Archive for the ‘Shanghai China Travel’ Category

The Shanghai Menu

Food plays such an important role in Chinese culture that when people meet, they often greet each other with the words, “Have you eaten” (Chi le ma?). For the visitor to China, food will (or should) be one of the highlights of your trip. If you’re traveling on a group tour, you’ll likely be fed fare that is fairly ordinary and generic, and above all inexpensive. Try to sneak out for an independent Chinese meal if possible. Mealtimes are practically sacred, and you’ll find, especially if you are on an organized tour, that visits and events are often scheduled around meals, which are usually taken early (11:30am–noon for lunch and 5:30–6pm for dinner). In a city such as Shanghai, few businesses or tourist attractions close for the lunch hour, though this is more common in smaller Chinese towns.

Following Daoist principles, Chinese cooking aims for a balance of flavors, textures, and ingredients. Certain foods are thought to have yang (warming) or yin (cooling) properties, and the presence of one should ideally be offset by the presence of its opposite. Seldom is one ingredient used exclusively, and meals should reflect that harmonious blend of meat and vegetables, spicy and bland, and so forth. China has a staggering variety of regional cuisines, which reflect the different ingredients available in a particular environment, and also emphasize different cooking methods, and you are encouraged to try as many of these as possible while you are in the country. Chances are that little of it will taste like the food from the neighborhood Chinese restaurant back home; if anything, it’ll taste better.

While you can sample almost any of the diverse Chinese cuisines in Shanghai (though admittedly, few ethnic Chinese cuisines make it here entirely intact, as the local preference for sweet invariably finds its way onto most menus), the emphasis here is on Shanghai’s traditional cuisine, also known locally as benbang cai. Considered a branch of the Huaiyang style of cooking, Shanghai cooking favors sugar, soy sauce, and oil, and seafood is featured prominently. While it is true, as some critics allege, that traditional Shanghai cooking does tend towards the oily and the over-sweet, many typical Shanghai dishes are simply delicious and deserve to be tried, as it’s likely you won’t find much like it back home. You can find the following typical Shanghai dishes in any local restaurant serving benbang cai: cold appetizers such as xunyu (smoked fish), kaofu (braised gluten), zui ji (drunken chicken marinated in Shaoxing wine), and pidan doufu (tofu with “thousand-year-old” eggs); snacks like xiaolong bao (steamed pork dumplings with gelatinous broth), shengjian bao (pork-stuffed fried bread dumplings), and jiucai hezi (leek pie); traditional dishes such as chao niangao (fried rice cakes), Shanghai chaomian (Shanghai fried thick noodles), shizi tou (braised “lion’s head” meatballs), tipang (braised pig trotters), meicai kourou (braised pork with preserved vegetables), youmen sun (braised fresh winter shoots), jiaobai (wild rice stems), shuijing xiaren(crystal prawns), dazha xie (hairy crab), and the soup yiduxian (pork-based broth with ham, bamboo shoots, and bean curd skin). Desserts include babaofan (eight treasure glutinous rice) and dousha su    bing (red bean paste in flaky pastry).

Regional differences notwithstanding, Chinese food is usually eaten family style, with a number of dishes to be shared by all. If you find yourself dining solo, you can ask for xiao pan (small portions), usually about 70% of the full dish and the full cost, though not all restaurants will accommodate this request. Dishes can arrive in random order, though most meals usually begin with cold appetizers (liang cai), then move on to seafood, meat, and vegetable main dishes. Except in Cantonese cuisine when it’s taken as one of the first courses, soup is usually served last. In your average Chinese restaurant, dessert, if it exists, usually consists of a few orange wedges and not much else, though Shanghai and Cantonese cuisines feature a slightly wider choice of sweets such as red bean pastries, and sesame seed paste (zhi ma hu). Tea is usually served free, though if you’re asked what kind of tea you want, you’ll probably be charged for it. A vintage like longjing tea (from the Hangzhou) is considerably more expensive than something like your average chrysanthemum (juhua cha) or jasmine tea (molihua cha). Napkins and chopsticks should be free, though if you’re given a pre-wrapped package of tissues, you’ll likely be charged for opening it, and possibly for the peanuts as well. In general, there is no tipping, though a few restaurants outside the major hotels may add on a service charge, which usually guarantees you won’t get much in the way of service.

Shanghai Today

Shanghai is a super city in China. No one knows quite how large China’s largest city really is. Official figures population is at over 20 million. When Shanghai’s unique architectural legacy and its recent economic transformation are factored in, it is easy to see why 7 of every 10 visitors to China come to Shanghai. This is China’s economic, financial, and commercial center, its largest city, and the heart of China’s future.

Shanghai has just 1.5% of China’s population, but Shanghai accounts for 5% of China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 11% of its financial services, 12% of China’s total industrial output, and 25% of the country’s trade. Textiles, steel, manufacturing, shipbuilding, and increasingly the retail sector, dominate the city’s economy, which reports double digit growth year after year. At the same time, Shanghai accounts for around 10% of China’s foreign investment, with firms from Volkswagen and Buick to Mary Kay, Amway, Hallmark, and Coca-Cola having invested billions in plants and personnel here.

Today’s business, both domestic and foreign, has made Shanghai quite wealthy by Chinese standards, with rising salaries creating an increasingly affluent middle class. The latter is comprised mostly of white-collar managers, many of whom earn upwards of RMB100,000 a year. As China’s longtime center of shopping, there are also plenty of upscale places to dispose of the increased income. Residents are not only forward-looking and business-oriented, but fashionable. Shanghai is a city of boutiques, malls, and up-to-date department stores. Year by year, it is catching up with Hong Kong as one of Asia’s paradises for shoppers. Everything is writ large here. Shanghai is not only home to China’s first and largest stock exchange, it also contains over two dozen McDonald’s, 50 KFCs, over 46 Starbucks, and over one million mobile phone users-not to mention the world’s second largest department store and the tallest hotel on Earth.

Shanghai is a city of big dreams. City planners promise that Shanghai will soon be not only China’s financial and manufacturing capital, but its “green” capital as well. Already, Shanghai has converted Nanjing Lu to a pedestrian mall, remodeled the Bund and its promenade, revitalized many avenues and villas, and created 1,800 hectares of greenway with trees and lawns (an area equivalent to 4,000 football fields). Also on tap is the Huangpu River Renovation Project, covering 20km of downtown riverfront on both shores, whereby the harbor will be transformed by green corridors, an elliptical canal, a maritime museum, marinas, riverside parks, and new housing estates. The latest environmental project is the most ambitious yet: the building of an eco-city-the first self-sustaining city in the world.

Simply put, no city on Earth seems more optimistic about its future than Shanghai. A quick look through business and travel magazines and newspapers in the last year reveals that today’s Shanghai is being hailed, once again, as the New York City or the Paris of China. Perhaps these comparisons are currently necessary to give foreigners a sense of the character and importance of the new Shanghai (and to entice visitors), but the pace and unique nature of Shanghai’s current evolution suggest that one day in the not too distant future, Shanghai is a rapidly developing super city.

Where is the Cinema in Shanghai?

Old Shanghai was the Hollywood of China. Many of its films were produced at the Shanghai Film Studios during the 1930s and 1940s. Today, Shanghai is no longer the center of Chinese filmmaking although the Shanghai Film Studio continues to churn out some movie and television projects and the occasional joint-venture film with foreign filmmakers. At the same time, China limits the release of new Hollywood films to just 20 a year. In the past, most of these movies were dubbed in Chinese, but recently, some have been shown in Shanghai in their original language with Chinese subtitles. In the last two decades, Chinese directors have made some of the best films in the world. The Shanghai International Film Festival Originated in 1993, when Oliver Stone chaired the jury, the festival attracts over 250,000 viewers to the screenings.

In the long interval between festivals, cinephiles can also get their fix at regular screenings sponsored by the Canadian Consulate, German Consulate, and Cine-Club de l’Alliance Fran?aise. The following are the best venues for flicks in Shanghai, which still has a long road to travel to regain its reputation as China’s Hollywood. Tickets range from RMB30 to RMB120 depending on the theater and the movie shown.

