48 Hours in Shanghai

May 8, 2017

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Image by Valentin Stanciu, via Flickr Creative Commons.

When you think China, you think temples, dumplings, pollution and communism, am I right? Shanghai’s got all that, sure, but it’s also unlike any other Chinese city. It’s not just that it’s the biggest – though it is, with 24 million people – or that it’s home to Shanghai Tower, the world’s second tallest skyscraper. What really sets Shanghai apart is that it was once known as “Paris of the East,” due to the influence of the French, who controlled a portion of the city for almost a century and brought with them architecture, art and cuisine, making Shanghai a cosmopolitan city. A fantastic mash-up of aesthetics, it features Asia’s largest collection of Art Deco-style buildings, hidden laneways filled with chit-chatting locals and laundry hanging from bamboo poles to dry in the breeze, and streets shaded by canopies of trees so thick you can’t even see the sky.

But more than that, Shanghai is a sprawling, multicultural metropolis where you’ll find pétanque courts, stylish speakeasies and craft beer bars, bike shops, tucked-away cafés and bistros, oodles of galleries and museums, living night markets and an eclectic collection of local designers. It’s a city where East meets West in nearly every way, while also remaining distinctly Chinese.

Day One

Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre. Image by Sophie Friedman.

9am: Start your day off at The Avocado Lady. Grab some locally made granola, Ambrosia yogurt and, if your accommodation has only Nescafé, a bag of coffee grounds.

10:30am: Fed and caffeinated, walk to the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre and ogle Yang Pei Ming’s collection of 5,000-plus Communist Party propaganda posters.

1pm: Meander over to Godly Vegetarian and sit down to enjoy a cheap and cheerful lunch. You’ll be set with a bowl of wonton soup and a plate of sautéed greens.

2pm: After lunch, scoot to nearby Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall to poke through the indigo-dyed textiles. You’ll find shirts, dresses, adorable kids’ clothes and even shoes, all in shades of vibrant

Godly Vegetarian. Image courtesy of the venue.


3pm: Continue the shopping spree a few blocks down at Piling Palang. The super colorful ceramics here make wonderful gifts; the Shanghai signboard trays are especially snazzy.

4:30pm: Break for coffee and a treat at chic bakery Farine. With a long, wooden communal table, this is the place to chat up locals and expats alike over a café au lait.

5:30pm: From there, it’s a 15-minute walk to Idle Beats, Shanghai’s only screen printing studio. Pick up one of the limited edition prints or even try your hand at making one.

7pm: It’s a short stroll to La Pétanque, where you can wind down with a round of its namesake game, a cold pint of Vedett and a plate of garlic prawns.

Liquid Laundry. Image courtesy of the venue.

9pm: Take the metro two stops, from Jiao Tong University to South Shaanxi Road, then head to Liquid Laundry for dinner, drinks and a bit of dancing to get the night started.

11pm: To continue your night out, hop in a cab to Logan’s Punch, where you’ll find a rowdy party every night. If you’re looking for something low-key, you’ll want to hit up Uva Wine Bar for a glass or two of vino.

For more great insider recommendations in Shanghai, pick up the guide on gatehousepublishing.com.

Day Two

A Da Congyou Bing. Image by Manda Wong.

9am: Queue up at A Da Congyou Bing for one of Mr. Wu’s scallion pancakes. Made with dough, these are hot, crispy and beloved in Shanghai. When you’re finished, amble around nearby Fuxing Park to take in the lovely French-inspired surrounds.

11:30am: Take a step back in time with a visit to Zhou Enlai’s House, the impressively preserved 1920s home of the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China. Bonus: admission is free.

12:30pm: Down the street and around the corner is the Liuli China Museum. Home to a gorgeous glass exhibit, the museum is worth seeing, both inside and out.

1:30pm: It’s quick 10-minute jaunt to Shanghainese restaurant Jianguo 328, where no MSG is used. You can tuck into classic dishes like honghsao rou (re-braised pork) without fear of a food coma or upset stomach.

2:30pm: Walk off lunch by making your way over to Wanling Tea House for a tasting, where the English-speaking owners will school you on the different types of leaves produced in China.

Spoiled Brat. Image courtesy of the venue.

4pm: Meander through the French Concession to Spoiled Brat, where you can peruse lovely, handmade jewelry. Treat yourself to a new bauble or pick up one up as a present for a friend.

6pm: For an aperitif, take a seat at one of the rough-hewn tables in the tranquil courtyard at Salute and order a bottle of wine and a charcuterie plate.

8pm: When you’re ready for something more substantial, it’s only three blocks to Italian-Chinese fusion restaurant Xixi Bistro. Be sure to order the crispy spinach, mozzarella and pine nut goutie (pan-fried dumplings).

10pm: Hail a taxi to VUE Bar to take in the incredible nighttime view of Shanghai’s glittering skyline.

The Nest. Image courtesy of the venue.

11:30pm: Depending on how your feet are feeling, either walk or cab to The Nest, where you’ll find alt-rock ambiance and tasty drinks to end your night.

About The HUNT Shanghai Writer: Sophie Friedman moved from New York to Shanghai with two suitcases, no plan and speaking not a word of Mandarin. Six years later, she’s traversed Asia, learned to love squat toilets and has written extensively about traveling to Shanghai.

For more great insider recommendations in Shanghai, pick up the guide on gatehousepublishing.com.

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