Shanghai City Guide

Filed under Destination Guides

by Stu Lloyd


Considered the most populous city in the world, Shanghai has meteorically regained its place alongside the world’s great cities such as London, Paris, and New York in the past 10 or 15 years. Amazing, considering China’s closed attitude to the West for decades after the Cultural Revolution.

Perhaps it’s the entrepreneurial and outward-looking international spirit of its 14,000,000 people (most of whom will be in your carriage at People’s Square metro station at peak hour) that forces it ever forward and ever upward, embracing the best of the West and fusing it with their own millennia-old Oriental culture, to create something wonderfully exotic and intoxicating.

Few (if any other) cities in the world can boast of being home to 500 of the Fortune 500, yet Shanghai manages to do that, giving it a buoyancy and prosperity to develop top-flight and cutting-edge infrastructure, and to attract to its bright flame the biggest names in the restaurant, sporting, hospitality and entertainment worlds.

So, whether or not you ride on the space-age Maglev train, fasten your seat belt because a trip to Shanghai will surely shift your perceptions of China with a jolt if you’re a first timer, or reaffirm your enjoyment of the go-go-go ‘Pearl of the Orient’ if you’re a repeat traveller.

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Shanghai is a vibrant city with indefatigable energy, which effortlessly and seamlessly incorporates its colourful and chequered past as the ‘Paris of Asia’ into something delightfully unmistakably modern and cosmopolitan, yet cutting-edge Chinese. The buzzing city allows you to set your own pace, and indulge in whatever pushes your buttons.

10 Must Dos:

  1. The Bund. A mile-long promenade running along the western bank of the Huangpu River, the Bund takes you back a century, with 52 beautifully preserved and restored old-school buildings representing Shanghai’s cosmopolitan International Settlement. Also the perfect viewpoint to the contrasting Starship Enterprise vibe of Pudong across the river.
  1. Shanghai Tower. At 632m, the 3rd tallest building in the world twists through 120 degrees, reducing wind loads. Unique double-façade for less energy consumption. The fastest commercial elevator ride in the world whizzes you to the Observation Deck in no-time flat.
  1. Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Bringing art to the people and fostering understanding of graphic design locally and internationally, MOCA stages exhibitions such as Gaudi, Pixar, to local Animamax shows. Set in a lush downtown park setting, with natural light streaming in floor-to-ceiling windows MOCA itself is a masterpiece.
  1. YuYuan Garden. Dating back to the 1550s, this 5-acre plot features placid ponds, rockeries, bridges, pavilions and rosewood structures from the Ming Dynasty. Snaking grey ‘dragon walls’ delineate the six main thematic areas – each with a feature hall – from each other. A peaceful oasis.
  1. Nanjing Xi Lu high-end boutiques. The most high-end commercial area in a city of high-ends, this western stretch of Nanjing Road drips with luxury brands and malls. City Plaza, Plaza 66 (Henglong Plaza), and Citic Square are home to brands such as Prada, Armani, Chloé, Dior, and Louis Vuitton.
  1. Former French Concession (FFC). For nearly 100 years until WW2 the French had control of this sector and have left their indelible stylish stamp on it. It radiates out from Huaihai Road. Chic boutiques and cool nightlife options abound in Hengshan Rd, with café/bars in converted French mansions.
  1. Xin Tian Di. To many it’s considered the Champs-Elysees of Asia. This pedestrian precinct of mid-19th century shikumen stone houses is one of the most tone-y, exclusive and characterful enclaves, where you’ll delight in bookstores and romantic cafes in tree-lined narrow side lanes, and indulge in some fabulous alfresco people-watching.
  1. Maglev Train. Love speed and technology? Catch the world’s fast commercial levitation train between Pudong Airport and Longyang Rd. It’ll be the best 7 mins 20 seconds of your life as you watch the in-carriage speedo reach up to 430km/h (on 9-10:45am and 3-4:45pm services only)
  1. Shanghai BoWuGuan Museum. Over 1,000,000 prized ceramics, bronze, paintings, calligraphy, coins and jade form this world-class collection in downtown People’s Square. With some pieces dating back 8000 years, it’s a crash course in Chinese civilization. The building’s design signifies Chinese philosophy of a round sky surrounding a square earth.
  1. Shanghai Circus World. Think Cirque du Soleil with a local twist as you watch the dazzling show, ERA – Intersection of Time. For example, terracotta warriors rev up their motorcycles and blast through space in this acrobatics-meets-modern-tech spectacular. Some say miss this show and you miss Shanghai.



