Heading to Shanghai? Add these must-visits to your list

Unique architecture, great food and quirky shops - experience it all in this eclectic Chinese city.

The stunning view from the Shanghai Edition hotel bar.
  • Janet Gyenes
  • March 2019

Traditional charms meet modern flavour in China’s biggest city, where you can spend a weekend exploring contemporary art galleries and ancient temples before surveying the skyline from one of the world’s tallest buildings. Here is your ultimate hit-list:

See the city from its skyscrapers

Give in to temptation and cross the Huangpu River to Pudong and ride an elevator up one of the district’s high-altitude skyscrapers. You can (and should) survey Shanghai from the spaceship-like Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower, the 128-storey Shanghai Tower (the world’s second-tallest building) or the monster-sized “bottle opener” that is the Shanghai World Financial Center. But that’s just half the picture. Gaze at both the city’s ultra-modern future and colonial past from the 29th-floor rooftop bar in the new Shanghai Edition opens in new window hotel. Sip an Old Fashioned while overlooking the Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel with a forest of steel buildings beyond

See futuristic artworks at the Chronus Art Center
See futuristic artworks at the Chronus Art Center.

Tour a historic temple

Jing’an Temple on West Nanjing Road has a bizarre backstory – it’s the city’s newest Buddhist temple and one of the oldest. Built on the banks of Suzhou Creek some time in the Three Empires Period (220AD-280AD), it was moved to its current site in 1216. During the Cultural Revolution in the 1950s, the temple was converted to a plastics factory before it burned down. In 1983, it was reconstructed as a temple, where today you can listen to monks chant and watch Buddhists light incense sticks and pray. Check out the main hall to see a 15,000-kilogram sterling silver Buddha, then visit the Jade Buddha Hall, where its namesake – China’s largest sitting jade Buddha – holds court at 3.65-metres tall.

Modern meets ancient at the restored Jing'an Temple
Modern meets ancient at the restored Jing'an Temple.

Slurp on dumplings

Looking for a ticket to pork paradise? You’ll find it at Fuchun Xiaolong on Yuyuan Road, sitting elbow-to-elbow with locals slurping on Shanghai’s xiao long bao (traditional soup dumplings). Newbies, take note: these pleated packages don’t swim in soup – the soup’s hidden inside each delectable dumpling – and there’s a method to ordering and eating. Look for a paper menu (it has English), order and pay at the counter. Stake out a table and flag down a waitress by waving your receipt. Eat like a local, too – place one of your dumplings onto a spoon, nibble it open and suck out the soup. Then, dip it in vinegar and enjoy.

Fuchun Xiaolong offers authentic Chinese cuisine
Fuchun Xiaolong has authentic Chinese cuisine to sample.

Go shopping

Hipster shopping becomes a history lesson in Taikang Road’s Tianzifang, where a warren of boutiques has taken up residence inside traditional shikumen (stone-gate) houses. Your goal? Get lost strolling the alleyways. You’ll find treasures such as singing bowls at Joma’s Collection and Feiyue sneakers (a cult favourite here – the local brand harks back to the 1920s) at Culture Matters. If you need to fuel up, snack on skewered cuttlefish and hawthorns or duck into Kommune café’s courtyard for a Tsingtao beer.