The Perfect Day in Shanghai

You may be surprised by how much you can pack into 24 hours in dynamic Shanghai. Start with a sunrise on the Bund, followed by shopping in the former French Concession. Then explore a fascinating museum on propaganda, dine on local specialties, and catch some live acoustic music. Cap off the evening by coming full circle with drinks at a sophisticated bar overlooking the Bund.

Zhongshan East 1st Road
Architecture lovers flock to the Huangpu River’s western side to stroll the Bund, a waterfront tourist magnet in central Shanghai. There’s a glorious mishmash of late-19th- and early-20th-century styles here, from Gothic revival to art deco. Walk by the Fairmont Peace Hotel—first opened in 1929 as the Cathay Hotel—to behold its copper pyramid roof turned aqua with age. (Talk about aging gracefully.) Then hit the marble-floored HSBC Building (No. 12) to admire the domed ceiling’s eight mosaic murals, with frescoes depicting the 12 zodiac signs.
170 Anyuan Rd, Jing'an, China, 200060
The original Jade Buddha Temple was built in the late-19th century to house two jade Buddha statues brought from Burma by a monk named Hui Gen. They remain the principal attractions of the temple, especially the larger of the two, a seated Buddha carved from a single piece of white jade and weighing 205 kilograms (452 pounds). This is an active Buddhist monastery, and you’ll see monks throughout the buildings and grounds, as well as locals who come here to worship. The complex has gone through cycles of destruction and repair, first during the uprising that led to the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, and later during the Cultural Revolution. There is also a popular vegetarian restaurant at the temple.

316号 Nanchang Road
One block south of the glitz and glamor of Huaihai Road, the boutiques on Nanchang are the perfect antidote for the over saturation of foreign labels and runway glamor. The storefronts that dot this tree-lined road in the Former French Concession are as fun as their quirky names suggest. Tucked in between fruit vendors, baozi steamers and neighbors bantering over mahjong games, the shopping here is truly Shanghai-chic.
45号 Anfu Road
Despite a name change from Mia’s Yunnan Kitchen to Julie’s, this inexpensive, cheerful restaurant in the French Concession continues to serve delicious cuisine from southern Yunnan province. Kunming, Yunnan’s capital, is 1,900 miles from Beijing, and the province’s cuisine has more in common with neighboring Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam than it does with other regional Chinese cuisines. The most unique dish on the menu is rubing—pan-fried goat’s-milk farmer cheese, simply seasoned with salt and pepper. It’s very simple but unusual: When have you seen dairy in Chinese cooking? Eat it with pickled mashed potatoes, spicy mint salad, and plenty of mushrooms—they’re native to Yunnan.
516 Fuxing Middle Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200085
Fuxing Park has quite the history. It was a Ming Dynasty private garden until the French took it over in 1909. Then came the Japanese occupation of Shanghai during World War II until the early 1950s, after which the park again became Chinese. Today, the park is a vibrant gathering spot, wide open to the public. No matter the season, it’s full of locals playing mah-jong, practicing tai chi, writing calligraphy, and flying kites amid the sycamore trees. Come early on a weekday morning to see the dancers, then walk over to the Mattress flower beds.
Changning, China, 200085
One of Shanghai’s most fascinating museums is hidden in the basement of a French Concession high-rise. Yang Pei Ming started collecting Maoist-era (1949–1979) propaganda posters in 1995—first as a hobby, and then to preserve these important historical and cultural relics. (The Chinese government destroyed many old posters for political reasons.) Thanks to Ming’s diligence, the museum has nearly 6,000 originals you won’t see anywhere else, from woodblock prints by Chinese autoworkers to intricate Shanghai Lady cigarette ads and neon-red armbands. The gift shop sells large and small reprints as well as postcards and kitschy souvenirs.
375 Zhenning Rd, Changning Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200040
There’s no better place to enjoy authentic Shanghainese food than inside a 1920s Spanish villa. Right? Right! Take a seat at one of Fu 1088’s vintage tables, and get ready to savor a parade of elegantly plated local dishes. If you’re keen to try a classic Shanghai dish (or you’re all about unapologetically rich cuisine), order the hongshao rou (red braised pork). Or enjoy the lighter tea-smoked duck eggs and drunken chicken made with rice wine and topped with goji berries. The appetizers here skew a bit more modern, with deep-fried prawns with wasabi mayonnaise stealing the show. Note: There’s a minimum per person spend of about $46 at lunch and $77 at dinner.
9号 Qinghai Rd
With a rotating lineup of local bands, the Wooden Box was opened to showcase the acoustic music scene in Shanghai. With a bend toward bluegrass, jazz and folk, the music starts up around 8pm and rolls on until close. A great place to chill out after a busy day.
199 Huangpu Rd, Hongkou Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200080
The Hyatt has it in spades when it comes to top views of the city, but while most flock to the Hyatts hidden in the JinMao Tower and World Financial Center (or the “Bottle Opener” as it is affectionally known), it’s the Hyatt on the Bund that claims the ultimate view of the city. Head up the Vue Bar on the 32nd Floor to see the city in a whole new way. You’ll want a seat at the window, so be sure to make a reservation.
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