Nobody does hospitality like Asia, and Shanghai has gone from having 1 five-star hotel 30 years ago to having an almost embarrassing number of world-class hotels. Want gritty local street action? Find a charming hotel in the midst of it. Prefer pandering? Yes, sir and madam, right this way.

10 Hotels

Banyan Tree on the Bund

Want the iconic ‘money shot’ of two sides of Shanghai? From your room (or the TOPS skybar) you can see the sparkling new Lujiazui financial district and the story-filled old city to the right. Treat yourself: Dine amid romantic burning lanterns on the Bund waterfront.

Riverview Hotel

A more local style for those who want location and affordability. A short walk to the Bund, the famous Yu Gardens, and with Starbucks just opposite when you need a fix of good Western-style coffee. Popular with European tourists and couples.

Sofitel Hyland Shanghai

For those who want to be right in the thick of midtown, this Sofitel sits right on famed Nanjing Road (a lively tourist attraction in itself). Some feel it needs a lick of paint to be really 5-star, but no complaints over the sumptuous breakfast buffet to set you up for the day.

Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai

Art lovers may never want to leave this hotel because it is quite a work of modern art in its own right. Pop art, mood lighting, and dramatic features abound. Plus all the dining and shopping delights of Xintiandi on your doorstep.

Fairmont Peace Shanghai

Old Shanghai charm meets new Shanghai sophistication right here at the much-storied Peace Hotel, which has witnessed much of China’s modern history unfold. The jazz band here is literally part of the furniture (they might even be older than it!) and is a quintessential experience.

Grand Kempinski Hotel Shanghai

Being on the river on the Pudong side, this hotel gives you the ‘reverse angle’ view of the Bund. Modern European flair and efficiency abounds here, with spacious rooms and bathrooms, and it’s adjacent to the aquarium if that’s on your to-do list.

Les Suites Orient Bund Shanghai Hotel

Singles and couples not looking to spring for 5-stars will be blown away by this hotel right on the river, rubbing shoulders with bigger name hotels but at a lower price point. Feel likes a quick walk? Yu Gardens and Natural History Museum are close by.

Radisson Blu Shanghai New World

Dominating the Nanjing Road area is this soaring 208 metre tower, resembling a UFO landing on a giant pepper grinder. Best of all, you can head up to the 47th floor Sky Dome and enjoy live music and awesome midtown city light views.

The Langham Xintiandi Shanghai

Contemporary luxury has been bolted onto the historic Xintiandi entertainment precinct, in the form of the Langham. If you’re on the go, you’ll love the convenience of 2 Metro stations, and retiring to a comfy room just steps away from Shanghai Tang and countless boutiques, wine bars, etc.

The Puli Hotel & Spa

The Puli bills itself as an urban resort, and the park-like atmosphere doesn’t disappoint. Styish décor is zen like, and the Oriental flavor is continued by having JingAn Temple near by, juxtaposing the charm of the Former French Concession with its eateries nearby.



Shanghai likes to think of itself as the ultimate foodie’s paradise, given its polyglot international melting pot history, fusion style kitchens, street vendors from every province trying their luck, plus the outright avant-garde next-big-thing. Culling this scene (from classic to cheap and cheerful) into a shortlist is hard and hungry work.

