The Perfect Weekend in Shanghai

There’s plenty to do in Shanghai, but if you’re pressed for time, prioritize those experiences that will give you a well-rounded perspective on the city. From an early morning stroll around Jing’an Park to an acrobat show to seeing the Bund by night, even taking a day trip to a water village, here’s an ideal itinerary for Shanghai.

360 Kangding Road
You don’t know you need a paperweight shaped like a dumpling until you see it. Hidden behind sliding doors on an unassuming street corner in Shanghai‘s Jing’an District, Spin is the best place in the city to buy modern Chinese ceramics. The shop works with artists in Jingdezhen, China’s porcelain capital, to make original, limited-edition works of art at competitive prices, from a small porcelain and wood display table to delicate celadon-green teacups and dainty chopstick rests shaped like chili peppers. Spin ships worldwide at a reasonable cost, so you don’t have to worry about lugging a vase the size of a small child through Asia.
168 Fangbang Middle Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Before it was reincarnated as a dumpling and noodle joint back in 1972, Din Tai Fung was a cooking oil business. That doesn’t sound so promising in the flavor department, but it turns out these xiao long bao are some of the best in Shanghai. Try the pork, pork and hairy crab, black truffle and pork, or the shrimp soup dumplings. And if you’re into noodles, the noodle soup with pickled mustard greens or braised beef will do the trick. No matter what you order, ask for a side of pea shoot greens to balance the rich main course with a punch of freshness.
Yu Garden is a must-go place in Shanghai, especially you like architecture. It is such a peaceful place to go, even in the rain... This dragon rooftop is inside the Yu (Jade) Garden in Shanghai. The dragon looks toward to the sky, and about to fly into the cloud. The whole body of the dragon last the entire wall.
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.
399 Lujiabang Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200010
Shanghai tailors are the best in the world, says fashion designer Christy Holzer, whose label, Dowry Designs, was inspired by the city. She suggests visiting the South Bund fabric market to order custom garments. DRESS: STALL 308 “A fun style to wear is the qipao [a centuries-old Chinese dress that got its form-fitting shape in the 1920s]. Traditional silk patterns make the garment look old, so request a solid-color silk.” SUIT: STALL 309 “If you want truly exceptional fabric, ask for 100 percent wool. Most of the wool fabrics they have are blends. Specify that they line your suit with 100 percent silk or cotton.” COTTON SHIRT: STALL 310 “Look at the buttons the tailors are planning to use, as they often choose cheap ones. If you don’t like the buttons, stop by a button stall at the market; it will be worth the extra investment.” Illustration by Michael Hoeweler.
22 中山东二路外滩
Vegetarian food has never looked better than at WUJIE, a temple to some of the world’s freshest cuisine. Dishes here are creative, beautifully plated, and a mélange of textures. The kitchen makes all of its tofu and milks (almond, rice, etc.) in-house and uses seasonal and domestic ingredients whenever possible; so those mushrooms in your radish dumplings come straight from southern Yunnan province. WUJIE shies away from mock-meat dishes, though there are a few delicious exceptions, including a tonkotsu-inspired cutlet of minced mushrooms wrapped in tofu skin and doused in crispy panko crumbs. The Taiwanese-and-Chinese-fusion restaurant has three branches, one at the border of Xujiahui and the French Concession, another on the Bund (prix fixe menu only), and a third in Lujiazui, inside the Shanghai World Financial Center.
88号 Century Avenue
One of my highest recommendations for drinks is the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. The Grand Hyatt occupies the top 36 floors of the 88-story Jin Mao Tower in the Jetsons-looking Pudong district, so at sunset (or anytime) you have a stunning view (with no cover charge!) of all of Shanghai. There are lots of choices for eating and drinking in the Grand Hyatt. When I was there at sunset, nobody else was in the Cloud 9 sky lounge (which is like a night club with a 360-degree view from the 87th floor), so I went down to the 53rd-floor Lobby Lounge, which still seemed plenty high, and enjoyed the view and the cocktails there.
My favorite way to start a day in Tianzifang is with a hearty breakfast at Kommune. With a notably large courtyard, it’s a fabulous place to kick off a warm-weathered day and even if you’re a little chilly, the coffee comes in bowl sized mugs that will warm you right up. Open from 7am-1am daily. (They also have a great wraps at lunch and a happy hour from 5pm-7pm.)
231 Nanjing W Rd, RenMin GuangChang, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200003
The Shanghai Race Club, built by the British in the 1800s, is a lingering reminder that horseraces were once held here, just south of Nanjing Road. Opened to the public in the 1950s, this green refuge charms with landscaped traditional gardens and a reflecting pond with fish and pink lotus blossoms. It’s also a prime spot for people watching. Locals turn up to do tai chi exercises, play cards, and scope out the Marriage Market. Parents hoping to attract a suitable spouse wait under colorful umbrellas pinned with notes listing each child’s age, occupation, family values, and even zodiac sign. Photo by Ira Smirnova.
56 Shaoxing Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Shanghai’s arts and crafts enclave, Tianzifang, is a labyrinth of narrow lanes bursting with diminutive shops, restaurants, and bars. Most of the shops here are located inside shikumen, stone gatehouses dating to the early 1930s. Gear up for your shopping spree with a coffee alfresco at Kommune before checking out Xingmu Handicraft’s gorgeous handmade leather notebooks or Shanghai Code’s vintage Chinese glasses and watches. Pick up delicate stationery at Dongxi Workshop, Shanghai‘s very first boutique, and head to Sky Music Box for—you guessed it—music boxes from all over the world.
