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12 Things to Do in Shanghai If It's Your First Time in the City

Here's where you can shop, dine, and more!
12 Things to Do in Shanghai If It's Your First Time in the City
IMAGE Steph Sison
Here's where you can shop, dine, and more!

Shanghai city may not be what one would automatically have in mind for a vacay destination compared to, say, Japan, South Korea, Bali, or Taiwan. But make no mistake: This vibrant hub is a place you shouldn't miss out on if you're looking for new places to discover.

Shanghai cityscape at night.
PHOTO BY Steph Sison
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Shanghai is at the heart of China and is the country's biggest city and financial hub. Its most popular destination is called The Bund, a bustling spot with a promising waterfront promenade where colonial-era buildings line the streets. Just across the Huangpu River is a modern cityscape that includes skyscrapers like the Shanghai Tower and Oriental Pearl TV Tower known for its pink spheres.

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In a recent work trip with Gucci, I was able to get a feel of this energetic city. Below, I listed down the must-see spots you have to visit, especially if you're a first-timer like me.

The Bund strip
PHOTO BY Steph Sison
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Dine

1. M on the Bund

M on the Bund by restaurateur Michelle Garnaut is one of the early restaurants to sprout along the waterfront promenade before The Bund strip was lined with hot spots for wining and dining. That said, the restaurant had first dibs in getting one of the best views of the Shanghai skyline. Foreign expats love eating here for its simple yet topnotch fusion of European, North African, and Australian flavors.

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Location: 7F Nissin Shipping Building, No. 5 The Bund, Shanghai

Tip: Reservations are encouraged. The tables near the the terrace will give you the best views.

2. Sense 8

This Cantonese restaurant found in Xin Tian Di nods to Hong Kong's famous old-school tea and dimsum house, Luk Yu, which is originally located in Stanley Street. It boasts of luxurious and opulent interiors like intricately carved wooden decors that are actually replicas of antique furniture from Beijing's Imperial Palace.

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Wooden interiors in the restaurant.
PHOTO BY Steph Sison
Cantonese food served at Sense 8.
PHOTO BY Steph Sison

Location: No. 8, Lane 181 Taicang Lu,near Huangpi Nan Lu

Tip: Reservations are a must.

3. Canton Table

Canton Table is a distinct restaurant for its chic and modern interiors. It's also home to contemporary Hong Kong-style dishes. Its head chef is Master Chef Eason Man, who is known for his knowledge of traditional Cantonese cuisine. With his expertise, he brings diners to a whirlwind of delectable dishes set in a modern space that merges the art deco warehouse style with an amazing panoramic view of Shanghai Bund.

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Prawn in salmon roe dish
PHOTO BY Steph Sison
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Location: Three on the Bund,5/F, 3 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Guangdong Lu

Tip: Before dining, check out the syrup art maker by the entrance that turns sweet syrup to hard candy! And watch out for huge portraits and floral paintings that are surely IG-worthy.

Drink

1. The Fellas

The Fellas, a newly-opened rooftop bar, is a cozy place to be when you just want to bond with friends. Drinks are best enjoyed at their wrap-around terrace. 

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Location: 7F, 7 Yan'an Dong Lu, near Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu

2. M Glam

Glam Bar is conveniently located just across M on the Bund restaurant. It's an IG-worthy space you can hang out in before or after dinner. Its mismatched interior boasts of its owner's eclectic collection of furniture and art pieces. This speakeasy bar also offers a cool jazz and funk music running in the background as you enjoy the Bund view.

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Location: 7F Nissin Shipping Building, No. 5 The Bund, Shanghai

3. Le Baron

Le Baron originally hails from Paris and has recently come to Shanghai in plush red interiors where you have both the luxury of dancing the night away on the dancefloor or simply hanging out in booths (you'll need a table reservation). A word of caution, though: Dress sharp and do your best to look "cool." Their door bouncers are notoriously picky as to who gets to go in.

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Location: 7F, 20 Donghu Lu, by Huaihai Zhong Lu

Shop

1. Nanjing Road

Nanjing Road can be likened to the shopping stretches of Myeongdong in South Korea or Fifth Avenue in New York. It is a 5.5-kilometer of premier shopping street that starts at the Bund and ends at the junction of Jing'an Temple and West Yan'an Street. Fashion afficionados will rejoice at the highly pedestrianized shopping street where modern malls are found inside old colonial-era buildings. Shopping boutiques and beauty stores are also found on the strip as well as food stalls and traditional stores (selling silk goods, jade, and many more) where you can purchase your pasalubong.

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PHOTO BY Steph Sison
PHOTO BY Steph Sison
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Location: Huangpu District, Shanghai City

2. IAPM Shanghai

Now, if you're looking to treat yourself with a dose of luxury shopping, IAPM Shopping Mall is definitely worth a visit. Have fun exploring this upscale mall that houses many international maisons like Prada, Gucci, Miu Miu, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander McQueen, Alexander Wang, Chloé, Sandro, Balmain, and Michael Kors. You can also find Zadig & Voltaire, Marimekko, Fedon, Muji, Onitsuka Tiger, Aigle, and Nike.

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Location: 999 Huaihai Zhong Lu,near Shanxi Nan Lu

3. Xin Tian Di

Xin Tian Di is another shopping district. It's an outdoor mall development which incorporates traditional stone buildings called Shikumen. This place is popular for its perfect marriage of old and new and east and west. Xin Tian Di preserved its antique brick walls, tiles and exteriors, reminiscent of old Shanghai, while the inside boasts of modern malls, restaurants, bars, and cafes.

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Location: 123 Xingye Rd, XinTianDi, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai

4. Huaihai Zhong Lu

Huaihai Zhong Lu is another commercial street in Shanghai where you can find hole-in-the-wall cafes, unique boutiques, and western retail shops (you can find the first ever overseas GU store here!). This part of Shanghai is also known as French Town and features more upscale stores compared to Nanjing Road.

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Location: Huaihai Middle Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai

See

1. Yuz Museum

The Yuz Museum is one of the modern architectural and privately-owned sites to grace The Bund area. It hosts exhibitions sourced from the owner's personal massive collection of contemporary art. At the moment, it showcases Maurizio Cattelan's The Artist Is Present exhibit.

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PHOTO BY Steph Sison
PHOTO BY Courtesy of Gucci
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Location: 35 Fenggu Lu, near Longteng Avenue

2. Gucci Art Wall

Witness one of the five Gucci-commissioned art walls around the world in Shanghai. Artist Jayde Fish created a Guccified mural filled with whimsical scenes in Shanghai and adorned with floral illustrations.

PHOTO BY Steph Sison

Location: Fengsheng Li, Jing’an District

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