Shanghai bleg

by on April 20, 2014 at 3:17 pm in Food and Drink, Travel | Permalink

Other than the obvious things I would see in a guidebook, what should I do and where should I eat?  I thank you all in advance for your assistance.

Bernard Golden April 20, 2014 at 3:36 pm

Definitely do the river night tour. Amazing light show put on by buildings south of river. Amazing. Like something from Blade Runner

Anon. April 20, 2014 at 4:25 pm

On the topic of China and Blade Runner, here’s a great photo from Beijing:

RM April 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm

If you want to do a river ride, go a ways up river and cross with the locals on one their rides.

eater April 20, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Eat xiao long bao. Here are a few ideas:

M April 20, 2014 at 4:42 pm


Jan April 20, 2014 at 5:15 pm

In my experience khinkalis are thicker/doughier than the Chinese stuff.

EL April 21, 2014 at 11:56 am

or the even more Shanghainese version – shengjianbao. Panfried, thicker dough, soupy insides. Hard to find, while I’ve had decent xiaolongbao / soup dumplings in the US.

Staring Man April 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

I ate nice and cheap street kebabs of various kinds prepared by Uighur Muslims from Xinjiang. They played good Turkic music and brought some humor and liveliness to an otherwise drab neighborhood.

RM April 20, 2014 at 4:55 pm

+1 — although I did not do Uighur street food, I did go to one of their restaurants (and in Beijing too). Might have been on Ox road, (but I might be confusing it with Beijing). Anyway, Uighur food in a not-too-upscale restaurant will likely be an excellent choice. Go for the duck feet. They serve beer if that matters to you.

ibaien April 21, 2014 at 7:46 am

tyler is a neo-Prohibitionist. I assure you it does not.

Ricardo April 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Tyler wrote: “I favor a kind of voluntary prohibition on alcohol.” I take his use of the word “voluntary” seriously, and thus claim that he is not a prohibitionist. There is a big difference between “I think most people would be better off not consuming alcohol” and “I think most people should be prohibited from consuming alcohol.”

RM April 20, 2014 at 5:04 pm

If you would find this an interesting topic, the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center is an option: It was so, so for me, but they had some stunningly excellent Mao era propaganda posters on display when I went (not sure if is permanently on display). It is close to the municipal building

CD April 20, 2014 at 6:47 pm

The Urban Planning Center contains a nice city model, but is otherwise valuable mainly for its air conditioning. For posters. the privately-run Propaganda Poster Art Center is is excellent. Takes just a little persistence to find.

Contemporary art: The scene may have shifted, but a couple years back the studio/gallery complex around 50 Monganshan Road was quite extraordinary. Ideally I would find an art-savvy guide, because it would take days to explore all of it.

SH April 20, 2014 at 5:30 pm

Being a Shanghai native and having been living outside of China for years, one of the things I miss most is breakfast. One of my favorite is some kind of fried dumpling, crispy on one side, dipped in vinegar. Those should be easy to find on streets and during weekdays there sometimes will be lines, depending on where you go. Those are typically sold in 8 pcs / 100 g portion.

There is also fried pork chop with hot soy sauce, which according to some is a localized version of Wiener Schnitzel …

There are some ancient towns in the suburbs, which offer local food not easily found in the city. The views weren’t that great though, too small an area and too close to highrises nearby in my opinion.

lemonjello April 20, 2014 at 5:52 pm

It’s not Shanghai cuisine, but I enjoyed the Yunnanese fare at Lotus Eatery. Good prices, very friendly service (the owner is a Brit, but he is passionate about Yunnan cuisine). Try Grandma’s mashed potatoes, the fried goat cheese, BBQ fish, and any of the wild mushroom dishes, to name a few.

Paul Romer April 20, 2014 at 6:15 pm

The best meal I had last fall in Shanghai was Yunnan folk cuisine at Lost Heaven in the French Concession. The sister restaurant on (actually near to) the Bund predictably catered more to tourists than locals. The meal I had there was not nearly as good.

Also, check out the view at night of the exchange where the North-South Elevated Road meets the Ya’an Elevated Road before they turn off the blue neon lights that illuminate them. (This might happen as early as 10 PM.)

From underneath, you see the striking contrast between the rich street life and the futuristic elevated roads. (Mix your own metaphor for China’s development experience.)

Every other elevated highway I’ve ever seen looks awful, but in Shanghai I learned that the effect is completely different if you design the road with clean lines, paint the underside white, get creative with the lighting, and jack them up 5 or more stories in the air. At that height, the curved ramps in the interchange are works of art.