Cathay Theatre (Guotai Dianyingyuan)

Chinese and Hollywood movies are screened in this 1930s Art Deco theater.

Paradise Theatre (Yong Le Gong)

Many English-language films with Chinese subtitles are screened here (part of the Shanghai Drama Arts Centre complex).

Peace Cinema (Heping Yingdu)

This big multiplex located in the Raffles City mall has wide screens, DTS and Dolby sound systems, and all the up-to-date conveniences. Hollywood and foreign films are often shown here, sometimes dubbed and sometimes in the original language.

Shanghai Film Art Center (Shanghai Yingcheng)

The leading venue during the Shanghai International Film Festival, this modern cinema complex with five spacious theaters features Hollywood releases on the big screen.

Studio City (Huanyi Dianyingcheng)

One of Shanghai’s top multiplex theaters with six cinemas, it features Dolby surround-sound system, seats with built-in cup holders, and popcorn from the concession in the lobby.

UME International Cineplex

The latest, greatest multiplex in the Xintiandi complex, it’s fully modern and screens Hollywood movies in their original language, just like you never left home. English schedule follows Chinese when you call.

The Lounge and Bar Scene in Shanghai

The big hotels often have elegant lounges on their top floors and some of Shanghai’s best bars in their lobbies.  At press time, Tongren Lu was again the hippest and hottest bar street, with Hengshan Lu staying competitive, Maoming Lu having gone somewhat to seed but still in the mix, and Julu Lu somewhat abandoned save for a couple of dives. Expect drink prices, especially for imports, to be the same as, if not more than, you’d pay in the bars of a large city in the West. Tipping is not necessary, although it does make the bartenders happy.

Bar Rouge

Perched atop 18 on the Bund, Bar Rouge, with its glamorous vibe, great views, grand terrace, and creative cocktails, is the bar of choice for Shanghai’s beautiful jet set glamming it up on velvet couches. Late at night, international DJs ratchet it up a notch. Monday through Friday 3pm to 2am (to 4am Fri-Sat); Saturday and Sunday brunch noon to 4pm.


Built on the lake in the middle of People’s Park, this Moroccan-themed fantasia features 4 floors of drinking, dining, dancing and, most popularly, Sheesha pipes for the smoking. With panoramic views of the park and the surrounding skyscrapers, both indoor and outdoor seating on chairs and cushions, and those exotic fragrances wafting from the pipes, this is a popular stop on any evening, even if it’s not your final destination. Sunday through Thursday 11am to 2am (to 3am Fri-Sat).

Big Bamboo

Considered by many expats to be a better sports bar than longtime titleholder Malone’s just down the street, this relaxed and friendly joint has your usual quotient of dart boards, foosball and pool tables, and two floors of big screen tellys broadcasting every major sport event you can think of (except perhaps synchronized swimming). It also helps that the ale is hearty and the food substantial. Daily 11am to 2am.

Blue Frog (Lan Wan)

Brought to you by Kathleen of the KABB American bistro fame, this popular, unpretentious “just-the-drinks-ma’am” kind of bar has expanded in the last 2 years to four locations, though the most popular are those at Tongren Lu and on Maoming Lu. Draft beers are reasonably priced. The crowd starts off mostly foreign, which has a funny way of drawing in the locals. Daily 11am to 2am.

Cloud Nine and the Sky Lounge

A top reason to spend the evening on the other (east) side of the river, this lounge atop the Grand Hyatt Hotel is the highest hotel lounge in Asia. It takes three elevators just to reach Cloud Nine on the 87th floor; you then walk up yet another flight to the intimate Sky Lounge on the 88th floor. Extraordinary panoramas abound, but there have been some complaints lately of overpriced and weak drinks. Daily 5pm to 1am.


A perennial favorite for its setting inside an elegant mansion (on the grounds of the Ruijin Hotel), Face has a cozy curving bar, but even more cozy beds you can curl up on. Drink prices are a little above average but the sophisticated locals and out-of-towners don’t seem fazed. Faces serves the two superb restaurants in the mansion (Lan Na Thai and Hazara), and you can order Thai and Indian snacks in the bar as well. Daily noon to 1:30am.

Jade on 36

Perched on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel Tower, this bar is part of the hotel’s signature restaurant and has probably the best views of the Bund and Puxi, especially at night. Daily 5:30pm to 2am.

Dance Clubs and Discos in Shanghai

Shanghai has some of the most sophisticated and elaborate dance clubs and discos in China. The bar scene is lively, too, but clubs and discos are for those who want to party on the dance floor as well as at the bar—or at least for those who want to observe Shanghai nightlife at a pitch it hasn’t reached since the 1930s. Here’s a list of the top venues, which like all trends are subject to overnight revisions.


Having moved from its original Maoming Lu location, Babyface is as popular, crowded, and as ultra pretentious as ever. A DJ spins pop music but the sleek, sophisticated crowd is usually more interested in sizing up all who walk through the door. Daily 8:30pm to 2am.

California Club (Jiazhou Julebu)

Very upscale dance club with international DJs and red decor. Extremely popular with the stylish Hong Kong set, expatriates, and all who would emulate them, this is a place where appearance (and money) counts. Sunday through Thursday 9pm to 2am (to 4am Fri-Sat).

Club dkd

One of Shanghai’s early (1999) big clubs still going strong with bookings of major international DJs and local ones too. Music spans tech funk, high-tech trance, and progressive house. This crowd likes to be seen. Daily 9pm to 3am (to 5am Fri-Sat).


Located in another of Shanghai’s trendy factory-turned-industrial-art warehouse complexes, The Bridge 8, Fabrique gets kudos for an excellent sound system and dance floor, and for consistently landing some of the world’s most famous DJs. Tuesday through Sunday 9pm to 2am (to 4am Fri-Sat).

Judy’s Too (Jiedi Xicanting)

Flashing lights, sweaty bodies, and a crowded dance floor (and bar) all make this longtime institution an extremely popular dance spot with expatriates. The carousing here starts early and often spills out into the streets on the weekends. Food is served on the second floor, which helps if you have to load up for the night ahead. Daily 8pm to 2am (to 4am Fri-Sat).

M-Box (Yinyue He)

A longtime favorite with local 20-somethings, M-box got a face-lift in 2004. Local live bands kick things off at 9pm nightly, with reservations often required for good seats. Daily 6pm to 2am.


Located on the second floor of the renovated “Green House” gem designed by old Shanghai Czech architect Ladislau Hudec, the popular red-themed Mint gets their disco ball rolling with nightly DJs, international ones on weekends. There are sofas in the back for lounging. Monday through Thursday 6pm to 2am; Friday and Saturday 9pm to 5am.

Other Performance Venues in Shanghai

Shanghai is the site of major national and international music, drama, and dance performances nearly every day of the year. The most frequent venues are listed here. In addition, local and international dramatic productions are often mounted at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre, Anfu Lu 288, Xuhui, and at the Shanghai Theatre Academy, Huashan Lu 630, Jing An, where experimental plays are sometimes presented.

Heluting Concert Hall

On the grounds of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, this concert hall plays host mostly to a variety of classical music performances and chamber concerts.

Shanghai Concert Hall

This classical concert hall used to be the former home of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, which still continues to perform here occasionally despite its move to more permanent quarters in Pudong.

Shanghai Grand Stage (Shanghai Da Wutai)

This stage, located inside the Shanghai Sports Stadium, is mostly used for large rock and pop concerts, including the Rolling Stones.

Shanghai Grand Theatre (Da Juyuan)

This stunning space-age complex with three theaters (the largest seating 1,800) is the city’s premier venue for international performers and concerts, ranging from Yo-Yo Ma to the touring company of Cats and The Lion King. Prices are usually ¥80 or more, and can top ¥1,200 for the best seats to popular world-class groups.

