City Guides: Shanghai

Before we begin, welcome to China...

Although I have only been in Shanghai for a few months now, I can already say that this is one cool city. It is unexpected in every way, with a dynamic mix of ancient and modern, Chinese and Western at every turn.

And, most importantly, the food is fantastic.

Some highlights thus far:


Brunch (it's a big deal):
  • Madison - simple, soulful classics
  • Mr Willis - brilliant for brunch
  • Urbn Hotel's Downstairs - upscale, on a sun terrace, and 100rmb unlimited Bloody Marys
  • The Food Central - currently closed! RIP...
  • Homies - a skater spot still working out the kinks, but with a killer 39rmb deal
  • Mr. Pancake House and Egghead - although reluctant additions to the list, reliably good Western breakfasts and bottomless coffee

Cheap and cheerful:
  • Street food - seriously. Get after it. Anywhere, anytime.
  • Réel Kitchen - too classy to be called a "food court", there are countless stations offering all kinds of Asian for cheap

Classic Chinese:

  • Di Shui Dong (Hunanese) - for the ribs
  • Four Seasons Dumpling King (Hunanese) - flattened. chicken.
  • Xing Yang (Shanghainese) - homecooked classics... in someone's home
  • Unknown [on Nanchang Lu nr. Shaanzi Nan Lu, next to the Korean] (Szechuan) - a hole-in-the-wall with the best Szechuan in town
  • Hot Pot King (Hot Pot) - DIY deliciousness, with an optional Thai twist

Other Asian:

  • SushiO - fresh feesh and a decent deal
  • [in need of a good Thai! Any recs?]

Parents are in town:
  • Lost Heaven (Yunnanese) - pan-Asian goodness in a sexy setting
  • Din Tai Fung (Shanghainese) - for them to experience "the best" XLBs
  • Goga or Hai by Goga (Fusion) - perennial and parental favorites (get up Hai in the summer)
  • Xibo (Xinjiang) - 'exotic' but parent-friendly Uyghur fare
(Oh, and have them stay at URBN!)

Craving American:
  • Southern Belle - Southern classics
  • Piro - home of a mean beer-garita
  • Bistro Burger - try the burger challenge if you dare!
  • Henkes - not so much American, as continental classics featuring brick oven pizzas

  • Pantry by the Co-op - recently relocated to Sumerian for all of your Strictly Cookies needs! (see below)
  • Sunflour - the bestest bakery

Secret spots:
  • The Avocado Lady - although everyone knows her by a different name ("The Blueberry Lady", "The Arugula Lady"...), this woman has everything an expat could want and can never find at her fresh food stand on Wulumuqi Lu - follow the laowai...
  • Rong Riben - all-you-can-eat sushi for 150RMB


Serious coffee:
  • Sumerian - for painstakingly-sourced, small-batch-roasted coffee. Talk to the owner couple - they're gems.
  • Café del Volcan - more great coffee to take on a wander of Yongkang Lu

Casual quaffs:
  • Dr Wine - a slick bar for a bei or two
  • Le Petit Franck - a Frenchie in Ferguson Lane
  • People 7 - a super-central but hidden sake speakeasy - just try and remember the code to the door!
  • Bell Bar - a rambling drinking den in Tianzifang
  • All of Yongkang Lu - littered with great bars whose drinkers spill out into the street - try the French haunt Le Cafe des Stagiaires, American bar The Rooster, or sample from one of the several well-curated bottle shops

Classic cocktails:
  • Jazz Bar at the Peace Hotel - catch the Oldest Band Ever (alleged average age: 77) play the classics (even if their rhythm was lost in the Cultural Revolution)
  • El Coctel - two words: bar snacks
  • Lab - a great new Japanese whiskey bar in Jing'an
  • Senator - the closest thing to a Williamsburg speakeasy in Shanghai, pressed-tin ceilings included
  • Sir Elly's Bar at the Peninsula - on the list...


  • Jiashan Market (every other Saturday)
  • Marriage Market at Peoples Park (Sundays)
  • Dongtai Lu Antiques Market

A little 'kultcha':
  • The Power Station of Art - Shanghai's equivalent to the Tate Modern
  • Shanghai China Art Museum - still on the list...
  • Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center - although a little propaganda-heavy in parts, go to see its extraordinary diorama for the sheer scale of the city

Miscellaneous favorites:
  • Body + Soul Yoga - stretch it out in an airy lanehouse
  • Spin Ceramics - simple, elegant (and strangely affordable!) pieces in a cool studio space
  • Factory Five - badass bike shop
  • Anji Bamboo Shop - all bamboo everything (even computer keyboards!) in Tianzifang
  • Zen Massage - one-hour full body + half-hour head and neck for the princely sum of 98RMB

  • Jing'an - catch an early-morning yoga session at Body + Soul Yoga, grab coffee at Sumerian, walk down to the corner to the vendors on the SE corner of Shaanxi and Beijing Xi Lu for a street breakfast and then head to Xikang Park to watch the older men stretch and socialize alongside their birds
  • French Concession - there is so much to see here. Start the day on Xiangyang Lu with a breakfast of bing while walking up towards Xiangyang Park; duck and weave amongst Julu Lu, Changle Lu, and Xinle Lu to check out all the cool boutiques; and eventually end back at Xinle and Xiangyang Lu for street noodles for supper
  • The Sunday Stroll - amble Anfu Lu to check out the hot young expat parents pushing their prams before brunch at somewhere like Mr Willis or grabbing a baked goodie at Baker + Spice, and then wander down Wulumuqi Lu to the Avocado Lady for your Sunday shop
  • Tianzifang - wander around this admittedly-touristy labyrinth of cool little shops - apparently Cafe Dan is great stop to refuel or Kommune for its outdoor seating area

Necessary Evils:
  • Yuyuan Gardens - a frantic but fun complex of "traditional" shops
  • Fake Market on Nanjing Lu - for all your fake "Hermeeze, Goo-chee, Praderr" needs
  • South Bund Fabric Market - tailors on tailors

Nights out:
  • "Welcome to Shanghai" - head up to the Vue Bar at the Hyatt on the Bund for the full panorama and then grab modern French from the late night menu at Mr + Mrs Bund
  • Jazz night on Tuesdays at the Le Cafe des Stagiaires 2 (Wuding Lu)
  • Sub-Cinema film nights at DADA

(See 'City Snapshots' for day/weekend trips)

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