According to official sources from the government, Shanghai first became a city in 1291 during the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368) and is now China’s—and the world’s—biggest city. In addition to being called home by 24.1 million people, the city welcomes millions of tourist every year (in 2015 over 270 million people visited Shanghai). It’s the perfect destination for fashionistas, businessmen and women, partiers, explorers and adventurers—Shanghai is a city that has everything for everyone.
But if you’re looking to have a unique experience outside of the usual places such as The Bund, Oriental Perl TV Tower or even the City God Temple, then we have just what you need.
Here are our favorite spots for those of you who want to experience a different side of Shanghai, a.k.a., The Pearl of Asia.
The Pearl Market is not your average market, and it doesn’t only sell pearls! In fact, if you’re looking for something custom-made to bring back with you, the women on the second floor can curate a beautiful and unique piece for that special someone. And you don’t have to come in and pre-order—the jewelry piece is made in minutes, right before your eyes! Once you’ve finished with the accessories, head down to the first floor to buy some silk pajamas, scarves and purses. It’s a woman’s paradise ;).
If you’re in Shanghai, you must get a taste of a real Chinese breakfast such as pulled noodles, savory Chinese crepes, and soup dumplings. Xiangyang Park is our go-to place for food stalls and markets that offer these delicious and cheap eats. There’s even a place to try unique desserts at a coffee shop in the park, which sells Sichuan peppercorn brownie with a spicy kick. At the same time, you’ll get to see locals practice tai chi or draw water calligraphy.
Have you ever heard of Speakeasy? During the time of prohibition, or at any time that drinking alcohol was not allowed, speakeasy (illegal) bars were established and hidden from the public. Shanghai adopted several speakeasy bars, one of the more famous ones is Flask, concealed behind a Coca-Cola vending machine.
But a new, trendy speakeasy bar has made its mark among the locals called Speak Low, located at 579 Fuxing Middle Road. The bar has placed 15th on the list of the world’s best bars for 2016, so it’s definitely worth checking out! Speak Low is concealed behind a wooden panel on the staircase, and the secret button is on a very old map. Once you press the button, the entrance slides open to reveal a chic and welcoming bar. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself spending $20 on a spectacular drink you won’t find anywhere else—and believe us when we say it’s definitely worth it, even if it’s just one drink. What’s more? There is another hidden bar in the building reserved for members only.
Why not take a painting back home with your friends face painted on a celebrity’s body? By visiting Painter Street in Xujiahu, you will be able to get a customized photo painted by recent graduate students, worthy to be hung above the fireplace. The paintings are decently priced, especially since it’s been personalized. Just make sure you choose the right celebrity—ancient or modern!
Okura Garden Hotel
Okura Garden Hotel (located on 58 Maoming Road) was built in the City’s French Concession in 1926, and still preserves its beautiful Art Deco atmosphere, definitely a must-see! But the real deal is their glass elevator that goes all the way up to the 33rd floor, where you can get one of the best views of the city. Usually, only guests of the hotel get to see Shanghai from above, for free, but if you keep it on the low, the hotel staff won’t mind outside visitors either. It’s a nice alternative city view from what you would get to see if you went up to the Oriental Perl TV Tower.
Shanghai is a busy, metropolitan hub loved by many expats, and if you’re ready to take on the city and experience it like a Shanghainese, then we urge you to check out these hot spots the next time you’re in town!
If this or any other destinations speak to you, we’d love to help you get there in comfort and put some savings in your pocket. Submit a flight request or contact your agent and we’ll find the best dates to travel there!