Shanghai Oriental Art Center (Shanghai Dongfang Yishu Zhongxin)

This modern, Paul Andreu–designed complex is Pudong’s answer to the Shanghai Grand Theatre. The 1,953-seat symphony hall is now a permanent home for the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, and the center also has two smaller theaters.

Jazz Bars in Shanghai

Shanghai’s jazz legacy has been revived for the 21st century: Not only are the old standards being played once again at that most nostalgic of locales—the Peace Hotel bar—but more modern and improvisational sounds can now be heard around town, and there’s a greater influx of international jazz artists to these shores than ever before. Hotel lounges and bars are the most obvious venues for jazz performances, though what you get here is mostly easy-listening jazz. Once a year, the jazz scene perks up with the Shanghai International Jazz Concert Series, a spillover from the Beijing Jazz Festival that has been held in the second week of November each year since 1996, and that draws headline groups from America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. During the rest of the year, live jazz can be heard at the following places.

CJW (Xuejia Jueshi Hongjiu)

Hoping to lure the affluent “cigar, jazz, wine” crowd, this darkly moody bar on the top floor of the Bund Center is strictly for those with expense accounts. Happy hour runs from 5:30 to 7:30pm, an international jazz band plays from 9pm to midnight, the lounge is open until 2am, and there’s a small dance floor. A more intimate branch at Xintiandi is a little more frequented.

Club JZ

Established by two musicians as a kind of informal jazz “living room,” this is one of Shanghai’s more popular venues for live jazz as it boasts a talented house band, good acoustics, and an intimate environment. The crowd, largely other jazz musicians, is obviously here for the music, which tends towards more improvisational jams. Daily 8pm to 2am; band plays 9:30pm to 1am.

Cotton Club (Mianhua Julebu)

Live jazz nightly is the hallmark of this local institution, Shanghai’s longest running and still the best venue for live jazz and blues. The bands are skilled, the tunes are tight, and the informal, darkly atmospheric club often attracts standing-room-only crowds on weekends. Daily 7:30pm to 2am. Live music plays from 9:30pm to midnight during the week and from 10:30pm to 1:30am on Friday and Saturday.

House of Blues and Jazz (Bulusi Jueshi Zhi Wu)

Another consistently excellent spot to sing the blues, this intimate joint has a lovely, relaxed, unpretentious vibe. It’s the music (international bands are the norm), not the crowd or the drinks, that takes center stage. Tuesday through Sunday 4pm to 2am; band plays 9:30pm to 1am.

Peace Hotel Old Jazz Bar

This is an institution, with nearly continuous performances since the 1930s and an octogenarian member or two from pre-1949 days still playing. The drinks are predictably expensive and the music (old New Orleans standards) isn’t always super, but the atmosphere is sheer nostalgia and no evening could be more Old Shanghai than this. Heads of state have dropped in here to hear Shanghai renditions of all the old standards. Performances start nightly at 8pm in the historic Art Deco jazz bar at the rear of the main lobby.

Opera in Shanghai

Shanghai has its own troupe that performs Beijing opera (Jing Xi) regularly at the Yifu Theatre. Beijing opera is derived from 8 centuries of touring song and dance troupes, but became institutionalized in its present form in the 1700s under the Qing Dynasty.  It helps to know the plot, which most Chinese do. Songs are performed on a five-note scale (not the eight-note scale familiar in the West), and gongs, cymbals, and string and wind instruments accompany the action on the stage. Faces are painted with colors symbolizing qualities such as valor or villainy, and masks and costumes announce the performer’s role in society, from emperor to peasant. Most Beijing opera these days consists of abridgements, lasting 2 hours or less (as opposed to 5 hr. or more in the old days). With martial arts choreography, spirited acrobatics, and brilliant costumes, these performances can be a delight even to the unaccustomed, untrained eye. Regional operas, including the Kunju form, are also performed in Shanghai. Kunju, born near Shanghai in the old city of Kunshan, is the oldest form of opera in China, and Shanghai has China’s leading troupe. This opera tradition uses traditional stories and characters, as does Beijing opera, but it is known for being more melodic. Regular venues for opera include:

Majestic Theater

Opera in Chinese is occasionally performed by local and touring groups in one of Shanghai’s oldest and most ornate theatres. The theatre is worth attending just for the traditional atmosphere.

Yifu Theatre

This is the premier venue for Shanghai’s opera companies. The Shanghai Peking Opera House Troupe, featuring some of China’s greatest opera stars, performs here regularly, as do the Shanghai Kunju Opera Troupe and other visiting companies. Performances most nights at 7:15pm; occasional matinees on weekends at 1:30pm.

Acrobatics in Shanghai

Chinese acrobats are justifiably world famous, their international reputation cemented in no small part by the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe, formed in 1951. While the troupe, one of the world’s best, frequently tours internationally, they also perform at home, and an acrobatic show has become one of the most popular evening entertainments for tourists. You can catch your share of gravity-defying contortionism, juggling, unicycling, chair-stacking, and plate-spinning acts at the following stages.

Shanghai Centre Theatre

A favorite venue with foreign tour groups, this luxurious, modern, 1,000-seat auditorium at Shanghai Centre is equipped for a variety of performances but specializes in performances by the Shanghai Acrobatic Theater, which almost nightly gives a 90-minute variety show featuring about 30 standard and inventive acts, from plate-spinning and tightrope walking to clowns and magic. Shows are held most nights at 7:30pm with some seasonal variation.

Shanghai Circus World

The new home of the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe, this glittering arena in the northern suburbs houses a 1,672-seat circus theater with computer-controlled lighting, state-of-the-art acoustics, and a motorized revolving stage, all the more to impress the already impressed crowd. Acrobatic performances are not always held here, so check with your hotel for the current schedule and tickets.

Supermarkets in Shanghai

Shanghai’s hotels might have a small shop with some Western snacks and bottled water, or a deli stand, but for a broad range of familiar groceries, try one of the large scale supermarkets listed here. There is also a well-stocked Parkson Shop in the basement of Parkson’s.

Carrefour (Jialefu)

This highly popular French commodities giant offers an extensive range of imported Western groceries, along with fresh fruits, vegetables, sporting goods, clothing, shoes, music, electronic items, books, bicycles, and film developing. Daily 8am to 10pm.

City Supermarket (Chengshi Chaoshi)

There’s a wide assortment of classic Yixing teapots (made in the adjacent province) and loose Chinese teas sold by weight here. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Silk, Fabrics and Tailors in Shanghai

The South Bund Fabric Market, formerly Dongjiadu Fabric Market, is the best place to shop for a variety of inexpensive fabrics, though you’d have to bargain hard; tailors here also generally do yeoman’s work in churning out suits, dresses, and other garments.

Chinese Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall (Zhongguo Lanyinhua Bu Guan)

In business for over 20 years, this exhibition hall/shop started by Madam Kubo , Bales of this nankeen (as indigo batik is known in China) cloth, so fashionable in ethnic restaurants and on fashion runways these days, are sold here, along with ready-made nankeen shirts, tablecloths, and craft souvenirs. Daily 9am to 5pm.

Dave’s Custom Tailoring

Dave’s specializes in men’s fashion, with custom-made Saville Row three-piece suits starting from RMB 3,500. Turnaround is normally 3 to 10 days but can be shorter for a hefty fee. Daily 10am to 8pm.

Silk King (Zhensi Da Wang)

Silk and wool yardage and a good selection of shirts, blouses, skirts, dresses, ties, sheets, and other finished silk goods have make Silk King one of the top silk retailers in Shanghai, and a favorite stop for visiting heads of state and other VIPs. Silk or wool suits can be custom tailored in as few as 24 hours. Silk starts around RMB 100 per meter, while more delicate cashmere is almost 10 times that. Daily 9:30am to 10pm. There are several Silk King branches.

Shopping Malls & Plazas in Shanghai

Shanghai has plenty of mammoth shopping plazas (consisting of scores of independent brand-name and designer-label outlets selling international merchandise under one roof), particularly along Huaihai Zhong Lu and at Xujiahui.

