today’s city guide is devoted to the far east- shanghai to be precise! d*s reader and shanghai resident georgia sparling created today’s guide to great shopping, eating and sight-seeing. i hope it will be helpful if you’re lucky enough to travel to shanghai in the future. thanks to georgia for her hard work!
Shanghai City Guide by Georgia Sparling
Shanghai, the city on the sea, has been wooing and capturing foreigners with its unexplainable charm since the 1800s. Shanghai mixes East and West better than any cliché, and walks through the city never fail to turn up something unusual and unexpected. With at least 20 million people spread across miles and miles of high rises, walk ups, and old buildings from the Shanghai’s pre-Revolution days, the city is one for the urban explorer. So it only follows that artists of the singing, playing, painting, writing, and photographing kind have often made Shanghai their muse.
A little geography: Shanghai is divided in two large sections separated by the Huangpu River and known respectively as Pudong and Puxi (literally east and west of the river). I’ve spend the past four years in Puxi and I say without a doubt that it is definitely the superior side (some say it’s PuYork versus PuJersey.) Consequently, this guide deals mostly with Puxi which is the older, more diverse part of the city. I’m arranging this guide (roughly) based on the districts where each place is found.
Barbarossa [People’s Park, 231 West Nanjing Rd]: Nestled in People’s Park, this Moroccan themed bar/restaurant feels like a mirage both inside and out.
Design Republic [1/F 5 Zhongshan East No. 1 Rd]: This forward thinking furniture design powerhouse is a must visit. It has a showroom/gallery feel and is host to around 30 brands including its own.
Glamour Bar [6/F, 5 Zhongshan East No. 1 Rd]: Put on something pretty for this sassy bar with some of the
most unique cocktails in town. Plush seating and cozy lighting as well as the occasional DJ make this place great for conversing and meeting new folks. Don’t leave without taking a gander at the powder room.
Kathleen’s 5 [5/F Shanghai Art Museum, 325 West Nanjing Rd]: A classy establishment with a nice peaceful view of People’s Park. This is a great place to go for drinks and an elegant dinner.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) [People’s Park 231 West Nanjing Rd]: A striking museum in the heart of People’s Park that has amazing exhibits and events year round. Art Lab Restaurant inside is a feast of modern design.
New Heights [7/F, Three on the Bund, 3 Zhongshan East No. 1 Rd]: Even though it’s not that high, this restaurant/bar has a beautiful view of the Bund’s glitzy, glittery skyscrapers and the delish dishes are
Shanghai Art Museum [325 West Nanjing Rd]: Located on the edge of People’s park this museum was the former clubhouse of the Shanghai racetrack (People’s Park was the track), and now hosts a number of exhibitions each year that focus on art old and new, Chinese and not.
Yu Garden [218 Anren Ave]: This area is the oldest part of the city. While it’s very touristy, it is one of the few places in Shanghai to see a traditional garden. This is the place to get the city’s famous dumplings (xiaolongbao) and any Chinese trinket you want. Bargain hard!
Ada & Ling’s [149 Anfu Rd]: One of myriad boutiques in the city walking the fine line between gaudy and fashion forward. Ada & Ling’s has all the pieces you’ll need to dress like a Shanghainese woman.
Design 13 [284 Anfu Rd]: Bamboo, silk, and sandals meet in this blink and you’ll miss it boutique by Stella Chen. If you’ve never felt the cool of bamboo fabric on your skin, try on some clothes here. They wick away humidity.
Dukou Bookstore [828 Julu Rd]: A tiny bookstore almost all in Chinese but specializing in art and architecture related titles. There’s something about the simplicity of this place, and its small table, java, and relaxed atmosphere makes it a great place to linger.
Heyan’er [284 Anfu Rd]: One of the larger and most affordable shops on this street, Heyan’er has a range of Chinese styles from the classic qipao to updated versions of the same. They take orders too for those of us with more bumps than the average Chinese gal.
Hu & Hu Furniture [201 Anfu Rd]: Some of the most coveted furniture in town, Hu & Hu has their own factory where craftsmen create high quality pieces. They also have a workshop where they renovate antiques acquired from all over China.
JIA Shanghai [931 West Nanjing Rd]: a boutique hotel in the heart of the city and adjacent to the metro, Jia is in a cool 1920s building and has a reputation for beautiful rooms with a well thought out and distinct design.