For the view from on high, get a drink at the restaurant in the JW Marriott that is located in Tomorrow (aka People’s) Square. Ask for a table at a window overlooking the exchange. If you go just after dusk, you’ll see that although the hardware for the road system is remarkable, they lack the software that would let them truly qualify as futuristic: congestion pricing. (Again, mix your own metaphor.)

Fred April 20, 2014 at 6:21 pm

You can look around to see if, anecdotally, left handers are truly repressed in China. Is that an urban/rural divide or consistent bias through China?

Dan Murray April 20, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Pork soup dumplings. Eat them on the street level of any good restaurant.

AndrewL April 20, 2014 at 7:37 pm

If there was something worth doing that wasn’t in a guidebook, they’d put it in the guidebook no?

Brent April 20, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Visit us in Yangpu (District)!

Seriously, though, the whole area (French Concession) from Xintiandi through Xujiahui is fun to walk around. Very beautiful in many ways.

Brent April 21, 2014 at 9:34 am

I forgot to mention… a really must see show is the ERA Intersection of Time performance. If you can make it, you should try.

Winston Smith April 20, 2014 at 8:33 pm

Be sure to buy some “Nixon Grade” Lung Jing tea while you’re there. This is the tea Mao and Nixon drank at Hangzhou, located just south-west of Shanghai.

Patster April 20, 2014 at 8:46 pm

The Museum in Renmin Park is surely in the guidebook,but I doubt the book makes it clear just how good this museum is.Dont miss it!
The Shang bronzes are outstanding!

mkt April 20, 2014 at 9:46 pm

My favorite part of Shanghai was simply walking the streets, especially in the old, less-modernized neighborhoods. They were rapidly being torn down and replaced with modern high rises but I’d guess there are still plenty of them left (Shanghai is a huge city).

A great place for street food. The people in Shanghai seemed especially fond of kebab-style grilled meat, I’m guessing these were Uighur style foods, but there was a huge variety of stuff being sold from carts and stands, pretty much everywhere.

I don’t know if the Sex Museum is still open. Not that it is/was a great museum, but its most remarkable characteristic was that it existed at all. IIRC it was opened by a former professor, who happened to be there when I visited and speaks some English.

When I was there 12 years ago, the buses were more modern than most US buses and arrived with incredible frequency — usually one would arrive in less than 6 minutes. However during rush hour the traffic was so congested that no vehicle was moving anyway, and it was just as fast to walk. Twelve years of additional growth in auto sales must be making things even worse now. The subways were very good, but Shanghai is so huge that there were large areas in between the lines and stations. I’d guess that that is still true even though Shanghai has been busily adding additional subway and commuter rail lines.

dan1111 April 21, 2014 at 1:59 am

Twelve years ago, the metro had 68 km of lines. Now it has 538 km.

Doug April 20, 2014 at 9:52 pm

Stay at the Shanghai Peninsula. With the exception of the Burj Al Arab, it’s the nicest hotel in the world. Also on the subject of Shanghai vs Dubai, the Shanghai World Financial Center has the tallest observatory in the world. Very touristy, but definitely worth it. Even though it’s only a few blocks from the Bund, Zhapu Road has excellent street food stalls and no white people (probably because you have to cross terrifying traffic to get there). Finally Yang’s Fry Dumplings.

Craig Richardson April 20, 2014 at 10:05 pm

I’ve been to Shanghai 4 times-

Urban Planning museum is really a jaw dropping display- there is a complete model of Shanghai (not on first floor, but go up to 3rd or 4th) .. Also has an incredible 360 degree video room that makes you feel like you’re flying all over the city.. 2 hours.. four stars.

Propaganda Museum is interesting if you’re on the way somewhere else- it’s about a 20-30 minute stop in the basement of an apartment and has some great posters. two and three quarters stars. I wouldn’t spend an hour getting there though unless you are a collector of propaganda posters.

For a incredible view of what capitalism has done to the Bund and Pudong area, go have a drink as the sun sets at New Heights restaurant, which is on the rooftop of a restored British bank building on the Bund. It may be the best in the city to see the entire river, the Bund and Pudong. I always take my students here after a long day, to relax and rest under the glowing lights.

3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Road, Guangdong Road
Tel.: 021-63210909

From website:
Sitting atop the Three on the Bund building, Western bistro New Heights benefits from one of Shanghai’s best terraces. Stretching the length of the venue and paved with wooden decking, the patio offers an expansive panorama of the Huangpu River, the Bund and the Lujiazui skyscrapers.

Virginia Postrel April 20, 2014 at 10:11 pm

I second the Propaganda Museum,, Rm. BOC, 868 Hu Shan Rd.
Shanghai 200050.

