With sophisticated shopping, addictive food and gorgeous colonial architecture, Shanghai is often on the top of many Hong Kong travelers’ wish lists. The easy two-hour flight makes Shanghai an easy weekend hop.
Duh. The iconic Huang Pu waterway snakes through Shanghai’s historic districts, where travelers can snap selfies with the futuristic Pudong skyscrapers in the background, or take the touristy underground tunnel tour — though it’s a bit kitsch and not worth the time spent. The best views are not from the water’s edge though, but rather at some of the bars overlooking the waterway, such as the Hyatt on the Bund‘s alfresco Vue bar.
Hyatt on the Bund, 199 Huang Pu Road, +86 21 6393 1234.
It’s not exactly the most authentic ancient Chinese village, but Yu Yuan is about as close as it gets in downtown Shanghai. The renovated neighborhood has been modeled after traditional Chinese shop district and gardens — although now the streets are lined with hawkers and shops heaving with knick knacks and folk art. Do follow the lines though for xiao long bao dumplings and street snacks. Inside the gardens themselves, there’s a graceful tea house and beautiful koi ponds surrounded by pavilions and hanging lanterns.
218 An Ren Jie, Huangpu, +86 21 6326 0830.
Nanjing Road East
Buzzing Nanjing Road East is quintessential Shanghai — sensory overload, shopping overdrive, and crowds in full swing. The pedestrian street stretches for about 3.4 miles, starting at the Bund and heading west until it hits Jing’an Temple. It’s the go-to spot for specialty stores and big fashion brands, with over 500 luxury, traditional and fast-fashion shops lining the avenue.
Snap Photos in Xintiandi
A less touristy zone is Xiantiandi, within the French Concession, where hipster bars and party spots bump along way into the night. By day, however, it tends to be relatively quiet and the little lanes full of traditional “shikumen” houses will inspire the street photographer in every traveler. Since there are no cars allowed in the area, the clean and preserved heritage district makes for a lovely morning stroll.
Day Trip to the River Cities
There are dozens of charming river cities outside of Shanghai, which are mostly accessible on the high-speed trains. The easiest are probably Seven Treasure Town, Zhujiajiao or Suzhou; however, if you have the time, a trip south to Shaoxing is absolutely worth the time — it’ll take about two hours to get there, so it’s best to stay over night in the old Xianheng Hotel right along the main pedestrian drag and night market. The beautifully preserved town has been built around little canals and is pretty far off the beaten track.
Shanghai Grandmother Restaurant
If you can snag a table at this popular traditional spot then prepare for a taste of old Shanghai. Just around the corner from the Bund, Shanghai Grandmother Restaurant does homestyle Shanghainese, no-frills comfort food such as braised eggplant in soy sauce, crispy duck, and mapo doufu.
70 Fuzhou Road, (+86) 21-6321-6613.
Housed in a 1930s colonial house, this atmospheric Shanghainese restaurant has quite the following. Every private dining room at Fu 1088 comes decked out with gorgeous antiques and intricate furniture, transporting diners back to days gone by. Similarly, the food covers the classics as well as some modern interpretations — try everything from red-braised pork to drunken chicken. It’s nearly impossible to get a reservation here, so plan ahead.
375 Zhenning Road, (+86) 21-5239-7878.
You’re not here for the decor so just get over the no-frills look at Yang’s Fry. What’s important are the fried dumplings, coated in sesame seeds and scallions. Get in line — these are some of the best in the city.
97 Huanghe Road, (+86) 21-5375-1793.
An atmospheric hidden gem along the Bund — there’s also a second location in town — Lost Heaven serves Yunnan food, which is a mix of Chinese, Burmese and Thai. The menu’s full of mutton specialties, spicy veggies and pickled surprises in the beautifully appointed restaurant. There’s also an intimate rooftop bar upstairs where you can retire for a few more cocktails after dinner.
17 Yan’an East Road , (+86) 21-6330-0967.
Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet
Or, for something more contemporary, try The Puli Hotel and Spa. It’s a veritable urban sanctuary, with calm interiors and a relaxing spa in the middle of the buzzing city. The minimalist, chic rooms incorporate lots of subtle Asian accent such as silkscreen partitions and terracotta statues, and the gorgeous Long Bar is a great way to spend an evening.
Getting to Shanghai is ridiculously easy, and usually pretty affordable. Dozens of airlines provide flights, including Hong Kong Airlines and Dragonair. Once you’re there, the city is relatively easy to navigate.
The urban sprawl makes Hong Kong look hilariously small, however you can access most points pretty easily by metro or pay a few RMB for a cab. An incredible high-speed train network connects Shanghai to the rest of China, so it’s also a great starting point for a longer trip.