Top Shanghai Hotels
Shanghais prosperous and flamboyant past is most evident at The Bund. This picturesque stretch saw the great trade of the Tai Pans and earned Shanghai the title The Paris Of the East. The European promenade stands bold and proud and is now a much-loved tourist spot with unrivalled views across the Huang Pu River to space age Pudong. Among the grandeur is the original Hong Kong Shanghai Bank, still guarded by 2 bronze lions to ward off evil spirits or robbers. One of the worlds tallest TV towers, Oriental Pearl TV Tower pierces the sky with its huge needle-like structure. Gigantic viewing platforms are shaped to resemble pearls and it looks more like a prototype rocket for a mission to mars. Tickets are available for all platforms but if youre tight in the pocket you can go for the mere middle stage but still enjoy a commanding view over the bund and local areas. Within the highest viewing platform there is a museum of local history, which is quite interesting if you manage to get that high up.
The surrounding Pudong Financial District, with wide tree lined avenues and commuters jammed into buses, has modern skyscrapers scattered about in every shape and size. The dominating TV Tower and Jinmao Tower are among China's tallest. The Public Parks of Mingzhu and Lujiazui are great vantage points to gaze up at the many modern skyline but lack the character of some of the other city parks. Shanghai's newest and most modern district is good for a few snaps but not really an attraction as such. In contrast to the spanking new district of Pudong are the remnants of the old French Concession. The tree-lined avenues coupled with appealing well-preserved architecture make for a nice stroll.
Pre-colonial Shanghai was a typical walled fishing village up until the 1840s, and the only remaining place to catch a glimpse of the Chinese past is the Old City. An interesting maze of knick-knack shops, foodstalls and restaurants. Small temples are scattered about in every nook and cranny among pokey shops selling incense and candles. Count on getting lost no matter how many maps you have.
The old Yu Yuan Garden is an authentic Chinese water garden with many indigenous plants and flowers and strategically positioned traditional halls, and is the perfect spot to enjoy a pot of Chinese tea in the teahouse. Carps swimming around the ponds are a symbol of good luck and prosperity and the gardens possess enhanced feng shui.
Not far away a striking piece of modern architecture resembling a UFO on a launch pad houses the Shanghai Museum. It is a very impressive presentation and a far cry from the listless museums one usually encounters in China. Worthy exhibits include porcelain, bronzes and ethnic pieces.
Shanghai has never been famed for its religious or spiritual strengths but one of the few temples worth a trip is the Jade Buddha Temple. Inside is an impressive 2 metre high white jade Buddha coated with jewels and gold. The temple houses four halls - Hall of the Heavenly Kings, Grand Hall, Reclining Buddha Hall and Jade Buddha Chamber. Photos of the halls are allowed but not of the religious figure.
Located on the outskirts in a new development zone, is the rather drab Shanghai Zoo. Although the zoo is somewhat dilapidated, it does boast a pair of giant pandas. Hopefully this ageing tourist attraction will get a face-lift. In the meantime its not really worth the time.
At the heart of the city is Nanjing Road Pedestrian District, closed to vehicles but filled with shoppers. Shopping is broad, local retail shops as well as brand names abound with shopping centres stretching for 2 or 3 km, terminating at the Bund. You always know youre on Nanjing Road because of all the Pepsi logos strutting out from lampposts. The up-market department stores dominate the sidewalks of Huaihai Lu (Lu means Road in English). Shopping peaks at the weekends and they are noticeably empty on weekdays. Store clerks are willing to help but be patient as to them it is an opportunity to sharpen English and sales skills. Huaihai Lu is stuffed with many brand names and prices are fixed.
Booming China has an unenviable reputation as a major centre of manufacturing piracy. You can grab these copies from the street hawkers on the corner of Huaihai Lu / Xiangyang Lu. Rolex watches to Prada bags all look authentic but thats as far as it goes. Haggle!
The top stuff is available in the uptown Xu Jia Hui district commonly known for its government embassies, tree lined avenues and palatial villas. Class boutiques have popped up and cater to Shanghais upper crust.
