A girl's trip!
See + Do
Blink and you'll miss the ride. The world's fastest passenger train, with a top speed of 268 miles per hour, takes just eight minutes to journey back and forth between Pudong International Airport and Longyang Lu metro station (the same journey takes at least 45 minutes by car). Unless you are averse to g-force, simply sit back and enjoy the smooth rideor join the throng of passengers pointing their digital cameras at the onboard speedometer waiting to catch the optimum moment. Longyang Lu connects with the Shanghai metro system and there are plenty of taxis on hand; it's a 30-minute drive from downtown Puxi, and just 10 to 15 minutes from Pudong's best hotels. A one-way ticket costs $6.90, but if you show your same-day flight ticket at the counter, it'll only be $5.50 (www.smtdc.com).
Open daily 6:45 am to 9:30 pm; trains run at a reduced speed (186 miles per hour) before 8:45 am and after 5 pm.
Urbn Hotel, China
Shanghai 200040, China
Tel: 86 21 5153 4600
Tucked away on a side street north of Jing'An Temple, this 26-room design hotel is built around an enclosed slate and bamboo courtyard with calming water fountains. Constructed using reclaimed local materials such as gray factory bricks, mahogany, and slateUrbn wears its eco-conscious credentials on its sleeve; the hotel also tracks its ecological footprint and matches it in carbon credits. The rooms, in five categories, are all relatively small but make good use of space with low-level beds and a sunken "lounge" area, complete with hemp cushions on the broad benches and a wall-hung flat-screen TV. Neat in-room design touches include mahogany floors and wall paneling, desk chairs made from compressed cardboard, and under-floor bathroom heating, plus free Wi-Fi and iPod docks. Contemporary Australian-Asian cuisine is served in the ground-floor restaurant, Roomtwentyeight.
Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai, China
Shanghai 200041, China
Tel: 800 819 5053 (toll-free), Tel: 86 21 6256 8888
This 37-story hotel is the first Four Seasons in mainland China, and is located between two major shopping streets, Nanjing and Huaihai in downtown Shanghai, not far from People's Square so you can punctuate shopping sprees with a bit of culture. Palm fronds and fountains decorate the lobby, the 439 rooms are spacious and airy (even the smaller ones are 420 sq. foot) with splashes of red, green and yellow, and while the indoor pool (open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.) is on the small side, it's rarely crowded. Families are welcomed with kid-friendly menus in all four of the house restaurants, child-size bathrobes, and babysitting services.
T8 Restaurant & Bar, China
Shanghai 200021, China
Tel: 86 21 6355 8999
T8 is nestled in a 19th-century Shikumen home, gated by stone arcs and adorned with Asian antiques, but despite the old-school touches, this restaurant and nightclub sports a decidedly modern edge, thanks to smoked glass, romantic lighting, and an open kitchen that churns out bold Pan-Asian and Mediterranean plates. Soak up the scene, sip a New Zealand Pinot Noir, snack on caramelized salted salmon or slow-cooked Szechuan lamb, and see if you can scope out some celebrities—this dazzling nightspot is known to attract its fair share of stars. Reservations are essential.
Three on the Bund, China
Shanghai 200002, China
Tel: 86 21 6323 3355
Featuring a grand Beaux Arts exterior and postmodern interior, this seven-floor structure—built in 1916—rejuvenated the historic Bund with its 2004 renovation by Michael Graves. Inside, the 13,000-square-foot space features the esteemed Shanghai Gallery of Art, an Evian Spa, and also plenty of shopping options, such as the Armani store and designer clothing boutique THREE Fashion. It also houses four of Shanghai's top restaurants: Jean Georges Shanghai, serving haute East-meets-West cuisine (86-21-6321-7733); Whampoa Club, featuring stylish Shanghainese (86-21-6321-3737); Laris, home of Australian-Greek chef David Laris's experimental international fare (21-6321-9922); and New Heights, offering mod Asian brasserie dishes (86-21-6321-0909). But its crowning glory is the top-floor lookout deck, where VIPs snuggle into two- and eight-seat private dining rooms and order from any of the chefs toiling away below.
