• A Foodie's Guide to Shanghai

    By Logan Clements

  • Discover the best places in Shanghai to explore, eat and shop.

    This guide is a culmination of countless emails, lists, and suggestions I’ve given friends, family, and clients over the years. After living in Shanghai for four years, I've been able to put together a complete list of my favorite hole-in-the-wall shops, transportation hacks, yummy local snacks, favorite books about China and neighborhoods to get lost in.

     

    I hope you enjoy exploring the city as much as I do. Happy traveling!

  • Shanghai Guide

    The fastest way to get comfortable in a new country is to figure out how to get from the airport to your hotel. These are my top four ways to travel from the Shanghai Pudong airport to where you're staying:

     

    By Taxi

    • When you pass through customs and exit baggage claim, you'll see signs for “Taxi” in English and Chinese.
    • Don’t stop to talk to anyone asking you where you’re going as there are a lot of black cabs, which are generally safe but they will rip you off price wise, asking for 2-3x the normal taxi rate (I found this out the hard way my first time in China).
    • Instead, follow the English signs outside until you see the taxi line. I suggest having a screenshot of the English and Chinese address for your hotel on your phone so that you can show it to your taxi driver.
    • Don't worry if the taxi line looks pretty line, it often moves pretty quickly.
    • Timing: Anywhere from 1 hour to 1 ½ hours depending on traffic but this is your most direct route for getting into the city.
    • Cost: 170 RMB - 210 RMB depending on where you’re going in the city.
    By Subway
    • Shanghai's subway system is very convenient and can take you from the airport all the way into the city.
    • It's also very affordable but just takes longer than a taxi ride. Since you’re not guaranteed a seat, if you have a lot of luggage, I suggest taking a car. 
    • Taking the subway will take about 1 ½ hours to get to the city center.
    • Great option for any students studying abroad, backpackers, or travelers who like to see how the locals get around.
    • Cost: 4 RMB per person
    By Maglev Train
    • This high-speed rail (the fastest train in China) takes you halfway to the city center, in less than 10 minutes.
    • From there, you’ll need to hail a taxi or hop on the subway, which will be another 30-45 minutes into the city center depending on where you're staying.
    • This is a top attraction for Shanghai (see Things to Do below) but can seem a little overwhelming when you first land in Shanghai.
    • Cost: 40-50 RMB per person depending if you get a one-way ticket or roundtrip.
    By Private Car/Hotel Shuttle
    • You can arrange this with your hotel ahead of time as some (mostly major international brands) hotels offer shuttles.
    • If you want an assigned driver to pick you up, your hotel can recommend a company or feel free to email me with any suggestions. Most drivers will only speak Chinese, but there are a few who are bilingual.
    • Cost: Anywhere from 400-700 RMB.
  • Shanghai Guide

    I love food and discovering a country's local cuisine, it's one of my favorite things about traveling. All of my favorite places have won me over because of the food and Shanghai is no exception. Here are a few of my must-try dishes and restaurants for you to find on your trip:

     

    Must Eat Foods

    1. Breakfast pancake - jianbing 煎饼

    • This yummy breakfast pancake is a perfect combination of savory, sweet, spicy, and crunchy. The best places to buy these are from small mom and pop shops on street corners. Ask your concierge or hotel staff where they get there’s on their way to work for the most authentic taste.
    • The classic jianbing includes a thing pancake, cracked egg, scallion onions, pickled mustard tubers, cilantro, red bean paste, chili oil, and finished off with a crispy wonton skin.

    2. Soup Dumplings - xiaolongbao 小笼包

    • Steamed pork dumplings with soup inside, served with vinegar and ginger. 
    • Pro tip: bite a hole in the dumpling and let some of the heat out from the soup inside. After waiting for a few seconds for it to cool, drink all the soup out through the hole, then dunk the dumpling in the vinegar and enjoy. If you try to eat the dumpling whole, there's a chance you'll get soup on yourself or your friend. 

    3. Fried Soup Dumplings - shengjian 生煎

    • Very similar to the soup dumpling, shengjian are also a pork dumpling with soup inside but instead of being steamed, they are pan-fried.
    • Similar eating technique to the soup dumpling, I suggest biting a small hole and drinking the soup out before biting in.
    • The fried bottoms of these dumplings are the real treat and these are best eaten at a local mom and pop shops but you can also try them at Yang's Dumplings, a chain you can find around Shanghai.