City Mall (Jiubai Chengshi Guangchang)

The latest megamall to hit town, this gargantuan, rolling edifice of gleaming white marble right next to the Jing An Temple was designed by Paul Andreu, who also designed Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport, Oriental Art Center, and the collapsed terminal at Charles de Gaulle airport, which may or may not explain the absence of shoppers. As expected, brand name shops such as Montblanc, Burberry and Jean Paul Gaultier share space with an eight-story department store, a basement supermarket and food court, and dining and beauty outlets on the 9th floor. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Grand Gateway Plaza (Ganghui Guangchang)

The biggest and flashiest of the malls in the Xujiahui circle has a good mix of retail (clothing, books, accessories, electronic items), dining and entertainment outlets, a theatre (occasionally showing English-language movies) on the fifth floor, and a plethora of food court restaurants. Prices here are slightly lower than on Nanjing Lu but still not the best in town. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Raffles City (Laifushi Guangchang)

This ultramodern Singapore joint venture, aided by a prime location across from People’s Square, is one of the biggest draws for hip mall rats. There’s a cineplex showing Chinese and occasional Hollywood films, an IMAX theatre, a fitness center, and retail shops ranging from local outfits to international names like Nike, Guess, and Swatch, but it’s the many dining establishments that are the main draw. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Shanghai Centre (Shanghai Shangcheng)

With outlets like Starbucks, Mrs. Fields, and Tony Roma’s dotting the landscape, this self-contained hub makes you feel like you’ve never left home. Also here are a deluxe hotel (Portman Ritz-Carlton Hotel), a medical and dental clinic, a grand theatre, ATMs, a supermarket with the city’s widest selection of Western groceries, and offices for half a dozen international airlines—all in the same complex. The shopping is among the most upscale in Shanghai, with such outlets as Cerruti, Louis Vuitton, a. testoni, and Cartier. Shop and office hours vary, but many are open daily from 10am to 6pm.

Super Brand Mall (Zhengda Guangchang)

The largest mall in Pudong, this gargantuan 10-story edifice has finally started to attract the crowds. The anchor is a four-story department store with all the usual super goods. There’s also a well-stocked Lianhua supermarket and a Bank of China ATM in the basement, and scores of clothing, jewelry, and accessories stores, as well as dining establishments competing for your attention. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Three on the Bund (Waitan San Hao)

About as classy and pricey as you can get in Shanghai shopping, this ritzy development on the Bund has a Giorgio Armani flagship store, and other such as Ann Demeulemeester, Bottega Veneta, Vivienne Tam, Yves Saint Laurent, and more. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Westgate Mall

Called Meilongzhen in Chinese (after the famous restaurant that’s across the street and also occupies space here), this is one of Shanghai’s top Western style malls offering brand names at reasonable prices. Among its outlets are an Isetan department store, the usual clothing shops, a six-plex cinema on the 10th floor, and frequent exhibitions and promotions in the first floor atrium. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Modern Art in Shanghai

The nascent Chinese contemporary art scene has been thriving in Shanghai in the last few years, with galleries and showrooms cropping up all over town. Though contemporary Chinese artists are slowly gaining more international recognition, they are still relatively unknown and their works often sell below international prices, making them potential investments for those so inclined. And many tourists are increasingly inclined. The St. Regis Hotel has taken to offering “art tours” for their guests who are interested in visiting local galleries. Otherwise, Taikang Lu 210 in the southern part of the Luwan District, and Moganshan Lu 50 just south of the Suzhou Creek in the northern part of town (Putuo District) are home to a series of industrial warehouses that have been converted to galleries and artists’ studios, and are a must-visit if you like modern art and photography. Various former warehouses and factories along Suzhou Creek are also being converted into galleries. Check the local English-language magazines for listings.

Deke Erh Centre (Er Dong Qiang Yishu Zhongxin)

This gallery of photographer, traveler, and cultural impresario Deke Erh, famous for, among other things, his photographs of Shanghai’s old architecture published in a series of Old China Hand books, Tibetan-themed oils as well as occasional photo exhibits and musical recitals. Daily 9:30am to 5:30pm.

Shanghai Gallery of Art (Waitan Sanhao Hushen Hualang)

Occupying 1000 sq. m of floor space on the third floor of the ritzy Three on the Bund development, this gallery hosts high-profile rotating exhibits by both local and expatriate Chinese artists. Daily 11am to 11pm.

ShanghART Gallery (Xianggena Hualang)

One of the earlier and more interesting galleries to show the works of contemporary Chinese artists, this newly expanded gallery has moved from its Gaolan Lu address, and is often recommended as the first stop for modern connoisseurs. Daily 10am to 6pm; Building 18 (H-Space) daily noon to 6pm.

Large Drugstores in Shanghai

Shanghai Number One Dispensary (Shanghai Diyi Yiyao Shangdian)

East meets West at this apothecary on the pedestrian mall that carries a considerable number of foreign medicines. Branches can be found all over town. Daily 9am to 10pm.

Watson’s (Quchenshi)

Watson’s is a large Western-style drugstore, with just about anything you might need, including a fairly wide range of imported beauty and health aids, from cosmetics to toothpaste. Daily 9:30am to 10pm.

Jewelry in Shanghai

Amy’s Pearls (Aiminshi Zhubao)

High-quality pearls from China and Asia are sold by a knowledgeable and English-speaking staff (with outlets in Beijing as well). Daily 9am to 7pm.

Angel Pearls

This is one of Shanghai’s best shops for pearls (freshwater pearls, South Sea pearls, Japanese cultured pearls). It also carries silk carpets and embroideries. Daily 10am to 6:30pm

Lao Feng Xiang Jewelers (Lao Feng Xiang Yinlou)

Located on the north side of the Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Mall, this jewelry store has long specialized (since the Qing Dynasty) in jade, pearls, and fine silver and gold ornaments. Daily 9:30am to 10pm.

Pearl Village (Zhenzhu Cun)

Located a few blocks west of the Temple of the City God in the Yu Yuan Bazaar, Pearl Village has over 50 vendors representing pearl dealers, pearl farms, and pearl factories from throughout China. Freshwater, seawater, inlaid, and black pearls are featured, often at reasonable wholesale prices. Daily 9am to 5:30pm.
Amy’s Pearls (Aiminshi Zhubao)

High-quality pearls from China and Asia are sold by a knowledgeable and English-speaking staff (with outlets in Beijing as well). Daily 9am to 7pm.

Angel Pearls

This is one of Shanghai’s best shops for pearls (freshwater pearls, South Sea pearls, Japanese cultured pearls). It also carries silk carpets and embroideries. Daily 10am to 6:30pm

Lao Feng Xiang Jewelers (Lao Feng Xiang Yinlou)

Located on the north side of the Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Mall, this jewelry store has long specialized (since the Qing Dynasty) in jade, pearls, and fine silver and gold ornaments. Daily 9:30am to 10pm.

Pearl Village (Zhenzhu Cun)

Located a few blocks west of the Temple of the City God in the Yu Yuan Bazaar, Pearl Village has over 50 vendors representing pearl dealers, pearl farms, and pearl factories from throughout China. Freshwater, seawater, inlaid, and black pearls are featured, often at reasonable wholesale prices. Daily 9am to 5:30pm.

Crafts, Ceramics and Gifts in Shanghai

Liuli Gongfang

With almost ten outlets around town, this chain started by former Taiwanese actress Yang Huishan features unique and unusual pieces of crystal and glassware, from Buddhist statues to ritual vessels and decorative tableware. International glass art techniques have been adapted to create gorgeous Chinese-themed pieces you’re unlikely to come across elsewhere. Daily 10am to 9pm.

Madame Mao’s Dowry (Mao Tai Sheji)

This wonderful shop in the French Concession sells antique furniture, silk clothing, unusual house wares, ceramics, and art, with an emphasis on Cultural Revolution posters and propaganda art. Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm; Sunday noon to 6pm.

Shanghai Arts & Crafts Museum (Shanghai Gongyi Meishuguan)

What you see made in the open workshops of this French Concession mansion is for sale in the shops here, from embroideries and egg-shell porcelain to snuff bottles and kites. Daily 8:30am to 4:30pm.

