Monday, May 5, 2014

China 2014 | Shanghai Must-Do, Must-See & Must-Eat Guide from the Locals

Budget travel provider Spring Airlines started a new route between Shanghai and Singapore on its brand new A320 airbus. They are flying one round trip a day, with return airfare starting from S$515. Special promotions are also on now like 2 nights free accommodation at Hotel Salvo {conveniently located at Nanjing Road near the Bund} with tickets booked online. I went on their inaugural flight from Singapore last Friday to explore Shanghai and came back the following Monday. A whirlwind trip for sure! ;P

Before I went to Shanghai for my quick weekend getaway, I asked my Shanghainese friends, Vivian & Haosheng, for some recommendations for first-time travelers. Since it was my first time to China, and I was only going to be in Shanghai for 2 full days, I needed a solid itinerary so that I won't waste much time getting lost haha.

Here are the 25 Must-Do, Must-See & Must-Eat Things in Shanghai from the locals themselves, and contact details for a recommended guide below if you need one ;) 

1. The Bund {外滩}
It is the famous waterfront area in central Shanghai and refers to the buildings and wharves here. Nice to visit at night with lights on both Pudong and the Bund. Best view would be from a roof top bar or restaurant over dinner and drinks. My friend's personal favourite is 3 on the Bund. Recommends roof top bar or restaurant, good to visit for dinner or a drink after dinner. My friend's personal favourite is Three on the Bund.

2. Pudong {浦东} Riverside Walk
Pudong is located along the east side of the Huangpu River, across from the historic city center of Shanghai in Puxi. This is the side with Shanghais' best-known modern buildings like Oriental Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Building, Shanghai World Financial Center. It's a different view of the Bund from the other side as most would look across from Puxi. There are restaurants in Zhengda Square {正大广场} that give a great

3. Oriental Pearl Tower {东方明珠塔}
Similar to Tokyo Tower, this is used as a broadcast tower in Shanghai,  and is a symbolic icon of Shanghai. Don’t miss the observation platform on it.

4. Shanghai Financial Centre {上海环球金融中心}
This is another mega building icon at Lujiazui district, close to the Oriental Pearl Tower. You can usually purchase entrance tickets to its observation decks together with Oriental Pearl Tower's for some discount.

5. Yu Garden {豫园}
Yu Garden is a Jiangnan style mansion which is now located at the Chenghuang Temple region, and is worth a visit to understand the decoration of olden day Chinese mansions. In ancient China, mansions were developed into two styles - northern Chinese mansions with great spacious feature such as the Forbidden City, and southern Jiangnan-style mansions are built in cities like Shanghai, Suzhou and Hangzhou. Yu Garden is the best in Shanghai.

6. Shanghai Museum {上海博物馆}
If you are interested in antiques and history, this museum is a must-visit place for you to understand the culture and history of China. It is often considered China's first world-class museum and will usually take a full day. Expect long queues over weekends and holidays.

7. Shanghai Science & Technology Museum {上海科技馆}
This is a large museum in Pudong to learn about technology advances with 13 main permanent exhibitions and 4 science theatres. It is popular with families and is one of China's most visited museums.

8. 50 Moganshan Road {莫干山路50号}
"M50" is a large contemporary art district in Shanghai. It is home to a number of modern and contemporary art galleries, cafes and bar spaces.

9. Shanghai Wild Animal Park {上海野生动物园}
Located in Sanzao Town of Nanhui in Pudong New Area and about 22 miles from the city center, Shanghai Wild Animal Park is the first national grade wild zoo in China. You can enjoy a "safari tour" with animals wandering around the tour buses.

10. Shanghai Aquarium {上海海洋水族馆}
Similar to Osaka Aqurium or S.E.A. Aquarium at RWS, this is a good place for people who likes fish and marine animals. It includes a 120m tunnel that takes visitors through a coastal reef, open ocean, a kelp cave, shark cove, and a coral reef,

11. Shanghai Zoo {上海动物园}
Located in Changning district, it is one of the earliest and most established zoos in China housing more than 6,000 animals, among which are around 600 Chinese animals that include the giant panda, golden snub-nosed monkey and South China tiger.

12. Jing An Temple {静安寺}
A famous old temple in Shanghai that was built in 247 AD during the Three Kingdoms period. It is at the heart of Jing An district on Nanjing West Road, near the CBD for offices and shopping malls. There are three main halls here - The Mahavira Hall, the Hall of Heavenly Kings and the Three Sage Hall.

13. Jade Buddha Temple {玉佛禅寺}
Featuring two jade Buddha statues from Burma, the Jade Buddha Temple was founded in 1882. Don't mistake the much larger reclining Buddha made of marble donated from Singapore to be the original Jade piece!

