Latest update: 22/3/2018
Ok, this one is for my friends who want to see the highlights of Shanghai in 12 hours (or more.. I’ve updated this blog post a couple of times since writing and it has become a bit too long for 12 hours now). I am definitely not the expert here, you probably know it: you move/live somewhere and you get to live your daily life, meet friends, have brunches and lunches but you never really explore your own city like a tourist would do. Aka I’m just lazy. But the below will give you a good direction.. to some extent at least haha.
Good to know:
- Everything is blocked in China. Make sure you have a VPN connection on your phone to keep on using Google, Facebook, Instagram etc. Nike friends: Cisco VPN connect doesn’t work. Free VPN services are Hexatech, Betternet and Whale VPN. You can also just Google “Free VPN”. I’m paying for LetsVPN, it’s around $25 dollars a year.
- Uber was acquired by their Chinese competitor DiDiDaChe, the app doesn’t provide English anymore unfortunately. Dididache comes in English, but you’ll need to have a Chinese bank account to be able to pay. A ride to the city is around 150 RMB (roundabout 22 euros) with the Chinese Uber, maybe around 180 for a regular cab. Or you just take the metro/Maglev train (the fastest train in the world!) – it’s both about an hour away from Pudong Airport.
- Everything happens on WeChat – you pay, you scan, you chat, you follow, you socialize, you top up your phone account. This is your everything app. This is Instagram, Facebook, Apple wallet, WhatsApp and more all in one.
- You can spend 144 hours in Shanghai without visa. They do want you to go to the police station to register with an address you’re staying at. I just don’t know how strict this is (my friend came to visit, didn’t do it and still got to get out of the country..). Google it, trust your instincts, whatever..
- Download BonApp to get recommendations on where to eat. It’s the food app for expats here. Or just jump to the lower part of this post
12 HOURS IN SHANGHAI
- The Bund. This is one you need to have checked off on your list. If you’ve visited the Bund, you can officially check Shanghai off your list. If you’re already near the Bund, take the ferry to the other side for 5 RMB and instead of going up the Oriental Pearl Tower or the other high rises (and paying 300 RMB for entrance) go to the Park Hyatt’s Living Room, and order a drink there while enjoying Shanghai’s breath taking view (on days when there’s no smog tho.. good luck)
- People’s square is another check everyone has on their to do list, I don’t think it’s very impressive (just a lot of stores, a lot of people, kind of the Times Square of Shanghai) BUT if you’re in the neighbourhood during the weekend – go to the Shanghai Marriage Market . This is Tinder orchestrated by Chinese parents who don’t like to swipe, but stroll thru the park and find a match for their kids. It’s an amazing sight, Westerners can’t think of it, but in China it’s a real thing. Parents thinking that their 23 YO single daughters (aka Leftover women aka Sheng Nu) are doomed and will die single if they’re not married yet at that age.. I’m certain my dad would’ve put me on that market had he lived in Shanghai 7 years ago “University made you unattractive to men” *sighs*
- Inside the same park in People’s park there’s the Contemporary art museum, if you like musea it’d be worth to pass by. Check their program before.
- For breakfast you definitely need to try JianBing. It’s a “Chinese breakfast crêpe” and it’s the best. Walk around randomly in the mornings and you’ll bump into JianBing stalls. If you want to dedicate more time on breakfast go to Xiangyang South Road X Fuxing Middle Road. They have Jiang Bings, and moreeeee Chinese traditional breakfasts (dumplings, noodle soups (it’s never too early for soup), congee, buns, everything.. EVERYTHING!!) (omg I’m going crazy about it already while writing this).
- Tian Zi fang: This used to be THE PLACE TO BE for the hip locals: it’s a maze with a lot of art/design shops, bars and restaurants but has recently been infiltrated with a lot of tourist traps. However, I think it’s still worth a visit if you like to stroll around and buy some souvenirs. I visited a Tibetan restaurant called Duo Jie Lamu (recommended by a local Tibetan), hidden in the maze of shops and it was amazing. Yak-alert tho – everything is made of Yak. SOOO EXCITINGGG.. go for that thrill!