Lan Na Thai
Crystal Jade, China
Shanghai 200020, China
Tel: 86 21 6385 8752
Spilling over the second floor of Xintiandi's modern mall, this busy restaurant packs a crowd on weekend mornings, with families flocking to chat and chew over dim sum. Though the dining room is a glass structure with large swaths of mirror, lights dim dramatically during the evening. Bamboo baskets pile up on the tables, filled with Cantonese classics: shrimp dumplings, soup-filled xiaolongbao, or pork-filled xiumai, all fresh from the steamer. Shanghai locals flip to the back of the menu, which offers juicy fried pork dumplings and soupy noodles with shredded pork and pickled radish. End your meal with the excellent chilled mango pudding. Consistently rated as one of the city's most popular spots for dim sum, this is a buzzy, casual place to sip tea and refuel before hitting the sites and shops of Xintiandi.
The cobblestone streets of Xintiandi, a preserved neighborhood–turned–outdoor mall, are lined with upscale restaurants, bars, and, above all, an abundance of chic stores. The development revamped old stone shikumen town houses, the abundance of expats and Western-style eateries can sometimes make Xintiandi feel like suburban California. Ground yourself with a stop at the on-site minimuseum, which portrays life in a typical shikumen house during the early 20th century. After selecting a souvenir or two from the gift store, head to Shanghai Tang for a wide assortment of China chic, including qipao dresses in bright modern palettes and melamine plates with pop-art renderings of iconic Chinese images. You'll find chinoiserie and unique porcelain sets at Simply Life, which does dishes in swirls of imperial yellow or with painted peonies. For dainty silk accessories and slick pajamas, try Annabel Lee.
Annabel Lee Shanghai
Annabel Lee's two well-located stores sell elegant, hand-embroidered women's fashions, slippers, purses, and household accessories in delicate fabrics and unfussy colors. The Chinese styles and leitmotifssuch as lotus flowers, dragons, and snuff bottlesallude to 19th-century Shanghai backstreets, though the product quality and consumer appeal is unquestionably 21st-century. The store eloquently portrays how traditional Chinese culture was transformed, but not necessarily destroyed, by the introduction of Western culture in the late 19th century.
Open daily 10 am to 10 pm.
See + Do
In the 1930s, Shanghai was covered with blocks of shikumen (traditional stone-gated structures). Today, most of these narrow middle-class houses, which typically featured five rooms upstairs and down, have been destroyed to make room for glitzy high-rise buildings. Xintiandi is a preserved neighborhood—one of the city's best (and only) examples of old Shanghai architecture—now transformed into an upscale mall, boasting a collection of swank restaurants, bars, and shops. For a glimpse into the life of a typical 1920s middle-class family, don't miss the Shikumen Museum, formerly a residential property that has been restored to its former charm and decorated with artifacts found in nearby houses (25 Lane 181, Taicang Lu; 86-21-3307-0337). Wash the taste of capitalism from your mouth with a visit to the nearby Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which pays homage to the party's 1921 founding with a wax tableau of the first meeting and a brief tour of the humble brick lane house where it all started (374 Huangpi Nan Lu, by Xingye Lu; 86-21-5383-2171).
Shanghai's fashion-savvy head to this ever-expanding warren of renovated lane houses, a treasure trove of tiny clothing and jewelry boutiques, to find their best threads and accessories. La Vie offers a hodgepodge of local and Hong Kong designers. Helen Lee has made a splash with her unstructured styles and sassy T-shirts at Insh. Look for striking Jooi handbags and home accessories, Tibetan rugs by Torana Carpets, and handpainted Asianera porcelain at a new eco-retail collective called Nest. Shirt Flag's tees, hats, and canvas bags emblazoned with red stars, hammers, sickles, and other Cultural Revolution graphics have developed a cult status among Shanghai's cool kids. Finally, dress up your dining table with ceramics from the Pottery Workshop, which features tableware, vases, and other objects designed by local ceramicists.
See + Do
The Bund, China
Shanghai 200002, China
This stretch of Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu, on the western bank of the Huangpu River, was once home to the Wall Street of Asia. The grand mansions were built as headquarters for British, French, American, Russian, and Japanese banking institutions that had established themselves in the city following the Opium Wars in the 1840s, when Shanghai was opened up to foreign trade. The hodgepodge of architectural stylesArt Deco, Gothic, Renaissance, Romanesque, and neoclassicalillustrates the many foreign influences. On the promenade, locals gather at dawn to practice kung fu, qigong, and tai chi, as well as ballroom dancing. The rest of the day, snap-happy tourists take pictures of one another in front of the Pudong skyline across the water, or catch a scenic riverboat tour. The Bund underwent major relandscaping ahead of the 2010 World Expo, connecting it to river taxi stops that go to the Expo site and channeling traffic underground.