    4. Bubble Tea - naicha 奶茶

    • This popular drink in China is known as "bubble tea, pearl milk tea, or boba tea."
    • It includes tea, flavors of milk, as well as sugar (optional). Chewy tapioca balls (also known as pearls, or boba), popping boba, fruit jelly, grass jelly, agar jelly, and puddings are often added.
    • My favorite bubble tea is the classic Milk Tea with Tapioca Beads or zhenzhu naicha 珍珠奶茶.

    Chinese Restaurants

    1. Four Seasons Dumpling King

    • My favorite north-east China (dongbei) restaurant in the city, which is actually a chain so you can find the one nearest to you.
    • This location can seat a few parties of 8-10 people but has great family style Chinese food selection and cheap beer. 
    • The menu has photos so you can order without knowing a lot of Chinese by just pointing at the menu.
    • My favorite dishes include their lamb with cumin (ziran yang rou孜然羊肉), cauliflower and bacon (ganguo youji caihua 干锅有机菜花), and caramelized sweet potato (bosi digua 拨丝地瓜).

    2.Di Shui Dong

    • Hunan-style Chinese food that packs a punch with the spice. Their spicy is a little different than Western spicy, but be sure to order soda, juice, or beers to your table to go with your food.
    • Both expats and locals like this restaurant and definitely order family-style here so you can try a bunch of dishes.
    • They also have private rooms and are able to accommodate larger groups. 
    • Fan favorite dish from this place would be their cumin ribs (ziran paigu 孜然排骨). 

    3. Old Jessie's

    • Shanghainese-style dinner located in the former French Concession and I suggest ordering family style so you can taste a variety of local dishes. 
    • One of the favorites here is the braised pork shoulder (hongshao rou 红烧肉).

    Western Restaurants

    1. Liquid Laundry

    • This is a great Western food option and one of my favorites for brunch (mouth watering cinnamon buns) and dinner.
    • They also have a great cocktail selection and brew their own beer (hello, Workday IPA). 
    • Their menu also has an amazing steak that I suggest you try if you're in China for a work trip and your company is picking up the bill. The cut is the size of my face and it is delicious but not cheap.
    • Located on Donghu road, this is a great starting off point for your evening as you can wander down the street to other popular bars and late night spots.
    • Grilled cheese sandwiches, yum (I mean does it get any better?). This restaurant specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches, with options that are inspired by Thanksgiving dinner, Shanghai braised pork shoulder, Kraft Mac and Cheese, and the classic American cheese and white bread.
    • My favorite is a twist on the classic with cheese, pickles, and potato chips.
    • Also, try their pickleback, a shot of whiskey chased by a shot of pickle juice as the owner pickles his own vegetables and the brine is delicious.
    • Spanish tapas bar with lots of sangria, cheese, potatoes, and wine. 
    • My favorite thing to order is the "Chef's Choice," which is a set price for the chef to choose all the tapas dishes. I've never left hungry when I’ve gone with that option and it pairs well with their sangria or cocktails.

    I have an entirely separate list dedicated to my favorite places to eat in Shanghai, including both Chinese and Western food. Will be posting it shortly as an addition to this guide (yes, good food really is one of my favorite things).

  • Shanghai Guide

    Shopping has never been one of my favorite activities but since I moved abroad, I'm always on the hunt for presents for my family and friends back in the U.S. I've also fallen in love with getting tailor-made clothes at the fabric market as you can get anything made. Here's a list of my favorite places to go for unique gifts and souvenirs.

