We took an overnight sleeper train from Xi’an to Shanghai which again we had booked in advance through China DIY, www.china-diy-travel.com . Highly recommended, their service level was excellent and their information both on-line and with the tickets was really helpful. Shanghai station as I mentioned in the city blog was really easy to negotiate around. Taxis were plentiful and used their meters and of course were very cheap by European standards.
The city has a great metro system and you should purchase the rechargeable travel card which can be used on metro, some buses, ferries and all taxis. In Beijing the metro fare is one amount wherever you travel but in Shanghai there is a range of fares depending on distance. It is very simple to use, interchanges between lines are close, not like Beijing. It can be useful to check maps in the station to get the best exit as they can be spread out over a long distance.
There are security checks at all stations but more relaxed than in Beijing and only large bags and parcels are normally screened. Shanghai in general feels far more relaxed than Beijing even though it is a larger city and feels more like Hong Kong than the rest of the mainland.
If you are staying centrally close to People’s Square then some of the main sites like the Bund, Shanghai Museum, Old Town and parts of the French Concession can be explored on foot.
We stayed at the Jinjiang MetroPolo Hotel Classiq, formerly the Marvel YMCA, www.jinjianghotels.com , at 123 S. Xizang Road, it was a great choice. We arrived in the morning and were able to check into our room which was top notch, very large, well appointed and a super view. The service from start to finish was excellent and we were delighted with our choice, the location, almost opposite the Shanghai Museum, and next to Dashijie Metro was very central.
Shanghai probably has China’s trendiest eating places as you would expect from a city which is packed with high rollers, ex-pat workers from all over the world and huge amounts of visitors. As well as examples of cooking from all over China it has also attracted some of the world’s top chefs. You can eat incredibly well and cheaply at local places or try the more upmarket.
As in other parts of Asia the shopping malls are packed with really good places to eat. Marina Bay was a seafood restaurant in one of the malls on E. Nanjing Road and Charme, in a mall on M. Xizang Road, are chain restaurants but both had good food, service, smart surroundings and were very reasonably priced.
Table No.1 by Jason Atherton, at the Waterhouse Hotel, in the trendy Cool Docks area we had booked in advance for lunch and it was top notch, three courses of really great cooking for currently the equivalent of £18, excellent service, good setting, and overseen by the excellent manager May. Definitely a culinary highlight of the trip.
Din Tai Fung, are a Taiwanese chain doing “to die for” dumplings, they have places throughout Asia and a number of locations in Shanghai including Xintiandi in the French Concession. The ones with truffle are legendary and sell out fast at weekends. If they are full you are put on a list and should get a table fairly quickly.
Hai Da Lo is another famous chain, this time for the fabulous hot pots and the amazing service, including manicures if you have to wait for a table. We tried the one at 1068 W. Beijing Road at a relatively quiet time. This allowed us to work out the IPad ordering and that you could order half portions of beef, lamb, vegetables, noodles etc. to cook in your hot pot – for us half tomato and half mushroom broths. What a great experience, top quality food and service.
Enoterra, Anfu Road, French Concession West, is a very smart wine bar with a wide selection and it also does meals such as meat and cheese platters and burgers when you fancy something more like home. Good service and reasonably priced, they have a couple of places in the city including one in the IFC Mall in Pudong and one in Beijing check them out on www.enoterra.com.cn .
The Dining Room, at Taikang Road, just opposite Tianzifang in the French Concession is a modern restaurant, with other branches in the city. A good selection of “Shanghai” staples with friendly service at bargain prices.
In Tianzifang, Origins was good for a weekend brunch, the food was good the service well meaning but slightly chaotic, the steak, eggs & potatoes on the brunch menu with a Bloody Mary almost made up for it, good week night offers.
I have left a local gem to last, in the food area of Yunnan Road and five minutes from Dashijie metro, is a great seafood place on the corner of S. Yunnan Rd. and E. Ninghai Rd. It also does a huge selection of other dishes including a great duck hot pot. We ate there on a number of occasions, every dish was excellent and they were also happy to serve up a cold beer at the times they were not packed out with locals. We have the card but sadly the name remains a mystery.
Cafes & Bars
Cheapest place for a drink and a night time view of the Shanghai skyline must be the Captains bar on the top floor of the Captains Hostel, 37 Fuzhou Road. The terrace is a great place to sit out with a beer or wine and gaze at the wonderful views.
Estado Puro in Xintiandi is part of a small Spanish Group, known in Madrid for the great upmarket “new style” tapas. The Shanghai branch is very trendy but does lunch and happy hour offers, one of the coolest in the Xintiandi complex.
Shanghai Brewery, 15 Dongping Road, is in the French Concession West area and is a large microbrewery bar with a good range of beers, reasonably priced and a menu that obviously appeals to the largely ex-pat crowd. A good place for a beer especially at happy hour 2 – 8 pm.
Enoterra, have a wine shop in the IFC Mall beneath the Shanghai Finance Centre tower, huge selection of wines to buy and you can drink a bottle in the bar/café area for no corkage fee, wonderfully helpful manager Charles made this a great stop.
Cloud 9 at the Grand Hyatt on the 87th floor of the Jinmao Tower is the place to go if you want a view with a drink and to avoid the queues for the observation decks of the 3 tallest skyscrapers in Pudong. It opens at 5pm, get a good table, a bottle of wine and watch the sun set, a wonderful place to enjoy the amazing site.
Local beer is mainly Tsingtao which you find outside China, but locally there are variations including Tsingtao Pure Draft and Suntory. If you pop into your local eating place you may pay as little as £1 for a 600ml bottle, obviously in more upmarket places the prices reflect the surroundings. There are other bottled beers readily available including the Chinese Harbin beer, and China now has many small micro breweries.
China has overtaken France as the largest consumer of red wine and while historically they have always favoured French wines there are plenty of other imported wines on offer. In supermarkets they tend to be reasonably priced, in restaurants the prices vary from similar to home to stratospheric. China has historically produced wine for centuries and joint ventures with French companies started around 1980 and exporting of Chinese wine to countries like the US began far more recently. Experts think that soon the quality may rival wines from Bordeaux.
The amount of preparation for the trip meant sadly I had not done my homework on local wines and given the relatively high prices we stuck with imported wines.
The Shanghai Museum is a must and the bronzes on the ground floor were the highlight of an amazing collection in a wonderful building.. The Bund is a must see stroll especially with the stunning Pudong skyline on the other side of the river, try it both during the day and at night.
The old town and in particular the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar should be explored but the crowds particularly at the weekend can be enormous. Beware of groups of English speaking young people who ask you to take their photo and then try an take you to a tea ceremony which will cost you a fortune, they are all over the area close to the gardens.
The French Concession including Tianzifang and Xintiandi are also a must, these two complexes of shops, restaurants and bars in “traditional” layouts should be visited, Tianzifang is the more charming, including local housing as well as the entertainment part.
Worth a trip on the subway is Qibao a suburb with a traditional area built around a canal with great eating and souvenir hunting, and boat trips along the canal. This is well worth exploring.
Pearl buying is a popular thing to do in Shanghai and there are many pearl markets around, we went to the Pearl Village Market, Jin Yu Building, 28 Middle FangBang Road very close to the Yiuyuan Gardens & Bazaar. We chose Anny’s Shop, Floor B1 Shop E1 & E2 and were delighted with the service and price. We were buying for ourselves and for a friend who had visited Shanghai before. The care, attention, choice, quality and price made this a great choice.