10 Top Dining Experiences

Jiu Jiu Di Shui Dong. Heartwarming (and eye-watering) Hunan cuisine at 56 Maoming Nan Lu. Despite having a large main dining room and several side rooms, this place is always packed by locals and expats with a slightly masochistic streak looking for the signature spicy ribs. Good value.

Lotus Eatery. Yunnan food features exotic ingredients like stir-fried banana blossoms, wild mushrooms and fried goat’s cheese. Hearty lamb soups also keep out the winter chills. This cheap and cheerful joint at 1112 Dingxi Lu is a bit hard to get to, but well worth the walk.

Silk Road.  A massively popular themed diner (you can’t miss the Mosque-like building at 680 Zhaojiabang Rd). You’ll be whisked away to the outer reaches of the Middle Kingdom with song and dance by Uighur Muslims from north-western China. If you like lamb, lamb or lamb, you’ve come to the right place.

Yang’s Fry Dumplings. In a foodie paradise, Yang’s stands out as the real deal. Pork, shrimp or veggie dumplings, oozing with richness. Try the wanton soup with cilantro. There’s always people milling around this humble 269 Wujiang Road shop, but you should get in and out within 10 minutes.

Xiao Nan Guo. For fine Shanghainese food and service head for the neon lights at 699 Nanking West Road. Purple-uniformed waitresses make for a visual feast too. The steamed fish is the go-to item here, and the more eco-conscious might want to avoid the shark’s fin and turtle dishes. A few branches.

Street Food. Once the main restaurants and fast food joints close, vendors appear everywhere in alleys like mushrooms after rain. Nothing is more Shanghainese than shansi leng mian (eel thread cold noodles). This dish is usually served as two separate components for you to mix and enjoy.

Efes Restaurant.  The aromatic BBQ smoke will guide you to this popular Mediterranean eatery at 665 Shang Cheng Road, Lujiazui. Savour the authentic lamb tandoori on special eggplant puree, kebabs, and chicken wings, or let the helpful Turkish owner guide you with his recommendations. Warning: very crowded on weekends.

Scena. Looking for something a cut above? Italian set lunch excellent value, but really becomes special with the nightly views of Lujiazui. On the 52nd floor of the Ritz Carlton you’ll be surprised by the cozy, private setting yet able to take in views with floor-to-ceiling windows.

Hakkasan. Cantonese fusion cuisine with flair (think Crispy Duck, Pancakes with Caviar, and Salt & Pepper squid) at 18 Zhongshan East 1st Road, Huangpu. Start with a cocktail, then some Shanghai dumplings for starters. Or try the 3-course Taste of Hakkasan set menu. Views over the Bund.

Ultraviolet. Ok, you want to really blow your mind (and your budget)? This is a fully immersive multi-sensory ‘psycho-taste’ experience which encompasses a 20-course menu designed and delivered by local cult hero, Paul Pairet. Only 1 table of 10 guests nightly. Mystery location. Bookings:



For Booze and Views, Shanghai’s got it all. Is it the world’s roof bar capital? Maybe.  It’s not being left behind in the craft beer movement which is sweeping the world, with the taps being turned on with some exotic brews such as IPAs from different Chinese cities. It’s not just about Tsingtao anymore.

10 historic, hidden gems, best coffee, micro-breweries

VUE Bar. Sitting atop the Hyatt, many say this is the best view at night, with Puxi and Pudong views. DJs spin discs, the crowd is fashionable, some even take a playful plunge in the hot tub. Weather permitting, go the open-air option, and lounge on a day bed.

Daga Brewpub. A new neighbourhood bar at 100 Fuxing Lu with huge number of small craft brews from Beijing, Chengdu, Nanjing, etc. They’ll let you taste these until you choose the one you like. Industrial chic vibe, with techno soundtrack. Can eat here or just warm up for elsewhere.

Brownstone. A really slick and stylish cocktail bar, occupying a corner unit at 570 Yongjia Rd. The management has a good pedigree. You won’t find a dizzying array of a million choices, they specialize more in the recognizable classics, and they serve them just right.

