What to see in Shanghai, a metropolis between past and future

Yuyuan Gardens (Yu Mandarin Garden)

When you enter these classic Chinese gardens of the '500, you immediately feel relaxed. It is a timeless place (if it were not for the many Chinese tourists who flock to it), with bridges over the water, steps and well-kept trees. They have us shot of the scenes of the film "Memoirs of a Geisha" and you understand why! Just outside the garden there is a large bazaar where you can buy souvenirs, and eat the classic Shanghai dumplings from Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant  (you can easily recognize it by the tail that forms outside).

Xiantiandi e Taiking Road

Both Xiantiandi and Taiking Road are both areas where the building (s) have been refurbished alleys of old Shanghai and which now house art galleries (especially Taiking Road), boutiques, accessory and souvenir shops, bars and restaurants. They are very cute and characteristic both day and night. TO Xiantiandi did not miss a stop from Din Tai Fung to eat the best ravioli in the world, while if you are in Taiking Road stop by to eat / drink from commune.

Contemporary art

Shanghai it is a city that also offers a lot from an artistic point of view, especially as regards Chinese contemporary art. There are in fact several areas dedicated to art, both in the center and a little outside. These are the main ones:

  • THEArt District (M50), reminiscent of the Art District of Beijing (see article), is much smaller and not too engaging I would say (if you have little time you can easily skip it).
  • Il Red Town instead it is a new avant-garde artistic area which, in my opinion, is absolutely worth the visit. It is no coincidence that it was born in partnership with the Tate Modern in London, the Guggenheim, the MOMA in New York and other very important museums. Is situated near Hongqiao Lu and consists of a large open space (scattered with sculptures and installations) surrounded by former industrial sheds with bricks converted into exhibition spaces, galleries and bars and restaurants.
  • He recently inaugurated the Rockbund Art Museum to the Bund; I would say it is a museum dedicated to “conceptual” contemporary art (Venice Biennale style), developed on 4 floors complete with a bar / terrace (a coffee / tea is also included in the entrance ticket). It is not to be missed, but if you are around the bund and are curious to see contemporary Chinese artistic expression .. it is the right place for you!

Shanghai Museum

This museum (free for more!) Is located right in the center of the immense People Square and absolutely worth the visit. It is rightly considered the most important museum in China. There are several sections concerning the development of calligraphy, that of coins (very beautiful! There are coins that were used along the Silk Road), that of beautiful ceramics, that of furniture, and several others. The explanatory panels are also in English and are particularly clear. I loved it!

The skyscrapers of Pudong

On this side of the river they are located some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. If you don't suffer from vertigo and want to experience the thrill of the view from the 100th floor (or almost) you have several choices:

  • Jin Mao Tower: you can go up to the 88th floor by paying a ticket (expensive!), or go for a drink at the “Cloud” bar located on the 87th floor (the view doesn't change much).
  • Shanghai World Financial Center: the famous skyscraper "with the hole" has several panoramic terraces (on the 94th, 97th and 100th floors). If you are truly fearless, you can take a walk almost into the void on the Skywalk on the 100th floor. Again, the alternative is to go to the bar at the Park Hyatt Hotel on the 91st floor.
  • Shanghai tower: the tallest skyscraper in the city (until recently it was the 2nd tallest in the world!) opened in April 2015. It has 3 observatories, and they are all 3 tallest in the world (at 121st, 122nd and 123rd floor).

Other places to see / things to do: il Jade Buddha Temple (out of the center, but very nice), la French concessions (miss walking in this old colonial neighborhood made up of small villas and tree-lined avenues), a cruise on the river, and a walk in Fuxing Park.

When to go to Shanghai

I've been there both times in the fall / winter. The temperatures are fairly mild until December, then the cold arrives, but it is difficult to drop below 5/10 degrees. In summer it is very hot and humid. The best times to visit it are definitely spring and autumn.

When spending in Shanghai

The last time I was there (in 2016) I found Shanghai much more expensive than I remembered it. Currently the cost of living does not seem far from that of Milan alas, perhaps a little lower but not too much either. The yuan has almost doubled in the past 5 years! To eat well you spend from 30 euros upwards. To sleep, on the contrary, it is still possible to spend quite little. Excluding Hong Kong, Shanghai is the most expensive city in China.

