There’s an energetic atmosphere to Shanghai. With nearly 25 million inhabitants, it is one of China’s largest cosmopolises. During the day, Shanghai’s hustle and bustle puts you in awe. And at dusk, its skyscrapers, accompanied by the glowing Pearl Tower and the Bund’s majestic waterfront promenade, illuminates the whole city. Beyond Shanghai’s modernity is a touch of the 1920s. There are art deco buildings that coexist with Buddhist temples and ancient gardens; accommodations vary from high-rise luxury to classic lilong (lane houses) neighbourhoods to offer the perfect blend of the old and the new. To get you started in this city, here’s the definitive Shanghai travel guide.
accommodation: The peninsula shanghai
To experience Shanghai’s fusion of past and present, the East and West, visit The Peninsula Shanghai. Located on the Bund, residents can get to enjoy the panoramic view of the famous Bund and Huangpu from the comfort of their rooms. Its building also combines traditional Shanghai aesthetics with contemporary Art Deco-inspired interiors which give residents a sense of luxuriousness. There’s also a two-Michelin-starred restaurant Yi Long Court (dubbed as one of the best Cantonese cuisines in Shanghai) right in the hotel for gourmands to indulge in.
Address: 32 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road, Bund 32, Hangpu District, Shanghai, China
If you’re looking to escape Shanghai’s urbanity and immerse in authentic traditional Chinese culture, Amanyangyun is the perfect choice. It holds thirteen Ming and Qing dynasty villas — brought back to life by the famed Aman group — with an interior designed by late Australian architect Kerry Hill. The result is a rare glimpse of China’s yesteryear married with the comforts of today.
Address: 6161 Yuanjiang Road, Minhang District, Shanghai China
Accommodation: Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland
Designed by JADE_QA Architects, The Intercontinental Shanghai Wonderland was transformed from an abandoned quarry into a luxurious fantasy world comprising 18 floors of rooms — 16 floors of rooms are underground and two are underwater. The latter gives residents their own saltwater aquariums right in the heart of their rooms.
During their stay, guests can also choose different activities from scaling an 88-metre cliff face, to zip-lining across to the theme park, to kayaking around the quarry. And to cap off the night, it has a water show said to be more impressive than the Bellagio’s in Las Vegas.
Address: 5888 Chen Hua Road, Songjiang District, Shanghai, China
indulgence: L’Atelier Joël Robuchon Shanghai
L’Atelier Joël Robuchon Shanghai, opened by legendary chef and restaurateur Joël Robuchon, gives one of the most luxurious dining experiences in the city. Right in the heart of the Bund, the restaurant boasts an intimate boudoir-esque atmosphere with a French menu comprising delectable fresh seafood, foie gras, and caviar.
Opening hours: Lunch — Saturday and Sunday: 11:30am to 2pm; Dinner — Sunday to Wednesday: 5:30pm to 10:30pm, Thursday to Saturday: 5:30pm to 11pm
Address: 3F, 18 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road, Bund18, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China
Indulgence: Wei Jing Ge
Wei Jing Ge at the Waldorf Astoria prepares one of the best Chinese cuisines in Shanghai. Owned by Sam Yuen — the former chef for Zhu Rongji and Bill Clinton — the restaurant serves varied delicacies from Shanghai and Sichuan, as well as Cantonese cuisine. In addition to its in-house sommelier, the restaurant also has a well-preserved selection of over 500 exquisite wines.
Opening hours: Daily — Lunch: 1130pm- 2:30pm; Dinner: 5:30pm – 10:30pm
Address: 2 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China
Indulgence: Sober Company
Nightlife is a huge part of the identity of Shanghai, so you will discover a legion of bars for some night fun here. Sober Company sits on Yandang Avenue and is helmed by bartending whizz Shingo Gokan. The bar stands out for its exquisite drinks among its sister cafe and restaurant. If you’re good, challenge yourself to represent the very ethos of the bar, “Come Sober, leave Tipsy.”
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday & Sunday: 10am to 2am, Friday to Saturday: 10am to 3am
Address: 99 Yandang Road (near Nanchang Road) Huangpu District, Shanghai, China
Indulgence: Liquid Laundry
This spot in the French Concession is best described as a gastropub and microbrewery, which morphs into a bar when the sun sets. Its cavernous room not only has many brewing tanks for its in-house beer, but also a copper wood-fired pizza oven that prepares some of the finest pizzas in the area.
Opening hours: Daily lunch:11am to 2:30pm; Dinner — Wednesday to Saturday: 5pm to 2am, Sunday to Tuesday: 5pm to 12am
Address: 2F, Kwah Centre, 1028 Huaihai Zhong Road (near Donghu Road) Xuhui District, Shanghai, China
Activities: The French Concession
The French Concession is a treasure trove of history as Shanghai lived it, and is always worth a visit. It has winding avenues leading to sycamore-lined boulevards and plenty of designs inspired by Europe, with one neighbourhood nicknamed the ‘Paris of the East’ housing quaint shops and boutiques in beautiful Tudor-style houses.
One of the highlights of the area is Wukang Road, which offers a number of outdoor cafes, bars and restaurants. Meanwhile, Anfu Road and Julu Road offer authentic tastes of Shanghai’s xiaolongbaos (soup dumplings) with their numerous well-known local restaurants. After your meal, have a walk around Tianzifang for some handcrafted souvenirs.
Activities: Shanghai Disneyland
A holiday to Shanghai wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Disneyland. Home to the Enchanted Storybook Castle, the tallest Disney castle of all Disney parks around the globe, the theme park has six themed areas to explore. The park is also conveniently located at the end of Metro line 11.
Address: Pudong New District, Shanghai, China
Activities: The Bund
Shanghai might be a glistening metropolis in the day, but it’s at night when it truly shines. Located on the west bank of the Huangpu River, the famous colonial-era riverfront promenade is a sight to behold when the sun sets. While you’re enjoying the technicolour light display along the river, feel free to grab a drink at the district’s house bars and restaurants too.
Address: Zhongshan Dong Yi Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China
Activities: Zhujiajiao Water Town
With a history of over 1,700 years, Zhujiajiao Water Town, otherwise known as ‘Shanghai’s Venice’, is a well-preserved part of the city that used to be Shanghai’s trading area. Today, there are more than 30 ancient bridges, built during the Ming and Qing dynasties, still standing across the waters. And the Fangsheng Bridge remains the most popular for visitors as it is the largest stone bridge arch in Shanghai. If you want to enjoy the landscape of Zhujiajiao, a gondola cruise is one of the best ways to do so. If not, strolling through the narrow streets, filled with local cuisines, won’t disappoint either.
Address: Qingpu District, Shanghai, China