Captain’s Bar. Nautical but nice, you’ll find an interesting mix of locals and expats in these casual surroundings, enjoying the splendid views but without the dressy pretense (and expense) of being in a 5-star bar. Views through and over the Bund here at 37 Fuzhou Lu to the Pudong skyline.

Jazz Bar at Fairmont Peace Hotel. This is Shanghai’s equivalent of having a Singapore Sling at Raffles. The band’s average age is nearing 80 now, but they still trot out the tunes nightly from 7.30pm evoking a charming yesteryear feeling and classic Shanghai ambience to an appreciative audience.

Bar Rouge. See the local jet-set and hard-partying expats at play, while dancing and taking in views across to Puxi.  Ladies night on Thursday scores you free cocktails and even a manicure. It’s a late starter and very late finisher. 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu.

Mokkos. There’s any number of reasons to like this quirky little Japanese bar, hidden down Lane 1245 Wuding Xi Lu. You’ll be charmed by the couple who run this small joint. Surprises galore: is that reggae music playing? Wow, now they broke out the instruments and started jamming.

Speak Low. The Prohibition-style speakeasy scene has caught on big. This one is found behind a book case in a supplies store at 579 Fuxing Zhong Lu! Refined atmosphere where English Mules slip down way too easily. Another secret room awaits behind a world map upstairs, and there’s allegedly a 3rd room.

Yonkang Lu. Just want to crawl your way down a great bar street and see what takes your fancy? Lively French, Cuban, and English style cafes, bars and pubs. One downside: it finishes at 10pm because it’s actually a residential street and the locals don’t like noisy stragglers.

Sumerian. For that morning after pick-me-up, here’s a great coffee tip. Head to Sumerian at 415 Shaanxi Bei Lu for a laid-back California-meets-China earthy vibe. Beans are roasted right there in front of you, and cupping classes are staged weekend mornings. Freshest beans in all of China.



Shanghai is synonymous with shopping, and some perceive it a shopper’s paradise. But … it’s no Bangkok, and there’s a reason why millions of Chinese tourists stock up their suitcases with branded items in Europe. Still, its full of cutting-edge boutiques and retro markets to enjoy. Caveat emptor: fakes and pirates abound.

Shops, shopping areas, markets, bookstores, antiques, vintage

High-end boutiques, Nanjing Xi Lu. This western stretch of Nanjing Road drips with luxury brands and malls. City Plaza, Plaza 66 (Henglong Plaza), and Citic Square are home to brands such as Prada, Armani, Chloé, Dior, and Louis Vuitton.

Nanjing Xi Lu Fake Market. Exactly what it says on the tin, head to 580 Nanjing Xi Lu if you are not hung up on the real thing at an outrageous price. Electronics (such as Wii and Xbox), fashion (Burberry’s hot right now), suitcases, toys, and more. Bargain hard!

Xin Tian Di. You’ll delight in a number of fashion malls (Xin Tian Di Style is the pick for less obvious international brands) and side streets that evoke New York or Paris, with their old stone walls. Plenty of cafes and wine bars to relax in after shopping.

Hu & Hu Fine Antiques. Sisters-in-law with a passionate pedigree, including working for Taipei’s National Palace Museum and Sotheby’s, they’ve been delighting customers for nearly 20 years. Author Suzy Gershman said: “This was one of my most fantastic shopping experiences in all my years of doing Born to Shop.”

Shanghai Tang. Although originating in Hong Kong, it’s super-upmarket Olde Chinese fusion clothing and homeware designs jump out from their vivid window displays across Shanghai. Signature items include bone china, laquer boxes and filigreed photo frames.

Raffles Privato. Looking for a stylish one off, or want to pick the next big thing in fashion design? Head to 245 Madang Lu (Xin Tian Di Style mall) for this concept shop, essentially an incubator for the best students learning their craft at Raffles Design Institute.

English book shops. Fuzhou Lu has developed into a book lovers’ area, with many mega options. Garden Books at Changle Lu stands out. It’s a bit smaller, more of a café character than a book barn. They push local authors’ work, if you’d like to read something with a Shanghai flavor.

