Travel: Shanghai in 48 hours

The spectacular Bund has the ability to wow any visitor, but it’s the city’s colonial heritage and long history of entrepreneurialism, fashion and art as well its eclectic blend of old and new that really give this city its charm, writes Sophie Loras.

Shanghai has been described as one big shopping mall during the day and one giant restaurant at night. While the Shanghai travel experience is often defined by the city’s glitz and glamour, it still possesses a raw energy at ground level with its tree-lined streets, mahjong playing seniors, quiet inner city parks and hole in the wall dumpling and snack bars.


Day 1

Begin with a potter and brunch at the Tianzi Fang art street (formerly known as Taikang Lu). This gorgeous area began as a hub for creative designers and art studios and has expanded into a mix of hidden laneways, local Chinese residences and quirky shops and cafes and is set back behind Jianguo Lu at the southern end of the French Concession. Despite its rapid expansion, it has remained a delightful tourist pocket without losing any of its charm. Kommune, one of the first cafes to establish a presence in the hub, sits in a central courtyard and provides delicious hearty breakfast and lunch options in a relaxed and charming atmosphere.

From Taikang Lu, wander up Sinan Lu. This quiet, beautiful tree-lined street gives a good reflection of Shanghai’s 1920s and ‘30s glory days when it housed many of the city’s elite including Dr Sun Yatsen, the founder of the Chinese National Party and his wife Song Lingqing. Their home, at the northern end of Sinan Lu at 7 Xiangshan lu is small and charming and has been preserved as a museum to give an excellent impression of a bygone era and a snapshot of China’s founding communist party.

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The home of Zhou Enlai, the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, is at 75 Sinan Lu and is also open to the public. The residence sits just south of the recently opened Sinan Mansions development –a block of restored mansions with up-market bars, restaurants, luxury apartments and the exclusive Hotel Massenet – on the corner of Fuxing Road.

Shanghai has some of the strictest heritage laws in the world and many of these heritage-listed mansions have plaques detailing the architect, architectural style and other general history about each establishment posted to their front gates and walls, making a walk through the French Concession particularly interesting.

On the north side of Huai Hai Lu (near Shaanxi Lu subway station), wander down Fumin Lu, Julu Lu, Xinle Lu, Shaanxi Nan Lu and Changle Lu to experience the city’s thriving fashion scene. Here mouse-hole sized boutiques sell everything from brand name dresses, shoes and accessories to the city’s up-and-coming local fashion designers using the area to launch their names. For more traditional options, walk down Changle Lu – between Shanxi Nan Lu and Maoming Lu –lined with shops selling off-the-rack and custom made traditional Chinese qipaos.


For a glamourous night out and to take in all the glitz Shanghai has to offer, enjoy dinner on the famous Bund. There are many options here. Australian Michelle Garnaut founded M on the Bund more than ten years ago when she recognised the potential of the then run down colonial strip of former banking and custom houses. Since opening her restaurant, followed several years later by the Glamour Bar, the area has flourished with boutique rooftop bars, Michelin-star restaurants and every luxury fashion house imaginable.

travel_sophs_pic_of_bund_night_april_2010_thumbM on the Bund’s balcony provides a spectacular view of the sweeping Bund and all the hustle and bustle of the Huangpu River, not to mention the bright lights of Pudong’s towering skyscrapers (some the highest in Asia) and the bright pink lights of the Pearl Tower on the opposite side of the river. Be sure to take any pictures before 10pm as its lights out after that.

Mr and Mrs Bund is a personal favourite with its fusion of contemporary French, as well as Lost Heaven for Yunan & South East Asian inspired delights. Bookings for all these restaurants are essential.

A post dinner drink at Bar Rouge or Glamour Bar is a must.

Day 2

Start at People’s Square, where on weekends parents congregate in the People’s Park to mingle with the parents of other single adult children to match-make them.

For those with more two-days to spare in Shanghai, consider a visit to the Urban Planning Museum on the square’s east and the Shanghai Museum on the square’s south.

The planning museum showcases a master plan for the city in 2020 while the Shanghai Museum is considered one of the best in China, with over 120,000 artifacts sorted by theme over chronology and accompanied by good English explanations.

Nanjing Mall (the eastern end of Nanjing Road) is one of Shanghai’s busiest pedestrian roads. The famous Peace Hotel, recently refurbished and renamed the Fairmont Peace Hotel sits at the very end of Nanjing Road as it intercepts the Bund. The North Building, known as Sassoon House after the hotel’s prominent British owner, Sir Victor Sassoon, opened in 1929 and became renowned throughout the ‘30s as the place to be seen. It welcomed distinguished guests from all over the world, including politicians, financiers, entrepreneurs, important Chinese officials and celebrities. Aside from lavish parties and events, the Peace Hotel was also famed for its Old Jazz Bar, an element that has been retained by the current owners.

