Loosen your belt and put on your walking shoes. Kyle Long of Glutton Guides: The Hungry Traveler's Guidebook makes navigating Shanghai's best food destinations a breeze.
SHANGHAI – With China's relaxed visa policy for travelers passing through on layovers, you may find yourself in Shanghai for a mere 24 hours or less. Hopefully you've got daytime hours to properly explore the city (most parts of mainland China do not offer a super late-night scene outside of clubbing). I recommend making time — and stomach space — for a self-guided food tour of all the city's kitchens have to offer.
1. The city skyline view on The Bund is a must-see, so we'll start and end our trip there. It's good people-watching, and the wide riverside promenade makes for a lovely stroll and great pictures. Plus, a walk will get the appetite going.
2. With over 180,000 restaurants in Shanghai, it's going to be hard to narrow the selections down, but one way to do so is via the "time-honored" brand designation, bestowed to restaurants that have perfected their craft or are doing something truly unique in the kitchen. At Da Hu Chun, the pork dumplings are perfectly puffy and crispy, fried with the wrappers closed on top (opposite from most), which keeps them extra soupy.
3. Walk down Nanjing Road pedestrian street to see the crowded side of Shanghai. This is what most visitors expect the whole city (pop. 20-million and counting) to feel like, but really, most of the crowds are contained here. The shopping's not amazing, but it's a sight worth seeing.
4. The Shanghai Museum offers a thorough overview of China's vast history and civilizations. Entrance is free, but paying for an audio guide will allow for more in-depth explanations. Newman Tours does a fascinating two-and-a-half-hour exploration of the museum, telling the country's stories through important objects in the museum's collection.
5. Before you leave the neighborhood, pop into the basement (B1) level of Raffle's City Mall for egg tarts from Lilian Bakery. They're Shanghai's take on the Portuguese egg tart (via Macau), and they're perfection, like eating crème brulee out of a croissant. Is your mouth watering yet?
6. Stomach's rumbling again, but hopefully it's past 1 p.m. and you've avoided the peak lunch rush. Head to LinLong Fang Specialty Soup Dumpling for the city's famed steamed xiaolongbao. The open kitchen prep area offers a perfect view of the aunties folding them at warp speed.
7. As they say the world-over, it's happy hour somewhere. You can't go wrong with a craft beer at Boxing Cat Brewery, just a fifteen-minute or so walk through the leafy neighborhood of the former French Concession. Shanghai's original craft brewhouse has something for everyone, including outdoor seating on sunny days.
8. Head out the door through Fuxing Park for a meander in one of the city's most iconic parks, where you're likely to find troupes of dancing grannies, tai-chi practitioners, joggers, and more.
9. Just outside the north gate of Fuxing Park are two of the city's finest noodle shops. You'll want to head to Wei Xiang Zhai for sesame-peanut noodles, then cross the street and walk down the alley to Ding Te Le (No. 22, 494 Huaihai Lu, near Yandang Lu; +86 21 5107 9177) for scallion-pork noodles in a dash of bone broth.
10. Walk a few blocks down Huai Hai Lu for a 90-minute oil massage at Green Massage — my favorite indulgence. It's not cheap by China standards, but it's still a good deal at about US $85. Masseuses are top-notch and it's a dark, sexy environment with unlimited tea and snacks. The biggest challenge is not falling asleep in a state of pure bliss.
11. After the massage, see what the hordes are up to with a quick stroll through Xintiandi. The area is filled mainly with overpriced bars and tourist trap restaurants. Don't linger long; instead, hop in a taxi and head back to The Bund for a fabulous view and cocktail at Pop American Brasserie. From there, you can watch the neon-lit boats go by with a breeze in your hair — just beware, the city turns off most of the skyline lights at 10 p.m. sharp.
Taxis are tricky in Shanghai. If you manage to hail one (most locals use Chinese-language apps), you must have your desired location for the driver in Chinese characters, so plan ahead.
Alternatively, map your metro trips on Explore Shanghai. The metro system is the longest in the world and remains very affordable. Expect crowds at rush hour.
Use Smart Shanghai to find bilingual address and locations, news, and events.