Vintage Cameras. Luban Lu is home to Xing Guang Photographic City, which has everything from the cutting-edge to the ancient. Building C 3rd and 4th floors mock ancient street is where you’ll probably find that super elusive good deal on a classic Leica, Hasselblad or local Seagull.

Culture Matters. Not interested in the latest hi-tech sneakers by Nike? Go the opposite direction with some so-uncool-that-they’re-cool FeiYue sneakers. This local brand kicked off in Shanghai in the 20s, and has recently become super trendy in France. These are the el cheapo originals. 15 Dongping Lu.

Dongtai Road Curio Market. The whole street is full of treasure and trash. Even if you’re not buying, stroll along and enjoy art deco memorabilia, propaganda items from the Cultural Revolution, antiquarian books. And stuff of unknown provenance. You get what you pay for. Some genuine, others not so much.



Shanghai might be a great big city and financial/business centre but action and adventure course through its veins. It’s easy to find a greenbelt, a park to walk or exercise in, a Crossfit box, or a cool cycle or culinary tour or even a sidecar sightseeing adventure tour.

Walks, hiking, green spaces, adventures, golf etc

Suzhou Creek. A meandering waterway with a fascinating geo-political history, its willow-lined banks have been converted into walkways to help you discover and explore much of its 50-odd kilometer journey through Shanghai. Enjoy colonial-era warehouses, post offices, parks, art districts, etc, en route.

YuYuan Garden. Stretch your legs here, because this 5-acre plot features placid ponds, rockeries, bridges, pavilions and rosewood structures from the Ming Dynasty (mid 1500s). Snaking grey ‘dragon walls’ delineate the six main thematic areas – each with a feature hall – from each other.

Yanzhong Guanchang Park. This park is made of several connecting parts, covering several downtown blocks. Feel you want to escape the seething metropolis or just get some exercise among streams and bridges? Head to Jinling Xi Lu, near Danshui Lu. Link to Julu Park for even less people.

Culinary Backstreets Walking Tours. If you enjoy cooking, eating, and burning off some calories add this to your list. CB offer an authentic immersive insight into lesser known areas and the unsung heroes that cook up a storm in them. You can also try your hand at cooking dumplings.

Crossfit. This fitness movement is sweeping the world, and Shanghai is not being left behind with 4 boxes already operating. To keep pumped up on the go, drop by either of the 2 boxes on the Puxi side or the 2 on the Pudong side.

Shanghai Hongqiao Golf Club. Easily accessible in the western part of the city, this popular 9-hole ‘mini’ course is lined by 30,000 trees. Notoriously unforgiving, you’ll find sand, water traps and even stone walls can ruin your day here. But nevermind, you can play under floodlights at night too.

Culture Shock Bike tour. French tour leaders, fluent in Chinese, provide the perfect combination to get the inside story of the Former French Concession area, leading you down little-known alleys full of real life, real stories. Enjoy a very local breakfast, Fuxing Park, gracious mansions and Taoist temples.

Jacky Chan Film Gallery. Are you a fan of the Chan? This small gallery at Daduhe Road is worth seeking out. Props, memorabilia, cars, costumes, and things from his career tell his adventurous and inspiring story. You’ll learn about his rags-to-riches life and his massive charity work in China.

Insiders Shanghai Sidecar Tour. What a cool way to experience this city … in a motorcycle sidecar, with a knowledgeable guide pointing out the interesting parts of the old city. You are as much an attraction as you zip along, garnering admiring and amazed stares. Customised 2-4 hour tours.

Factory Five Bike Shop. Self-proclaimed ‘epicentre of the fixed-gear scene in Shanghai’ this shop/ workshop/ café at Changhua Lu is a great place to enjoy the buzz of fellow cyclists, find out good local riding spots and check out their renovation work on retro Chinese cycles and latest on-road bikes.