Shanghai Jingde Zhen Porcelain Artware (Shanghai Jingde Zhen Yishu Ciqi Shangdian)

An excellent selection of some of China’s most prized ceramic creations, produced by factories and artisans in nearby Jingde Zhen. Vases, plates, cups, and art ware are expensive here, but the quality is high and the reputation good. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Simply Life (Yiju Shenghuo)

Tasteful gifts from China and throughout Asia are the hallmark of the Simply Life stores. The vast foreigner-pleasing selection includes household decorations, painted bone china, tableware, crafts, linens, and silks. Alas, prices are simply sky-high. Daily 10:30am to 11:30pm.

Skylight (Tian Lai)

Created by photographer Jones Wang, this stylish shop carries products handcrafted in Tibet (fabrics, religious artifacts, jewelry, shoes, house wares, musical instruments, furniture). Prices are high, but the merchandise is first-rate. Daily 10am to 9:30pm.

Department Stores in Shanghai

Shanghai has a large number of new, Western-style department stores that have almost completely replaced the traditional Chinese version. Most of them are joint ventures with overseas retailing chains.

Friendship Store (Youyi Shangdian)

Friendship stores once catered exclusively to foreigners, but now compete freely with department stores and shopping plazas. For many visitors, this is the ultimate one-stop shop, containing a generous sampling of nearly everything worth hauling home: arts and crafts, jewelry, silk, books, souvenirs, antiques. Prices are relatively high (no bargaining allowed) but are generally still lower than in high-end hotel shops; and quality is decent. You can start here to get an overview of what’s available in Shanghai at a fair price, shop the streets and malls, then return to make any last-minute purchases. There is another branch in the western part of town. The first branch is open daily 9:30am to 9:30pm. The western branch is open daily 10am to 10pm.

Isetan (Yishidan)

This Japanese department store puts high prices on its exceptional goods and fashions. It also offers its own bakery and an Esprit boutique in the heart of Huaihai Lu’s most upscale shopping area. Daily 10am to 9pm.

Nextage Department Store (Shanghai Diyi Babaiban Xinshiji Shangsha)

The second-largest department store on Earth (surpassed only by Macy’s in New York), this megastore is 10 stories tall and a square block wide. It’s chock-full of everything department stores ever carry. The Japanese supermarket Yaohan is also here. Daily 10am to 10pm. Directly across the street (south) is another big shopping mall, Times Square, as if another were needed.

Parkson (Baisheng Gouwu Zhongxin)

At one of the busiest junctures in town, this Malaysian-based French Concession department store is yet another upscale emporium of Western fashions and cosmetics, with a McDonald’s and a Gino’s Cafe next door and an excellent Park ’n Shop supermarket carrying foreign goods in the basement. Prices are lower than on Nanjing Lu. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Printemps-Shanghai (Shanghai Bali Chuntian Baihuo)

Carrying on the French Concession image of yesteryear, the Printemps is furnished in high Art Nouveau style (modeled after the 19th-c. mother store in Paris), down to its designer-label boutiques (Givenchy, Christian Lacroix) and Parisian cafes. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Shanghai Downtown Duty Free Shop (Shanghai Shinei Mianshui Dian)

Restricting its sales to foreign visitors, this shop carries the sort of luxury international goods you find in airport duty-free shops, as well as Shanghai souvenirs and Chinese arts and crafts. You can also pick up toy mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics here. You’ll have to present your international airline ticket and passport if you make purchases, which can then be picked up at the airport when you leave. Daily 8:30am to 6pm.

Shanghai No. 1 Department Store (Shanghai Shi Diyi Baihuo Shangdian)

Shanghai’s most famous department store, opened in 1934, has been thoroughly updated with the incorporation of a 22-story East Tower, the first 11 floors of which are devoted to retailing. All the usual suspects are here: clothing, shoes, children’s wear, gifts, books, watches, toys, jewelry, cosmetics, house wares, sporting equipment, and electronic goods. The store has renown and volume, but not always the best prices. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Where to Buy Chinese-style Clothing in Shanghai?

A number of shops along Changle Lu and Maoming Lu sell ready-made Qipaos (mandarin-collar dresses with high slits), Tang jackets, and other traditional Chinese-style clothing, and can also tailor the same.

Hua Jia Fushi

One of several stores on this strip of Maoming Lu selling traditional Chinese clothing, this one has been the haunt of several Chinese celebrities, so you know you’re at least getting star-quality goods. Qipaos hover around RMB200. Daily 10am to 10pm.


Its name stands for “In Shanghai”, and its hip clothing and accessories range from Qipaos to cotton dresses to t-shirts, all bearing a unique Shanghai aesthetic. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Shanghai Tang (Shanghai Tan)

This oh-so-hip store from Hong Kong fashion maven David Tang has spawned several branches since it first opened in Shanghai in 2003. Besides his signature and pricey traditional Chinese shirts and Qipao, you can also pick up elegant scarves, photo frames, bags, and candles. Daily 10am to 10pm.

Where to Buy Cameras and Film in Shanghai?

Kodak, Fuji, and other imported camera films can be purchased all over Shanghai, at hotel kiosks, department stores, and camera shops. Prices are about on par with those in the West. There are 1-hour and next-day film processing outlets in hotels and shopping centers, too. You can certainly purchase new cameras and accessories in Shanghai, especially in the big malls like Grand Gateway Plaza in Xujiahui; prices are comparable to those in the West, perhaps slightly higher depending on the brand. Those looking for ancient Russian swing-lens cameras can sometimes find them in the Fuyou Antique Market. The Guanlong Photographic Equipment Company is one of the most reputable for buying cameras, lenses and accessories.

Huanlong Dasha

Located on the third floor of a shopping center, the photography stores carry a large selection of cameras (both SLRs and digital) and accessories, used and new. Prices vary so look around. Film here is slightly cheaper than at convenience stores. Daily 9am to 6pm.

Kodak (Keda)

This chain store has several locations around town. They can develop film and print ordinary and digital photos, the latter at RMB2 per piece for a 4×6 print. Photo albums and digital camera accessories are also available. Daily 9am to 8pm.

Where to Buy Books in Shanghai?

The Foreign Language Bookstore offers a wide range of English-language material, but hotel kiosks and shops also have decent English-language guides to Shanghai attractions and books about China. The Confucius Temple Book Market (Gushu Shichang), held every Sunday from 8am to 4pm at Wenmiao Lu 215, traffics in secondhand and vintage books, including some foreign language volumes.

Old China Hand Reading Room (Hanyuan Shuwu)

Shanghai’s most charming coffeehouse, opened in 1996 by photographer Deke Erh, is also a bookstore, with hundreds of old and new, obscure and popular books and magazines on its shelves. Relax at a Qing Dynasty antique table by the window as you peruse your possible purchases over green tea or cappuccino. This is the best place to purchase the series of books on colonial architecture in China put out by Deke Erh and Tess Johnston. Daily 10am to midnight.

Shanghai Book Mall (Shanghai Shu Cheng)

Shanghai’s state-of-the-art megamall for book lovers, this new store has eight floors of books, music, and DVDs. About 10% of its collection comprises English-language books. Daily 9am to 8pm.

Shanghai Foreign Language Bookstore (Waiwen Shudian)

The city’s largest selection of English-language books and magazines (along with some maps, tapes, and CDs) can be found on the first and fourth floors of this big government-run store. They take credit cards and ship books overseas. Daily 9am to 6pm.

Shanghai Museum Bookshop

The gift shop on the museum’s first floor carries a good selection of books in English on art, history, and culture, including coffee-table volumes. Daily 9am to 5pm (to 8pm on Sat).

Xinhua Shudian (Xinhua Bookstore)

In most Chinese cities, this state-run bookstore is the only place to find English-language titles, but its relatively small collection of English-language material (mostly abridged translations of literary classics) in Shanghai stores is unimpressive. There are 133 locations across town. Daily 10am to 9pm.