- If you visit YuYuan Gardens you’ve kind of seen everything China – UNORGANIZED CHAOS, mixed with how ancestral China looked like, bridges, a lot of stalls selling touristic stuff, 1001 different types of food (try out the “food court” inside – it’s super busy, not entirely hygienic, but it does offer a lot of different dishes and delicacies to view and point at without needing to read Chinese though) and your typical spitting, pushy Chinese old people persons.
- Jing An Temple: this is actually in my “backyard” and I’m therefore a biased about how amazzzzzing it is. But Jing An Temple is a golden temple in the middle of the city, which on the one hand is just a ridiculous sight, but on the other hand massively impressive too.
- If you’re at Jing An temple, there is an amazing Taiwanese breakfast place called Tao Yan Village (find some more instagram pictures here) where you have to order the sticky rice rolls and savoury hot soy milk (xiang dou jian) . This is Asian breakfast at its best (I know.. this is a second point about breakfast.. whoever told you breakfast can only be enjoyed once a day, lied). They’re open 24/7..or till super super late so it’s also a decent after-clubbing stuff your face spot. Better than your average Big Mac.
- If you’ve still got time on your hand after this, go have a stroll in the French Concession. This is the pretty part of Shanghai with some older buildings and romantics streets and actual trees. There are a lot of expats round and about this area, but still worth the visit.
- At the French concession go to the Propaganda Poster Art museum – it’s actually a basement in an apartment complex but it has all the propaganda the Chinese government has banned. I’m not your cultural girl, but even I was impressed with the posters and its historical/cultural value.
- This is when you’re here for a couple of days – you can visit the water towns around Shanghai. Little ancient Venices around Shanghai. Go on a boat, try some local food, take some instagram–worthy pictures.. you’ll feel Shanghai satisfied after this trip.
LONGER THAN 12 HOURS IN SHANGHAI
are effing expensive in Shanghai. I don’t know why – I’m leaning towards the hypothesis that locals are not that much into workouts (yet) and only the expats are. Therefore gyms are charging 38374 x the price as what you would pay in the US/EU. Below some free options.. still being Dutch and economical yah..
- FitFam workouts: this is a community in Shanghai that organizes various training sessions every day. Easy to join, free of charge and intense. Early mornings, late evenings, cross fit, yoga and boxing – they’ve got it all.
- Luwan run club: this is a track training every Tuesday starting at 19:30 at Luwan stadium (Metro stop “Jiashan”). They’ve got 5 different levels ranging from Elite to Beginner, so definitely a group that will fit you (if you need a benchmark: Edgar runs with the elite, I run with the Juniors hehe..). This one is for free too.
- GuCycle: The Chinese version of BeCycle/Soulcycle, a first trail is free.
- Orange Theory: if you want to follow the hype go have a workout here with heart rate monitors and stuff. Don’t know if it’s free – haven’t tried it out myself TBH but know my workout friends value these sorta workouts..
I do need to say that there are a lot of gyms and sorts of workouts, we’re not lacking in variety. If you’re looking for a specific workout try to Google it or one of the apps that have the local workouts listed, e.g. MindBody Also, Shanghai’s Classpass is called Guavapass, unfortunately they don’t have the great 3-5 classes for almost $0,00 offers as Classpass does (to my knowledge at least and at the time of writing tho..).
Shanghai/China is a monobrand country. It’s crazy but you won’t find a lot of wholesale stores..
- DOE Shanghai in Jing An and also in Xintiandi features European brands (even Patta for my Dutchies!) worth the visit for our streetwear lovers.
- NikeLab X 158Shanghai in the French Concession, that street has a couple of other nice stores so explore around. Fly Streetwear for instance, and the shop next to it that houses real fake real (I don’t know if it’s real or fake.. most prob fake) goods (they had the Nike x Virgil Abloh collabs before Nike did..)
- Corso como: The Dover Street Market of Shanghai. Nice designer and contemporary stuff ranging from Diptique Candles to Chloe hand bags. Too pricy as it all carry Chinese import taxes but nice to check out. They have a little cafe on the ground floor, and a chill-out reading zone and restaurant on the 5th floor.
