Must See Sights
Bespoke’s pick of the best for the ultimate trip
The city’s showpiece waterfront of colonial-era architecture is not only a visual treat but a great place to get your foundation in Shanghai’s history. How did this obscure Chinese port city transform into one of the world’s biggest? The story starts here.
Yu Garden & Old City
Shanghai’s top tourist attraction can get crazy busy, but the beauty of these 6-acre gardens and their surrounds more than makes up for it. Dive into the scrappy but vibrant back alleys the tourists and discover the city’s oldest quarter.
Former French Concession
Shanghai at its charming and walkable best. These pretty, tree-lined streets are peppered with boutiques, hip cafes, museum and galleries – but it’s the Russian churches, 1930s Art Deco mansions and British townhouses that hint at its cosmopolitan past.
Propaganda Poster Art Center
The posters in this private collection date from the early Communist period onwards, and include dozens of examples from the Cultural Revolution, a period rarely discussed in China. A low-key gem.
The Shanghai Tower
The second tallest building on earth and the crown jewel of the Pudong skyline, this is an epic feat of engineering. Zip from ground level to floor 119 in less than a minute and enjoy vertigo-inducing views over the city. Skyscraper fetishists will love it.
The Shanghai Museum
This museum doesn’t have many tricks up its sleeve, but when you’re home to arguably the best collection of Chinese antiquities on the planet do you really need gimmicks?
Fengjing Water Town
You only need drive an hour from Shanghai to feel like you’ve traveled back in time. Fengjing is a charming town with enough pretty waterways, ancient stone bridges and weeping willows to make you feel as though you’re in a different world.
An hour away by train, Hangzhou is a lengthy day trip or overnighter. A large and sophisticated modern city, at its center is the West Lake surrounded by temples, green hills of bamboo and the most celebrated tea fields in the country.
What To Eat
Six Shanghai culinary experiences to get excited about
Fancy Bund Dining
How ‘bout them views? If you’re looking for a fine night out then the Bund is where you’ll find the world’s top chefs - and those skyline views
Shanghai’s most iconic delicacy is a steamed soup dumpling famous for its beautifully thin skin and juicy interior.
If local eats are your thing, Shanghai in the AM offers an incredible selection, with sellers touting everything from youtiao (crullers) to fantuan (sticky rice balls filled with egg).
Shanghai’s drink scene now boasts bars that have busted onto the ‘World’s Best’ lists. And it's not just glam Bund-side bars: get ready for speakeasy heaven
features lots of seafood, and is renowned for its sweetness. Look out for celebrated dishes like hongshaorou (fatty pork) and congyoubanmian (scallion noodles).
Delectable Dim Sum
When it comes to Cantonese Dim Sum you'll find some of the best spots outside of Hong Kong here
So much choice! But a handful offer more reasons to stay than most...
Sitting pretty in prime position on the Bund with to-die-for views, ‘Old Shanghai’ stylings meet every modern convenience you might possibly need (yes, that includes nail dryers) at The Pen. If you like your hotels done to perfection then this is the place for you.
A sleek contemporary design spot with boutique-y overtones, this is the Shanghai home of the fashion and art crowd. Located in Jing’an, just on the edge of the French Concession, it’s a perfect point from which to access the city’s most exciting restaurants, bars and shops.
The Park Hyatt
OK, so it’s on the ‘other side’ of the river, but how often do you get to stay in one of the world’s highest hotels? With a lobby way up on the 87th floor, there’s a certain novelty to literally sleeping above the clouds. The minimalist design is very ‘new China’ too.
The Middle House
Shanghai’s cool kid is smack bang in the middle of the town with lovely staff that will make you feel more than at home. This is a great spot for those that want a bit of modern Shanghai flavour – start by checking out the contemporary artworks that are dotted around the place.
Hit the ground running with our insider’s guide to Shanghai’s need-to-know neighborhoods
‘Bund’ is a word you’ll be hearing a lot during your stay. It refers to the waterfront promenade of striking colonial-era buildings running along the stretch of the mighty Huangpu River between the distinctive iron Waibaidu Bridge in the north and the Waldorf Astoria in the south. With its gorgeous architecture and ‘wow!’ views of the Pudong skyline opposite, it’ll come as no surprise that the Bund also plays host to the crème de la crème of Shanghai’s hotels and fine dining restaurants, attracting Michelin Star chefs and international luxury brands aplenty.
Meaning ‘East of the Huangpu River’, Pudong is mostly associated with two things – the international airport 50km to the east of the city center, and that collection of glitzy, world-beating skyscrapers. Despite its gleaming appearance and stunning collection of five star hotels (the Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, Park and Grand Hyatts all have a presence over here), the area is regarded as the ‘dark side’ by urbane downtown types thanks to its less than lively demeanor.
Shanghai at its laidback, walkable best. A bundle of narrow, tree-lined streets teeming with life, this is where gorgeous, colonial-era villas house contemporary brands, Shanghai’s hip-young-things sip macchiatos in the sunshine, and elderly residents hang out their washing or sit on stools slurping noodles come meal time. The occasional strains of an old Shanghai jazz record drift from lane house windows, but the click and whir of mopeds whizzing by prevails. Despite its connectedness, the area is larger and more spread out than you might expect, with several separate pockets of activity.
Shanghai seem a little too ‘Westernized’ for you? Too many fancy malls and office towers? The Old City is your antidote! The area has seen its fair share of commercial development and tourism (especially in the northern
section, around the Yu Garden) but the southern section contains miles of narrow alleyways, tumbledown houses and gritty street markets prove the perfect explo- ration ground for those that want to get off-the-beaten-track. It’s also an interesting place to explore the city’s religious heritage – China’s ‘three traditions’; Buddhism, Daoism and Confucianism are all represented here in various forms.
Confusingly named, you’ll be hard pushed to identify any kind of square here, but the presence of municipal government and some of the city’s most venerable institutions clearly announce the de facto city center. The Shanghai Museum, Urban Planning Center and Museum of Contemporary Art are your reason to visit, while the northern section is home to a leafy park famous for its weekend ‘matchmaking market’. Nanjing Road runs west from here towards the Jing’an Temple, where some of the swishest upscale malls (yes, more!) and an increasing number of top hotel and dining options are located.