JZ Club [46 Fuxing Rd]: One of the most popular jazz clubs in town. JZ has live music nightly with acts both local and international. Spontaneous dancing is known to break out on the crowded, but energetic first floor.
Le Passage [299 West Fuxing Rd]: A transformed Art Deco gate house constructed in 1932 but now home to several classy establishments.
- Casa Pagoda [299-1 Fuxing Rd; No. 15-17 Taikang Rd]: Classic furniture, upholstery, and accessories. While lots of these styles could be found in the States, their quilts, pillows, and desk items are definitely a little something something special.
de Brabant Gallery: A small gallery with exhibits focused on fine art of the Chinese contemporary sort.
- Ginger: Open late, this café has great outdoor seating, yummy dinners and scrumptious desserts. You’ll feel elegant just by being there.
Baiser–Elise [299-2 West Fuxing Rd]: Bedding, PJs, and clothes for kids and adults. The embroidered linens and baby clothes are sweeter than sweet.
Mayumi Sato [169 Anfu Rd]: Under the only polka dot awning for miles around are a collection of vibrant prints coupled with some slightly more somber (but not too somber) pieces. Find clothes and bags that are unique, wearable, and just this side of crafty.
Mia’s [45-47 Anfu Rd]: Old China in a new café filled with antiques. Sinking into the deep leather chairs
is like sinking into nostalgia. Take a break from shopping, sip a creamy Honey Rose Milk Tea, and turn a few pages of Stella Dong’s Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City
Noodle Bull [3B, 291 Changle Rd]: Hearty Taiwanese beef noodle soup at this cheap, clean, and central locale. Great for a quick meal but also a nice place to sit awhile. As tempted as you might be to pocket the handmade bowls, resist the urge and head across the street to Spin.
Plum [1025 West Nanjing Rd, Lane 37]: A small gallery with an even smaller café, Plum is located near several studios of Chinese and western artists. A great area to wander around and maybe even get invited in for a look.
Spin [Bldg 3, 758 Changle Rd]: Hidden in the back of a parking lot, this is a must visit. A spacious gallery of pottery made by skilled Chinese artists. Spin is surprisingly affordable and the staff carefully wrap each item so the most delicate will make it through the plane ride home, no superglue required.
Torana House [164 Anfu Rd]: Luscious high quality rugs in traditional Tibetan and Chinese patterns as well as modern ones made in Lhasa. It’s an elegant joint so try not to take your shoes off and nestle your toes in their fine woven carpets.
TT [163A Anfu Rd]: A collection of earthy silk and cashmere clothes that are both chic and comfy. The items are all locally made and they take orders.
Urban Tribe [133 Fuxing Rd &
No.14 Lane 248 Taikang Rd]: A cohesive collection of Asian inspired modern clothes in natural fabrics and muted colors. Chunky jewelry compliments the smooth, loose garments and the small tea shop in back completes the overall Zen feeling.
Urbn Hotel [183 Jiaozhou Rd]:
Tagged as China’s first carbon neutral hotel, the visionaries behind this fine establishment used recycled materials, the most environmentally friendly building products available in China, and a woodsy chic interior that creates a much needed oasis after a long day in the city.
Dongbei Ren (Northeastern People) [1 South Shaanxi Rd]: One of a chain of restauarants serving my favorite Chinese food. Showier than a hole-in-the-wall but just as tasty with the wait staff dressed in bright traditional clothing. Get lots and lots of dumplings, lots.
Old China Hand Reading Room [27 Shaoxing Rd]: Hidden away on a beautiful, leafy street is one of the few quality cafes frequented by both Chinese and Foreigners which co-owner Deke Erh (and famed photographer) created for that very purpose. This café doesn’t have standout beverages, but the heady smell of old books and smoke along with the Ming dynasty furniture will transport you into the glory days of old Shanghai. You’ll be inspired to read, write, and ruminate here.
Taikang Road: Boutiques and corner cafes abound in this area. Several lanes of Shikumen (“stone gate”)
style houses have been renovated into boutiques while many of the original residents continue to occupy adjacent houses. While these folks are not always happy about the influx of commerce, it has protected these old homes from destruction and given the city a great creative space.