- ALLUNEED in Jing An – on the opposite side of Corso Como, a hipster department store with a nice coffee spot downstairs . They specialize in stuff “stuff” (think note books, home stuff, flashy tooth brushes and wallets) whereas Corso Como is more focused on apparel, footwear and bags. If you’ve visited the Jing An temple, the ALLUNEED store and Corso Como are just around the corner.
- Fake and wholesale clothing markets – the name says it all. Everything is fake and cheap. Don’t do this if you only have 12 hours, but worth the visit if you’re here for a longer stay. There are a couple of them, the locals go cray on the wholesale clothing market at Qipu lu (they only open during the weekends) (spotted some Acne/CDG/Supreme/Bape stuff there). They’ve got multiple buildings with several stories of apparel/bags/footwear/stuff stuff – some are more premium, some are superlocal. (don’t go to the Han City on Nanjing West Road.. That’s a total fad in my humble opinion..). For more fake markets google some articles.
- Spin Ceramics – A really nice store with Chinese ceramics to buy for yourself or as presents for back home. Rather than buying stuff nobody likes, these are really nice ceramics for at house your loved ones would actually like. They have stores in the States (actually more in the States than in Asia) but their prices are much friendlier here in Shanghai than when you’d buy it at Bergdorf & Goodman’s. Unfortunately they’ve moved from downtown to near Korea town – nice if you’re staying longer in Shanghai and want to explore other areas.
FOOD – definitely if you’re staying longer than 12 hours
I never knew this, BUT CHINA HAS SUCH A BIG VARIETY OF KITCHENS. I’m not gonna name the fancy expat locations – cause I can remember from my first time here AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR PRICY EXPAT RESTAURANTS. If you’re coming to China you’re expecting the cheap, local, good food. So here you go, in order of my/Edgar’s (more mine) preference:
- Lotus eatery – Yunnan (aka South east) Chinese food, expat friendly. Edgar doesn’t like it because it’s expat friendly, but loves the food (although he doesn’t want to admit). The goat cheese, and their kidney beans are must orders!!
- Qi Min organic hot pot – they’ve got 2 locations. One in Jing an (in a mall called Reel) the other one in Xu Hui (on top of another restaurant). Edgar and I visited this hot pot place 5 times in our first month. Can’t fail here.. def need their pork fat rice. Sounds grose but super yummy yummy
- Godly – vegan Chinese food. All my visitors have liked it. Def order their dumpling soup.
- The most yummie Cantonese food at Cha’s, it’s always busy here. TL lights, rude service, but good and fast food. Try their pork ribs WITH MAYONAISSE (why do I keep on recommending stuff that sounds grose but is so good????.. but trust me.. it’s goooood).
- Dong Bei Four seasons – North East Chinese food.. super easy food. A lot of dumplings. One of Edgar’s favourites – especially because of the friendly quality/quantity ratio.
- Old Jesse – Shanghainese food (which is known for being sweeter) this is on all tourist recommendation sites but it’s good and local (the hyperlinked one is the real one, there are a couple throughout the city). You NEED to reserve tho cause they full so fast. Go for 红烧肉.. which is the red pork (forgot what the translation is but in essence it’s pork in sweet/sour sauce with a lot of fat on it DON’T BE FRIGHTENED BY THE FAT, IT’S THE TASTIESTTTT) The sticky-rice stuffed dates and crab with salty egg yolk are ALSO delish. The fish head is really good too – def try it, sounds weird, looks weird, but soooooo good.
- I loveeeee Taiwanese food – I only knew 1 Taiwanese girl in Europe, but there are so many here in Shanghai. AND THEY’RE THE BEST AND MOST FRIENDLIEST PEOPLE I’VE MET. Did you know that Taiwan was a Dutch colony (!?!?!).. nobody. OK straying away from the main topic. Taiwanese food is simple but super tasty – definitely order their sausage and eat it with the raw garlic they serve it with. There are couple restaurants, we always go to the one in Crystal galleria on their 2nd basement level floor Chinese name is 千秋膳房. Our Taiwanese friends took us to Er Zhuang in Xintiandi – for the real local experience.
- Xibo – Xinjiang (AKA Uygur) food.. their lamb pies are delish DELISH!!!! I actually love the muslim food in China, there are lot of restaurants if you walk around. You can recognize it by it’s muslim decor and Chinese that don’t look like Chinese (wow I’m so clear in my descriptions) most of the time they’re roasting the lamb meat outside. It’s legit I tell u. Edgar and I always went to this location (can’t find the exact restaurant but it’s the right google location), it’s good.