14. Xujiahui Catholic Cathedral {徐家汇天主教堂}
Xujiahui Catholic Cathedral is also referred to as St. Ignatius Cathedral {聖依納爵主教座堂}. It is one of the oldest cathedrals in China and is located at the XujiaHui district. 1000 free tickets are given away every day for tourists to visit it on a first-come-first-serve basis for morning and afternoon sessions. Photo-taking is not allowed inside the Cathedral.

15. Chenghuang Temple {上海城隍庙}
Chenghuang Temple literally means City God Temple. Today, it not only refers to the temple but the surrounding region that is a place of fun with interesting shopping and leisure place for tourists. It consists of many authentic traditional restaurants as well as shops for nice gifts.

16. Nanjing East Road Pedestrian Walk {南京东路步行街}
At the center of Shanghai, it is a very traditional shopping district with easy access to the Bund. It gets crowded daily so beware of pick-pocketing and scamming along the street.

17. Tianzi Fang {田子坊}
This is a district developed from a renovated residential area in the old French Concession area for small shops selling interesting gifts, crafts, paintings and food. A very hipster area frequented by many youngsters and tourists.

18. Xin Tian Di {新天地}
It is a located near Huaihai Road shopping district. There are many book stores, cafes and restaurants, and shopping malls and is also famous for its nightlife. Many also come here to check out the traditional Shikumen {石库门} Shanghainese architectural style combining Western and Chinese element.

19. Xu Jia Hui District {徐家汇}
The area is a well-known precinct for shopping {best place to buy electronics!} and entertainment in Shanghai located at the southeast region of the city centre. The main campus of Shanghai Jiaotong university and the Xujiahui Catholic Cathedral are found here. 

20. Dongtai Road Antique Market {东台古玩市场}
An open market that's open daily where you can pick up antiques, its replicas and many other mementos of Shanghai, ranging from old locks, watches, enamel bowls to Communist-era posters and more. It's recommended that you bargain {see my tips for bargaining at street markets here} for at least 60% off the asking price of the store-keepers!

21. Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant {南翔馒头店}
Located at Yu Yuan, this 3-storey restaurant sells authentic Shanghai Xiao Long Bao {小笼包, soup dumplings}. Queues are very long, especially for take-away from Level 1.  Head to Level 2 and Level 3 for dine-in services. It costs about RMB10 for 8 original-flavoured XLB pieces, and RMB 20-30 for 8 other flavoured pieces on Level 2. There's a minimum charge of RMB80/pax when you dine in at Level 3, but that has the shortest queue. We have their outlets here in Singapore, by the way.

22. Lu Bo Lang Restaurant {绿波廊}
Another famous Xiao Long Bao restaurant located at Yu Yuan, it is just beside the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant. International dignitaries like Bill Clinton and Queen Elizabeth have visited it. Average cost per person is RMB150-250.

23. Xiaoyang Shengjian Shop {小杨生煎}
A hot pan-fried soup dumpling chain restaurant that's really popular in Shanghai since it started in 1994. There are around 30 branches in Shanghai. Average cost per person is RMB20.

24. Wang Bao He Restaurant {王宝和}
It is a famous restaurant at Nanjing East Road for hairy crabs, which is in season only in Autumn around October and early November. Advanced reservation is required and average cost per person is RMB200-300.

25. Local Shanghainese Cuisine Family Restaurants
Lanxin Restaurant {兰心餐厅},Chun Restaurant {春餐厅} and Maolong Restaurant {茂隆餐厅} are all located on Jinxian Road, Xuhui district. These are family restaurant with very poor decoration and small space. However, they offer authentic Shanghainese cuisines with low-medium price, averaging RMB70 per person.

Of course, I didn't have time to try everything on this list {darn it!} but managed to visit a few of them during my short trip. Will be writing more in the coming weeks so stay tuned!

If you want a tour guide to bring you around Shanghai, the surrounding cities and beautiful watertowns, you can look for Elaine Xia from one of the reputable tour agencies {details above}. She brought us around Xuhui and can speak good English. Was very helpful and informative too :)

* Disclosure: My Shanghai Story trip was partially sponsored by Spring Airlines. No monetary compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.



Madeline Heng said...

We're reluctant to travel to Shanghai even though my dad works there because it is so expensive! We may eventually go one day though =)

Masshole Mommy said...

There sure is a lot to do there! I didn't realize there was so much!

An Apel a Day said...

You've got a little bit of everything on that list. That looks like a totally fun trip!

mail4rosey said...

I'd love to take a trip to Shanghai. I thought that before I read your post, now I think so even more!

Ai Sakura said...

Madeline: Even though we visited mainly the touristy areas, we found the food and travel to be pretty affordable! Hope you'll enjoy a visit there one day :)

Masshole Mommy: Pretty sure there's more! But yeah, lots to discover ;)

Alissa: wish we got to cover more! But still was fun nonetheless

mail4rosey: Oh do go!

Stacy said...

I had a 8-month assignment in Shanghai. Was work-stressed at the time but thinking back, lotsa good memories as well. It sure is a beautiful place. Must go back one day but for holiday, not work!