     

    Science and Technology Fake Market

    • This is the go-to place for knock-offs of bags, shoes, software, clothes & more. 
    • The market is located in the Science and Technology Museum Metro station.
    • Be sure to bargain hard, I usually start at 10% of the asking price and work my way up from there but remember that you can usually ask for a discount when you buy more than one thing and they won’t sell to you unless they’re making money.
    • Also, I suggest bringing cash, some of the places take cards which is fine, just up to you if you want to use your card.
    • Taxi Directions: 世纪大道2000号近锦秀路. 2000 Century Avenue, near Jinxiu Lu. Metro: Line 2 Shanghai Science & Technology Museum

    Fabric Market

    • Here you can get anything tailor-made from suits to dresses and skirts. You can even bring your own fabric and have them make something out of that or best option is to bring something you like and get it copied, especially in different colors.
    • Below is the card for my tailor, I love them and they give me pretty good prices - again you can always bargain but I’ll get women’s suits (depending on the fabric) for anywhere from 600-900 RMB.
    • Taxi Directions: 上海市黄浦区陆家浜路399 号近南仓街. 399 Lujiabang Rd, near Nancang St. Metro: Line 4 Nanpuqiao, exit number 3

    Shanghai Guide

    Madame Mao’s Dowry

    • Cute little boutique in the French Concession that has fun gifts that aren’t your typical Chinese fans or chopsticks. 
    • They have really nice prints, propaganda posters, Chinese-designed products and a fun local designer that makes food inspired t-shirts.

    Blue Fabric Shop

    • This traditional blue and white fabric is one of my favorites and I’ve bought many things at their shop for gifts for friends and family. A friend of mine has taken the fabric to their tailor to get it made into a one of a kind suit. (She even started her own custom suit business on Etsy that ships to the US).
    • It's something that’s not your typical gift from China and the price tag shows that but I love their little glasses holders and napkins that serve as small reminders for me of China.
    • If you can speak some Chinese and the owner of the shop is there, he loves to talk about the process of dying the cloth but if not, they will also give you a brochure with your purchase that talks more about the process.
    • The shop is located down an alley but there are now small signs directing you where to go.
    • Nearest Subway Station: Changshu Road (Line 1, 7)
  • Shanghai Guide

    Over 24 million people call Shanghai home, making it the third most populated city in the world. Because of its sheer size and complex history, Shanghai feels like the product a mixture of cultures and influences. These are just a few areas in the city that I love to wander and get lost in:

     

    Former French Concession (FFC)

    • This walkable neighborhood is located close to the city center and is now called Xuhui. It is filled with alleys and small streets lined with cafes and shops that are worth exploring.
    • One good way to tell that you're in the former French Concession is by the platanes (London plane trees) that line the street.
    • Attractions in the neighborhood include the Nankeen blue fabric shop, Madame Mao’s Dowry, Tianzifang, and Propaganda Poster Museum.
    • Take the subway to South Shaanxi Road (Line 2, 10, 12).

    The Bund

    • This is the name for the side of the Huangpu river that is filled with European-style buildings. The Huangpu river cuts through the middle of Shanghai and has a great view of the iconic Shanghai skyline.
    • Take a stroll down the walkway that runs along the river. It's enjoyable during both the day and night time.
    • In the summer, it can get quite hot on the Bund during the day as there’s little shade near the river. But if you don’t mind the heat, you will find smaller crowds during the day.
    • If you’d like a cooler experience, visit the Bund at night, but head there before 11PM, as that's when all the building lights are turned off.
    • It’s a touristy area so you’ll pay higher prices than other neighborhoods but you’ll find lots of great restaurants with food and drinks with a view.
    • Take the subway to East Nanjing Road (Line 2, 10) or walk north from Yuyuan Garden (Line 10).

    Lujiazui

    • Located across the river from the Bund, this neighborhood is home to some of the top ten tallest buildings in the world. 
    • Take a break from the more historical areas and walk amongst the skyscrapers that all have been built in the last 40 years.
    • Have a drink at Shanghai Tower - In Shanghai World Financial Tower, also known as the “bottle opener” building thanks to its shape, is home to one of the tallest bars in the world. Skip the ticket price and lines to get to the official observation deck (unless you really want the full 360 view) and pay a visit to the 93rd floor, where you can enjoy a coffee or cocktail in the lobby bar of the Hyatt.
    • Take the subway to Lujiazui (Line 2).

