Where to go in Shanghai depends largely on your time period and interests.We list some of them below.
- The Bund - Shanghai's famous Bund - an Anglo-Indian term for muddy embankment - with its row of Western institutional banks and business buildings, was once the most important financial street in Asia. Although all the buildings that formerly bore major international names have been taken over, mostly by governmental offices, the Bund (Waitan in Chinese) still retains its proud atmosphere. The broad boulevard is a museum of turn-of-the-20th-century Western architecture, with stately columns and porticoes.
- Nanshi (Old Town) - South of the Bund, the ancient city (Nanshi), once surrounded by walls, is a lively, earthy place whose crowded, narrow streets bring old Shanghai instantly to mind. In this traditional neighborhood, people seem to live in the streets--shopping for vegetables, smoking, eating, gossiping or reading.
- Nanjing Road - Nanjing Road, from the Bund to the Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel, takes you through several blocks of wide pedestrian streets lined with shops of all kinds.
- Yuyuan Gardens, (in Old City). For a feel of the China of yesteryear loaded with classical Chinese architecture (the countless vendors just outside the gardens may lead to some frustration, so don't come here thinking 'tranquility'). ¥40.
- Classic (Western) architecture. For a taste of 1920s Shanghai, head for the stately old buildings of the The Bund or the French Concession--too many to list here! Some of the best sections are along Hunan Rd (湖南路), Fuxing Rd (复兴路), Shaoxing Rd (绍兴路) and Hengshan Rd (衡山路). The area is fast becoming famous for boutique shopping along Xinle Rd, Changle Rd and Anfu Rd (安福路), all of which also have interesting restaurants.
- Modern architecture. Some of the tallest and most inspiring structures in Asia and the world can be found along the Huangpu River bank in Pudong's Lujiazui District. Two of considerable mention are Oriental Pearl Tower, one of the tallest structures in Asia, providing visitors with city views (different tours available) or light shows (at night) from below (free), Jin Mao Tower, which is staggering 88-story behemoth, and the Shanghai World Financial Center, the second largest building in Asia and the world, and world's largest by roof height, containing the world's highest observation deck, at 474 meters (1555 feet) .
- Shanghai Museum, S side of People's Square. 9AM-5PM. The Ancient Bronze exhibit is particularly impressive. Audio guides available. Also, there are often volunteer guides providing free service. Some of them speak English. Free.
- Temples. Some of the more popular ones include the Jade Buddha Temple, Jing'an Temple and Longhua Temple.
Shanghai's cuisine, like its people and culture, is primarily a fusion of the forms of the surrounding Jiangnan region, with influences sprinkled in more recently from the farther reaches of China and elsewhere. Characterized by some as sweet and oily, the method of preparation used in Shanghai, it emphasizes freshness and balance, with particular attention to the richness that sweet and sour characteristics can often bring to dishes that are otherwise generally savoury.
The name "Shanghai" means "above the sea", but paradoxically, the local preference for fish often tends toward the freshwater variety due to the city's location at the mouth of China's longest river. Seafood, nonetheless, retains great popularity and is often braised (fish), steamed (fish and shellfish), or stir-fried (shellfish). Watch out for any seafood that is fried, as these dishes rely far less on freshness and are often the remains of weeks' old purchases.
Shanghai's preference for meat is unquestionably pork. Pork is ubiquitous in the style of Chinese cooking, and in general if a mention refers to something as "meat" (肉) without any modifiers, the safe assumption is that it is pork. Ground pork is used for dumpling and bun fillings, whereas strips and slices of pork are promulgated in a variety of soups and stir-fries. The old standby of Shanghainese cooking is "red-cooked [braised/stewed] pork" (红烧肉), a traditional dish throughout Southern China with the added flair of anise and sweetness provided by the chefs of Shanghai.
