I’ve been in Shanghai now for over a year and it’s starting to feel like home. I have my favorite places and can actually provide useful recommendations of things to do and places to go. Shanghai is definitely a different city for tourist attractions. It’s not like Beijing with The Great Wall or Forbidden City because it’s more modern and international. It’s the result of being an important port city by the river– there were a lot of foreign concessions.
I recently thought about what would be my ideal weekend in Shanghai. In general, I’ve done most of the touristy things (visit the Bund, shop at Yu Yuan Gardens, eat at XinTianDi, etc.) so my ideal weekend would really be devoted to delicious food and relaxation.
After work, I like to head to one of my favorite restaurants, T for Thai (1502 Huaihai Zhong Lu; 淮海中路1502号2楼). With so many Thai restaurant choices in Shanghai (Simply Thai, Coconut Paradise, etc.), T for Thai is definitely the best Thai food I’ve had in the city. Chef Michael Wendling spent a year traveling from Shanghai to Thailand to master the art of Southeast Asian cooking. The result are dishes that pack a punch in flavor. My favorites include the lamb massaman curry, pomelo and shrimp salad, and the satay sticks. The space is incredibly sleek, modern and very hip. They also make a nice lemongrass mojito too. Closest Metro stop: Shanghai Library on Line 10.
For a cool, hidden spot, I like to take my friends to Boulevard (10 Baoqing Road; 宝庆路10号7楼). Boulevard is a secret bar and supper club that is on the 7th floor of a building and hidden behind a bookshelf. It’s got that 20s speakeasy vibe (reminding me a little bit of Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco). I would pass on the food, but it’s worthwhile for drinks. I like the Bathtubbin’, which is a cocktail made from Hendricks gin, limoncello and a little bit of cardamom. If I want to go to a bar with a view, I can go to one of the ritzier choices on the Bund like Glamour Bar, Unico or Bar Rouge. If my friends and I feel like dancing, we’ll normally head to The Apartment (one room with techno and one room with top 40/hip-hop) or Muse (techno).
One of my favorite places to visit for shopping is Tian Zi Fang (田子坊) on Taikang Road (泰康路). Located in the Former French Concession, Tian Zi Fang is a small enclave of different boutiques, art exhibitions and restaurants/cafés. Tian Zi Fang is unique because it was built around residential houses dating from the 1930s and still maintains its local charm. Many families still live in the surrounding houses and often times you’ll find them playing Chinese chess or cards outside. It’s a great area to buy souvenirs for your friends and families back home. The only downside is that the vendors aren’t as flexible at haggling and you tend to pay more than at the Yu Yuan Gardens. But it’s way less crowded than Yu Yuan and I love how at every corner, you’ll always find an interesting store to step into. I usually like to wander the area and pick a random eatery for lunch too. Closest Metro stop: Dapuqiao on Line 9.
In the afternoon, I would go to Mr. X (550 Jumen Road; 局门路550号), a mystery and puzzle shop with a group of my friends (if you’re not in a group, you can also join other teams to participate). Mr. X has different themed rooms (think Prison Break) and you have 1 hour to try and solve a serious of puzzles to escape the room. It’s extremely creative, interactive and so much fun. If you have the time, I’d recommend signing up for 2 hours to try and solve the room (the time passes so quickly!). You can buy tickets online or call the reservation line. Closest Metro stop: South Xizang Road on Line 8.
After Mr. X, my brain needs a break. One of my favorite places to escape the city is Zen Café in the Former French Concession (7 Dongping Road; 东平路7号). It’s a secret place because you actually need to walk through the Zen store, out the back door and up the stairs to reach it. I usually treat myself to a pot of tea and like to curl up with a book or magazine. Closest Metro stop: Hengshan Road on Line 1.