Shanghai really comes into its own when it comes to the arts – a rich tradition and texture underpins this vibrant city, provoking and challenging and entertaining. Adding vitality and dimension at every turn to make it one of the world’s truly interesting and inspiring cities.

Galleries, museums, art spaces, film, music, comedy

Kung Fu Komedy. Homegrown hilarity well worth checking out. KFK stages shows Wednesday thru Saturday, with a mix of local and international talent, with occasional imported Big Name guests. Never tried stand up before? Join their Open Mic on Sunday or Wednesday, safely thousands of miles from home!

Shanghai Circus World. Lively, spirited, and entertaining. Think Cirque du Soleil with a local twist. In the dazzling show, ERA – Intersection of Time, terracotta warriors rev up their motorcycles and blast through space in this acrobatics-meets-modern-tech spectacular. Some say miss this show and you miss Shanghai.

Shanghai Bo Wu Guan Museum. With some pieces dating back 8000 years, Bo Wu Guan is a crash course in Chinese civilization. Over 1,000,000 prized ceramics, bronze, paintings, calligraphy, coins and jade form this world-class collection in downtown People’s Square. The building itself teaches you a lot about Chinese philosophy.

M50 Art District. At 50 Moganshan Road (hence the name) this enclave sprung up in a disused industrial area, reclaiming and repurposing vast warehouses as cool art spaces, studios, and galleries, with attendant coffee shops. Discover new and upcoming contemporary artists like pop artist Go Xin Ru.

PowerStation of Art (PSA). This former power station – with its iconic chimney – provided China’s first light in 1897. Now it’s the first Chinese state-run museum dedicated to contemporary art, and home of the excellent Shanghai Biennale with its progressive curation of local and international artists on show.

Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). Set in a downtown park setting, with natural light streaming in floor-to-ceiling windows MOCA is a 7-storey masterpiece. Bringing art to the people and fostering understanding of graphic design locally and internationally, MOCA stages exhibitions such as Gaudi, Ferragamo, to Pixar and local Animamax shows.

Rockbund Art Museum (RAM). At the urban-renewal north end of the Bund, this space positions itself as the Bund’s only contemporary art museum, and engages with regular exhibitions by leading local names such as Zheng Fanzi and Cai Guo Ciang, and tapping into social issues with its RAM@night program.

Film Art Center. This cinema is always the epicenter of the Shanghai International Film Festival, and shows local indie productions (often hosting cool director Q and A’s) plus international blockbusters. Film buffs will love the massive screens with Dolby Atmos sound systems, among the largest in the world.

Art Deco Cinemas. Relics from Shanghai’s grand old age, there are numerous atmospheric examples of Art Deco Cinema to enjoy in various states of original preservation. Try the Cathay Cinema (1932), Stellar International Complex (1932), or Grand Cinema (1933) with its wrought iron railings, marble statues, etc.

YuYinTang (YYT) Livehouse. If you’re in the mood for something edgier, find your way to YYT at 851 Kaixuan Rd, which has established itself as the premier underground live music venue in Shanghai. Mixed bag of live acts, cheap booze, friendly locals, every night is something different here.



The problem in Shanghai is that there are only 365 days a year to cram so much culture and vibrant happenings into. The typical year has so many attractions you’ll perhaps want to just move here and base yourself here to take it all in. Get out your calendar and mark these dates now.

Shanghai Wine and Dine Festival. The lipsmackingly largest food and wine festival in China. It’s all here: quality food, imported wines, multicultural experiences. With China an increasingly important global market, wine is very central to the experience, with many national pavilions featuring food pairing master classes. September 23-25 2016.

Shanghai Beer Week. Yes, it’s a thing! “Celebrating Better Beer” is what it’s all about, and brewmeisters from all over China gather to put their best foam forward, including some craft cider makers. China has a proud brewing history, first learned from the Germans in Tsingtao of course. End of May.