- Go for Ben Jia Korean barbecue – meat, salads, SOJU. just simple and really good. loads of meat.
- Jen Dow – another vegan Chinese restaurant, it’s next to Jing An temple and if I’m not mistaken also the reason why’s it’s vegan: for the buddhist and monks. Their breakfast offerings are legit (congee/soy milk + buns + veg)
Some other restaurants.. cause you can never have enough of ‘m
- Most visitors are brought to Lost Heaven (they’ve got 2 locations). during our our first experience Edgar and I were NOT impressed. But when I went back after 2 years I have to say I can really appreciate the dishes.. maybe also because the last time I was ordering myself. Def a Go if you’re with a party that wants to go a bit more premium than local restaurants
- Another Yunnan restaurant Southern Barbarian , haven’t been myself but my friends love it (and my friends love food)(actually I don’t have friends who don’t love food)(cause com’ on.. u no fun if u don’t like food)
- Something you should try Cray fish restaurants.. cool experience。 There’s one in Jing An that is quite popular next to Jiaozhou building – an experience with gloves and everything. Also order the rice cakes.. I love rice cakes.. I love carbs..
- Gu Yi Hunan Chinese food – it’s a chain, very nice food too. Not too cheap/also not really expensive though. Their 红烧肉 (pork dish i forgot the name of) is really tasty here too. Meat heavy dishes.
- Bar no 3 – nice cocktails and legit snacks, small and cozy
- Kartel – daytime, rooftop wine bar, great for sun downers – get there in time
- Senator Saloon – easy and golden ceilings, they do smoke a lot in here tho
- L’atelier – it’s not the restaurant when you google it. But it’s the bar next to Lost heaven (click for maps link). Good cocktails and nice atmosphere
- Barules – speakeasy, hidden in a phone booth
- Flask – speakeasy turned into non-speakeasy
- Arkham – for the Chinese überhipster experience, you’ll feel old here..
- Le Baron – mainstream and hip.. kinda the Jimmy Woo of Shanghai.. kinda.. need to admit most of the times we eventually land at this place
- ASL – hip hop and mainstream, smaller than Le Baron.
- Dada – grungy and underground + expat.. some funky types there
- There are couple of places for the real Chinese and mainstream experience.. I’ve never been there but maybe worth to check it out if you’re into it. Mint and Bar Rouge are examples of those
Some international restaurants we go to on our NON-China days
- Bar Centrale – I think this place has been visited the most by Edgar and me. 1 word: BURRATA. I LOVE. AND it’s better than most of the Burrata’s in Europe/US.. I actually have not tried any better. It’s super fresh.. really good and reasonable priced. They even have burrata nights on wednesay (or thursday.. I forgot now..). Also they have happy hours with good wines.
- RAW – great meats. Supertasty
- Mercato – TRUFFLE PIZZAAA. do I need to say more here?
- O Mills Bakery – love having brunch here, great dishes that have been carefully thought about and in the summer they throw their floor-to-ceiling windows entirely open. Nice athmosphere.
- Bull & Claw – Beef Wellington and their brunches.
- Liquid Laundry – expat heaven but really good brunch. best Avocado toast ever, ever.
- La Cabane – legit cheese fondue and raclette. legit
- La Saleya – I hang with too many French.. or actually with Tu Nga too much. Good French food and ambiance. Love their Foie Gras.. leave me alone.
- Green & Safe – if we just want to go healthy. It’s hip.
- Ice cream at Gracie’s – it’s not cheap but really tasty. If you’re there you might as well go for the stack of ricotta pancakes at Al’s diner . If you finish it within.. 10 minutes they’re for free. hahahaa but I think nobody ever succeeded in that. even hangry Simona or 2 meter tall Edgar with the appetite of a bizon didn’t manage.. didn’t want to manage actually..
- Commune social – sharing dishes. small. but very tasty. definitely a try
OK i’m gonna stop now because I love food too much and there are too many restaurants to name. If you want more tips or info message me. I’ll go crazy in our chat.