After forty years of stagnation under the thumb of communist rule, it seemed there was no hope for Shanghai. However, now the city has become hipper than Hong Kong and more popular than Beijing. It’s going through one of the fastest economic expansions that the world has ever seen, truly living up to its title as the Pearl of the Orient. By embracing its ancient history and blending it with modern technology, the city has become a luxurious Asian destination. Now with exclusive restaurants, art galleries and spas, not to mention some of the best shopping in world, Shanghai is set to capture the title of East Asia's most magnificent metropolis.
Shanghai markets are some of the best places to get goods that would otherwise be impossible to obtain anywhere else in the world. They can be ripe with counterfeits, but they are pretty easy to spot. Common sense goes a long way when shopping at the markets of Shanghai. If you are buying a Prada bag for what is an extremely reasonable price, there is almost a guarantee that it is not authentic.
Although the markets are ripe with counterfeiters, they are great places to pick up some colourful china, elegant lacquered boxes and some Communist memorabilia. Be sure to check out the pearl market in Old Town for affordable and beautiful river pearls too.
For authentic fashion, visitors will want to head down to Shanghai's shopping district called the Nanjing Road. This district is home to five equally massive shopping malls that are packed to the brim with boutique stores. Many of the stores focus on upscale elegant jewellery and house some of the biggest names in fashion. Since this district houses formal shopping malls, shoppers can guarantee the authenticity of the fashion items they are buying.
However, for those interested in clothing made exclusively for them by a tailor, they should head to the Xilupu Fabric Market. Travellers can choose from any number of luxurious fabrics, including much sought after Chinese silks. Get measured and drop off your own designs and any number of tailors who will whip it up in as little as a day. A handmade shirt or gown made of Chinese silk, especially one in your own design, is a souvenir like no other.
Explore The City
While many Chinese cities are embracing modern culture, they are also doing away with their fascinating past. This is not so in Shanghai, which preserves its ancient roots.
The Bund, or the waterfront, is perhaps the most iconic view of Shanghai. It is a dazzling place to take in a famous Shanghai sunset or to just see the skyscrapers from another angle. With all the different influences in Shanghai over the years, The Bund showcases Gothic, Baroque, Romanesque, Classism and Renaissance styles all within close proximity of each other.
For a brief escape from the urban landscape, head to the most famous garden in Shanghai – the Yu Yuan Garden. This garden dates back to the Ming Dynasty and has served as a place of peace and tranquility in this otherwise bustling urban hub. Whether you’re watching the rhythmic patterns of swimming koi fish or admiring the collection of Asian shrubbery, this garden provides a thrill of its own.
For those who go to Shanghai to see some exemplary pieces of ancient architecture, you should head to Zhujiajiao, which has also been referred to as Shanghai's Venice. The old buildings combined with the water canals showcase an authentic water village that reflects the city's old roots.
After the ancient feel of Zhujiajiao travellers should be sure to visit the Shanghai World Financial Center to be reminded of just how modern this city really is. What often attracts those to the Shanghai World Finance Center, aside from the billions of dollars that pass through there each day, is the remarkable 100th floor. This floor is an all-glass walkway that gives unparalleled views of the city. The highlight of the walk is the 55-metre stretch that shows the city suspended beneath your own feet.
Enjoy International Dining
Creativecommons.org/Alberto Carrasco Casado
The city is filled with luxury dining establishments. For those that are dead set on getting some authentic Chinese food, there are many restaurants and street vendors to serve it up.
There is one delicacy that visitors cannot miss while in the city – dumplings. Soup dumplings, or xiaolong bao, are popular throughout the city, but Din Tai Fung serves them up best. While the restaurant chain may be Taiwanese in origin, the locals universally agree that they do soup dumplings the best out of all the places that serve them. Delicate dumpling skin holds a bounty of juicy pork filling – but be careful, there is also a hot broth surprise inside.
For a more proper dining experience, head on down to Jade on 36 in the Pudong district, which sits on the 36th floor of the Shangri-La Hotel. This is the restaurant to go to for dinner with a view. Though its menu is much like the menu of your local Chinese restaurant back home, Jade on 36 serves up some phenomenal international fare. Do be sure to bring an appetite though, as the menus can range from five to eight courses, with the emphasis upon tender meats and fresh seafood. Specials include a pan seared scallop with Jerusalem artichoke, green asparagus and truffle, roasted lobster with crustacean butter and roasted organic chicken.
A Room With A View
The Shangri-La Hotel in Pudong is not only home to one of the best restaurants in the city, it is also one of the best hotels as well. The building is comprised of two beautiful glass skyscrapers that glow as blue as the sky they reflect. Inside, that floor to ceiling glass really comes into play when it showcases those glorious water's edge views. Tower one provides unobstructed views of The Bund while tower two overlooks the rest of the city. Yes, one would be correct in assuming tower one is much more coveted than tower two. Each room is designed in the modernist style and furnished with some of the best quality furniture and linen in the world. The white glove service and spacious rooms attract both business and leisure travellers alike.
The Puli Hotel and Spa is advertised as an urban resort, meant to serve as an oasis in the middle of an otherwise bustling city. Each room comes with blackout curtains, rainforest showers, a complimentary mini bar stocked with local snack foods and beer and cell phones to use during your stay. The ground floor of the hotel houses a cozy library with fireplace and an outdoor garden terrace. There is also a luxurious spa that pampers guests – and it’s free to all hotel guests.