The historic Old City is an interesting jumble of clothing, pearls, Chinese medicine and cheap toys and it still functions very much as the marketplace it has always been. There is an antique market and plenty of cheap paintings to haggle over. This is also the supposed birthplace of the willow pattern that graces many a Chinese tea set, and originates from the Huxingting Teahouse in the Yu Yuan Garden.
The outskirts of Shanghai also have quite a few variable antique shops and warehouses - again check in current local publications to see which ones are still in business, they tend to have a rapid turnover.
Note: there are strict laws governing the exporting of antiques from China. Genuinely valuable or historic pieces need the right paperwork or the goods will be confiscated at the airport, and you will probably be slapped with a fine for plundering cultural treasures.
Entertainment and Eating Out
The Bund, The French Concession and Nanjing Road areas are Shanghais best evening spots with a smorgasbord of international restaurants. Service is varied unless dining in one of the top establishments - waiters plunge full ashtrays into leftover soup and theres even enthusiastic nose picking just before placing a dish on the table! There are still some strong socialist echoes in relation to timing. Break time and Dinner time were communal affairs for the masses and still Chinese restaurants disproportionately bulge with custom at certain times of the day. These predictably fall around 11:30am -12:30pm and 5:00pm - 6:30pm. Other times are much quieter. Yu Yuan Gardens Chinese teahouse is popular with local and foreign folk for its famous dumplings and dim sum menu.
The French Concession is arguably the best place to dine out and has an array of flavours, from authentic Xiao Long Bao, or Shanghainese dumplings to mouth watering Mediterranean restaurants. Charlies is recommended for choice Shanghainese cuisine.
The Bund is Shanghais most romantic setting and M on the Bund is the best place to savour it. Located on the roof of an old trading house this classy joint has superb views, diners can gaze along the Bund below and across the river to Pudong financial district. This very popular spot is certainly worth one of your evenings due to its unrivalled location, great service and atmosphere.
Face Shanghai is somewhat unique. Set within Rui Jin Guest House are 3 separate gardens, with a small lake and four 1920s European buildings. The 2-storey building has fine foods and comfortable salons, and it is a good stroll around the compound for a bit of history. The building houses two restaurants and a salon bar. Both Northern Thai cuisine, and tastes of the Northern Indian Silk Road are offered.
The restaurants within the Broadway Mansions Hotel are highly recommended for full-bodied provincial cuisine. Government officials and various big nobs are here as the quality of the local fare is second to none. Shanghais only revolving restaurant, Art 50, combines gourmet food with an art gallery. Found on the 50th floor of the Novotel Atlantis Hotel, Art 50 has several things going for it. The scrolling city views and top meals are to be expected, but there are also contemporary art displays and even the chance to create your own works. All ages are welcome and its a handy option for those with kids as you can throw them in a corner with a few brushes.
Hugely popular with foreigners is Malones, an American style bar plastered with US bits and bobs with much-missed wholesome grub to match. Entertainment is creative with regular theme nights from live bands to pool contests. Although busy theres plenty of seating on both levels - downstairs, the happening bar and stage - and upstairs, a bar and pool table with some cool comfy couches and a cosy dining area.
Shanghai Sallys is a casual pub with pool, darts and a good selection of pints and mixers. During the day its quiet and slow and a good place for a pint with your paper, but after dark transforms into a lively Chinese pub. Good international menu with reasonable prices.
Directly below Shanghai Sallys is The Underground, an anything goes bar cum club. Theres lots going on - live jam nights for bands, regular theme nights all set in a mix and match layout. Different zones include a bricked chatting area, satellite bar and a DJ booth and dance floor. For Beach Parties masses of sand are brought in. An energetic magnet for party animals.
A funky late night crowd puller, trendy Park 97 has good Japanese, Mediterranean and Italian restaurants and a gyrating nightclub.
In some bars unattached men may suddenly find several curvy friends on each arm as soon as they walk through the door. A polite no thank you will quickly remedy the situation. This isnt unusual in developing cities but the girls hanging around the airports trying to grab men straight off the planes are a uniquely Shanghainese twist.
The bar and restaurant scene is in upheaval with the rapid growth of Shanghai. There are plenty of other good entertainment and dining choices in Chinas most cosmopolitan city, but its difficult to keep track of them. Your best bet is to pick up the free entertainment magazines in hotels and bars. Keep an eye out for Metrozine and Thats.
