Cheryl Tay zeroes in on the choicest spots in China’s biggest city, Shanghai.
Sep 8, 2015
It was my first time in Shanghai, China’s biggest city and a global financial hub — and I only had two days to explore it.
Wanting to maximise my time in this bustling city, I had to plan the itinerary efficiently so I could visit as many places as possible in one precious weekend.
By the time I arrived on Friday night, there was not much for me to do except grab a late dinner and sleep.
But first thing in the morning on Saturday, I rushed out to Jia Jia Tang Bao, an eatery that sells Shanghai’s version of xiao long bao or pork dumplings.
The main branch at Huanghe Road near People’s Square is a small and cramped diner with limited seats, so the queues are often insanely long and it runs out of dumplings quickly.
However, the diner opens from about 6.30am, so just make the effort to wake up early.
Right opposite Jia Jia Tang Bao is the famous Yang’s Dumpling that serves the most amazing pan-fried pork buns.
These sheng jian bao are bigger than xiao long bao and the dough is crispy yet chewy enough to bite through easily, so you can sip the piping-hot soup before getting to the meat.
Again, the queues for these bao are long but they are worth the wait.
After all that snacking, it was time to go exploring — and walk off all those calories at the same time.
I headed over to Moganshan, a buzzing area with Shanghai’s best contemporary art galleries, such as ShanghART.
The walls around Moganshan are decorated with gra ti art, and offer a great backdrop for awesome photos. Upping the cool factor are the hipster cafés where you can grab a cup of coffee and watch the world go by.
The later part of my afternoon was spent on Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s main shopping street that stretches from the Bund towards Hongqiao, with People’s Square in the middle.
You will find a lot of imported brands here and once the lights come on at night , the area reminds me of Ximending in Taipei.
You could spend your time shopping, but I walked in the direction of Nanjing East Road to get to the Bund, the famed waterfront promenade lined with imposing, colonial era buildings.
This is Shanghai’s most popular attraction and is best viewed at night, when all the buildings are illuminated and stand out against the dark sky.
One side of the Bund overlooks the Huangpu River, offering a panoramic view of Pudong across the water, while the other offers a stunning line-up of 26 buildings in the grand classical style.
This western side of the Bund also houses luxury hotels, fine restaurants and bars. For dinner with a view, you can try the popular M on the Bund or the rooftop restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
Last 24 hours
Having covered quite a lot of ground already, I decided to take the metro line away from the city centre to Qibao — an ancient watertown nearest to downtown Shanghai.
It has a 1,000-year history, so soak in the atmosphere and lose yourself in the narrow streets, especially those selling traditional snacks and crafts.
The only drawback is that Qibao attracts crowds — especially on a Sunday.
I headed back to town for the rest of the day, and spent my time at the French Concession, another picturesque attraction.
Once a designated area for the French community — hence its name — it is easy to recognise the area, with its classic colonial-era architecture and tree-lined streets.
I went to Tian Zi Fang, an enclave of narrow alleys off Taikang Road that has craft stores, cafés and art studios.
From there I walked to Xintiandi, which is full of restaurants and bars, and had a vibe that reminded me of Singapore’s Far East Square.
Look carefully around Xintiandi and you will find alleys that make for great photo opportunities.
To round off the night — and my brief weekend in Shanghai — I walked down Huaihai Road, which houses the flagship stores of designer brands like Louis Vuitton and Cartier.
Two days is a short time to spend in Shanghai, but I saw enough to leave me wanting to discover more of this buzzing, cosmopolitan city.
Top 5 Instagram-worthy spots in Shanghai
Colonial buildings at the Bund
Just position yourself anywhere along the waterfront with the historic buildings behind you.
Graftti walls at Moganshan Road
A photo posted by Park Min Cheol (@mminchul89) on
Avoid wearing bright and colourful clothes that will clash with the walls.
Tian Zi Fang at French Concession
Some alleys are so quaint and pretty, you don’t even need to try to make them look good.
The streets of East Nanjing Road
A photo posted by Xu Xinyuan (@_cherry_xxy) on
Line yourself up along the streets with all the bright lights in the back.
The arched bridge at Qibao
It is a challenge waiting for people and cars to pass so you can get a shot of yourself with the bridge.
Cathay Pacific and sister airline Dragonair fly 17 times daily to Shanghai via Hong Kong.