See + Do
Yu Garden, China
Shanghai 200010, China
Tel: 86 21 6326 0830
A lot of history resides in this little garden and its City God Temple. They were commissioned in 1559, built over the course of 19 years, destroyed in 1842 during the first Opium War, and later rebuilt and reopened to the public in their current incarnation in 1961. Pathways wind through rock gardens and bamboo stands, and stone bridges cross pools filled with bright carp. The word yu translates to "peace and health"and the park was certainly designed with tranquility in mindbut today, especially on weekends, swarms of tourists get in the way of the garden's serenity.
Garden open daily 8:30 am to 5 pm. City God Temple open daily 8:30 am to 4 pm.
See + Do
Shanghai Museum, China
Shanghai 200003, China
Tel: 86 21 6372 3500
With 120,000 works of art on view, this premier collection of Chinese artifacts warrants at least half a day to browse the ten galleries of calligraphy, jade, bronze, ceramics, and sculpturesnot to mention furniture from the Ming and Qing dynasties, paintings, coins, and other historical treasures. The audio tours are worthwhile, and written descriptions of the relics are also offered in English. Take a break in the museum's tearoom, and hit the bookshop for souvenirs.
See + Do
Old City (Nanshi), China
Once home to the impoverished Chinese masseswho lived in close quarters here while wealthy foreigners spread out around themthe old city is full of twisting alleys and street vendors. Here you will catch a glimpse of the cramped, colorful old world (its origins date back to the 16th century) in the bustling heart of a modern city. Start at the Dongtai Lu Antique Market, where street-side stalls display myriad antique (and antique-looking) objets d'art. Continue past neighborhood Buddhist temples like the bustling Fangzangjiang, then line up with the locals at the 100-year-old Nanxiang Dumpling House inside the Yu Garden Bazaar for soupy pork and crabmeat xiaolongbao dumplings, before heading to the winding paths and craggy rockery of the Yu Garden.
YongFoo Élite, China
Shanghai 200021, China
Tel: 86 21 5466 2727
A magical garden aglow with paper lanterns surrounds this grand French Concession villa, at times home to the Russian, Vietnamese, and British consulates. The interior befits the 1930s Tudor-style structure, intimate with mahogany furniture, scattered Chinese antiques, Deco furnishings, and shaded chandeliers that cast a warm glow against the copper ceiling. A sophisticated crowdspot the many romantic couplesdine on varied if slightly underwhelming local fare, such as the spicy, slightly sweet pomfret with minced pork, sautéed water vegetables, and featherlight vegetable buns. We recommend this place for an evening drink rather than a meal. In warm weather, find one of the secret spots in the enormous garden. Reservations recommended.
Jade on 36, China
Shanghai 200120, China
Tel: 86 21 6882 8888
If you've come to Pudong to grab a drink at Cloud 9 take a five-minute stroll to the Shangri-La's Jade on 36 for bites of fusion tapas (foie gras lollipops dipped in caramelized sugar) in a gleaming, futuristic setting created by celebrated restaurant designer Adam Tihany—don't miss the bathrooms, which are like unisex space capsules. Though it's only 36 floors up (as opposed to Cloud 9's 87), the glass tower is closer to the Bund, making the riverside expanse clearer and the lights even more dazzling.
Glamour Bar, China
Shanghai 200001, China
Tel: 86 21 6350 9988
Perched above the Bund is this dainty cocktail lounge, a confection of crystal chandeliers and low settees, pink-shaded lamps that cast a rosy glow, and windows overlooking the Huangpu River. By day it's a top spot for culture vultures, with author readings, lectures, performance art, and classical music concerts. By night, it morphs into one of Shanghai's swishest spots, with live music from cabaret to jazz, and an impressive list of candy-colored cocktails (try the ginger martini, not-too-sweet, with a sharp bite). The after-dark clientele is made up of Shanghai's bright young things, dressed to the nines. Don't even think about wearing jeans, and if it's the weekend, be prepared for a crowd.
Cloud 9, China
Shanghai 200121, China
Tel: 86 21 5049 1234
Though the skyscrapers of Pudong hold little allure for visitors, they do have one major attraction: stunning views. Perched atop the world's fifth-tallest building, the Grand Hyatt's Cloud 9 is the highest bar in the world, where a dark and moody decor frames the vast floor-to-ceiling windows. Sip a drink from the well-attended, touristy, bar and marvel at the 360-degree panorama, so high that clouds sometimes obscure the view.