Getting from A to B
Apart from the Old City, which is a maze, Shanghai is broad, well laid out and easy to navigate. If you get lost grab the authorities (blue shirts, white sailor hat, cant miss them), and point to where you want to go to on the map. Do this 3 or 4 times and you should get there. The most comfortable way to get around is by taxi and thankfully, given Shanghais money grabbing reputation, they are metered with a safe receipt system to prevent rip offs. Few drivers speak English so get everything written down by the reception for the driver. Pointing to a map is common, many drivers arent local and dont know where they are going. Taxis are widespread.
Bus travel is the cheapest but your Chinese will need to be up to scratch. If you are really up for it by all means squeeze in and give it a go, but dont expect much help and watch your personal belongings.
Although the maps can be confusing the underground rail system, the Metro, is cheap, fast and clean. 2 major lines exist and another circles the city and they operate from 6.00am to midnight. Metro 1 runs from Xinzhuang in the South to the Railway Station in the North and stops along the way at major commercial districts and tourist areas. Metro Line 2 in is operation but not fully complete. It will run from Hongqiao Airport through the city centre and under the river to Pudong.
Ferries nip back and forth over various stretches of the Huang Pu River for loose change and there are scores of river connections beyond Shanghai from Shiliupu Wharf. The International Ferry Terminal has connections as far afield as South Korean Inchon and Osaka in Japan.
The shopping district of Nanjing Road is a pedestrian area - the sole transportation available is the dinky theme park style trains that trundle up and down the street. If you are lucky you might just grab a seat on one of these articulated buggies and hop off at one of the designated shopping stops.
Most international flights connect to Pudong International Airport about 30km from the city centre. Skytrain city connections will commence in 2003. The other airport is Hong Qiao International Airport and mostly has routes to Hong Kong and domestic cities. Departure tax is 150RMB for international flights, and despite the handover that includes Hong Kong.
Like other Chinese celebrations Chinese New Year shifts around with the lunar calendar falling in either January or February. Youre likely to encounter spontaneous lion dances and alarmingly erratic fireworks, which often blow up the odd bystander. The festival marks the worlds largest annual migration and much of Shanghai closes down stretching the citys infrastructure - and your patience - to the limit. But still, its a joyous time for the happy Chinese and its difficult not to be wrapped up in the spirit. Lakes and rivers see dragon boat races and the traditional throwing of rice into the river for the Dragon Boat Festival in June or July. The festival marks the suicidal anti-corruption protest of a poet and former minister in 280BC. July also sees the Shanghai Beer Festival.
The Mid-Autumn Festival or Full Moon Festival is perhaps the loveliest festival of the year. Families head for the darkness of parks and squares to watch the moon, and children skip around dangling their lanterns. The celebration is also marked by the exchange of the sugar-laden mooncakes - something of an acquired taste.
Internet cafes are all the rage and widespread but mostly being designated in Chinese they arent obvious to foreign visitors. Some places with better connections and service would include Worldwide Network located on Jiang Su Road for approx 12RMB an hour, the aptly named budget option Intercafe on Fuzhou Road and the smart but pricier Sparkice within Central Plaza Huai Hai Zhong Road, popular with expats.
Tours and Tourist Information Offices
Private tour operators are few and difficult to find, and their tours more geared towards the Chinese market. Visitors are better off sticking to larger operators or who can speak English and are better run. Hotels can help you here. Tourist Information offices are found at Peoples Square and Shanghai Train Station metro stops, and at the airports.
A good way to get a feel of what Shanghai is really about is to take one of the river trips from the pier slightly south of the Bund. Various options include half hour quickies and half-day escapes. The river is certainly not beautiful, and is filled with loading cranes, cargo vessels and trade, but it is interesting to see life on the water of one of the worlds biggest ports. Often referred to as the Venice of China, Suzhou is a sunken ancient town with beautiful waterways. Although a bit touristy, there is an air of romance and its a popular spot for lovebirds. Gondolas cruise among the old buildings and gardens.
