My first visit to mainland China was an unforgettable adventure filled with extraordinary culinary experiences and new sights, sounds and smells. Seeing an opportunity to put another pin in the travel map, fellow explorer and flight attendant, Lisa, joined me on my three day trip to Shanghai. Also an ultra keen researcher and planner, the two of us managed to eat, see and do so much in this great city in only 48 hours. Read on to see our top recommendations for Shanghai.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the we spent the majority of our time in shanghai eating. Excited to try everything (within reason) we visited as many intriguing dumpling stands and must try restaurants as we possibly could. After a truly indulgent weekend we’ve summed up our favourite gastronomic delights.
We went in heavy on the dumplings in Shanghai and it’s safe to say these were by far the best ones. Steamed to juicy perfection on the inside yet crisp and crunchy on the outside. We opted for classic flavours of pork and shrimp but there are many other options to choose from too. Yangs have a number of outlets dotted around the city so you’re never far from these little puffs of heaven. A box of dumplings here will set you back around £1.50.
This bustling brunch spot in the heart of TianZiFang in the French Concession has an ultra cool vibe. Outrageously sized coffee mugs and bright psychedelic wall prints make you feel like you’re attending the Mad Hatter’s tea party. If you need a break from noodles and dumplings come to Kommune for avocado and poached eggs on sour dough toast and detox juices. The regular sized coffee with four espresso shots will make you feel strong like a communist poster boy.
For guaranteed satisfaction and comfort food head to Shanghai Grandmother on the Bund. We’d heard that the melt in your mouth braised pork belly and sautéed aubergine were the reason people come here. No doubt they were the outright winners amongst the banquet we’d ordered. This was our best sit down meal in Shanghai and also great value for money. It’s no surprise the place is consistently busy, opting to dine at off peak times is wise to avoid too much of a wait.
We’d heard wonderful things about the Peking duck here and after reading the menu it was the only dish our Western appetites could stomach. Not to consider ourselves fussy eaters but the outright bizarre options on the menu didn’t appeal to us. Flash flamed duck hearts, braised duck chin, tripe and jellied eels to name a few. Luckily the star of the show was the dish we’d ordered. Brought to our table whole, the chef skilfully carved out wafer thin slices of duck to add to our hoisin pancakes. A glorious feast to end our Shanghai eating adventure. Quanjude, which originates from Beijing, now has three restaurants in Shanghai. Reservations can be made for people dining before 5pm.
A stunning juxtaposition of urban jungle towering over these quintessential Chinese gardens. The Yu Garden is filled with ancient architecture, quaint water features and beautiful walkways. An absolute must see in Shanghai for a piece of ancient beauty within this metropolitan city. Surrounding the gardens are a number of food market stalls so grab yourselves some dumplings, egg waffles and sautéed tofu whilst you wait in the queue.
If you are limited on time in shanghai then the only thing you must do is visit the French Concession quarter. Known as the Covent Garden of the East, this quaint and eclectic corner of Shanghai is a bustling collection of independent shops, restaurants and bars.
Get lost in the labyrinth of alleyways of Tianzifang where shops are filled with handmade trinkets and souvenirs. We picked up some gorgeous bamboo candles and quirky key rings.
Arrive hungry so you can fully indulge in all the delicious food. This place is home to some of Shanghai’s best street food. Classics like braised tofu and dumplings to the downright extraordinary light up drinks and quirky ice creams. We spent hours wandering around this place and still felt like we needed more time here. The evening scene is just as glorious as the impossible occurs and this places comes even more to life.
For an unmissable view of the Shanghai skyline at sunset, the Vue Bar at Hyatt on the Bund is the place you want to be. A magnificent bar on the 32nd floor, equipped with a hot tub, is chic and fun. Cool house beats are the backdrop to your sundowner cocktail with a magnificent view.
Get there at 5.30pm when they open to get the best seat in the house. Ladies night on a Thursday means it’s 100 yen for two drinks and some delicious dim sum. Cheers to that!
If you have more time..
Suzhou // Zhouzhuang
Visit one of the river towns on the outskirts of Shanghai. A thirty minute train journey to Suzhou and a short taxi ride will take you to the ancient town of Zhouzhuang. A sea of red lanterns hang from oriental buildings overlooking the picturesque canals. The cobbled streets are filled with food vendors, silk specialists and ancient Chinese puppet shows.
Feeding our appetites for local delights we dined on scallion and pork encased in buttery pastry, white cabbage fritters and vegetable spring rolls. The caramelised fruit was also a sweet experience.
This short train journey outside of Shanghai makes you feel like you’ve been transported to another time. Ensure you have your passport with you at the station to buy a ticket, otherwise you’ll be going nowhere. First class tickets cost £9 and standing second class tickets cost a mere 50p.
We left Shanghai with a longer to do list than when we arrived, which is testament to how much this enchanting, vibrant city has on offer. Until our next adventure!