7 days in Shanghai - The best of Shanghai
Your Air New Zealand flight arrives in Shanghai early morning, so you have the whole day ahead of you. While it’s fine to take a quick nap at some point today, get your body clock onto local time as quickly as possible by exercising outdoors. An adventurous walk around the city centre is exactly what you need.
Things to see and do when you first arrive in Shanghai:
- Feel the heartbeat of the city in People's Square, also called Renmin Square. It’s a visually-impressive collection of open spaces, green places, water features, museums and entertainment options. Call into the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre to get your head around the city's skyline.
- Enjoy a street food lunch at Yunnan Road - today could be your first encounter with xiao long bao dumplings.
- Explore the South Bund Fabric Market, to choose fabrics and designs for some bespoke wardrobe additions. Tailoring is cheap in Shanghai - about NZD$60 for a dress, including fabric.
- Discover first-class contemporary Chinese food at Hakkasan on the Bund. If you don't feel like dressing up, try somewhere more casual - Goodfellas or Mercato are well-reviewed options.
From 1849 to 1946, France had a presence in Shanghai - it was called the French Concession. These days it's called the Former French Concession and it encompasses some of the most beautiful streets of Shanghai. When you visit this area you'll find leafy streets, beautifully preserved mansions, exquisite little shops and wonderful places to relax with food and drink.
Things to do in the FFC:
- Start your FFC experience with great coffee and cake. There are many well-reviewed cafes in the area - Baker and Spice, Café Montmartre, Boom Boom and Kommune Café are a few to consider.
- Try on a pair of retro Chinese sneakers at Culture Matters Shoes - just the thing for all the walking you’ll do today.
- Renew your wardrobe with boutique shopping on Anfu Lu, Changle Lu, Fumin Lu and Dongpipng Lu.
- For gifts and homewares, check out Zen lifestyle, Spin Ceramics and Platane.
- Visit the art deco Soong Ching Ling Memorial Residence - it’s a museum that will whisk you back in time to the pre-revolutionary days of Shanghai.
- Admire the French Renaissance-style apartment buildings on your way to Wukang Lu, where you’ll find European-style villas from the 1920s.
- Call into the Zhang Leping Museum to see cartoon art featuring San Mao, one of the most loved fictional characters in China today.
- See if you can catch a performance at the Shanghai Symphone Orchestra Hall, home to Asia’s oldest orchestra.
- Dine at Lark Hill or Las Tapas for European food; or Di Shui Dong, Lost Heaven, Xibo, Sichuan Citizen, Guyi and Old Jesse if you fancy Chinese.
Shopping is the pastime that unites everyone in Shanghai. As China's largest commercial centre, there's virtually nothing you can't buy in this city. In pedestrian-only Nanjing Road you can shop for traditional Chinese products, as well as great-value clothes and homewares. Huai Hai Road offers another kind of retail therapy, with six kilometres of glitzy designer stores. The area between Shan Xi Road and Xi Zang road is where most of the action happens.
Shops to find and tips for successful shopping:
- Not all stores take credit cards, so make sure you have cash in your wallet. Most stores are open for 12 hours a day, starting at 10am. Wear comfortable shoes!
- If you're interested in tea sets, silk clothing, calligraphy, paintings, traditional Chinese medicine and handicrafts, aim for East Nanjing Road.
- West Nanjing Road has some great department stores, including Wings, Plaza 66 and Jiuguang. Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum is also in West Nanjing Road.
- Head for the middle section of Huai Hai Road, where you'll find all the big international and luxury brands. The historic Cathay Theatre is worth a look too.
On an escorted tour your guide will collect you from your hotel and drive you to Zhouzhuang Water Town. Alternatively you can be your own guide, but it's wise to hire a driver to take you to Zhouzhuang - the train journey can take more than six hours, while driving takes only 90 minutes.
Highlights of Water Town
- See the twin bridges - one built in 1573 and the other in 1619. Both cross just above the confluence of the rivers Yinzi and Nanbei. Together they are called Key Bridge, because they look like an ancient key.
- Tour the Shen residence, which has more than 100 rooms surrounding seven courtyards; and the Zhang residence, a 70-room complex with a river running through it.
- Visit Quanfu Temple, which dates back to the Yuanyou Period (1086-1093) of the Song Dynasty. The temple has three main buildings in a beautiful garden and is surrounded by pavilions.
- Eat wansan, also called 'eight bowls'. Created by Shen Wansan, a legendary character purported to be richest man in the Yangtze River region, it's an eight-course meal that includes soy-stewed pork, stewed eggs, chicken and stuffing, and wheat dumpling soup.
Today's combination of destinations will win you over with classical Chinese gardens, contemporised heritage areas and a park where people's hobbies provide the entertainment. If you're staying near the Bund, your journey flows westward - walk, taxi or catch the metro. At the end of the afternoon, celebrate your last day in Shanghai at Lost Heaven, authentic Yunnan food in the Former French Concession.
Things to do in Yuyuan, Xintiandi and Fuxing Park:
- Yuyuan Garden (also called Yu Garden) has existed for more than 400 years. Involving pavilions, halls, rockeries, ponds and cloisters, it has six main areas that cover about five acres. A special highlight is the Exquisite Jade Rock, which is 3.3 metres high and pierced with 72 holes. Burn an incense stick just below it and the smoke magically floats out the holes. Pouring water into the rock is also spectacular.
- Discover the shopping areas in the Old Town. At Yuyuan Market you'll find everything from mahogany furniture and mirrors to silk robes and ceramics - it's like an ancient form of outlet mall. The food's wonderful too!
- Fuxing Park is where Shanghai's retired population goes for exercise and fun. You'll see them dancing, flying kites, singing opera, playing cards and mah-jong, doing tai chi, performing tricks and exercising. The park also has some beautiful flower beds, rockeries and ponds, but the people are the main attraction.
Bring your explorations back to the city's riverside today - the Bund and the high-rise financial district just across the water. The west bank of the Huangpu River reflects Shanghai's early days as a trading centre; the east bank represents China's present and future, as a global economic power.
Things to do today:
- Head up the Shanghai Tower to see the city from the world's highest observation deck.
- Visit the Municipal History Museum and other attractions in the Oriental Pearl Tower.
- Stroll the Bund (Waitan), starting at the Waibaidu Bridge. Check out the Rockbund Art Museum and the historic British Consulate, where there's a restaurant and a bar.
- Collect your bespoke tailoring from the South Bund Fabric Market.
- Enjoy an evening cruise on the Huangpu River to see the city all lit up. From the water at night, Shanghai is a fantasy land.
- Dine tonight at 'M on the Bund', one of the city's most loved international restaurants. It's located near the southern end of The Bund, Shanghai's famous riverside promenade.
Romantic Xintiandi is an old area of Shanghai that has been refreshed with contemporary design principles. It's divided into two areas - the South Block is mostly modern with traditional architecture as an accent; the North Block retains the old Shikumen architecture style. Your mission today is to fill up any remaining spaces in your luggage - the Xintiandi district is a wonderful place to find unique designer clothes and cool stuff for your home. After an early dinner, head to the airport for your flight back to Auckland.
Things to do in Xintiandi:
- Browse the wares at Shanghai Tang, where you'll find apparel, home furnishings, accessories and novelty gifts.
- Another must-shop is Simply Life in Dongping Lu for modern Asian homewares.
- Discover local designer fashion at the Xintiandi Style concept mall.
- Xintiandi is known for funky little stores that sell beautiful handcrafted items, like embroidered tablecloths, bags, scarves and slippers.