China’s most famous outdoor shopping mall is a three-mile, three-lane wide pedestrian stretch of retail heaven with hundreds of outlets to peruse. Start near the iconic Fairmont Peace Hotel that sits on the Bund (OK, we said “beyond the Bund,” but really it would be madness to visit Shanghai without drinking in the sights at least once!), and from there work your way west to the junction of Jing’an Temple and West Yan’an Street where it ends. There, you’ll find fashionable local boutiques, high-end brands from Tiffany to Mont Blanc, as well as plenty of cafés, restaurants and bars. The section from the Bund to People’s Park, however, can get extremely overcrowded – sometimes it feels like the whole city is on one street.
After giving your wallet a workout, leave Nanjing Road and enter People’s Park, two blocks south of where the Pedestrian Street begins. This green oasis is a favorite with locals and a great place to observe charming scenes of everyday life, from local card tournaments to practicing t’ai chi. Hidden in the woods you’ll see the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, which hosts rotating modern art and design exhibitions throughout the year. Founded in 2005, the museum’s charter is to “gather together excellent artwork from around the world.” In addition the museum also explores the art of good food at its MoCA Restaurant on the third floor. Entry to the museum costs RMB80 ($12); open 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM daily;mocashanghai.org
If you didn’t manage to get your fill of shopping on Nanjing Road, then the slightly more upscale offerings in the trendy Xintiandi district in the center of Shanghai are a safe bet. Beginning just south of People’s Square, head down Madang Road past The Langham and Andaz hotels to explore this upscale entertainment and residential neighborhood. The mid-19th century buildings have been transformed into an eclectic mix of old and new. Here, you’ll discover department stores, boutique shops, art galleries, upscale clubs and a number of colorful restaurants with indoor and outdoor seating that dot the auto-free zone. The narrow intersecting alleyways that frame the old brickwork buildings can be a joy to explore on foot.
From Xintiandi, head southwest farther into the French Concession – a historic area with picturesque buildings and large, leafy avenues. There’s plenty to explore, but a highlight is Tianzifang, an arts and crafts enclave that has been repurposed from a traditional residential and factory area. An architectural draw, the area’s unique Shikumen (‘Stone Door’) buildings are the product of French and Western influences. The district’s entrance is subtle, but enter and you’ll find a maze of narrow alleys, populated with small dwellings housing modern coffee shops, cafés, galleries, boutiques, restaurants and bars. Called the SOHO of Shanghai, many influential artists in the early 20th Century resided here. Address: Lane 210, Taikang Road.
Compared to heritage-laden Beijing, Shanghai is lighter on historical sightseeing opportunities, but Jing’an Temple proves the city is not devoid of offerings. A 15-minute taxi ride from Tianzifang will return you to West Nanjing Road where it is located. Its origins date to the third century AD during China’s Three Kingdoms period, the Buddhist temple has been relocated, refreshed and rebuilt a few times, but remains unmistakable for its red walls, golden roofs and towering spire. Comprising multiple buildings that enclose a central courtyard, this is a good place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the Jing’an business district. Open 7:30 AM – 5:00 PM daily, entrance fee RMB50 ($8).CN Tower.