    Jewish Quarter

    • Go to the museum or explore the historical buildings around the neighborhood. This area is a great snapshot of Shanghai back in the 1800s and 1900s.
    • Jewish Refugee Museum - I haven't been able to explore this one myself but have heard great things from friends who’ve visited.
    • Take the subway to Tilanqiao (Line 12)
  • Shanghai Guide

    The city's sheer size can seem overwhelming at times but it also gives you plenty of things to do around Shanghai. These are my personal favorite activities that showcase the side of Shanghai that I love and hopefully will show you something you've never seen before:

     

    Explore the Marriage Market in People’s Square (only on the weekends)

    • Look for Chinese parents mingling around in a group in People's Park.
    • On the weekends, it is the venue for an informal matchmaking market. 
    • Chinese parents will hold signs with information about their son or daughter, photos, names, age, height, weight, job, and income and swap contact information to set their children up on blind dates.
    • Take the subway to People’s Square (Line 1, 2, and 8).

    Take a Walk Through a Park

    • Especially in the morning or night, parks are a great place for people watching.
    • As you walk through the park, you'll see people out doing taichi, dancing, water calligraphy and more.
    • Parks to explore: People’s Square Park, Xiangyang Park, Jing’an Park, Fuxing Park - I'd suggest just picking whichever is nearest to you or ask your hotel concierge for a park in your neighborhood.

    The Bund at Night

    • Walk along the Bund side of the river and enjoy the view of Lujiazui all lit up (lights come on at 7PM and are turned off by 11PM).
    • Take the subway to East Nanjing Road (Line 2, Line 10).

    UnTour Food Tours

    • One of my side gigs is working as a tour guide for the Shanghai Street Eats Breakfast tour, which is a great way to get a feel for the local breakfast options (and a little bit of lunch). 
    • Another fun tour offered by UnTour is their Hands-on Dumpling Delights tour, which I recommend for families since you get to be hands-on with the food. 
    • If you're a foodie and don't know where to start when it comes to finding authentic Chinese food, this food tour is a great addition to your itinerary.

    Yuyuan Gardens

    • This is a fun little touristy area filled with shops if you're looking to buy gifts and souvenirs.
    • It's home to a garden that was originally built in the 1500s but the garden today is a restoration of the original that was made in the 1950s.
    • It'll take you 30-45 minutes to explore this small garden but it is a nice example of historical gardens in China.
    • Take the subway to Yuyuan Gardens (Line 10).

    Propaganda Poster Museum

    • This is one of my favorite, not-so-formal museums in Shanghai, home to propaganda posters from the last 150 years.
    • It's fascinating to see what initiatives the government was focused on and the progression of national feelings.
    • It should only take you about 20-30 minutes to work through it and it’s located in the basement of an apartment complex. If you feel like you’re lost, you’re in the right place. Just walk up to the security guard at the apartment complex, and he’ll give you a business card with directions how to get in there.
    • Taxi Directions: 华山路868号, 近长乐路B号楼. 868 Huashan Lu, near Changle Rd, basement floor of apartment building B. 
    • Take the subway to Changshu Road (Line 1,7).

    Pamper Yourself

    • This city is one of the best and most economical places to "treat yo self," so splurge on that massage, manicure, or pedicure that you've been meaning to get but couldn't afford.
    • The most affordable option is a Chinese-style massage, which means you'll have a dry massage, without oil. They'll give you a shirt and shorts to wear and will massage you on top of that. Your concierge should be able to recommend a place near your hotel or if you see one walking around you can usually walk in
    • You can also find more Western-style massages which will be cheaper than your home country but more expensive than the Chinese-style.
    • And there's nothing like a good foot rub when you've been walking around and exploring a city. I definitely recommend getting a 60-minute foot massage at a nearby massage spot, your feet will than you later.
    • Dragonfly Spa, Zen Massage, and Subconscious Day Spa are three more Western spas that are nicer and still cheaper than back home.

    Tianzifang

    • A cluster of recreated alleyways in the French Concession, Tianzifang is a fun city block to get lost in, as it's filled with lanes and lanes of shops, cafes, and bars. 
    • This is a great place to get your shopping done with little gifts for yourself or friends.
    • If it’s raining, I’d avoid this area as the alleyways are quite small and hard to navigate with umbrellas.
    • Take the subway to Dapuqiao (Line 9).