Nanjing St
Whatever your tastes, we bet you won’t head home empty-handed from Nanjing Road, one of the world’s busiest shopping promenades. Stores along the tree-lined, pedestrian-only section stock everything from state-of-the-art electronics to silk scarves at a fraction of Western prices. But it’s also worth detouring into the side streets, where you may stumble upon market stalls of fresh fish and produce, teahouses doling out dumplings and hot cups of oolong, and cats lazing in slices of sunlight. Photo by Vikkies//Flicker.
Completed in 1994, the Oriental Pearl TV tower was the tallest building in Shanghai until 2007 and is still arguably one of the most recognizable towers in Shanghai’s skyline. The tower actually has 15 observation floors but the highest is at 350m and is affectionately known as the “Space Module”. The tower also includes a revolving restaurant, a shopping mall, a museum and even a 20+ room hotel. There’s also a glass-floored observation deck for the brave-footed. Open 8:30-21:30 daily Ticket prices vary (depending on what you’d like to see/do) from RMB 120-220
5 Dongping Rd, Xuhui Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Rustic charm and good home-style cooking are what come to mind when you eat at Di Shui Dong. The Hunan eatery is always packed, a testament to how good their grub really is. If you’re unfamiliar with Hunan cuisine, it’s the spicy cousin of Sichuan’s fiery fare, but they use a more standard and tongue-friendly chili, meaning you get the kick without the mouth-numbing experience of Sichuan’s infamous peppercorns. Don’t leave without trying the cumin-rubbed ribs and the fish-head steamed with chili.
Century Park, Pudong, Shanghai, China, 201203
Covering 140 hectares (about one-half square mile), this is no small green space. Pack a picnic, grab a kite, and head over to Century Park for some space to run around, or simply to chill out and watch life go by. Open daily from 7am-6pm. 10 RMB entrance fee.
20 Huqiu Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200085
One block west of the Bund you can find the Rockbund Art Museum, housed in Shanghai’s former Royal Asiatic Society building (1932). Like many of the grande dame Bund buildings, RAS was dreamt up by British design firm Palmer and Turner and done to the nines in art deco style. The museum hosts its share of heavy hitters from the contemporary art world, such as Zhang Huan, Cai Guo-Qiang, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Rockbund is small but charming, especially the tranquil top-floor café and lounge, which give way to a small terrace overlooking the Pudong skyline.
Liuhekou Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Row after row of booths are sprawled across this small part of Shanghai, just south of People’s Square. Here, you can find pretty much anything you want, from tiny Mao statues, to old leather suitcases stacked 10 feet tall. Each vendor will be on you as soon as you approach their booth. They are quite polite, however, and will have a calculator or phone handy to show you the price for their items. The catch is that the majority of these “antiques” are actually factory-made items, and most booths have similar items. The good part is that you have a really good chance of a low price if you bounce back & forth between booths that have the same items. Shopping aside, this is also a great spot to see daily Shanghai life. Laundry hangs over your head, food trucks cruise up and down the rows, and the vendors socialize with each other when they are not selling items. This is a must for any visitor to Shanghai.
200 Hua Yuan Gang Lu, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200231
The renovated Nanhui Power Station, situated on the banks of Huanpu River, is now home to China’s first state-run Contemporary Art Museum. From local artists to international icons such as Andy Warhol, the museum boasts a great selection of contemporary art. Open 9:00am-5:00pm, closed Mondays General Admission: Free
18 Zhongshan East 1st Rd, Wai Tan, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Ultraviolet is the kind of travel experience you talk about 10 years later. French chef Paul Pairet first dreamed of a multisensory dining adventure in 1996, but it took until May 2012 to open this transcendent restaurant. There’s room for only 10 diners to experience the 20-course meal at one time, and the dining room is a theater with HD screens for walls. With every course, the sounds, sights, and even smells change to complement and amplify the menu. The sublime sea bass Monte Carlo—sea bass with fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes inside a baguette—is served to the sound of Debussy, and as you eat you’ll notice a vibrant aquarium has appeared right in front of you.
123 Hunan Rd, Xuhui Qu, Shanghai Shi, China, 200085
“If you’re looking to enjoy a quiet drink and you love whiskey, this is your bar. An iPad menu acts as a directory of more than 150 whiskeys and their origins, from Scotland to Japan. Malt Fun also has a list of mostly classic cocktails. Call ahead to reserve a seat.” —Bartender Tree Mao on the French Concession. Read more about his local’s take on Shanghai here. This appeared in the January/February 2015 issue.
Minhang, Shanghai, China, 201101
Qibao, in Chinese, means ‘seven treasures’. And a treasure it is. The closest water town to Shanghai, it holds both the charm of an ancient, canal-traversed village as well as one of the most famous food streets in Shanghai. Head to Qibao Old Street for a culinary tour de force. And while you shouldn’t leave without sampling the Hai Tang Gao (rice cakes with a red bean filling) or--if your nose can handle it--the stinky tofu, there’s more to this little water town than the snacks. Round out your cultural venture with a shadow play show, a trip to the Qibao Temple or even a cricket fight. How to get here: Jump on Line 9 to Qibao Station and take exit 2 to reach the old town.
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China
Hangzhou is an easy day trip from Shanghai, just 45 minutes by bullet train from Hongqiao Station. Hangzhou is the home of China’s prized Longjing green tea, which you can taste at the China National Tea Museum. The city is also known for its temples and for beautiful West Lake, captured in countless photos and classical Chinese paintings. Lingyin Temple is one of China’s largest Buddhist temples, which dates back to the 4th century (although most of the buildings that visitors see today are contemporary reconstructions of Qing Dynasty structures). In front of the temple is the Feilai Feng grotto, with more than 300 rock reliefs of Buddha, some dating from the 10th century.
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