ShanghaiShanghai is the shiniest gem in modern China’s jewel box. It’s a hip, contemporary city that’s charging into the future with all the energy of its famous Maglev train. Yet if you veer away from the sleek highways and glitzy shopping streets you can still stumble upon a more traditional Shanghai, with all its character and flavour. In the tiny back streets, wet-market vendors peddle their wares - buckets of bright green vegetables, fish flapping in shallow plastic bowls and heaps of crayfish crawling over each other.
The CityShanghai’s most famous attraction is the Bund. This was where the colonial merchants of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries built the headquarters for their trading firms and banks. Still today, these vast, august edifices boom of power - but now the roofs are topped with the red and yellow flags of the People’s Republic and the buildings below house designer clothing shops as well as banking headquarters. Across the Huangpu River, there’s a greater transformation still. 30 years ago, this was sleepy farmland - now, Pudong is a booming financial and economic district. Just back from the waterfront lays the old city, a tangle of tiny lanes where the locals still live as they have for decades. Even in these traditional lanes, though, the wrecking ball is wreaking its havoc: walk around them now before it’s too late. Further west lays the French Concession, where large colonial houses are being rapidly converted into high-end bars and restaurants. For shoppers, Shanghai is still a kind of heaven. Markets are regularly being uprooted and rehoused as part of the urban planners’ mission to make the city better and brighter than ever before. There are still fabulous deals to be had at the fabric market, wonderful trinkets and antiques in Dongtai Road and good-value custom-made furniture for those with a shipping crate to spare.
Do & See
Shanghai really is a delightful city to explore. See skyscrapers alongside surviving colonial buildings, visit the Shanghai museum to get an insight into the city's past and just how rapidly it has changed within the last decade. Early birds must visit one of Shanghai’s many parks, where thousands gather daily for morning exercise.
The Chinese like to eat, and Shanghai is a city where this characteristic national trait finds its ultimate reflection. From chic and elegant international restaurants to local dumpling joints, Shanghai is where you can easily eat your way around the globe. Whether you like your portions exquisitely presented or prefer a tangled mountain of noodles, you will find it all here. A note on tipping: it’s officially prohibited in China. While it has become usual to tip tour guides on organised outings, it is not common to tip taxi drivers or the staff of bars and restaurants.
Coffee culture is not deep-rooted in Shanghai, however, dozens of coffee shops have sprung up all across the city in recent years. While locals tend to go for western coffee chains and bubble tea sold at hole-in-the-wall takeaway shops, foreign visitors may rather gravitate towards a traditional tea house and experience the Chinese tea culture. Below are some of the best cafes in Shanghai, China:
Bars & Nightlife
Some cities simply never sleep, and Shanghai is certainly one of those. In Shanghai, the party lasts till daylight - and then starts over. Like everything in Shanghai, the bar scene is developing fast with new venues opening every month. Gone are the grey days when fun was frowned upon as a bourgeois pursuit. Contemporary Shanghai is making up for lost time with everything from pulsating house music to sultry jazz. And here are the best bars and nightclubs in Shanghai, China:
If you like things made to measure, Shanghai is a shopping Mecca. The Fabric Market has recently been pulled up from its down-at-the-heel roots and relocated to 399 Lujiabang Road. Meanwhile, Tai Kang Road features more upscale boutiques selling jewellery, pottery and leather wear, while Xintiandi has everything from clothes to cushions to cocktails. And then, of course, there’s the Bund.