    Take the Maglev Train

    • It’s the fastest train in China, that operates thanks to magnetic levitation and reaching speeds of up to 431 km/hr (268 mph).
    • It runs every day, leaving every 15 minutes or so from Longyang metro station to the airport and then back again.
    • You can purchase one-way tickets or round trip. If you’re going to the airport for your flight you can show your boarding pass for a slight discount.
    • Even if you don't need to go to the airport, it can be fun to ride. I took this with my family when they visited and we got round trip tickets just to ride the train. We stopped at the Starbucks in Terminal 2, near the arrivals for a quick break before riding it back into the city.
    • Take the subway to Longyang (Line 2, 7) or hop on the train from Pudong Airport Terminal 2.

    Enjoy a Coffee/Drink at Shanghai Tower

    • In Shanghai World Financial Tower, also known as the “bottle opener” building thanks to its shape, is home to one of the tallest bars in the world.
    • Skip the ticket price and lines to get to the official observation deck (unless you really want the full 360 view) and pay a visit to the 93rd floor, where you can enjoy a coffee or cocktail in the lobby bar of the Hyatt.
    • This is a great way to beat the heat during the summer and still enjoy a view of the city from the comforts of the air-conditioned bar.
  • Shanghai Guide

    Now you have an idea about where you want to explore, eat, and shop, you just need to figure out how to get there. Shanghai is home to an incredibly efficient and affordable public transportation system. Here are the different options you have for getting around the city:

     

    Subway

    • Shanghai, Beijing, and most of the major cities have signs around the subway in  English and Chinese, including the names for stops and exits, making it easy to navigate even if you don't speak the language.
    • I'd suggest downloading this app for an offline subway map that will help you plan your trips and also has a GPS function so you can find the closest subway station to you.
    • Cost: 2-4 RMB per person depending on where you’re going in the city - ticketing machines have English option so you can read the station names.
    • Tip: Buy a transportation card at one of the information desks, it will cost you 20 RMB as a deposit (which you get back if you return the card) and you can load money on it. You can use your transportation on the subway, buses, and even to pay for taxis.

    Taxis

    • Taxis are very affordable in Shanghai and across China, just be careful at high traffic times (rush hour before and after work) as the roads tend to get quite crowded.
    • Take an information card from your hotel that has your address in English and Chinese to show the driver to make sure you know where to go. It's also helpful to write down the number for the concierge or hotel front desk in case you need to call them to direct a confused taxi driver.
    • You might have trouble catching a cab late at night since some cab drivers don’t want to pick up foreigners since they assume you can’t speak Chinese.
    • If the light on top of the cab is green, the cab is available. If the light is off, it’s currently occupied. If the light is red, the cab has already been reserved by one of the taxi apps.
    • Bring your transportation card or cash to pay for your cabs, as I’ve never had a cab accept foreign bank cards.
    • Cost: The meter starts at 14 RMB during the day, 16 RMB at night and increases from there. Most cab trips around the city center will cost you anywhere from 30 - 50 RMB depending on traffic.
    • Tip: Download Uber (the China app) or Didi (they have an English version) and book cars via your phone. If you won’t have data or can’t download the app, you can also ask restaurants/hotel concierges to call you a cab via their app.

    Bus

    • The bus is a great way to get a feel for the local lifestyle in Shanghai. If you have an iPhone, you can use the map to find out what bus and bus numbers you can take to get around.
    • The bus number is displayed on the front of the outside of the bus and on the side.
    • For the bus stops, there is usually a screen at the top of the front of the bus that will tell you in English and Chinese what the next stop is called.
    • This is one of the more adventurous public transportation options for tourists as some of the older buses don't announce the name of the stops in Chinese.
    • But, I love just hopping on the bus and riding it around to explore new areas of the city. Most are also air-conditioned, which makes for comfortable travel in the summertime and it's cheaper than taxis.
    • Cost: 2 RMB per person anywhere in the city. Use your transportation card when you enter at the front door of the bus or use two 1-RMB coins to pay in cash (I've rarely seen bus drivers stop to give you change).

    Walking

    • I love walking around the city and even enjoy getting lost as that's when I discover new parts of the city that excite me.
    • My favorite neighborhoods to wander around include Jing’an and the former French Concession (Xuhui).
    • For aimless wandering, I recommend using the Apple Map function if you have an iPhone as your GPS still works if you don’t have data. Just load your map in Wifi or data service, mark where you want to go as “favorites” and then you can turn your data off as you wander and still know where you are.

