You’ve got a limited amount of time in Shanghai. Maybe you’re there for a transit en-route to another exciting destination; maybe you’re there at the end of a work week, just before you’re headed back home to the comforts of your own pillow & bed.
Maybe you’re in Shanghai because you haven’t been to China for a while (or ever) and want to have a glimpse into the city that has grown so rapidly in such a short period of time.
Whatever the reason is, welcome to Shanghai. Welcome to an insanely beautiful city that is continuously fuelling creativity, and welcome to the powerhouse city that is constantly challenging mediocre-ness and paving way for innovation.
I love Shanghai. I love that every time you go back there, something’s new, something’s changed, someone’s thought of some amazing new idea, and actually made it happen.
Sure it is a city that is still adjusting. You will find yourself stumbling across people that spit on streets, or you will need to make sure you have your own tissues for the toilet, but the fact is, Shanghai offers so much culture, warmth and fascination to anyone open-minded enough to embrace it.
Luckily for me, I usually visit Shanghai every 8-12 months. To see friends, to immerse myself in the amazing arts & culture scene they have, but also when I just want to let my mind wander onto new ideas and just sometimes take a break from the hustle and bustle that is Hong Kong.
Usually when I go to Shanghai, my time is limited. Most of the time it’s just a weekend getaway (so arriving late Friday night from Hong Kong, then departing late afternoon on Sunday). I could definitely do with an extra day or two, but we do know how scarce annual leave is!
Below I’d like to share with you my perfect one day Shanghai itinerary. It’s a guide that I follow religiously, (to which my friends are always like “again?!”, but I love this little ritual of mine that I have, and it allows me to experience the best of Shanghai, all in just one day.
10am: Jia Jia Tang Bao / Yang’s Dumplings
11:30am: Shanghai Marriage Market
12pm: Coffee break nearby
2pm: Off to a museum (or two)
5:30pm: Head home to rest/refresh
Jia Jia Tang Bao (佳家汤包)
First off, the day starts at around 10am at Jia Jia Tang Bao （佳家汤包) – off Huang He Road (黄河路) for Shanghai’s yummiest xiao-long-bao soup dumplings (小笼包). I admit this place is a bit touristy at times and you’ll find lots of Hong Kong tourists here too, but the xiao long bao is top notch and soooo yummy (it’s literally possible to eat one basket on your own).
For full details on how to get to Jia Jia Tang Bao and the must order dishes there click here!
Your entire journey at Jia Jia Tang Bao shouldn’t take more than 1 hour (even including waiting times).
Yang’s Dumplings (小杨生煎)
After that you can head over to Yang’s Dumpling just across the street. (Or sometimes if you’re waiting in line at Jia Jia Tang Bao and way too hungry/cold you can head over to Yang’s Dumpling’s and buy a few for takeaway to help ease the hunger.) This place is a franchise too, so you’ll likely see their stores everywhere. It’s a great and quick bite when you want a quick snack or meal and the prices are so reasonable.
For 8 RMB only, you get 4 of these beautifully fried babies! When eating them do be careful though, there is a lot of juice inside of them that can burn you/spill everywhere if you don’t bite them properly. It’s best to bite a bit of the skin off at the top, let it air a bit because usually these beautiful pan fried dumplings from Yang’s are fresh off the stove and piping hot.
Time spent at Yang’s Dumplings can be quite fast, you can be in and out in about 20 minutes. If you have managed to visit Shanghai but never tried this, you have been missing out.
Stuffed but with such tummies happy tummies, it’s time to do some exercise and let our tummies digest for a bit.
Huanghe Road is really close to People’s Square, and also one of the reason’s why Jia Jia Tang Bao & Yang’s Dumplings are my must-do when in Shanghai.
Shanghai Marriage Market
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard, but Shanghai has a Marriage Market held in People’s Square/People’s Park 人民广场 usually on the weekends.
What is a marriage market you say? At heart, such a market was set up by parents who are worried about their children not getting married or ending up alone. With multiple factors like globalization, education, or careers etc essentially pushing back the average age that men & women in China get married at, parents who have come from different/older times & generations often feel worried about the fact their child will not establish their own family, or support themselves (e.g. the parents) too.
More on Shanghai’s Marriage Market here. If you decide to wander around the Marriage Market, (if you can’t read Chinese) then maybe around 10-15 minutes? If you can, then potentially 20-30 minutes?
By now, you’ve usually hit the 1pm mark, so it’s a nice chance for you to get a midday boost by visiting a nearby coffee shop or heading over to areas like French Concession for some cute hidden hangouts too. After a little break, you can head over to your next museum planned for the afternoon.
The beauty of Shanghai is that they have so much space for all sorts of creative initiatives. If I had to pick my top three museums, they’d be Rockbund Art Museum (上海外滩美术馆) (where you can go to the rooftop – picture below – and see the beautiful Bund from afar), Power Station of Art (上海当代艺术博物馆) and Long Museum (龙美术馆).
It’s best to check out the exhibitions they have on at the time, as different ones will suit your interests accordingly. Most of the time we can spend a good 2.5-3 hours here, but if you want to truly enjoy each museum I probably wouldn’t try to squeeze in more than 2 museums in an afternoon.
By now it’s around 5 or 6pm, and either we/you can head home for a quick refresh/nap before heading off to dinner. Depending on what you’re feeling like, there’s a few options you can do for dinner.
Before Mercato (Italian cuisine) opened in Hong Kong, I absolutely loved going to the Shanghai one. Situated on the Bund, the restaurant offers stunning views of The Bund at night.
If you’re feeling like some more local dishes, Old Jesse 老吉士 (41 Tianping Road – 天平路41号) is a more down-to-earth Shanghai-nese restaurant offering amazing local cuisine. (Definitely get the dongpo pork 东坡肉).
After an amazing dinner, it’s time to head to a bar for some chill drinks. There’s a few venues you can head to by The Bund but I like Botanist, which is nestled inside French Concession. It’s a moderately sized bar but I love the deep dark green colours of this venue and especially love that you can also sit outside and “people watch” too. It does get quite packed easily so that’s one thing to take note of too.
If the bar’s full and you just want to wander around French Concession, do so. It’s so romantic especially at night, and so nice to walk around when the streets are empty and you have all these huge wide roads to yourself (be careful of course). The trees lined up against each side of the pavements just create a beautiful symmetry.
If you’re still on the lookout for drinks and a venue that is (currently) not too overcrowded, head over to Bulgari Hotel (who have taken up the former Chamber of Commerce venue) for beautiful skyline views of the Bund. Open just this year in late June 2018 the surrounding architecture around the whole space is just stunning and a truly intimate affair.
And that, wraps up the perfect one day in Shanghai itinerary. Though this itinerary has you drifting away from the typical touristy sites of Shanghai, it definitely gives you the opportunity to mingle / be in the presence of the local crowd, experience a piece of what Shanghai life has to offer.
For other activities in Shanghai that might interest you feel free to click here.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations on things I must do next time I visit Shanghai so feel free to leave comments!