Where to Buy Antiques and Furniture in Shanghai?

The markets and bazaars are a primary source of antiques, collectibles, and Chinese furniture and furnishings, as are some hotel shops; but there are also several private antiques stores worth checking out. Most of the warehouses are situated in west Shanghai’s Changning District, near the Hongqiao Airport (no Metro). If you plan to make a day of shopping, have your hotel haggle with the taxi driver over a price for the trip. Half a day’s shopping should cost no more than RMB250.

Annly’s Antique Warehouse (An Li)

Annly Chan provides custom-made sofas, chairs, draperies, and cushions; picture framing; and pricey antique furniture. Daily 9am to 6pm.

Chine Antiques (Chuntian Ge)

In business for the last 15 years, and noted for its high-end (and high-priced) antiques, mainly wooden pieces from the Qing Dynasty, Chine will ship purchases overseas. The shop in the Dingtai Market has pictures of what you can find in the warehouse showroom near the Hongqiao Airport. Daily 9am to 5pm.

Fuyou Antique Market

Still the most fun place to scavenge for every imaginable antique and collectible, from Buddhist statuary to Qing Dynasty coins. Monday through Friday 9am to 5pm; Saturday and Sunday 5am to 5pm.

Henry Antique Warehouse (Hengli Gudian Jiaju)

The English-speaking staff at this huge space show off antique Chinese furniture and furnishings, with a carved Chinese bed costing around ?13,000 ($1,625). Overseas shipping provided. Daily 9am to 6pm.

Hu & Hu

Sisters-in-law Lin and Marybelle Hu have some 20 years of experience collecting, valuating, and restoring antiques, and their showroom, full of antiques collected from the Chinese countryside, is a testament to their expert and discerning eye. Prices are high, but so is the quality of restoration. Staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Daily 9am to 6pm.

Hua Bao Lou

The basement of this shopping center on “Shanghai Old Street” near the Temple of the Town God and Yu Garden has plenty of antiques and collectibles for sale, though not always at the best prices. Over 200 booths sell embroidery, calligraphy, jade, carvings, and porcelain pieces. Daily 9am to 9pm.

Ming Qing Antique Furniture (Ming Qing Guwan)

Qing and Ming Dynasty pieces and handcrafted reproductions are the specialty. Overseas shipping can be arranged. The showroom and workshop are open daily 9am to 6pm.

Shanghai Antique and Curio Store (Shanghai Wenwu Shangdian)

The owners hope to make downtown Guangdong Lu, which runs west off the south end of the Bund, into something of an antiques row for shoppers. One of the oldest and largest antiques stores, they have under their umbrella everything from calligraphy, old jades, and porcelain, to antique furniture, wood carvings, embroidery, and tapestries. Prices are even reasonable. Daily 9am to 5pm.

Shanghai’s Top Shopping Areas

Shanghai’s top street to shop has always been Nanjing Lu, enhanced recently by the creation of the Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Mall on Nanjing Dong Lu downtown, where the most modern and the most traditional modes of retailing commingle.

Even more popular among locals, however, is Huaihai Zhong Lu, the wide avenue south of Nanjing Lu and parallel to it. The Huaihai shopping area tends to run far west across the city, from the Huangpi Nan Lu Metro station to the Changshu Lu station. The modern shopping malls here have better prices than you’ll find on Nanjing Lu, and there are plenty of boutiques featuring fashions and silks. Some of the most interesting shopping for fashion and accessories is concentrated in the Maoming Lu/Changle Lu area, just off Huaihai Lu. In the southern part of the concession, Taikang Lu, home to a bunch of art galleries and trendy clubs, also has some fashionable boutiques selling everything from designer handbags to pricey silks.

Another major shopping street is Hengshan Lu, which continues at the western end of Huaihai Lu and runs south to the Xujiahui intersection and subway stop, where one of the city’s largest collections of shopping centers is located.

Shanghai’s Old Town Bazaar is a fine place to shop for local arts and crafts and for antiques. In Pudong, the shopping is concentrated mostly east of the riverfront and south of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in the malls anchored by the massive Next age department store on Zhangyang Lu and the Super Brand Mall in Lujizui.

Shanghai’s Markets and Bazaars

Some of Shanghai’s most interesting shopping experiences are provided by its colorful street markets and alley bazaars. Curios, crafts, collectibles, antiques, jewelry, and coins are all here for those who are willing to bargain hard. Many of the markets also sell fresh produce, seafood, spices, and other consumables to residents, along with snacks and drinks. At all such markets, cash is the only means of exchange, and so keep all your valuables in a concealed pouch or money belt. If you’re purchasing goods from an outdoor antiques market, be aware that not all older items sold at such markets will have the red-wax seal attached. A stern Customs inspector, finding an old item without a seal, might confiscate it.

Dongtai Lu Antiques Market

This largest of Shanghai’s antique markets has hundreds of stalls and many permanent shops along a short lane, located on Dongtai Lu and Liuhe Lu, 1 block west of Xizang Nan Lu, Luwan. Dealers specialize in antiques, curios, porcelain, furniture, jewelry, baskets, bamboo and wood carvings, birds, flowers, goldfish, and nostalgic memorabilia. When it rains, most stalls aren’t open, but the stores are. Daily from 9am to 5pm.


This favorite for weekend antique and curio hunting, located in the Cangbao Lou (building) at Fangbang Zhong Lu 457 and Henan Nan Lu (the western entrance to Shanghai Old St. in the Old Town Bazaar, Nanshi) is also called a “ghost market” because the traders set out their wares before sunrise. Come as early as possible on Saturday or Sunday morning, preferably the latter, when vendors come in from the surrounding countryside. The goods are various and few are polished up; many of the items are from the attic or the farm. Porcelains, old jade pendants, used furniture, Qing Dynasty coins, Chairman Mao buttons, old Russian cameras, Buddhist statues, snuff bottles, and carved wooden screens are just a few of the treasures here, none with price tags. Three floors of the market building are open daily from 9am to 5pm; the weekend market runs from 5am to 6pm, but tapers off by noon.

South Bund Fabric Market

This popular fabric market, originally known as the Dongji du Fabric Market, moved from its original Dongji du location in 2006, hence the name change, though some taxi drivers and hotel concierges may still refer to it by its old name. Now relocated to nearby Lujiabang Lu 399 in the southeastern corner of the old Chinese city, this former outdoor market, a favorite with expatriates, has moved indoors. Hundreds of stalls still sell bales of fabric at ridiculously low prices, from traditional Chinese silk and Thai silk to cotton, linen, wool, and cashmere, though the heavier fabrics are only carried during the colder months. Many shops have their own in-house tailors who can stitch you a suit, or anything else you want, at rates that are less than half what you’d pay at retail outlets like Silk King. Come with a pattern. Turnaround is usually a week or more but can be expedited for an extra fee. Daily from 8:30am to 6pm.

Temple of Town God Market

This daily market starts out in the basement of the Huabao Building, but on weekends it spills into the courtyards of the temple and nearby Yu Yuan pedestrian mall. It offers hundreds of vendors and hundreds of chances to bargain for curios, collectibles, and an occasional museum-quality relic. It’s open daily from 8:30am to 9pm.

Shanghai’s Best Buys

Shanghai is no Hong Kong, but it has some of the best antiques shopping in mainland China. A red wax seal must be attached to any item created between 1795 and 1949 that is taken out of China; older items cannot be exported. Many hotel shops and modern department stores will ship purchases to your home, and the Friendship Store has an efficient shipping department. Furniture, old or new, in traditional Chinese styles can be purchased or custom ordered at several antiques stores; prices are high but still lower than you’d pay at home; shipping, however, can add considerably to the bill.

Shanghai is also known for its selection and low prices in silk (both off the bolt and in finished garments). The Shanghai people being connoisseurs of fashion and style, shops selling fashionable clothing in cotton, wool, silk, and just about any imaginable material are a dime a dozen, and prices are low. Traditional clothing such as Qipao (mandarin collar dresses) and Mianao (padded jackets sometimes referred to as Mao jackets or Zhongshan jackets) are once again fashionable purchases.

