Inner Circle

24 Hours in Shanghai

Experience the old and the modern in China’s most cosmopolitan city with Alywin Chew’s whirlwind one-day itinerary.

24 Hours in Shanghai
Shanghai features an intriguing blend of elegance and vulgarity that duly fascinates.

If a city had to be singled out as the best representation of China’s phenomenal economic growth over the past decade, the megacity of Shanghai would no doubt be the most obvious choice.

Once a sleepy fishing town in the 1800s, Shanghai has, since the economic reforms in the 1990s, grown into the most sophisticated and progressive Chinese city that spearheads the country’s growth in technology, innovation and finance.

Its effervescent mix of myriad cultures, both foreign and domestic, is arguably what makes it such a special place on this planet. From the gritty scenes within some of the city’s iconic old shikumen buildings to the charming colonial architecture in the Former French Concession, Shanghai features an intriguing blend of elegance and vulgarity that duly fascinates. 

It would take days to comprehensively experience what Shanghai has to offer, but for those who do not have the luxury of time, this proposed itinerary will give you a glimpse of the beautiful contrasts this city is renowned for.

Breakfast: Zun Ke Lai
666 Tianyaoqiao Road
Kick off the day with quintessential Shanghainese grub — the Xiaolongbao. This particular eatery was the highest rated in the Shanghai Soup Dumpling Index, a scientific examination of Xiaolongbaos sold across the city, which was created by American chef Christopher St Cavish. While the locals would likely argue that its dumplings cannot possibly be judged using scientific methods and a Western palate, the American’s ratings are actually pretty spot on. 

Explore: Propaganda Poster Art Centre
868 Huashan Road, Building B
Located in the basement of a building, this small museum is where one will find dozens of vividly coloured propaganda from China’s Cultural Revolution period. The place also has a delightful gift shop where you can pick up souvenirs, such as postcards, posters and copies of the famous Little Red Book.

When you’re done touring the museum, talk a stroll along the neighbouring Wukang Road and take in the idyllic scenes of the Former French Concession. Be sure to pop by Farine (378 Wukang Road), a wildly popular bakery by Frank Pecol, and savour its coffee and delectable pastries that are made with organic flour imported from France.

Lunch: Fu 1088
375 Zhenning Road
Experience Shanghainese fine dining in a quaint 1920s Spanish-style mansion featuring antique clocks, a coat of arms and grand wood-panelled halls. The signature dishes here include the Shanghainese-style Smoked Fish, Stir-Fried Hairy Crab Meat with Toast, and Braised Pork with Soy and Rock Salt. Be sure to make reservations before going.

Explore: 1933 Slaughterhouse
10 Shajing Road
As its name suggests, this four-storey building used to be an abattoir back in pre-Communist China before it was turned into a medicine factory, cold storage facility and, now, a hub for creative industries. Built using British concrete, the complex gets its charm from the series of interlocking staircases and air bridges that exude a somewhat surreal, or some might say eerie, atmosphere. Afterwards, head south on foot toward the waterfront and take in the sights of the famous Bund stretch. 

If time (and weather) permits, venture across the Huangpu River into the Lujiazui financial district and check out the Shanghai Tower observatory deck. The entrance fee might be a tad expensive, but the views from the 118th floor of the tower are utterly magnificent.

Dinner: The Nest 
130 Beijing East Road
This modern-chic gastrolounge along the Bund is famous for not only its cocktails and award-winning mixologists, but also its impressive Nordic-inspired food that ranges from top-notch oysters, wagyu beef and vodka-battered fish and chips.

An alternative dinner spot for beer lovers would be Boxing Cat Brewery (multiple locations), a local microbrewery with award-winning beers that also serves an impressive range of hearty American food like burgers, nachos and jumbo.

Watch: Cabaret sand burlesque show at The Pearl
471 Zhapu Road
This three-storey performance venue in the Hongkou district might be quite a distance from the city centre, but it is certainly one of the more eclectic places in Shanghai. Expect to see performers suspended in the air, pole dancers defying gravity with nothing but their thighs, actors in outrageous costumes and burlesque dancers that are clad in barely anything. Shows start at 9 p.m. Book your tickets online at

Supper: Yakitori Fukuchan
223 Changle Lu
Round off the night at this charming hole-in-the-wall establishment that offers a good selection of charcoal-grilled bites, shoyu ramen, ice-cold beer and sake. Since this cosy joint closes early, at 2 a.m., it is one of the favourite supper places for the city’s top chefs after they’re done with work — you won’t get a better stamp of approval than that.

For a truly authentic (and somewhat grubby) local supper experience, check out the nameless noodle shack on 166 Zhaozhou Road which was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.  Served with pork, lard, vegetables and a dark soup broth, the “long-leg” noodles here are delicious. Watch your head, though — there might be low-hanging laundry in the premises. 

Note: If you’re in town for business, you’re better off staying in Pudong, the financial heart of Shanghai. Kerry Hotel, Pudong, Shanghai, conveniently located in a prime location, boasts some of Shanghai’s spacious and advanced conference and banqueting facilities, as well as the city’s largest hotel sports and recreational facilities, offering vast exercise and spa options.


 Book a stay at Kerry Hotel, Pudong, Shanghai from just 5,000 GC Award Points per night Back to Inspiration 

Showing 1 comment

  1. Helen Jenkins: 2 years, 7 months ago

    Dined at Yi Cafe on 01st January 2017 - gave my Golden Circle card to the waitstaff when paying the bill - unfortunately this was not recored as I got a message few days letter saying you have missed me as I haven't been using your faiclties for a while. Ref Check #822584.
    Would appreciate if you can update my account. Cheers Helen

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