10 Things to do in Shanghai

By Elizabeth May
Posted at 30-05-2014

Shanghai (name meaning “upon the sea”) is a diverse megacity, financial powerhouse, and showpiece of mainland China.  You can see the new influence of Cyberpunk, the up and coming trend, as it is reflected in the Oriental Pearl Tower and the neon-illuminated Yan’an elevated road.  Although Shanghai is a booming metropolis with tons of modern skyscraper buildings, there is still a rich history to be found here, at the street level.

Shanghai has its hidden gems of picturesque rural suburban areas, and small alleys of coffee and antique shops.  Having tea on one of the balconies of these small alleyways gives the perfect position for people watching, and makes you feel like you’re back in the 30’s.  Backpackers, businessmen, hipsters and romantics have all found their spot here, what will be your favorite locale?


  1. The Bund Walk
    This famous waterfront walkway is loved by foreigners and locals alike.  It’s a great place to get a feel for all that the city has to offer.  Look out, over the river at the impressive cityscape, or just take a stroll and admire the many types of structures that line the roadway.  It’s said that there are various buildings, which represent architectural styles such as Gothic, Classicism, Baroque, Romanesque and Renaissance.  One of the better ways to get to know Shanghai is at the street level, and this is the place to do it.
  2.  Shanghai World Financial Center
    There is an observation deck on the 100th floor, reaching a staggering 474 meters above ground.   As this may instill a sense of acrophobia, or fear of heights, it’s not for the faint hearted.  If you’re a sucker for panoramic views, however, which many of us are, then you definitely need to make a stop here. There are also ultra modern skywalks on the 94th, 97th and 100th floors, giving you all of Shanghai, below your feet.
  3. Old French Concession area
    This used to be a residential area in Shanghai, designated for the French.  It’s now a historic walking area, with a plethora of cafés, tudor style houses and tree lined avenues.  If you like to wander and take photos, this is a great place to get lost in the maze of shops inside the concession.  It’s incredibly charming and a great place to spend a few hours.
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  4. VUE bar @ Hyatt on the Bund
    This fabulous bar on the 32nd and 33rd floor of the Hyatt, allow you the best views of Shanghai.  It boasts a view of the Huangpu River (The Bund) as well as the colorful city line on the Pudong side.  It has daybed seating on the terrace so you can enjoy the premium beverages in the upmost comfort.  VUE bar has a stylish atmosphere and is definitely a winner.  Did I mention there is a whirlpool on the deck to soak your cares away?  
    1515 West Chophouse and Bar @ Shangri-la Hotel
    If you’re looking for a more robust style atmosphere, this is your place.  It’s decorated in solid wood and leather.  It’s a meat lover’s dream, but also serves raw oysters and other fresh seafood from around the world.  There are several great views from this bar/ restaurant and your cocktails are prepared by the bar manager and renowned mixologist Dario Gentile.  This place does not disappoint.
    The Jazz bar @ Fairmont Peace Hotel
    If you’re looking for class, man, oh man, is this your spot.  The veteran jazz band has drawn people from around the world with their authentic sound from the 20’s and 30’s.  Crowds of international travelers, celebrities and heads of state such as Jimmy Carter and Ronald Regan have made an appearance here.  The preferred table, food, drinks, and cigars of each guest, is memorized, so as to give the feeling of a private club to returning guests.
    M1NT Club
    Extravagant is the word to describe this place, as it actually has a shark tank inside! It has a certain “great gatsby” ambiance, luxurious and modern, but classy and sophisticated.  This bar has been named the number 1 club for the years 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.  Come check it out to see why.  http://www.m1ntglobal.com/club-shanghai
  5. Salud bar
    This bar specializes in drinks using rum.   It’s a bar that’s located in a 300 year-old building, so of course the décor is rugged vintage.  It’s packed with locals on the weekends due to the awesome live bands which play there, so if you’re not in it for the live music, try and go during the week to have your pick between the peaceful outside seating area, or the “Indiana Jones museum like” interior.
    The Shelter
    This bar is for those who are music lovers and dancers of the night!  If you like your bars dark, sweaty and loud, this converted bomb shelter, with its little labyrinth of mini tunnels, is the spot you need to be.  The DJ’s play a variety of hip hop, reggae, techno, drum n bass and dub step.
  6. Tianzifang
    This is the more artsy area, and has loads of craft shops, cafés, design studios, galleries and boutiques.  This place is supported and kept alive by yuppies, trend setters, designers, expats and other international travellers who come to see the old, stone-framed-door houses and alleys lined with infinite novelities!
  7. Zhujiajiao
    This is a popular tourist attraction now, but in centuries past, it used to be a trading area due to its many canals, which were used to ferry products on small boats and barges.  There are several small shops and cafés.  It’s a great place to saunter for a few hours, or have some dinner at one of the many restaurants in the area.  They call this the Venice of China.
  8. Xin Tian Di
    Many come here for the architectural delights of the traditional Shikumen style houses, the antique walls, tiles and exterior of old Shanghai, but the interior is a bold leap into the 21st century.  Here you will see both the old and new, where “yesterday and tomorrow meet in Shanghai today”.  There are trendy cafés and little souvenir shops opening all the time.
    Also take a stop over to the antique market nearby, Dongtai Lu.
  9. Green Massage Acupressure
    Do not be confused.  This is not a deep tissue massage, relaxing Swedish massage, or even a firm body bending Thai massage.  This is Chinese acupressure.  It more on the verge of painful pleasure, because those tears of “ow ow ow”, will later result in a face of sheer rejuvenation.  Try it, take this challenge, see if you can handle it.
  10. Din Tai Fung
    This is a Taiwanese chain restaurant, but don’t hold it against them, they serve the best dim sum ever.  Even if you’re not a huge fan of Asian food, this place has some dishes that everyone will love.  The seaweed and bean curd in vinegar dressing, and the roasted duck are fabulous appetizers.  The pork dumplings and vegetarian dumplings are also to die for.  Wash it all down with lemongrass tea and you will have experienced the meal of your vacation!