Jewelry can be a bargain, particularly jade, gold, silver, and freshwater pearls, but bargaining and a critical eye are required. Electronics, cameras, and other high-tech goods are not particularly good buys, but if you need anything replaced, you’ll find a wide selection to choose from.

Among arts and crafts, there are also especially good buys in ceramics, hand stitched embroideries, teapots, painted fans, and chopsticks. These are often sold in markets and on the sidewalks by itinerant vendors. Collectibles include Mao buttons, posters of Old Shanghai, old Chinese coins, wood carvings, and screens—all priced lowest at markets and stands. Other popular crafts made in Shanghai are handbags, carpets, lacquer ware, painted snuff bottles, and peasant paintings. Prices vary considerably. The best rule is to find something you truly like, then consider how much it is worth to you.

Designer-label sportswear and stuffed toys are abundant in department stores and street markets alike. Another popular gift is a chop (also called a seal), which is a small, stone custom-engraved stamp with your name (in English, Chinese, or both), used with an ink pad to print your “signature” on paper. Chops can be created overnight, the same day, or sometimes even while you wait. Prices depend on the stone you select and the skill of the engraver.

Shanghai Shopping Travel

Shanghai was a shopper’s city. All across the country the Chinese dreamed of making one visit to the great port, not to sightsee, but to shop. Anything made and sold in Shanghai, it seems, had to be the best, and this reputation for the best goods and great shopping persists today, with shoppers now able and willing to indulge in everything from uniquely Chinese products to international brand name items, at venues ranging from modern department stores to open-air markets and sidewalk stalls. Even if you have no interest in doing your part for the Chinese economic miracle, it’s still worth entering the fray to witness, if not join in, Shanghai’s favorite pastime.

Shanghai has long been an oasis of international shopping, so it is no surprise that Western-style malls have been replacing traditional shop fronts, Chinese department stores, and alley markets across Shanghai. Some of the best buys, however, can be found in the tens of thousands of privately run shops that dot the city, from the unique one-offs to the fly-by-night outfits. Colorful open-air markets and street-side vendors also offer more traditional arts and crafts, collectibles, and clothing at low prices. If you’re looking for souvenirs or Chinese treasures, check out the cost and selection at hotel shops, the Friendship Store, and modern shopping malls first; then see what’s available in the streets and at markets. Most stores are open daily from about 10am to 10pm (especially in the summer). Weekends (especially Sun) are the most hectic days to shop.

The Old Chinese City of Shanghai Walking Tour

The Old Chinese City (Nanshi), located just southwest of the Bund, was the first part of Shanghai to be settled. In the early days, Shanghai had a city wall that came down when the last dynasty fell, in 1911. Considerably more frequented by foreigners these days (though mostly around the Yu Yuan Old Town Bazaar area), Nanshi, with its narrow winding streets and old houses, is still one of the least explored areas in town. Although this walk focuses mainly on the Old Town Bazaar with all its tourist attractions, hopefully you’ll get from it as well a sense of traditional life around the old Chinese streets.

Shanghai Especially Travel for Kids

Compared to other Chinese cities, Shanghai has a relatively large number of attractions for children. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Jin Mao Tower, and the Shanghai Museum of Arts and Crafts may amuse the kids, but the following should appeal particularly to younger foreign travelers while in Shanghai.


This excellent underwater world aquarium features a “touch pool” so that kids can mingle with the sea life (crabs, starfish, urchins). The main tank is stocked with seahorses, tuna, turtles, rays, and patrolling sharks fed by keepers in diving suits. There’s also an arena of penguins from Peru and Chile. In fact, you can journey through a series of aquatic habitats, from the Amazon River to Antarctica. Scuba gear is provided for those who want diving lessons.

Dino Beach

The best water park in Shanghai boasts Asia’s largest wave pool. As well, there are eight water slides, the longest measuring almost 150m, three swimming pools for kids, a mile-long river with rapids, and organized beach volleyball and water polo games. Factor in a slew of fast-food outlets, and you come up with the closest thing to an American-style water park in China.

Jin Jiang Amusement Park

Shanghai’s most complete modern amusement park, the Jin Jiang has a loop-the-loop roller coaster, merry go-rounds, and bumper cars, as well as a haunted house. There’s also a special playground for preschoolers. The “Gorge Drifting Water land” is a water sports area open only during summer.

Shanghai Circus World

This glittering modern arena for acrobatic and circus performances, opened in the northern suburbs in 1999, has a 1,638-seat circus theater with a revolving stage, computer-controlled lighting, and state-of-the-art acoustics. The complex also includes a gigantic animal house with rooms for elephants, tigers, lions, chimps, horses, and pandas. The celebrated Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe occasionally stages its 20-act performances here. During other times, this venue plays host to a variety of large-scale magic and acrobatic shows, as well as the annual Shanghai International Magic Festival and Competition, held in early November. Check with your hotel for the current performers, schedules, and tickets.

Shanghai Discovery Children’s Museum

This museum focuses on 2- to 10-year-old tykes, providing them with hands-on and interactive exhibits and educational experiences in several areas including science and nature, practical life, drama and fantasy, and arts and crafts. From running their own radio station to learning about how their body creates electricity, this is child’s play (and learning) at its best.

Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom

The birds and the bees, the beetles and the butterflies, all your usual creepy crawlies are on display in this 2-year-old museum housing several galleries, including a tropical rainforest and a reptile cave. Some of the insect models can be pretty tacky to adult eyes, but kids like the interactive exhibits where they can feed critters and catch fish.

Shanghai Ocean Aquarium

Shanghai’s newest, biggest, and best aquarium, and Asia’s largest, opened in 2002 in Pudong, next to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Its state-of-the-art facilities boasts 28 exhibit areas for over 10,000 sea creatures from all continents: sharks, jellyfish, turtles, lionfish, sea otters, Yangzi sturgeon, and more. The centerpiece is the massive, sparkling glass-surround observation tunnel. Adventurous visitors can make special arrangements to dive in the shark tank.

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

This hands-on interactive science museum, opened in 2001, has received raves from expatriate families with children. There are five main interactive exhibits, which can be visited in any order. The “Earth Exploration” exhibit is a journey to the center of the Earth, complete with fossils. “Children’s Technoland” has a walk-in heart and brain, as well as a simulated construction zone with soft foam bricks. The vast “Light of Wisdom” area has over a hundred interactive stations that bring scientific principles to life. “Cradle of Designers” gives you the chance to design your own cards or create your own video. “Spectrum of Life” is a simulated tropical rainforest with robotic beetles and a bat cave. There are also two IMAX 3D cinemas and an iWerks theatre here. Weekends are crowded; best time to visit is on weekdays in the late afternoons, when the school excursions are over.

Shanghai Wild Animal Park

Shanghai’s only drive-through safari, home to some 5,000 animals (200 species), is located all the way out by the Pudong International Airport. At least the South China tigers, lions, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, camels, bears, elephants, hippos, and flamingos have more legroom here than in the Shanghai Zoo. Buses transport visitors through the grounds, and there’s also a walk-through area with birds, monkeys, seals, and sea lions.

Shanghai Zoo

One of China’s best, this zoo still has a long way to go to equal the better preserves in the West. There are plenty of open spaces for children to play. Expect the usual performing seals and elephants. The panda center, a 20-minute stroll northwest from the entrance, has small indoor and outdoor areas. There are about 6,000 specimens here, as well as a children’s zoo and recreation center with playground equipment and Ferris wheel.

The Bund of Shanghai Walking Tour

Defining the eastern boundary of downtown Shanghai, the Bund (Wai Tan) refers to both sides of the wide avenue that runs north and south along the western shore of the Huangpu River. The Bund Promenade now occupies the east side of the street, affording terrific pedestrian-only walks along the river shore. Our stroll concentrates, however, on the old European-style architecture on the west side of the street.