    Mobike/Ofo

    • The shared bike system is HUGE in China and I use this as my second favorite way to get around.
    • For Mobike and Ofo, you can sign up as a foreigner to use the services, you’ll just need to pay a deposit on your card and submit a photo of you and copy of your passport on the app.
    • Most tourists have been able to make an Ofo account and use that to get around the city, linking the app to their foreign bank card.
    • To use the bikes, scan the QR code on the back or front of the bikes and it unlocks a lock that goes through the back wheel. Once you’re where you want to go, park your bike on the sidewalk, anywhere you see white lines and sometimes a painted bike on the ground - this is the sign for bike parking. Some people park them anywhere which you’re technically not supposed to do but it happens. Click the lock back through the back tire and click "End Ride" on your app and you're all done.
    • Each ride costs anywhere from 2-3 RMB for your first two hours.
  • Shanghai Guide

    Visas (For Americans)

    • No matter if you’re getting a tourist or business visa, make sure to check the 10-year box on your visa application as a 10-year visa costs the same as the one year option.
    • You’ll need your flight reservations and hotel reservations to apply for your visa.

    Bring a Converter

    • In China, the standard voltage is 220-240 volts but you can use your US standard two prong plugs, like for your iPhone charger, just double check that the two prongs look the exact same. Both the three prong US plug and the two-pronged plug where one is wider than the other prong won't work in China.
    • I have a universal converter that is a staple in my travel stuff. Here's an upgraded version that has USB plugs as well (already added this to my Christmas list for this year).

    Download a VPN for your iPad/iPhone

    • You won’t be able to access Gmail, Facebook, or Google without using a VPN, Virtual Personal Network, as those sites are blocked here in China. There are some days that you can access these sites but it’s rare.
    • If you're using your phone on roaming or purchased international data through your home provider, you might be able to access some of the blocked apps since you’re routing through US, but it’s not guaranteed to work 100% of the time.
    • Free Apps: VPN Master or Betternet
    • Paid Services: Astrill has been my VPN of choice for the past few years living in China. All VPNs tend to have periods where they are really fast and then slowing down but I’ve found Astrill to be worth the $80-90 per year to have a consistent connection to Western websites.
  • Shanghai Guide

    I like to supplement my travels with reading, whether it's to learn more about the country I'm visiting or just for leisure. These are a few of the books that I’ve enjoyed reading and learned more about the culture and life in China:

     

    Books About China/Shanghai

    • Lost on Planet China - Written by a man as he explored China for the first time, this gives you a good overview of the country from the perspective of a tourist. His colloquial tone makes this a pleasant vacation read and his travels across the country even gave me a few Chinese cities and sites to add to my travel list.
    • Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve - An American journalist living in Shanghai decides to enroll her son in a Chinese kindergarten. Her book chronicles the experience as a parent and a professional. It's a great overview that will give you anecdotes from the Chinese education system and compares local education processes with the US'. 
    • Street of Eternal Happiness: Big City Dreams Along a Shanghai Road - This book tells the stories of families that live on Changle Road (where I used to live at one point) and really paints a picture of the economic opportunity of big cities like Shanghai and the people that are drawn to live there.

    Websites About Shanghai Today

    • Smart Shanghai - This site is a great English resource that lists restaurants and locations in English and Chinese. On each restaurant listing, they have an option that shows you what to show the taxi driver in Chinese (great for non-Chinese speakers). I recommend screenshotting these addresses and saving them to your phone to use as you explore the city.
    • That’s Shanghai - Another English site with news about Shanghai, with features on the latest events, shows, exhibitions, and F&B events around the city.
    • Travel China Guide - This site gives good descriptions of popular sightseeing destinations and areas, like the opening hours, ticket prices, and suggestions on transportation. I’ve never done a tour with them but I used some of their local transportation recommendations, like taking the public bus to the Great Wall. Good resources for travelers who are looking to DIY their China trip.
  • I hope you enjoyed my guide to Shanghai and if there’s anything you loved or think I’m missing from my list please send me an email at logan@loganstrategygroup.com as I’m always looking to improve my list.

     

    Happy Traveling,

     

    Logan

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