Shanghai Fashion Week. April each year sees Xin Tian Di come to life with super models and super outfits paraded down the runways. Local big names and names-to-be strut their stuff. Downside: it’s invitation only. Upside: it’s China so there’s usually scalpers outside who can fix you a ticket.

Shanghai International Literary Festival. A rather intimate but interesting affair, bringing authors, poets, artists and enthusiastic audiences together each March. Unlike bigger festivals you can get up close and personal with the creators of fiction, non-fiction, journalism, kid’s books and poetry.

Shanghai Strawberry Festival. No, put away the basket, this has got nothing to do with picking fruits. Instead it’s a 3-day 5-stage festival that shakes up the town with acts like Prodigy previously headlining. A great chance to feel Chinese youth at play in their element. Late April/ early May.

Shanghai International Film Festival. Usually held mid-June, SIFF has been running over 20 years and has become one of the biggest in NE Asia (on a par with Tokyo). It dishes out Golden Goblets to worthy up-and-coming breaking local and international recipients, with Hollywood stars/directors adding sparkle.

Lantern Festival. Forget notions of little hand-held lanterns gaily lit. This festival features multi-storey masterpieces of Chinese mythology and characters and scenes from folklore. A stunning parade through the YuYuan Gardens. Not for claustrophobes through — something like 300,000 visitors passing through the gates. February 11 2017.

27th Shanghai Tourism Festival. One of the biggest public parades, this draws millions of spectators, lining the 2.2km route along HuaiHai Road. Dance troupes, colourful national cultural costumes, lively anthems all add up to a spectacular flowing parade and sea of humanity at the opening ceremony September 10th 2016.

F1 Chinese Grand Prix. The International Circuit is now the permanent home for this sparkling and speedy event. Zoom, zoom, zoom … the roar of the engines against this stunning backdrop of the city make it a special event in the global racing calendar. Mid April.

Shanghai Rolex Masters. The tennis world is usually divided between 2 camps: Federer or Djokovic. Which camp are you in? All the big names descend on Shanghai to duke it out from October 9-16 2016. The stadium setting amid 80-hectares of forest is stunning, especially at night.



As if there’s not a lifetime of things to do in Shanghai already, there’s tons of great little getaways, day trips just beyond Shanghai, you might want to try. They’ll help you escape the city and introduce you to some fascinating history and some of China’s most beautiful sights.

Top day trips

Suzhou. Old Suzhou is a charming canal city (often ambitiously dubbed “Venice of the East”) with over 2500 years of history and stories. Full of parks and pavilions, and willow-lined lakes — the largest being Lake Tai — with walking/cycle tracks around them. Many of the attractions here are UNESCO listed, preserving them for the ages. The new side of Suzhou is completely the opposite – a futuristic tech park with soaring skyscrapers and cutting-edge international businesses, with lovely lakeside hotels and modern eateries. Just one hour northwest of Shanghai by high-speed train.

Nanjing. The name may not be familiar, but means ‘capital of the south’ (Beijing means ‘capital of the north’). Parts of the 14th century wall remain as reminders of its strategic importance in its 2500 year history, which included the Opium Wars. You might be more familiar with its former name Nanking, synonymous with the Japanese atrocities preceding World War 2, vividly recalled in the excellent Massacre Memorial Hall museum. This beautiful city is nestled amid mountains and lakes 300km (less than 2 hours) from Shanghai, and considered one of the more delightful destinations in China.

Hangzhou. Hangzhou is all about West Lake, an 8000-acre willow-lined UNESCO-listed beauty. Two causeways reach into the lake, and a wide promenade attracts tourists and locals in droves. Many historical buildings, pagodas, and city gates line its shores. Around 40 high-speed trains connect it with Shanghai daily, a sub-1 hour ride. Zhejiang province (of which it’s the capital) is full of attractive mountains and nature, so if you’re a keen hiker you might want to pack your boots and head out to Daming Shan, or try a serene yoga retreat.