- Bohemia Café and Bar [No. 42, 248 Taikang Rd]: A tiny café with outdoor seating where there is
lots of interesting people watching to be had.
- Kommune [No. 7, 210 Taikang Rd]: Great outdoor seating in the heart of the shopping area with a
good array of cocktails and yummy hot drinks for the winter months. They like to grill out in the summer too!
- Nest [Rm. 201, 2/F, Bldg 3, 210 Taikang Rd]: A delicious combination of sustainable products and great design from bamboo salad bowls that support microfinance to organic cotton onesies with simple graphics in Chinese for future language learners.
- Shokay [No. 9, 274 Taikang Rd ]: My good friend is the co-founder of this luxury yak lifestyle shop. You may never have heard of yak down fiber, the yak equivalent to cashmere, but once you’ve touched it and seen the gorgeous hand-knit designs at Shokay, you’ll be hooked. Shokay supports sustainable development for the Tibetan herders who own and tend their yaks in Qinghai province as well as the local women who hand knit the delectable clothing.
50 Moganshan Road: Walking down Moganshan does not look promising until you get right to the heart of it where the buildings in this factory district have been transformed into artists’ studios and galleries. Number 50 has some of the best and most diverse modern Chinese art in the city and makes for hours of enjoyable perusing.
- Art Scene Warehouse [2/F, Bldg 4]: This gallery specializes in Chinese avant-garde pieces created in various mediums.
- ShangART [Bldg 16]: One of the heavy hitters in the Shanghai art scene, ShangArt is known internationally for its contemporary Chinese art exhibits.
- TwoCities Gallery [Bldg 0, 2/F ]: I admit it, my friends run this gallery, but it’s seriously fantastic and has been a great boost to the community with regular exhibits, free jazz concerts featuring local and international performers, and free lectures. TwoCities specializes in three dimensional Chinese contemporary art including glass and ceramics with jewelry on the side.
Pudong District: The place to get high—skyscrapers are what Pudong does best.
- Jinmao Tower [88 Century Ave]: A modern Art Deco in steel design, this used to be the tallest building in town. It’s still a great place for dinner and to get a panorama of the city. Also houses the ritzy Grand Hyatt and Cloud 9 Bar.
- Oriental Pearl Tower [2 Lujiazui Rd]: Who knew pearls could be so gloriously gaudy? This TV tower shines and shimmers at night. It’s a great photo op at any time of day and from the observation deck I read that you can see down the Huangpu River to the Yangtze on a clear day.
- World Finance Center [100 Century Ave]: The current tallest building in Shanghai, the observation decks on the 94th, 97th and 100th floor are not for the faint of heart.
Cha Gang [70 Yongfu Rd]: A deconstructed (or maybe just random) art exhibit melds with clothes, stuffed animals, and other small items that are just this side of punk.
Ferguson Lane [376 Wukang Rd]: Similar to Le Passage, but a little more inviting this Art Deco inspired complex has lots of places to linger.
- Bliss: Baubles and chatchikis you never knew you always wanted. Highlights are the non-kitchy Shanghai metro mugs and irresistible qipaos for baby.
- Coffee Tree: one of the most relaxing places to sit, Coffee Tree has the usual European café fare. Great for breakfast and lunch.
- Ba Yan Ka La: Not exactly design, but they’ve got great smelling stuff to pamper your skin and nostrils using natural ingredients like goji berries and lotus. The candles are fabulous.
Lost Heaven [38 Gaoyou Rd]: Tucked down a small street, this restaurant serves hearty and absolutely delicious fare from Yunnan Province in one of the most enchanting and exotic atmospheres in town.
Platane [127 Yongfu Rd]: So many beautiful things in such a small place. It’s another shop that mixes modern Chinese and West ascetic, but they just does it so well. Pick up some Shanghai inspired Carter-esque note cards, Chinese urns, or a set of bowls that are as much at home in a Shanghai penthouse as in Anthropologie.
Simply Life [9 Dongping Rd]: As the title suggests, this shop carries simple yet elegant houseware. Some of their products have a little funk in them, but mostly this is a great place to get gifts for mom.
Zen Lifestore [7-1 Dongping Rd]: Whether or not its feng shui, this store has awesome painted bowls, platters, cups, mugs
and other ceramics that are insanely affordable.