Spending the weekend in Shanghai on a crew layover was the perfect opportunity to take my boyfriend on a long overdue work trip with me. We explored Shanghai at fast pace in the 48 hours we had there. Read on to see our route around this incredible city.
Brunch at the Shangrila Yi Cafe
All good days start with a great brunch. This is the most incredible breakfast I’ve eaten in China. An extensive range of cuisines to tickle all tastebuds. Usually I’d be put off by international cuisine buffet style but this really is something different. The quality of the food is exceptional. We opted for build your own veggie noodle bowls, dumplings, bao buns, fruit, salmon bagels and eggs. Washed down with the best hotel coffee I’ve ever tried – not an exaggeration! Non guests can expect to pay RMB218 for the buffet breakfast, which for the spread on offer is worth the cost.
Fuelled up we set off to see some traditional Chinese heritage. The Yu Garden, located in the old town, is a perfect place to start your sightseeing. Wandering these ancient gardens is an incredible contrast to the backdrop of new build giant skycrapers behind it. The gardens will set you back RMB40. There is no time limit in the gardens, and you’ll probably want to allocate about an hour and a half to explore them fully.
Take a taxi to the French Concession in time for a coffee and snack where food vendors in this market area will serve up everything from dumplings and fried tofu to ice creams and sweet treats. Try out Kommune for a bloody mary at Happy Hour or grab a coffee on the go at Molan coffee specialists and even bring some home for your friends. Spend a couple of hours exploring the labyrinth of shops, cafes and bars in this ultra cute area of Shanghai.
Head to Cha’s for dinner for authentic Hong Kong Cantonese food. Sharing tables with other diners as well as dishes with each other is a fun and friendly way to dine. The food is fresh, tasty and authentic. There are dishes on the menu for everyone, even those with the most unadventurous western palette.
Starting at Mint, a member’s club set a few blocks back from the Bund. The indoor bar on the 24th floor gives you incredible views of the city skyline whilst escaping the extreme Shanghai weather. After sunset, as night kicks in head to Bar Rouge for sharp cocktails and funky beats. Best at weekends, this open top bar/club is fun and chic.
Start with breakfast at Sweet Wonderland West of the Tiangzifang district. Plenty bakeries, cool coffee shops and cafes line the streets here. Once finished grab a coffee to go and wander around the streets admiring the contrast between the old and new Shanghai here. You’ll see old men sat out on deck chairs in the road playing poker right around the corner from Shanghai’s latest hipster coffee shop opening. Feels more like West Village in New York than Shanghai.
If you fancy something Supergreen go to Shanghai’s equivalent of Whole Foods, Green & Safe. The deli style supermarket and restaurant does light, healthy food to take away or to eat in.
Then make your way to Shanghai Railway Station and buy tickets to Suzhou. The 30 minute journey on the high speed bullet train will transport you out of the cosmopolitan city and take you back hundreds of years to what feels like ancient China.
The beautiful river town is a five minute taxi journey from Suzhou station. Wander down the quaint riverside pathway admiring the ancient buildings littered with red lanterns.
Grab some street food from the food vendors – we opted for scallion pork pastries, and returned five minutes later for more because they were so damn tasty. You will probably want to spend a few hours here so the trip will take up the bulk of your day.
Remember – you must have your passport if you to take the train in China, and also get someone to write down the addresses of where you are going in Mandarin for the taxi driver to understand.
Upon returning to Shanghai continue the authentic Chinese theme by indulging in traditional Chinese Hot Pot for dinner. We went to Elixir Health Pot restaurant, however there are numerous hot pot restaurants dotted around the city. You should never visit China and pass up the opportunity to try this dish. Best with a group but equally as delicious with one or two. Essentially you cook your own food in a big pot of spicy broth. This experience is as enjoyable as it is tasty. Always opt for the spicy version and have a few cold beers ready to wash away the heat.
If you want to read up more about Shanghai check out my winter 48 hour guide here.