A popular city escape is to Wuxi, a gateway to the 3rd biggest lake in China. The area is filled parks, walks and gardens but its appeal is rather limited to city folk in need of a break. Not far away is Dingshan Town, one of Chinas major pottery centres.
China International Travel Service (CITS) and China Travel Service (CTS) are government funded and offer tours for the area and beyond. The office inside the Peace Hotel handles mainly airline tickets but can point you in the right direction. For train, buses and boat tickets the CITS office found in Beijing Xi Rd and Jinling Dong Rd are your best bet.
Featured Shanghai Hotels
Shanghai Travellers Tales
Shanghai has a lot of good restaurants and right around the corner of the hotel in the Xintiandi complex is Va Bene, T8, Kabb ect. Furthermore the Bund has very good restaurants and bars like M at the bund, New Heights, The Glamour room, Mesa/Manifesto and for Live Jazz, JZ Jazz club. I like to get the LUXE guides for the cities they offer it for, because it is easy to carry and it has the very essential things of the city you''re in.
The hotel is within walking distance to the People''s Park, the pedestrian Nanjing Lu East, Xintiendi, and Huaihai Lu. Also, taxis are inexpensive; you can get practically everywhere for less than RMB 20.
Visited Shanghai then onto Beijing. Used cabs and subway for most travel. Did have the services of a friend who is Chinese to assist in translation as cab drivers don''t speak English. Go to Jin Mao tower, take elevator to Cloud 9 the club on top of building, nicer than observation deck with same view and food and beverage available.
The Bund is a must. A side trip to Suzhou is recommended, but do not take the Suzhou-Zhouzhuang one-day tour because you can''t see much of either city in one day. The restaurants in Xintiandi ("New World"?) are all good.
Taxi rides to the Bund, Old Shanghai and just about everywhere were under 30 Yuan. Don''t hesitate.
Bought some fake watches for friends and myself. Don''t buy from the guys at Nanjing Road. Go to the fake market. Don''t pay more than 20 EURO, doesn''t matter what they tell you. I was shopping at the Decathlon outlet. It''s worth the trip to Padong. Decathlon is french sports outfitter that is really huge and prices are unbelievable.
We used subway and walking as our main ways of getting around, taxi only being used to transfer to the railway station. walking enabled us to see more of the city, a good example was the walk from Xintiandi to the Wu Gardens, walking down Dajing Lu from Renmin Lu to Henan Nanlu and then onto Fanbang Zhonglu gives a great insight into Shanghai life. As a first time visitor to China, crossing the roads was a challenge, however main junctions have traffic Assistants who help greatly. The best sights for us were the Wu Gardens and Shanghai Museum. We travelled by train to Suzhou, soft seat was fine and cheap, there is a ticket window at shanghai railway station clearly marked for english speakers, buy your tickets a day or so early, I didn''t and had to opt for my third choice train time. The soft seat waiting room is comfortable and well organised, we used it again when travelling by train to Beijing. www.china-train-ticket.com were a problem, my train tickets were not delivered to my hotel, I had to ring their Beijing office to resolve this. After wasting several hours waiting for tickets to be delivered they had bought tickets for a cheaper and later train than they had contracted with me for, I had no more time to pursue this matter and so accepted the situation. On the train the 2 berth compartment was fine but the food in the restaurant car should be given a miss, plan to feed yourself.
If you are traveling from Beijing I highly recommend to take the Train (Z). It takes 12 hours but you will have a great bed to sleep with dinner included. Take a look into the next web page to check it out: http://home.wangjianshuo.com/archives/20040801_train_from_beijing_to_shanghai.htm
One tour not worth doing is the 3 hour river boat trip, if you have to do a river tour then 1 hour is enough unless you enjoy seeing cranes and more cranes. My best trip was to Suzhou & Zhou Zhuang water village and the city tour is fine although both include the inevitable silk factory. The city is more modern with little pockets of the old way of life. Shanghai is worth a visit but personally I would not stay much longer than about 4 days.
For Shanghai: Thumbs up to M on the Bund for brunch, Jean Georges for dinner, Xintiandi for shopping, the new art area (can''t remember the name). Over-rated are the French Concession, 3 on the Bund for shopping, Shanghainese food.