Zhenjiang. Fancy a day trip to a little island in the middle of the mighty Yangtze, full of history? Less than 90 minutes from Shanghai by high-speed train, Jiaoshan Park is filled with canals and waterways. You can rent a boat, but many find the highlight to be clambering up the hill to see the 7-storey Ten Thousand Buddha Pagoda. Once you’ve caught your breath, you’ll enjoy the sweeping views along the spectacular Yangtze delta. En route, you’ll see a fort used to battle the British during the first Opium War.

Changshu. Changshu is in Jiangsu province, and its lake is called Shanghu. Any questions? The bamboo-lined lake is right in the middle of the city (similar in many ways to Hangzhou’s more famous West Lake) and you can take a gondola-style boat through the nature reserve, which features a crane sanctuary (no, not the construction type which is so familiar in Shanghai). Around you’ll notice the mountains are covered in tea plantations. On the northeast side of the lake are enjoyable restaurants where the specialty of the house is roast duck.



Shanghai must rank as one of the most exciting and vibrant cities in the world, with one foot planted in its cosmopolitan colonial past, drawing on the best that came with that, and the other foot boldly striding into an amazing future that is essentially Chinese, but with a worldly twist.

The Ultimate 24 Hours


Wake up the local way, and head to a park to watch (or participate in) some taichi or even line dancing. Fuxing Park or Zhongshan Park are your best bets, but in nearly every park you’ll see – and likely hear! – groups of senior citizens doing their thing.


Then stroll through the Former French Concession to Sumerian at 415 Shaanxi Bei Lu for a caffeine jolt. Your senses will go into overdrive, with the freshest beans in all of China roasted in front of you. Pick up a healthy bagel here too.


Fortified, it’s on to Dongtai Road Curio Market, a street full of treasure and trash. Enjoy art deco memorabilia, propaganda items from the Cultural Revolution, antiquarian books. And lots of kitsch stuff. You get what you pay for.

12 noon

Two choices for lunch: Yang’s Fry Dumplings at 269 Wujiang Road. This is the real deal for pork, shrimp or veggie dumplings as the fast-moving lines outside will testify. You can also start with Shanghai dumplings at Hakkasan and follow with Cantonese fusion cuisine (Crispy Duck, Pancakes with Caviar, Salt & Pepper Squid etc) at 18 Zhongshan East 1st Road.


Your belly now full, time for a leisurely mile-long stroll along the Bund, the promenade running along the Huangpu River. Start at the southern end, and you’ll be taken back in time with 52 beautifully preserved and restored old-school buildings recalling Shanghai’s cosmopolitan International Settlement days.


Step back to the future at Rockbund Art Museum (RAM). At the urban-renewal north end of the Bund, this space positions itself as the Bund’s only contemporary art museum, and engages with regular exhibitions by leading local names.


That’d be beer o’clock. Walk inland from the Bund to the Captain’s Bar at 37 Fuzhou Lu. Nautical but nice, with an interesting mix of locals and expats in casual surroundings, without the dressy pretense (and expense) of being in a 5-star bar.


Home to smarten up if your hotel’s close enough. Then on to Xiao Nan Guo at 699 Nanking West Rd, for fine Shanghainese food and service. Purple-uniformed waitresses make for a visual feast too. The steamed fish is the go-to item here.


Pop into the Fairmont Peace Hotel for an obligatory cocktail and watch the timeless jazz band who’ll transport you back to the 1930s.


Now you’re in the mood to step it up a bit: VUE Bar atop the Hyatt. DJs spin discs, the crowd is fashionable, some even take a playful plunge in the hot tub (cozzies for sale). Weather permitting, lounge on a day bed taking in what many consider the best views of Puxi and Pudong skyline.

12 midnight

Still going? Cab it to YuYinTang (YYT) Livehouse at 851 Kaixuan Rd for something edgier. YYT is the premier underground live music venue with cheap booze and friendly locals.


As you wend your weary way home, keep your eye out in the streets for carts popping up selling life-sustaining Shanghainese shansi leng mian (eel thread cold noodles). Congratulations, you’re now a local!

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