Whatever you do, do not go to drink tea with friendly English-speaking people who approach you in People’s Park. It is a scam designed to separate you from large sums of money. (I didn’t succumb, but I did have two longish conversations with people that ended with the invitation to tea.)

Jonathan April 20, 2014 at 10:10 pm

Highly recommended offbeat museum: the Maoist Propaganda Museum, located in an apartment building basement:

Colleen April 21, 2014 at 3:58 am

For cheap, delicious food:

The street food at the corner of Xiangyang Lu and Changle Lu. Try the jian bing and the vegetable baozi as well as the xiaomai

Guyi: 89 Fumin Lu, near Julu Lu

Yuxin Chuan Cai: Zhaoshangju Square, 3/F, 333 Chengdu Bei Lu,near Weihai Lu

Bellagio: 68 Taicang Lu, near Songshan Lu

Tentekomai. 242 Ruijin Lu, near Julu Lu (Entrance on Julu Lu)

Noodle Bull 1/F, 291 Fumin Lu, near Changle Lu

Marc April 21, 2014 at 7:07 am

You might try some XinJiang food as it’s not something that’s too common in the US. Here’s one possibility that has very high ratings., (Print that out and show it to your cab driver) Your Chinese hosts will know of other XinJiang restaurants near where you are staying (but just be aware that might not be the type of food they will steer you towards).
If you pass by Nanjing East Rd, which you probably will, you should go visit one or two of the food stores on the north side of the street. There is one called ‘Shanghai No 1 Food Company’ which is the biggest and most complete. Wander off into the rear and then through a small hallway to the back room. As you wander you will run into a nice assortment of Shanghai style baked goods, and then specialty products including meat in the back room.
As some of the other posters have mentioned one night at a restaurant overlooking the HuangPu River is a nice treat. One easy place to do that with lots of choices is ZhengDa GuangChang (a mall) which is right at the LuJiaZui subway stop on line 2. Any restaurant located > than floor 4 and towards the rear / rear left will have good food and nice views. Some places have minimum spending limits for seats near the windows, some don’t — just be aware as some of the minimum spending limits are lots and lots of food.
If you go to YuYuan, probably, you might want to visit the tea house in the middle of the pond, Tea houses are for sitting, talking and snacking, not just tea, though there is that too. You will probably find a Chinese tea house interesting and I have heard that YuYuan one very nice (although pricey by Chinese standards).
Then lastly, get walk about in the early mornings and see if anything from the roadside breakfast vendors appeals to you. You will see all kinds of things that are new. Just make sure that anything you try is hot out of the steamer or wok — hot hot — I cant have you getting sick while your are here!

Donal April 21, 2014 at 9:54 am

Out of curiosity, and I’m sorry if you’ve posted before on the topic and I’ve forgotten, but do you read guidebooks? My guess is that you don’t.

Eric April 21, 2014 at 10:47 am

It’s been 2 years but the street food at night around Tianjin Road and Henan Middle (just west of the Bund) was the most memorable thing I ate – particularly the fried tofu. And obviously Yang’s fried dumplings.

Linda April 21, 2014 at 11:14 am

In additional to Xinjiang food, imo, Muslim Chinese cuisine is in general the best cuisine in the world. Try Xi’an based foods like liangpi, rou jia mo, lamb pao mo, and Lanzhou-based beef la mian. Xinjiang-wise, my favorites are the lamb samosas and lamb pilafs, and of course, lots of yangrouchuan’r (lamb kabobs). It’s to note that even though they have similar names, Xinjiang pilafs, kabobs, samosas, naan, etc. are nothing like those in other regions of the world and are infinitely superior.

Laowai_1976 April 21, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Have jian bing guo zi, the Chinese crepe egg sandwich, made fresh on the street… Every single breakfast, unless you decide to partake in one of the extravagant signalling-arms-race champagne brunches that the bankers like… or you find one of the few Uighers in Shanghai building spicy beef sandwiches.

Soup dumplings, the city’s most well-known food, are also excellent, but you can find those in the DC area if you look hard enough.

Shao Kao / Chuanr street barbecue (both vegetables and meats) was something I enjoyed in the other Chinese cities I visited, but couldn’t hunt down in Shanghai.

Lanzhou Lamian is a nearly ubiquitous chain of (domestically) ethnic food restaurants, run by the Hui population in stereotypical theatrical fashion, with reliable, cheap, good noodle fare.

Hunter April 21, 2014 at 9:27 pm

This is from the perspective of a Chinese-speaking expat living/working in Shanghai for 6 years now, exp in China since 2004. Drop me an email, would be very happy to help however I can and/or meet up.