Many of the colonial buildings gracing the Bund were restored in time for World Expo and many of them are worth a peek inside – notably Bund 18 which hosts emerging Chinese and international artists the neo-classical former headquarters of the Shanghai branch of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation at number 12. Today the building is home to the Shanghai Pudong Development Bank, but it is unmistakable with its entrance graced by replicas of the bank’s two original bronze lions and boasts an intricate golden mosaic in its dome depicting global financial centres at the time the bank opened in 1923, the 12 signs of the zodiac and the sun and the moon. During the Cultural Revolution the mosaics were covered in stucco paint to save them from destruction and not rediscovered until 1997 when the building underwent extensive renovations.

The Bund boulevard presents copious photo opportunities of Shanghai’s most iconic skyline with the great pink spheres of the audacious Pearl tower forever tarnishing the backdrop alongside the Jing Mao Tower –Pudong’s first ‘tallest’ building and beautifully designed to mimic the tiers of a Chinese pagoda – and the Shanghai World Financial Centre with its unmistakable beer bottle opener top.

If time permits, visit Yu Yuan, a 400-year-old classical Chinese garden in the city’s Old Town and located several blocks south of the Bund. The Ming Dynasty styled garden has numerous rock and tree gardens, ponds and stone bridges and a centre-piece pagoda which today houses a tea house. The area is packed with tourists and is rife with pickpockets.


For a quintessentially Shanghainese meal, lunch at Fu 1088 in a restored mansion in Jing’ An district. There is aminimum spend of RMB 200 per person but it is it worth it to be greeted by waiters in their 1920s garb, superb Shanghainese food and your own 1920s themed dining room. The menu is in English but comes without pictures. That said, there wasn’t a dish that didn’t leave each and everyone of us salivating. The deep-fried prawns with wasabi mayonnaise were a particular favourite.

travel_dongtai_lu_2_thumbSpend the afternoon at the Dongtai Lu Antique market for Mao statues and other kitsch Communist propaganda souvenirs as well as more traditional Chinese antique replica statues and furniture. It can be tricky to discern what is original and what is a copy so be sure to bargain hard.

On Friday nights the Australian business community meet for Aussie drinks at Sugar on Shaanxi Nan Lu or the Camel on Yue Yang Lu. The weekly event is hosted by AustCham Shanghai and has cold Australian beers and chilled wines on offer.

travel_dishuidong_rice_pots_thumbTo experience some of the best Mao Zedong food in Shanghai, check out Hunanese restaurant Di Shui Dong on Maoming Lu. This is cheap and cheerful Chinese at its best – spicy ribs, steamed snow peas with bacon and more chilies than you can eat in a lifetime all washed down with a cold Tsingtao. For desert try the candied apple or banana. The trick of course is how to eat the fruit before the toffee sets without burning your tongue!

M1NT night club, with its 8-metre shark tank, spectacular 360 degree view of the city and the meanest bouncers in town, is one of the city’s biggest clubs and as well as attracting the whose who of the Chinese and international communities, hosts international DJs and performers.

Where to stay

Shanghai has no shortage of good hotels. The revamped modern Longemont Hotel on Yan’an Lu is renowned for its lovely rooms and friendly staff, but it is the hotel’s location on Shanghai’s main arterial that makes it an ideal base for business and leisure travellers alike.

For those hoping to experience Shanghai’s Art Deco past, the Jin Jiang Hotel on Mao Ming Lu (not to be confused with the bland Jin Jiang Tower around the corner), boasts a block of beautiful restored original buildings and is situated at the top end of the former French Concession, making much of Puxi accessible by foot.


Then there is the hip URBN Hotel behind Jing’an Temple – inspired by sustainable design for a more sophisticated, boutique experience. If staying here isn’t an option, a drink at the hotel’s bar on Thursday for happy hour before venturing for a night out on the town is worth a visit. Be sure to get a snap of the hotel’s recycling-inspired walls, one made from old suitcases in the lobby (pictured left).


The List:

Kommune Café

No. 7, Lane 210, Taikang Lu

T: +86 21 6466 2416

Former Residence of Dr Sun Yatsen

7 Xiangshan Road (on Sinan Road)

Former residence of Zhou Enlai

73 Sinan Lu

M on the Bund

7/F, No.5 The Bund (corner of Guangdong Lu)

T: +86 21 6350 9988

The Glamour Bar

6/F, No.5 The Bund (corner of Guangdong Lu)

T: +86 21 6350 9988

Lost Heaven

17 Yan’an East Road

T: +86 21 6330 0967

Bar Rouge

7F, Bund 18, 1 Zhongshan Dongyi Road

T: +86 21 6339 1199

Fu 1088

375 Zhenning Lu

T: +86 21 5239 7878


6/F, 35 Shaanxi Nan Lu

T: +86 21 6215 8777

The Camel Sports Bar

Yue Yang Road (near Dong Ping Road)

T: +86 21 6437 9446


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