SHANGHAI (Reuters Life!) - Glamorous, decadent and unashamedly brash, China’s financial capital is a potent symbol of the country’s growing wealth and global prowess.
Shanghai splurged billions of dollars on the World Expo, but for visitors, the city boasts other attractions such as stunning heritage architecture, tantalizing dining options and a pulsating, wild nightlife.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the get the most out of this proudly over-the-top city.
6 p.m. - Start Shanghai in style by heading straight for the Bund, the city's historic waterfront. Cocktails at Sir Elly's, the Peninsula hotel's rooftop bar, offers stunning views of the murky Huangpu River, and is the ideal way to soak up the city's colonial heritage when Shanghai was known as the Paris of the East -- and the Whore of the Orient for its debauched ways. (www.peninsula.com/Shanghai/en/default.aspx) 8 p.m. - Take a 10-minute stroll down the Bund to Lost Heaven, a leafy bamboo Yunnan eatery, where dishes are rooted in the traditions of Yunnan, Tibet, Myanmar and Thailand. The steamed cod in banana leaf is delicious, and the vegetarian options are plenty. (6433-5126, www.lostheaven.com.cn/)
10.30 p.m. - With a floor-to-ceiling 360 degree glass view of Shanghai’s skyline and a 17 meter- (56 ft) long shark tank, M1nt club is a must for visitors who want to see and be seen.
Sip on exotic cocktails like a cucumber and wasabi martini and admire some of Shanghai's most beautiful people, of whom there are no shortage. (here)
9 a.m. - Breakfast calls for some of Shanghai’s best dumplings at hole-in-the-wall Jia Jia Tang Bao, located near bustling People’s Square. The earlier you get there, the better, as their trademark xiaolongbao, or steamed dumplings, sell out quickly.
10 a.m. - Head over to the Urban Planning Exhibition Center, a six story building, situated on People’s Square. Boring? Far from it. This is the city fathers’ master vision for Shanghai, complete with a huge model plan laid out on the floor. (www.supec.org/english/english_page.htm)
11 a.m. - Soak up more culture at the Shanghai Museum. Home to 11 state-of-the-art galleries in a spacious, aesthetically beautiful layout, it is one of the country’s most modern museums.
1 p.m. - Lunch at Xintiandi, which perhaps more than anywhere else in Shanghai encapsulates the clash between market economics and supposedly socialist politics, with its boutiques and site of the Communist Party’s first congress in China.
Dine outdoors at upscale restaurant Steam, where you can share dim sum and dishes like steamed lamb with scallions and garlic. (5306-6678)
Even more upmarket is the Chinese-European fusion of T8. (6355 8999, www.t8shanghai.com/)
3 p.m. - Get a sense of Shanghai’s burgeoning contemporary art scene at Moganshan Road, an area that has been transformed from decrepit warehouses and factories into a quirky hub for minimalist art galleries and cute cafes. Check out Bandu Music, a cafe that sells a wide selection of Chinese folk CDs and hosts live traditional performances. (6276-8267)
7 p.m. - When the Bund gets passe check out the Cool Docks, a newly developed area on the site of the city’s old historic shipyard. Stroll around the brightly lit fountains and red brick courtyard, which boast an eclectic mix of new bars and restaurants.
7.30 p.m. - Dine at Stillers, a modern European restaurant and cooking school situated on the outskirts of the Cool Docks area. Run by Chef Stefan Stiller, the menu changes on a regular basis with offerings such as Black Truffle Tortellini and Duck Confit. The outdoor patio offers a calming view of Pudong’s glitzy skyscrapers. (6152-6501, www.stillers-restaurant.cn)
10.30 p.m. - Live jazz and cocktails at 100 Century Avenue, the Park Hyatt's spectacular 93rd-floor bar, is a compelling reason for visitors to venture over the river to the Pudong financial district. (here
10 a.m. - Tucked away off the Bund is Suzhou Cobblers, a fabulous little boutique of the kind Shanghai does so well, specializing in hand-sewn slippers and gorgeous felt and silk bags. (www.suzhou-cobblers.com)
11 a.m. - Lazy brunch at Casa 13, a Mediterranean restaurant located inside Tianzifang. To walk off the food, explore the plethora of traditional old lanes that have been transformed into boutique stores, galleries and laid back cafes. (5238-2782, www.casa13.cn)
3 p.m. - A short taxi ride away is the city’s historic French concession, where locals and expats dwell in beautifully preserved European style houses. Watch the elderly Shanghainese ride their bicycles down the tree lined streets, while expat tai tai’s, ladies of leisure, lounge at coffee bars.
6 p.m. - A relaxing dinner at Mesa, a contemporary Australian restaurant, where you can dine on their outdoor terrace and sample dishes such as rare seared tuna tataki. (6289-9108, www.mesa-manifesto.com)
9 p.m. - For the fastest and most exciting way to Shanghai’s Pudong international airport, take a ride on the Maglev. Unfortunately the magnetic levitation railway doesn’t start from the city center but the journey time is a mere 8 minutes, with speeds reaching up to 430 kph, so hang on to your chopsticks.
Top tips for travelers:
- The standard of English is poor. Have your destination written down in Chinese, and get a local SIM card for your phone.
- Shanghai’s extensive and modern subway system is a god-send. Use it where possible to avoid the terrible traffic.
- Pick up a copy of free listings magazines in English, like Time Out Shanghai or That’s Shanghai, at restaurants and bars around town.
Editing by Ben Blanchard and Belinda Goldsmith