Entry into China: how to obtain a visa

To go to Shanghai you will need to apply for a visa before leaving (there are Chinese consular offices in both Rome and Milan). To obtain it, you will need to present a passport photo, fill in the form you find online, and provide a copy of the hotel and flight reservation. A single-entry visa costs around € 100 and takes 5 working days to obtain (with the normal procedure).

Internet in China: VPN is needed

In China, social networks do not work (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), as well as Google (and email accounts on gmail) and other sites that are blocked by the Chinese government. Obviously there is sgamo! Just download a VPN app (there are many!). They are free for the first 20 MB, then for a fee (ranging from 5 to 15 euros per month).

Useful apps: download Smart Shanghai. Here you will find almost all the places of interest, restaurants, bars, etc. with their respective addresses written in Chinese (to show to taxi drivers, who cannot read our alphabet!)

How to reach Shanghai from the airport and how to get around the city

From / To Pudong Airport: to reach the airport from the center (and vice versa) there is either the normal metro (but don't take it! It will take more than 1 hour) or the Maglev, the superfast magnetic levitation train that in 8 '(at 300 km / h) reaches the airport from Longyang Rd station. From here you can then take a taxi (towards the Bund costs about 50-60 Y) or the metro to few stops.

Taxi: they are cheap in Shanghai (as well as in the rest of China). The metro is comfortable and fast, but for the evening it is much more convenient to travel by taxi

Where to sleep in Shanghai

  • The Phoenix Hostel: this hostel which is located near People Square is very clean and nice. It has a terrace with a rooftop bar and a restaurant. A double with private bathroom costs around 40 euros (2016).
  • Jinjiang Metropolo Hotel Classic Nanjing Road (East) : located in a historic building along Shanxi Road, this hotel in the center of the Huangpu shopping district, just 5 minutes from the Nanjing Road East pedestrian street and just over the Bund. A very well furnished 4-star design hotel. 

Where to eat in Shanghai

  • Din Tai Fung: a certainty in Asia. Taiwan's ravioli chain never disappoints! If you want to eat the best ravioli in the world .. come here! There are several restaurants in the city, but the most convenient is certainly the one located inside the shopping center in Xiantiandi.
  • The lost Heaven- Restaurant serving spicy Hunnan cuisine. There are two Lost Heavens in Shanghai, one on the Bund with a terrace (preferred in summer only) and one in the French concession (much nicer). Beautiful environment and very good dishes.
  • Kota’s kitchen : excellent Japanese restaurant (not just sushi!)
  • Shintori: minimal atmosphere for this Japanese restaurant, expensive but very good
  • Liquid Laundry: very nice restaurant / club / brewery! Creative cuisine and DJs on some evenings

Where to go drinking and dancing in Shanghai: don't miss the rooftops with a view!

  • Skybar della House of Roosvelt: magnificent view over the Bund! You can drink it both on the terrace and in the bar with mega-glass windows.
  • Rooftop Bar del Peninsula: next to the House of Roosvelt, you can only drink outdoors (in season) on the beautiful terrace.
  • Captain Bar: rooftop of the Captain Hostel, it is not on the "first line" on the Bund, but the view is not bad and you spend a lot less. Within everyone's reach.
  • M on the Bund e The Glam: restaurant and bar overlooking the Bund. Both very elegant. Here, too, top environment and furniture.
  • Bar Rouge: historic venue overlooking the Bund. Great cocktails and nice atmosphere
  • Cloud 9: bar located on the 87th floor of the Jinmao Tower in Pudong, to have another view of the Bund and the city. Not recommended for those suffering from vertigo
  • URVC: really nice little underground venue near the Jade Buddha Temple. The walls are made up of thousands of vinyls up to the ceiling. Beautiful console and counter.
  • M1nt: on the 24th floor of a skyscraper, this exclusive club has a dizzying panorama (and not only for the models who frequent it: D). Don't miss the shark tank next to the cloakroom.!
  • Chest Bar : an institution in the city. Nice place to drink well
  • Arkham: Voted best club in Shanghai in 2014, you can enjoy great underground music in this great club.
  • Lola: commercial club in the French concession with famous guest-DJs.
  • The Shelter: a former anti-aircraft shelter converted into an underground club .. for connoisseurs!

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