What to do in Shanghai over a long weekend
If you live in Beijing (or even if you don’t and just want a fabulous weekend away whilst in China), a great way to spend a long weekend is to take the fast train to Shanghai, especially if you travel business class…it’s a funny thing on the train in that business class is better than first class so with business class you get a wonderfully comfortable ‘huge’ seat in a lovely separate cabin. The train takes exactly four hours and 55 minutes.
My hotel of choice is the ‘Fairmont Peace Hotel’ which is a luxuriously refurbished art-deco building located along the Bund and within walking distance of Nanjing Road for shopping (www.fairmont.com/peace-hotel-shanghai). The hotel has been meticulously restored and offers tours daily. This is worthwhile and very interesting to hear the hotel’s history. The hotel also has a great jazz bar on the ground floor.
There are so many fabulous places to visit in Shanghai and I took the opportunity to visit as many as possible. The Yu Yuan Gardens are spectacular and were created in the Ming Dynasty by Mr Pan for his father to enjoy in his old age and now for the likes of me to enjoy in my ‘old’ age. The gardens can get very crowded so it’s worth making this your first stop of the day.
Another place I enjoy visiting is the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre (similar to the one in Beijing) which is located at the People’s Square and has displays of Shanghai’s urban planning over six floors.
Another museum I visited was the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre which was set up in one room in 2002 and in 2012 it received the official licence from the Chinese Government to operate. Inside you will see over 6000 Chinese propaganda posters dating from 1940 to 1990. It’s a little hard to find but we had our concierge write out the Chinese characters for the taxi driver and all was good – it’s located in an old building and is only a small three room centre but definitely worth a visit. Excellent prints of Shanghai women.
An interesting place to spend an afternoon is the former French Concession area. This was a french concession area from 1849 until 1946 and consists of a network of tree lined streets which are now home to fabulous mansions that have been subdivided into family homes, quaint boutiques, cafes, restaurants and shops selling anything from period furnishing to books and nick knacks. The shopping and eating only forms part of this area, there are also many historical and cultural sites including Premier ZHOU Enlai’s former residence, Dr SUN Yat Sen’s memorial residence and the site of the first National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
Two other areas of interest are Xintiandi and Tianzifang which are arts and crafts enclaves that have developed from a residential area in the French Concession area. The areas comprise a neighbourhood of alleyways with housing and buildings of the old Shanghai shikumen style (traditional Shanghainese architectural style combining Western and Chinese elements). Businesses sell all things trendy and there are many bars, cafes and restaurants to enjoy. Tianzifang is distinctly different to Xintiandi in that Xintiandi has managed to preserve a more residential feel, adding, I think, to its appeal.
Fuxing Park is also another great location in the former French Concession area. It was originally a private garden in the Ming Dynasty and was taken over by the French after the Opium wars. It has a lovely central lake, fountains, covered pavilions and beautiful flowerbeds and sycamore trees. When I visited the park, it was filled with Chinese people dancing and playing cards along with men walking with their caged birds who were singing loudly, people practicing tai chi and children flying kites.
Shanghai has fabulous quality restaurants including ‘M on the Bund’, ‘Lost Heaven’, ‘Tavola’ and ‘Mr and Mrs Bund’ – just to name a few…all worthy of a visit to enjoy the fabulous views at most and great food and atmosphere at all.
On the other end of the scale there is a wonderful overcrowded, tiny restaurant called Jishi located at 41 Tianping Road. This is true Shanghainese cuisine at its best. It has an English menu which is rather incomprehensible but you manage to work it out. Lots of vegetarian options and the stir fry Yunnan ham and vegetables I am told is delicious.
The most inexpensive mode of transport across the Huangpu River is by ferry costing 2RMB however we decided on one occasion to take the ‘Bund Sightseeing Tunnel’ which is a pedestrian transit tunnel at 50 RMB. I don’t really know what we expected but with the name ‘…sightseeing tunnel’ I sort of expected some sort of glass tunnel with views of fish and ocean life. Hardly!!! What we got was a glass carriage in a dark tunnel and a light show projected on the walls of the tunnel along with ‘house music’ pumped through the carriage – very 1970’s disco. Along the two or three minute ride we were able to see strange large blow up aquarium fish and people (a bit like those blow up people that car yards use to attract people to a sale) and a games arcade at each end of the tunnel. Rather strange.
The ‘must do’s’ in Shanghai include a walk along the Bund, the famous waterfront area in central Shanghai. Check out some of the architecturally beautiful buildings along Zhongshan Road. The different architectural styles include Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance to name a few…oh and several high end stores.
And finally, whilst walking along the Bund, take a look over the famous Huangpu River to the Shanghai skyline to see the World Financial Centre (Shanghai’s tallest building at 492 metres), Oriental Pearl Tower at 468 metres and the Jin Mao Tower at 421.