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Travel: a Quick Guide to Shanghai

Travel Jul 9, 2014

Shanghai is definitely one of my favourite Asian cities – an always intriguing mix of old and new, east and west, crazy steel skylines and quiet Frenchy style streets. As a destination it not only meets but exceeds the needs of pretty much any traveller, particularly one obsessed with culture, wanderings and food. With so many layers of history and such interesting people, it’s no wonder I just keep going back for more! Once again, thank you so so much for your helpful tips (particularly Arlyna who gave a great two day itinerary which was very useful!), they really helped me make the most of my second visit!

Looking out over the Pudong Skyline from The Bund.

To start, always make sure you have the street address of where you want to go written down in mandarin so you can show this to taxi drivers or people on the street when you ask for directions, things can get a bit hard otherwise!


The Water House: This trip we stayed at the Waterhouse and thought (for Chinese standards) it was very cool and with a great design. Breakfast was meh but I guess as an Aussie I am be pretty tough on my most important meal of the day! The location is a bit away from the actual bund so if you want to be in the centre of it I wouldn’t stay here – there’s a few others that overlook the bund I think if that’s what you’re after.

Guesthouses in the French Concession: Last time we were in Shanghai we stayed at Magnolia guesthouse which was cute and would suit well if you wanted to be in the centre of the French Concession, and I know there are quite a few others around that area too.

See & Do

Former French Concession: My favourite part about being in Shanghai is wandering the French Concession area, taking a full day to walk all the tree lined streets and small alleyways starting at Xiantiandi and working my way over to Tian Zi Fang. For me this is the best way to get a feel of what Shanghai used to be like.

The Bund: Wandering the Bund (the walkway along the river) is pretty much a prerequisite of being in Shanghai, giving you both an aspect of the Puxi side of the city and a view onto the intergalactic skyline on the Pudong side of the river.

Yuyuan Gardens: One of the few patches of green in central Shangai, I really liked these gardens as they’re a great place to people watch. However they do have a tendency to get seriously overcrowded. Drop in early after breakfast to see everyone waking up.

Pudong: In my opinion there wasn’t a lot happening in Pudong, but it’s amazing to go to the top of the Grand Hyatt (aka World Financial Centre) and check out the view of the tops of the buildings and the other side of the river – but make sure you go on a clear day because from what I can see most of the time your head will be in the clouds (smog).

Xintiandi: A redeveloped area of the French Concession which houses lots of little shops and restaurants – great place for hanging out and grabbing a bite to eat.

Tian Zi Fang: A network of small lanes full of cafes, galleries and boutiques with a relaxed feel, great place to have lunch or wander. However, the area gets absolutely hectic on the weekends and when it rains so best to go any other time. Trust me.


Ye Shanghai: One of my favourite spots to eat in the Xiantiandi area, this is on your higher end price wise when it comes to dim sum but a great relaxed lunch spot – the perfect treat after a png morning or pavement stomping.

Din Tai Fung: An old favourite also in Xiantiandi (with plenty of other locations too) great for a quick bite to eat.

Hakasan: A new edition to The Bund, we dropped in for dinner and thought the food and moody atmosphere was great.

The Bund: There are lots of restaurants that overlook the Bund, giving you a view of the Pudong side – there’s M on the Bund, Mr and Mrs Bund, Bar Rouge, 3 on the Bund and plenty more. Although most are fun, I personally like to go and have a drink in the Peace Hotel (there’s a rooftop) because of the history and design.

Yongkang Road: Lots of small bars and restaurants around this area – mainly of the western persuasion but good if you feel dim summed out after a few days.


Nanchang Road: This is a lovely street to wander in the French Concession, with lots of different shops that combine a mix of East and West.

Lost & Found: Gorgeous cafe/furniture store on Nanchang Road – a great place to stop when you’re wandering the area.

Dongtai Market: If you’re looking for some trinkets or antiques, head to this street market for myriad of old things, from genuine art deco to not so genuine Mao statues.

Old Shanghai: Just around the corner from the Yu Gardens is the Yuyuan area – Old Shanghai. Although parts of it have given way to shopping centres (and there is also a slightly odd recreation of an old town which is really just another mall) if you wander the backstreets you’ll still get a feel for what the city used to be like.

Tea shops: You’ll find tea shops all over Shanghai, but there are quite a few in a small area within the Tian Zi Fang lanes, including Tea House (pictured below) and many others.

Tea boxes at Tea House.

Shopping in the Old Town

View from Lost & Found cafe in the former French Concession.

Ye Shanghai in Xiantiandi

Wearing: J Crew Panama, Lace top, Jacket and bag, DIY Shorts

Wandering the Old Town.

Intergalactic Skylines

The Waterhouse


On the Bund

A quiet corner of the Yu Gardens

The Skyline from The Waterhouse

More teas! Never enough.

Outside the Waterhouse

Wandering behind the old town.

The former French Concession

Travel essentials: Bag, watch, panama

Yu Gardens

Dumplings at Din Tai Fung

Neighbourhood hangs in the Former French Concession

Sad to go home!


Let us know your thoughts!

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