Shanghai Travel Guide

Shanghai Travel Guide

Gina Samarotto

As heady and exotic as they come, Shanghai is a city able to sate even the deepest wanderlust cravings. It’s a city of indulgence where you can feed your love for art and architecture, whet your gourmet palate, spend a morning selecting a custom made wardrobe and an afternoon immersed in rich, ancient culture. Magically orphic, in this Asian city the most important things to have on hand are an appetite for ardour, a yearning for style and a keen sense of adventure. Wondering what to do in Shanghai? Mr Hudson has got you covered.

Where to eat in Shanghai

From startlingly exotic street food to elevated fine dining, one could spend a solid month in Shanghai without coming close to sampling all the culinary delights the city has to offer. Breakfast like a native ‘Shanghai-ese’ and begin your day with a fragrant dish of Xiaolongbao at Nanxiang in the old city of Shanghai. On the top floor of a century-old building near Yu Garden and the City of God Temple, Nanxiang’s indescribably delicious soup dumplings and steamed buns are a favourite with locals and tourists alike. Come hungry and get there early – by eleven a.m. the lunch crowd will bring queues that stretch out the door.

While in the Yu Garden area, pace yourself at breakfast so you can enjoy a lunch gleaned from the dizzying array of street food found throughout the city. From grilled, whole pigeons served feet and all, to skewered octopus tentacles to strawberries and crab apples drenched in molten sugar and the city’s signature ‘milk candy’; street food in Shanghai is an experience in and of itself. A good rule of thumb is the longer the line, the more divine the offerings will be – and don’t forget to bring small bills to help ease transactions.

Dinner in Shanghai is a celebration in any language. Scena, Ritz-Carlton’s noteworthy Italian eatery, is an edgily chic space where classic dishes are served along with staggering views of the Shanghai skyline. Scena’s Chef Daniele Milliani comes to Shanghai by way of Italy’s Lazio province; bringing with him a collection of classic, Italian recipes reinvented to reflect the flavours of the Far East. Devotees to London’s Michelin-starred Pollen Street Social and Shanghai’s Table No. 1 will feel right at home at Jason Atherton’s newest temple to ‘deformalized’ fine dining, Commune Social. Located in the Jing‘an district and featuring an interior by Neri & Hu, don’t expect to sit through dinner at the Commune Social. The best way to experience the restaurant is to travel through it; starting in the courtyard for drinks and small plates and moving to the spectacular, white-on-white dessert bar to sample the inimitable sweets before making your way up to the cocktail bar to celebrate a memorable meal with a nightcap or two. Atherton has a ‘no-reservation’ policy at Social Commune, so plan to take your time dining at this quirky gem. Chi-Q is the first collaborative restaurant between Jean-Georges and Marja Vongerichten. Located at Three on the Bund, Shanghai’s enclave of covetable restaurants, Chi-Q is a sleek, modern and minimalist space warmed by low-slung tables, exquisitely designed place settings and wood-clad walls. The menu here is all about ‘loud, punchy flavours’, exciting and flavourful side dishes known collectively as ‘banchan’ and innovative, memorable, Asian barbecue dishes grilled over open fires built within pits from the tables themselves. Also by Vongerichten is Mercato; an entirely covetable, coastal Italian eatery with interior by Neri & Hu where warm leathers and reclaimed wood makes the aesthetic as delicious as the pasta.

Photo: Gina Samarotto

Photo: Gina Samarotto

Things to do in Shanghai

A veritable Mecca for the fashion conscious, Shanghai’s reputation for gifted tailors and designers is well earned and renders it the ideal place to have a custom-made wardrobe created. For an elegantly bespoke experience, head to the upscale boutiques and ateliers on Changle Lu, near Maoming Nan Lu where you’ll find one of Joy Zhuang’s five Zhuang Rong locations in Shanghai. While best known for her utterly superlative cheongsam creations Zhuang also offers made to order menswear rich with elegance and shaded with subtle, Asian influence. If your shopping style is somewhat more adventurous, explore the fabric shops and tailors found in the underground market located beneath Shanghai’s Science and Technology Museum. While the venue itself falls short of posh, those willing to venture past the souvenir vendors and knock off stalls to reach the luxury goods area are richly rewarded with row upon row of tailors specializing in made to order. To ensure your look is perfect from head to toe, finish your subterranean shopping excursion with a visit to Ben Zhou. A favourite haunt of the über-fashionable and those in the know, Ben Zhou is Shanghai’s go-to place when you’re in the market for exceptionally well-crafted shoes.

To feel as if you’ve stepped back in time, visit the ancient water village of Zhujiajiao. Worth the 75-minute drive from the old city, one of the most charming Shanghai points of interest rests on the outskirts of the city and boasts a tapestry of canals, public gardens, shopping, and buildings that date back to the Qing Dynasty that collectively make it a divinely fascinating place to explore Chinese culture. For a more modern take, the art and architecture found within Shanghai’s city centre is worth taking the time to explore. Given the sheer size of the city – not to mention the ‘Shanghai-ese’ dialect that can confound even native Mandarin speakers – hiring a guide is an excellent option. Luxury Concierge China curates personalised tours of Shanghai with itineraries designed to reflect each guest’s particular interests. Their personable, well-informed guides are not only great fun to be with, they know the city inside and out, ensuring guests a perfect and truly memorable Shanghai experience.

Photo: Gina Samarotto

Photo: Gina Samarotto

The best hotels in Shanghai

With its high-rise rooms and edgily Asian aesthetic, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong is an opulent melding of modern convenience and well-aged tradition. Beautifully appointed and with a deeply rooted sense of place in Shanghai, the Ritz-Carlton also affords guests easy access to Flair – the city’s most decadent rooftop lounge, as well as to their spectacular rooftop pool, state of the art gym, restaurants and that signature, inimitable Ritz-Carlton service. Located a stone’s throw from the Pearl Tower, the Ritz-Carlton adjoins the IFC Mall where Prada, Gucci, Ferragamo and a host of other upscale retailers and restaurants make sure there’s always something fabulous to peruse.

The iconic Fairmont Peace Hotel is a stately grande dame in the heart of Shanghai next to the Bund. Teeming with old world style and modern luxury, the hotel offers guests everything from a day of indulgence at the Willow Stream Spa to a night of live music in their swanky jazz club – all served with a view of the Huangpu River and steps to Shanghai’s bustling business centre.

An easy stroll from East Nanjing’s tony shopping and with a penchant for luxury that has made the brand legendary among well-heeled travellers, The Peninsula Shanghai is a hotel steeped in gracious elegance. For some added creature comfort, the Peninsula also boasts a fleet of notable vehicles. Featuring five Rolls-Royce motorcars including a meticulously restored 1934 Phantom II, the fleet is a distinct luxury unique to the Peninsula – and one that makes getting around Shanghai half the fun.

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