Right around the corner from Zen Café is my favorite hot pot restaurant, Faigo Hot Pot (28 Taojiang Road; 桃江路28号). Hot pot is basically Chinese fondue, using different soup bases to cook raw vegetables, seafood and meat. Faigo is the fanciest hot pot restaurant I’ve ever been to in my life. The quality of ingredients is impeccable and some of my favorites include the marbled beef, black pork neck, wood ear, cuttlefish balls and soft tofu. It sounds silly to say that this is gourmet hot pot, but it truly is. Service is top notch, the ambiance is calm and classy (love the jade green and orchids) and it’s a great restaurant to impress guests. Closest Metro stop: Hengshan Road on Line 1.
With dinner comes after-dinner drinks! I like to walk off my hot pot. If I’m feeling like a classy cocktail, I’ll head to el Coctel (47 Yongfu Road; 永福路47号) or Union Trading Company (64 Fenyang Road; 汾阳路64号). Both bars serve innovative cocktails and I love the relaxed feel of both places. Plus, at Union Trading Company, I get to order one of my favorite dishes, T’achos! Yes, they are tater tot nachos. These golden fried nuggets of joy are covered with melted cheese, Mexican chili and a sweeping scoop of sour cream (to cut the spiciness of the chili). If I want to head to a bar that is more low-key and casual, my favorite bar is Magpie (189 Yongkang Road; 永康路189号). It’s a tiny hole-in-the-wall that serves amazing ginger Moscow Mules in yellow metal cups.
Sunday is a day of rest and also pampering. My all-time favorite brunch place is Madison (3 Fenyang Road;汾阳路3号). Chef Austin Hu takes American comfort food and puts a refined spin on it. Some of my favorite dishes are the pancakes with raspberry butter (so fluffy), eggs Benedict with homemade XO Hollandaise sauce, corned beef hash, Jewish-style doughnuts, duck fat fries and their homemade yogurt. You really can’t go wrong with any dish. Apparently, I’m not the only one who shares this opinion because this is the hottest brunch spot in Shanghai. If you don’t have reservations, expect to wait over an hour for a table. Closest Metro stop: Shanxi Nan Road on Line 1.
After brunch, I like to walk to Subconscious Day Spa (183 Fumin Road; 富民路183号) and splurge on a 90-minute foot massage (or a full body massage if I’m feeling really indulgent). There are so many massage places in Shanghai, but I like Subconscious because it caters to Westerners (very clean) and it doesn’t cost a fortune (way cheaper than Green Massage). To really complete my day of relaxation, I’ll go to Helen’s Nail Spa (819 Julu Road; 巨鹿路819号) for a mani/pedi. Helen’s has a wide range of nail polish from OPI and Essie. They also do a great job if you like to get shellac. There are a lot of nail salons in Shanghai and you can find much cheaper places. But, after watching so many news stories about how people can get nail fungus from their salons, I am hyper aware of the cleanliness factor. I will gladly pay a higher price if it saves my toes from fungus. Closest Metro stop: Jing’an Temple on Line 2.
By now, I’m completely relaxed and happy from a full day of good food and pampering. I have to ready myself for the next day of work and will grab a quick salad to-go from Green & Safe (6 Dongping Road; 东平路6号). Green & Safe is a specialty food store owned by a Taiwanese company. They promote organic, locally grown produce, as well as a variety of baked goods, wine and frozen food. On the bottom floor is a café with pre-made salads. For 88 RMB, you can choose 3 seasonal salads, which is extremely reasonable when you see the cost of salad in Shanghai (often more than 100 RMB). It’s a large, filling portion and you can choose options like Thai beef, chicken Caesar, smoke salmon, roasted vegetables or quinoa salad. On the second floor is an actual sit-down restaurant with a slightly different menu (although I’ve never eaten there before). Closest Metro stop: Hengshan Road on Line 1.
And, there you have it. This would be my ideal weekend in Shanghai. Afterward, I’d feel charged and ready to conquer my Monday! What are you favorite places in Shanghai? Feel free to add them to the comments section below!
*This blog entry is part of a contest hosted by Club Carlson Hotels. All content and opinions are my own. Club Carlson Hotels did not have any input, except for the topic idea– my ideal weekend in Shanghai.*