Chicken takes the honorable mention in the meat category, and the only way to savor chicken in the Chinese way is to eat it whole (as opposed to smaller pieces in a stir-fry). Shanghai's chickens were once organic and grass-fed, yielding smaller birds offering more tender and flavorful meat than its hormone-injected Western counterparts. Unfortunately, these hormones have found their way to China, and today most chickens are little different from what can be found elsewhere. Still, the unforgettable preparations (drunken, salt-water, plain-boiled with dipping sauce, etc.) of whole chickens chopped up and brought to the table will serve as a reminder that while the industrialization of agriculture has arrived from the West, the preservation of flavor is still an essential element of the local cooking.
Some other Shanghainese dishes to look out for:
- xiǎolóngbāo (小笼包, lit. buns from the little steaming cage; fig. steamed dumpling). Probably the most famous Shanghai dish: small steamed buns - often confused for dumplings - come full of tasty (and boiling hot!) broth inside with a dab of meat to boot. The connoisseur bites a little hole into them first, sips the broth, then dips them in dark vinegar (醋 cù) to season the meat inside. Of special mention is Din Tai Feng, an ever-popular Taiwanese restaurant boasting its designation as one of The New York Times 10 best restaurants in the world, with a handful of locations in Puxi and one in Pudong.
- shēng jiān bāo (生煎包, lit. raw fried buns). Unlike steamed dumplings, these larger buns come with dough from raised flour, are pan-fried until the bottoms reach a deliciously crispy brown, and have not made their way to Chinese menus around the world (or even around China). Still popular with Shanghainese for breakfast and best accompanied by vinegar, eat these with particular care, as the broth inside will squirt out just as easily as their steamed cousins.
- Shànghǎi máo xiè (上海毛蟹; Shanghai hairy crab). Best eaten in the winter months (Oct-Dec) and paired with Shaoxing wine to balance out your yin and yang.
- xièfěn shīzitóu (蟹粉狮子头; lit. crab meat pork meatballs).
Shop until you drop on China's premier shopping street Nanjing Road (南京东路), or head for the Yuyuan Bazaar for Chinese crafts and jewelry not far from the Bund. Nanjing Road is a long street. The more famous part lies in the east near the Bund (Nanjing Road East), with a 1-km long pedestrian boulevard (Metro line 2 at Nanjing Road East station, formerly called Henan Road station) lined with busy shops. The wide boulevard is often packed with people on weekends and holidays. The shops are often targeted to domestic tourists, so the prices are surprisingly reasonable. Local people often look down on Nanjing Road and shop at Huaihai Road (another busy shopping boulevard with more upscale stores) instead.
For the high end boutiques, go to the west end of Nanjing Road West (南京西路) near Jing'an Temple. Several large shopping malls (Plaza 66 aka Henglong Plaza, Citic Plaza, Meilongzhen Plaza, and others being built) house boutiques bearing the most famous names in fashion. No. 3 on the Bund is another high-end shopping center featuring Giorgio Armani's flagship store in China.
For those interested in boutique shopping, head to the French Concession Streets Xinle Lu (新乐路), Changle Lu (长乐路) and Anfu Lu (安福路) starting from east of Shaanxi Lu (陕西路) (nearest Metro station is South Shanxi Rd on line 1). This section of low rise building and tree-lined streets bustles with small boutiques of clothing and accessories, where young Shanghainese looking for the latest fashions shop. The overhauled, cozy alleyways of Tian Zi Fang is also extremely popular and is a bit more elbow-to-elbow than Xintiandi.
Xujiahui Metro station is the place to go if you're after game consoles (the Wii is available here in relative abundance), computers, computer accessories, or the like. You'll find pretty much everything electronic there, but the cellphone selection is a bit lacking.
- Bu Ye Cheng Communications Market (不夜城), (Shanghai Railway Station, exit 4 from line 1 side, turn left and it's the large gold building). 10AM-6PM. This is the one of the best-known open-style market for cellphones in Shanghai. 1F/2F for new phones (two-way radios too), 3F for various collectibles. They have pretty much everything under the sun. Any reputable vendor that sets up shop here will allow you to try before you buy- if they don't, leave. Best way to get a good (or uncommon) phone for cheap.
