The local’s guide to Shanghai

Local's guide to Shanghai. View of Shanghai's skyline from above

There’s no doubt Shanghai is one of the most intriguing destinations on our planet, and for good reason. The world-class city hosts impressive landmarks, exquisite cuisine and high-end shopping centres, but there’s certainly more than meets the eye. For those of you seeking the quirkier side of Shanghai, we’ve rounded up some of the city’s best ‘off the beaten path’ options into a local’s guide to Shanghai. All of these sights can be seen in a day or two, but can easily be spread out if you’re visiting on a 72-hour visa.

Related post – Top things to do in 72 hours in Shanghai

Start: Fuyou Antique Market

One of China’s more interesting characteristics is the fact that it is the largest manufacturing economy in the world. While there’s no doubt you’ll come across some of the standard items one would expect in an Asian market, be sure to meander the labyrinth of stalls at the Fuyou Antique Market and you’ll definitely find some authentic gems. Whether you’re into antiquing or not, this is a surefire sensory activity to get you acclimated with Chinese and local culture.

Exit the market and head toward the Yuyuan Garden.

Rows of teapots at the Fuyou antique market, Shanghai

Next: Old Shanghai Teahouse

No trip to China will be complete unless you’ve sipped on some freshly brewed tea. Locals and visitors gather here to delight in a shared love of tea. The tea culture is extremely important to the nation’s history as well as present day. While this teahouse may be one of the most popular in town, the atmosphere is unmatched. The remnants of years past lining the walls and the timeless artwork will give you the feeling as though you’ve briefly stepped back in time. No worries if you didn’t eat too much before you entered the market; there are a few dim sum options available to order.

Take a 15-minute taxi east towards the Shanghai Oriental Arts Centre.

Related article: How to get a visa for China

A cup of green tea in a Shanghai tea house.

Next: The Shanghai Gallery of Antique Music Boxes

Once you arrive at the centre, climb the four flights to get to this quirky exhibition. Not only will you find the world’s oldest music box in this space, but you’ll come across some of the most eccentric European automata ever made. While it might not be a typical choice to visit relics such as mechanical dolls that mimic drunk men, sketch artists and robots while you’re on the road, this unique gallery shouldn’t be missed.

After: head north across the river to Duolun Road.

Local's guide to Shanghai. Antique music.

Next: People watching in Shanghai’s artist neighbourhood

This historic area is a perfect spot to wander and discover a different aspect to Shanghai’s history. No local’s guide to Shanghai would be complete without this extraordinary neighbourhood which was once home to artists, poets and writers – a sentiment and culture that lives on to this day. The streets are lined with one-of-a-kind shops offering Burmese jade and antiques as well as art houses, tearooms and modern cafes.

If you’re seeking a unique spot to sip some tea or coffee, walk toward the Old Film Café, located just off of the main road. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you spot the Charlie Chaplin statue outside.

If you’re feeling a little peckish, a nice spot to eat is Little Sheep, located just off of the bustling Baoshan Road. The Mongolian-style hotpot joint isn’t ideal for vegetarians, but it is one of the more popular eateries in the neighbourhood.

If the weather permits, walk 15 minutes south toward Hongqiao Railway Station. Get off at the Shanghai Library stop. From there, walk 10 minutes north toward the Propaganda Poster Art Centre. If you’re not keen to walk, take a taxi to the centre.

Related article: How to visit China for 72 hours without a visa

Local's guide to Shanghai - visiting the artist's district.

Next: Get a taste of history at the Propaganda Poster Art Centre

One of the more interesting ways to get acclimated with China’s history is to visit the propaganda art from the Maoist and revolutionary eras. Located in the modern French Concession area in the basement of an apartment building, this rare establishment will give viewers insight into the anti-American culture once heavily promoted. While each of the posters are original copies from the 1950s, 60s and 70s, the space divides itself into a gift shop where tourists have the option to purchase imitation artworks.

Once you’ve finished exploring the artwork, hop in an eight-minute taxi toward the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Centre & get out at The Bubbles Bar.

Local's guide to Shanghai - visiting the Propaganda Museum

Next: Sip on some bubbly in The Bubbles Bar

Not only does this swanky establishment offer an optimal view of Shanghai’s infamous skyline, its concept is unique in the area and well worth a visit. Due to the fact this establishment doubles as a showroom for the Spanish Freixenet, patrons have the option of a wide selection of cocktails featuring the bubbly – hence its name. Whether you’re in the mood for an original cocktail designed in-house or something more traditional like a Bellini, this is an excellent spot to relax and watch the shimmering views of the skyscrapers at night.

After: Head toward Xiangyang Park for a bite to eat.

What’s a better way to end a busy day in China than by sharing delicious dim sum with a group of friends? Dining al fresco and enjoying dim sum in a Michelin star restaurant! While Hong Kong may be home to the original Xin Dau Ji, the Shanghai outpost is certainly worth a visit while you’re in town. While there are plenty of options for vegetarians, such as fried vermicelli with bean sprouts, this Cantonese-focused fare will cater to the more adventurous souls. Stop in with your friends and enjoy some crackling pig skin or roasted goose.

Glasses of bubbly at The Bubbles Bar, from the local's guide to Shanghai.

Next, read our guide to a long weekend in Xi’an

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The local's guide to Shanghai. Off the beaten path recommendations and itinerary.


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