Three days in Shanghai

By Alywin Chew | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2016-12-30 07:11

Once heralded as the Paris of the East, Shanghai remains arguably the country's most cosmopolitan city. Resident Alywin Chew devised a three-day itinerary to take in the best it has to offer

Shanghai is the engine of China's financial and innovation development. The mega city offers a captivating blend of modernity and old-world charm like no other place in the country.

Lujiazui district's towering skyscrapers are a symbol of Shanghai's rapid ascent as one of the world's most prominent financial hubs. Yet the countless old alleyways, shikumen houses and unmistakable beauty of the former French Concession serve to temper the city's image as a modern behemoth with insatiable global ambitions.

Both Shanghai and neighboring Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces offer 144-hours visa-free to visitors. Half that can be used to explore China's most metropolitan metropolis.


Three days in Shanghai

The Bund

The Bund is a destination in itself, worth a full day.

Check into the Fairmont Peace Hotel, a historical property that dates to before World War II. It features brilliant art deco-inspired interiors that pay homage to a style of visual arts that rose to prominence in the 1930s.

Then, take a stroll along Shanghai's most famous tourist stretch. The waterfront area overlooks the Huangpu River and the Lujiazui skyline, which is anchored by the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower and the 632-meter-high Shanghai Tower.

There's no shortage of excellent dining options around the Bund.

Three on the Bund is home to a number of acclaimed Western eateries, including three restaurants by culinary maestro Jean-Georges Vongerichten - Jean-Georges, Mercato and Chi Q.

Relax at the Fairmont Peace Hotel's jazz bar on the ground level, where the city's most-renowned and oldest jazz musicians - they average about 80 years old - demonstrate that age is just a number.

A short walk from the hotel, The Nest offers a variety of nightcap options and an impressive selection of sophisticated bar bites.


Three days in Shanghai

Meat-and-soup-filled dumplings

No trip to Shanghai would be complete without sampling xiaolongbao, the quintessential local snack.

Jia Jia Tang Bao is arguably the city's most renowned hole-in-the-wall institution for this soup dumpling.

Another beloved Shanghainese snack is the shengjianbao. Like xiaolongbao, it also has a delicious broth, but it's considerably larger, has a thicker skin and is pan-fried instead of steamed. Locals swear by those made at Fengyu, which has multiple stores across the city.

Shanghai Old Town

Admire architecture that dates back to dynastic rule in Shanghai Old Town, between Remin Road and Zhongshan Road. You'll also find street vendors selling snacks, souvenirs and antiques.

Have lunch at Jian Guo 328, a popular Shanghainese dining establishment that serves hearty home-cooked fare at very affordable prices.

If Shanghainese cuisine is too sweet for your liking, head to Canton 8, which was crowned in 2016 as the world's cheapest restaurant with two Michelin stars. The establishment serves Cantonese cuisine and a sumptuous dim sum spread.

Fuxing Park

Get a glimpse into the daily lives of Shanghai residents at Fuxing Park. This manicured green space hosts tai chi practitioners, dancing middle-aged women and old men chatting with cigarettes in one hand and bird cages in the other.

Hairy crabs are a must-try Shanghai delicacy. Xin Guang Jiu Jia, where customers are spared the hassle of dissecting the crustaceans, is celebrated. Cooks separate the flesh and roe for customers.


Enjoy a soothing foot massage at Taipan Massage, where the service is complemented by a free flow of beverages and small servings of noodles.


A nameless, hole-in-the-wall noodle joint at 166 Zhaozhou Road, near Ji'nan Road, offers an utterly local dining experience. Featured in Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown travel-and-food TV series, the "long leg" noodles here come with pork, lard, soy sauce, vegetables and a delectable broth.


Three days in Shanghai


Green eggs and ham come on a sandwich at Madison Kitchen, which also offers roast beef sandwiches and peanut butter-and-almond cookies.

Art museum

Take a tour of the Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art. Designed by the acclaimed local company Atelier Liu Yuyang Architects, the museum features a surreal mix of contemporary Chinese and international works.

Sightseeing tunnel

Hop onto a tram at the Shanghai Bund Sightseeing Tunnel that takes you under the Huangpu River to Lujiazui. The experience is admittedly a little kitschy, but there's no doubt that the psychedelic lighting makes for great photographs.

Admire the breathtaking cityscape from the observation deck on the 119th floor of Shanghai Tower, the second-tallest building in the world after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.


Round off your last night with a nightcap at Speak Low, which came in second in the inaugural 2016 Asia's 50 Best Bars. Helmed by Japanese cocktail veteran Shingo Gokan, it offers creatively crafted tipples in cozy surrounds.

(China Daily European Weekly 12/30/2016 page20)

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