The infamous Xiangyang Market was finally shut down for good in 2006. The biggest "replacement" market is in the Metro station (Line 2) at the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (上海科技馆). The most common name for the market is "A.P. New XinYang Fashion Market." There are a number of variations, and the name really doesn't even matter. The easiest way to get here is by Metro and there you can purchase all your knock-off products. The place is much more overrun by foreigners than Qipu Lu (below), and as such the prices are much higher.
The horrendously crowded Qipu Lu clothing market is a mass of stalls jammed into a warehouse sized building which would take the casual stroller most of a day to look through. You'll find the cheapest clothes in the city here, but even the trendiest styles are clearly Chinese. Bargain hard, in Chinese if you can and make friends with the shop owners. Many of them have secret stashes of knock-offs in hidden rooms behind the stall "walls." Avoid this place on weekends at all costs.
Another option is the Pearl Plaza located on Yan'an Xi Lu and Hongmei Lu as well as the unassuming shopping center located on the corner of Nanjing Xi Lu and Chongqing Lu. Haggling can be fun for those who are accustomed to it, but those sensitive to the pressure might want to steer clear. Not only can it be stressful to haggle, but just walking in to the buildings can bring a horde of people upon you trying to sell you bags, watches, DVDs and all assortment of goods.
But rather than pursuing knock-offs of Western brands, one of the more interesting things to do in Shanghai is to check out the small boutiques in the French Concession area. Some of these are run by individual designers of clothing, jewelry, etc and so the items on sale can truly be said to be unique. Visitors from overseas should expect the usual problem of finding larger sizes.
One exception to the rule is Dutch Items Shanghai. The label was founded by Dutch designer Jolie van Beek in 2006 due to her frustration with the lack of affordable, high-quality clothing that fit her. The D.I.S boutiques carry their own label as well as a selection of imported European clothing and shoes. D.I.S focuses on womenswear and carries EU sizes 34-46, UK 4-18, U.S. 2-18.
- Shanghai South Bund Material Market: 399 Lujiabang Rd (陆家浜路). 10AM-6PM. You can take bus #802 or #64 from the Shanghai Railroad Station and stop at the final stop: Nanpu Bridge Terminal or you can take the Metro Line 4 to the Nanpu Bridge (南浦大桥) Station (exit from gate #1, make a left from the exit and then left again on the light. You will see it to your right after walking about 200 to 250 m. Three floors of tailors and their materials including silk, cashmere, merino wool. Have items measured, fitted and finished within two days or bring examples, samples or pictures. Bargain hard with the friendly tailors.
- A smaller and less crowded tailor market can be found under the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum (Metro Line 2).
Supermarkets and Convenience Stores
Major supermarket chains such as Carrefour, Auchan, Tesco and Walmart are scattered around the city and have cheap groceries and household products, and are generally crowded at weekends. The most centrally located 'big chain' supermarket is Carrefour located in floors B1 and B2 of Cloud 9 shopping mall (metro: Zhongshan Park Lines 2, 3 and 4). Tesco has a store in Zhabai district close to the main railway station and there is a huge Lotus supermarket in Top Brands mall in Liujiazui (Metro: Liujiazui, Line 2). Whilst there are many stores around the city selling imported products at fairly high prices, Metro Cash'n'Carry (Metro: Longyang Lu; Lines 2, 7 and Maglev) in Pudong is by far the cheapest place to buy imported goods. As it caters primarily to businesses, you will either need a Metro membership card or take a temporary guest pass from reception when entering the store.
Ubiquitous FamilyMart 24-hour convenience stores can be found around the main central districts and inside major metro stations - these stores sell magazines, snacks, drinks and Japanese-style hot bento-boxes although prices are high by Chinese standards. Chinese chains such as KeDi and C-Store can be found in residential districts and are marginally cheaper and also stock cigarettes. 7-Eleven and Lawson convenience stores are less common but can be found around the Nanjing Road area.