Shanghai’s foreign population grew from 10,000 in 1910 to 60,000 by 1940, and it was during this period that the great buildings that still line the Bund were built. Many of the more notable buildings were designed by the architectural firm Palmer and Turner, including the Customs House, the former Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, the Bank of China, and the Peace Hotel.

Since the late 1990s there has been a concerted effort to restore the Bund’s architectural grandeur, to refurbish the old interiors, and to open them to a curious public, all of which makes for a fascinating walking tour.

Nanjing Lu Shanghai Walking Tour

Nanjing Lu is the most famous shopping street in China, long celebrated for its large department stores, silk shops, and fashionable clothing stores. In colonial Shanghai, this was the main thoroughfare running through the International Settlement, built originally as a pathway to successive horse-race tracks, but it became dominated by silk shops, luxury hotels, and huge department stores. Today, this famous stretch is known as Nanjing Road East, while the western portion, Nanjing Xi Lu, is the current name for the former Bubbling Well Road, so named because of a now-displaced well located at the western end of the street (today’s intersection with today’s Huashan Lu). People’s Park is the halfway point, dividing the eastern and western sections. Today’s Nanjing Lu still has remnants of its past retail glories, but the department stores have been modernized and Western-style boutiques are rapidly cornering the fashion trade. There are still plenty of old structures sandwiched in along the avenue (hotels, offices, department stores). If you’re short on time or want to save your legs, begin your stroll at People’s Park and head east for the river along the Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Mall. You can walk either the east or west half of Nanjing Lu in a little more than an hour, if you don’t stop-but you should.

The Shanghai people were inordinately proud of Nanking Road, not only because of its shops overflowing with goods, but because there was truly nothing like it in the rest of China. It was so modern, and nothing enthralled the Shanghai people more than modernity. While the rest of the nation was still sunk in rusticity, here were young girls clacking about on Italian heels, photographic studios, department stores, special offers and seasonal sales, and publicity gimmicks which called for bands to play and even a dwarf got up in a top-hat to cry “Fantastic value! Fantastic value!” outside the shop.

Shanghai Special Attractions

Many of Shanghai’s top attractions aren’t easily categorized. The city’s many Children’s Palaces, the historic Great World amusement center, and the world’s tallest hotel are three examples of the many unusual sights you can view in Shanghai.

Children’s Municipal Palace

Initiated by China’s honorary president, Soong Ching-ling, Children’s Palaces offer after-school programs for high-achieving children, with advanced instruction in music, art, science, sports, and computers. Of the two dozen children’s palaces in the city, this is the largest, the nicest, and the most visited. Built between 1918 and 1931 by a Jewish family from Baghdad, the Kadoories, this sprawling mansion was known in old Shanghai as the Marble Hall for its grand hallways and gigantic marble ballroom with ornate fireplaces and glittering chandeliers, all reasonably well preserved despite years of children’s activities. To tour this Children’s Palace, it’s best to call ahead for an appointment or make arrangements through CITS or your hotel concierge.

Huxinting(mid-lake pavilion) Teahouse

Shanghai’s quintessential teahouse has floated atop the lake at the heart of Old Town, in front of Yu Yuan, since 1784, built by area cotton-cloth merchants as a brokerage hall. Tea drinking was forbidden inside until the late 1800s, when it became what it is today. Believed to be the original model for Blue Willow tableware, the five-sided, two-story pavilion with red walls and uplifted black-tiled eaves has served everyone from visiting heads of state to local laborers. This is the place in Shanghai to idle over a cup of tea, seated in front of the open windows.

Jin Mao Tower

This tallest building in China is, quite simply, sublime. Built in 1998 as a Sino-American joint venture, the Jin Mao is currently the third tallest building in the world at 421m. Blending traditional Chinese and modern Western tower designs, the building, which boasts 88 floors (eight being an auspicious Chinese number), consists of 13 distinct tapering segments, with high-tech steel bands binding the glass like an exoskeleton. Offices occupy the first 50 floors, the Grand Hyatt hotel the 51st to the 88th floors, while a public observation deck on the 88th floor (“The Skywalk”) offers views to rival those of the nearby Oriental Pearl TV Tower (its admission charge is also lower). High-speed elevators whisk visitors from Level B1 to the top in less than 45 seconds. The view from there is almost too high, but exquisite on a clear day. You can also look down at the 152m-high atrium of the Grand Hyatt. Enter the building through entrance 4.

Oriental Pearl TV Tower

The earliest symbol of the new China, this hideous gray tower with three tapering levels of pink spheres (meant to resemble pearls) still holds a special place in many a local heart and is still one of the first stops in town for Chinese visitors. Built in 1994 at a height of 468m, it is hailed as the tallest TV tower in Asia and the third tallest in the world. Visit for the stunning panoramas of Shanghai and the stellar Shanghai Municipal History Museum located in the basement. Various combination tickets are offered for tower and museum, but for most folks, the observation deck in the middle sphere, reached by high-speed elevators staffed by statistics-reciting attendants, is just the right height to take in Shanghai old and new, east and west. Those partial to vertiginous views can ascend to the “space capsule” in the top sphere.

Shanghai Grand Theatre

A truly grand eight-story space-age complex of glass and more glass, Shanghai’s Grand Theatre, boasting three theatres (the largest seating 1800), is the city’s premier venue for international performances, dramas, and concerts. There used to be guided tours allowing visitors to view the main auditorium (second floor), the VIP Room (third floor), and the Ballet Studio (fifth floor). Tour groups can visit at any time with prior arrangements.

Shanghai Library

Opened in 1996, this city library is a state-of-the-art facility with many modern reading rooms, including one devoted to foreign periodicals (4th floor; Mon–Fri 8:30am–5pm). The collection includes almost two million rare scrolls, manuscripts, and books that can be viewed upon request, though you’ll have to apply for a temporary library card.

Shanghai Library Bibliotheca Zi-Ka-Wei

The Jesuits established in 1847 as part of their mission in Xujiahui a library (Bibliotheca Zi-Ka-Wei), which is now partially reopened to the public. The first of the two buildings that constitute the present library has a second floor public reading room presided over by two boxwood friezes, one of St. Ignatius of Loyola on his deathbed, and the other of St. Francis. But the real treasure is in the adjacent two-story Bibliotheca built in 1897 with a first floor designed in a Chinese style with separate alcoves for the keeping of local records, and the second floor given over to the collection of Western books. Here, stacked neatly on wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shelves are some 560,000 musty, fragile volumes in about 20 languages including Latin, English, French, German, Chinese, and Russian, and covering everything from literature and philosophy to politics, history, and religion. The oldest book, a Latin tome by John Duns Scotus, dates to 1515.

Shanghai Old City Wall and Dajing Ge Pavilion

In 1553 during the Ming Dynasty, Shanghai built a city wall to defend itself against pirates. Following the course of today’s Renmin Lu and Zhonghua Lu, the wall measured 8.1m high and 3 miles around, and had 10 gates. All that remains today is 50m of wall at this intersection of Dajing Lu and Renmin Lu. The visible section of the remaining wall dates to the Qing Dynasty, as is evident by brick markings bearing the names of Qing emperors Xianfeng (1851–61) and Tongzhi (1862–74). The newly rebuilt Dajing Ge pavilion atop the wall was one of the 30 towers along the structure. There’s a small exhibit here on life in the old Chinese city.

Shanghai Stock Exchange

Opened in 1992, the Shanghai Stock Exchange is China’s largest. It recently moved to this new building, which is supposed to resemble an ancient Chinese coin with an open square in the middle, in the heart of Pudong, Shanghai’s Wall Street. While visitors aren’t permitted onto the trading floor, sometimes a tour of the exchange can be arranged through your hotel desk.

New Heaven and Earth

Shanghai’s trendiest lifestyle destination, there are 2-block complex of high-end restaurants (some of Shanghai’s best), bars, shops, and entertainment facilities. Busloads of domestic Chinese tourists traipse through in the evenings, Western visitors feel like they’ve never left home, and young Shanghai people flood here to enjoy the good life. Besides the many shopping and dining establishments, there is a stone-frame museum showcasing the interiors of a typical lane house.

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