Written by Joy Yin (Classic Travel Intern, Summer 2014). The following are her ten favorite attractions and things to do in her hometown of Shanghai, China.
1. The Bund
The Bund is a must go place when in Shanghai. It is the area which includes both riversides of the Huangpu River. It has iconic waterfront viewing of the Pudong side of Shanghai with its enormous collection of ridiculous skyscrapers and the Huangpu River flowing through with its barges and cruise ships. When you want to go there is probably when the dizzy array of lights take over the night sky. Just be prepared to deal with the massive crowds that build up where eventually you’ll be shoulder to shoulder with other tourists and Chinese alike. To avoid the crowds, an alternative is to sit inside a fine dining restaurant where you can enjoy the view. A good choice is the House of Roosevelt, the most incarnation of the Bund 27 Building. It has one of the best views in Shanghai and the most amazing collection of wines.
If you want a break from traditional china and are looking to go out and have a good party time with a more western feel, this is it. It’s a car-free high-end shopping, eating, and entertainment district where traditional old Shanghai style houses redecorated for modern bars and lounges. Lots of outdoor space with clubs and bars sprinkled throughout. It is really trendy and the only one where you see more westerners than Asians. Club G Plus is the sign of the fashionable nightlife in Shanghai. Simply Thai and Shinmachi are one of the best Thai and Japanese restaurant in Shanghai. Visit Xintiandi to search for your favorites!
3. Julu Road
This is the place to surprise you in Shanghai. Julu Road and the surrounding streets are lovely and quiet. Along the road, there are a lot of high-end boutiques, lounges and cafes with interesting, unique and gorgeous designs. Highlights are People 7, a restaurant you need password to get in with surprising interior design; Vanitas, where you can get clothing designs that Beyoncé, Madonna and Kate Moss sure have; Zen tea room, where you are greeted by aromas of fresh tea leaves; and the Freshary, satisfy all your sweet tooth cravings.
4. Tian Zi Fang
This is a great place to just lose track of yourself and take an afternoon to wander. This arts and crafts neighborhood has developed from a renovated residential area in the French Concession area. It keeps the Old Shanghai styled architectures, and bringing innovation at the same time. It is a nice place to shop for funky accessories and affordable, unique gifts to take home. You will find things that you won’t see elsewhere in Shanghai. A lot of exotic themed restaurants and bars are here. If you want to enjoy the stylish flavors, Tianzifang is definitely your best choice.
5. Ding Tai Fung
Each time I arrive in Shanghai after a long flight, this is the place I immediately go to! It’s Ding Tai Fung. It is famous for its Xiao Long Bao, a delicate dumpling skin is wrapped around a juicy pork filling (or in luxury versions, crab). The dumpling also contains a shot of tasty broth. Shanghai is known for it. The funny thing is this is actually a Taiwanese franchise but never mind that. These guys do it the best. They’re not the cheapest but in terms of the quality, the thin-ness of the dumpling skin, the amount of soup and the meat inside, I really can’t find anywhere else that beats this. Feeling refreshed every time I have them after an exhausting flight. It’s a kind of magic soup dumpling that nobody in Shanghai should miss out on!
6. Yu Garden & Cheng Huang Miao (City God Temple)
This is another must-see when you come out to Shanghai and one that everyone knows best. The Cheng Huang Miao (City God Temple) is the area surrounding Yu Garden. It is an ancient-looking well preserved area where you’re surrounded by temples, pavilions, halls, and hanging lanterns. There are tons of shops with handmade crafts, fake knockoff stuff and folk art. There are also tons of street stalls with special local foods and snacks. Towards the middle of the area, you’re graced with a beautiful zig-zagging pathway with a huge pond below with enormous Koi fish. The Yu Yuan garden has well-preserved halls, pavilion and the Acting-and-Sing Stage with spring bamboos and other natural features. Be ready to deal with big crowds and high level of touristy-factor to it.
7. Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC)
For any major city, there’s usually some sort of tower for you to get great views, and Shanghai is no exception.
Right now SWFC is the tallest and fanciest viewing point in all of Shanghai. Once up at the top, the glass floor gives fear perception to “walking in the sky”. You can overlook the amazing landscape of Shanghai.
This is the easiest accessible old water town nearby central Shanghai. You can go there by subway. There are water ways, old crumbling buildings, alleyways, temples, street food and anything you can imagine in a typical ancient Chinese town. You would feel like living in one of the Chinese dynasties when you wander around. It is also home to one of the most popular traditional food streets for Shanghainese. Try Qibao’s famous snacks and step into a boat riding down the canal, you will experience a different feeling.
9. 1933 Shanghai Slaughterhouse
This is a popular spot for photographers. You will be very curious about it before you actually see it. It is famous for its unique architecture design. Designed originally by British architects, and built in 1933 by Chinese developers, the building was originally intended for use as a slaughterhouse to its current incarnation as a ‘commercial hub for creative industries’. It is quiet and not well stocked with stores but it doesn’t detract from the beauty of the building itself. Not on the normal tourist list.
10. Cat Café Bliss
A great spot for cat lovers with atmosphere. This cafe on tree-lined Taiyuan Road is so named because its owner, an elegant Japanese lady, has five lovely cats. About 90 percent of people go there for the same reason – to see and play with the cats. The cats are so cute and adorable that coffee and dessert become secondary. The menu is home-made simple cafe, it is pricy- 100 RMB for 2 drinks and a brownie.