plaza 66, 1266, Nanjing Xi Lu, Shanghai
Splurge: Flair Rooftop
If seeing all those luxury items makes you want end the evening on a high note, go to Flair Rooftop at the Ritz-Carlton and enjoy gorgeous views while you munch on Japanese food and sip fancy cocktails. If you already spent too much, just go for the view and a drink (or two). Drinks are around 100RMB.
Flair Rooftop, 号 -125 号, 59 Lujiazui Ring Rd, Pudong, Shanghai, China, 200120
Budget: ShangHaiDe Xing MianGuan
Looking for a local spot? This should sort you out. Featuring highly rated dim sum and local eats, you can fill up for about 50RMB. Quick, easy and cheap – just what you want after splashing out a bunch of cash all day! There is a casual first floor option or a dine-in area on the second floor.
ShangHaiDe Xing MianGuan, 471 Guangdong Lu, Shanghai, China