First things first, stay on the Puxi side as much as possible – you can see the Pudong skyscrapers perfectly well from Puxi side and that’s one of the fewreasons to cross the river!

get out of the hotel for breakfast and find a stall selling jianbing 煎饼 and another stall (won’t be the same one) selling Shanghai specialty shengjianbao 生煎包 (like a small meat-filled baozi but then pan fried until it is crispy on the bottom). Youtiao with doujiang soy milk another good breakfast choice.

Definitely second the suggestion of Xinjiang food as well! My old fav is on Yishan Lu near Nandan Lu, but lately been going to one off of Yan’an. Can also go to the Tongchuan Lu seafood market, make your pick at wholesale prices and then have it cooked up at any of the surrounding restaurants. I suspect you will find more off-the-beaten-track places but for Shanghainese, can try Yuan Yuan or (for more modern/upscale take) The Chinois Story attached to the Jinjiang Hotel. For Hunan, Di Shui Dong is a fun expat-friendly favorite while Gu Yi is a bit more local but still premium. We love little hole-in-the-wall Dongbei places, one of our favorite Chinese cuisines (guo bao rou, di san xian, plenty of dumplings….). is glorious for finding places to eat, imagine yelp on steroids (unfortunately Chinese only)

Skip the super touristy stuff like Yu Gardens – overcrowded and overrated. Same for completely artificial Xintiandi. If you want to shop for souvenirs, Taikang Lu is a better bet but also quite touristy. Have to visit the Bund to tick the box, but don’t eat there unless you really really like paying through the nose for snooty Western fare.

Shanghai has a long history of expatriate life, so I think it’s fair to see/experience expat life (very distinct from “tourist” spots). Dedicate some time to walking around the French Concession and have a drink some place on Ferguson Lane, Fuxing Lu (west of Wulumuqi) or Anfu Lu. Ask a local expat for a recommendation. Visit Yongkang Lu if you want to see how quickly a wet market can turn into the trendiest spot in town (sometimes the locals living above throw buckets of water on revelers below). If you want to see how the craft beer scene is developing, visit one of the locations of Boxing Cat Brewery. GoGa is a very nice small “California fusion” restaurant – tough to get a reservation downstairs, but the lounge upstairs “Hai” has great food too.

Visiting a local bird and flower market can be very interesting interesting. If you want to celebrate so-bad-it’s-funny kitsch, can try the Bund sightseeing tunnel.

Email me!

ken April 21, 2014 at 10:29 pm

There’s a curry puff stall in main shanghai rail station – to die for.

David Roberts April 21, 2014 at 10:44 pm

The museum of the Jewish quarter is a fascinating slice of WW2 era history. A few heroic diplomats in Europe stamping exit visa’s literally saved thousands of lives.

Nathan W April 22, 2014 at 2:03 pm

If you’re there for 2-3 days you could go get a tailored suit for $100. (Overnight is possible, but it costs more). Um … west side of the second bridge south of the bund there’s a whole market for that stuff :)

Probably you can find some good seafood dishes, perhaps involving some Sichuan hotpot style strips of fish (you can pick out the fish, so you know it’s fresh) with various side orders. Shanghai cuisine is most notable for its seafood, but you might have to go to a slightly better restaurant where most of the smaller side dishes are already in the 10s of RMB and the mains are in the 60-250+ range … then you’ll probably get some pretty good seafood. There are so many eating districts in Shanghai that you probably don’t need to know which one is “best”, imo.

Someone mentioned above about the Urban Planning centre. You can learn about urban planning there, but more interestingly, you can learn about the ideals and values laid into the vision of urban planning being portrayed to the various audiences targeted by the museum.

KV April 22, 2014 at 7:28 pm

I will concur with all the recommendation of Xinjiang food and Yunnan food. If you can find a local resident to take you, you should try to find a Xinjiang soup/noodle shop, there are a number of them near the Jing An temple. Lost Heaven is delicious, but quite expensive. There is a place called Kuyi on Changde Lu, also near the Jing An temple that is equally tasty Yunnan, and a better value. (my office is here hence the Jing An district focus).

Honestly, I would skip the Bund area for food.

Winston Smith April 22, 2014 at 9:47 pm

One more, be alert of pajama culture in Shanghai. Pack your best PJs, wander down the street for a snack

Thalaivar April 28, 2014 at 1:41 am

If you make a ‘donation’ – you get to hug a panda (

Michael Greenwell April 28, 2014 at 7:19 pm

I can second this, I held a panda when I went to Chengdu, it is kind of a hokey experience but also something that you can only do there, I really can’t imagine another place on earth that will let you hold a panda. I am not 100% sure about the animal welfare/privilege side of the equation, it did end up feeling a little insensitive, if that kind of thing bothers you.

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