Shanghai Travel Guide

This Shanghai Travel Guide is packed full of tips for what to eat, drink, do, and where to stay, plus a lot more! 

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Food & Drink You Must Try in Shanghai

Xiaolongbao (小笼包)

It just wouldn’t be a proper trip to Shanghai without trying out the world-famous soup dumplings. Xiaolongbao is typically made fresh with pork and gelatinized broth which melts down into soup during the steaming process. The iconic xiaolongbao is featured in our Shanghai evening tour, and they’re so good you’ll be going back for more every day. 

Shengjianbao, aka Potstickers (生煎包)

These fried dumplings are usually for eaten for breakfast – but we’d eat them anytime. These dumplings are similar to xiaolongbao with pork and gelatinized broth that melts into the soup when hot, but are made of a heavier dough and are steamed, then pan-fried. We take you to try the city’s best shengjianbao fresh out of the pan on our Shanghai morning tour.

Hairy Crab (大闸蟹)

Given Shanghai’s location, it shouldn’t surprise you to know that there is a lot of seafood in our dishes. Hairy Crab (dàzháxiè, 大闸蟹) is exactly what it sounds like – but don’t be alarmed! Though it’s a fuzzy crustacean, the meat is just as sweet and tasty as it is in their non-fuzzy relatives. Hairy crab can be found almost everywhere during the autumn in Shanghai.

Scallion Oil Noodles (葱油拌)

Simple, yet tasty. Probably not what you would think of when you think Shanghai, but this dish (cōng yóu bàn miàn, 葱油拌面) is the go-to for late-night munchies or nursing a hangover the next morning. A flour noodle quite similar to ramen is cooked al dente, then tossed with freshly made scallion oil, soy sauce, and some sugar! This staple Shanghai dish is one we take you to try out on our evening food tour.

Squirrel Fish (松鼠鲈鱼)

A dish that is known for its impressive plating as much as its delicious flavor. The fish (sōngshǔlúyú, 松鼠鲈鱼) is deboned, cut up in a special way, and deep-fried. Then, the deep-fried tendrils are arranged to look fluffy, almost like a pixelated rendering of a squirrel’s tail, and covered in a sweet and sour sauce of tomato paste, vinegar, and sugar – similar to a sweet and sour sauce you might find in western-style Chinese food.

Red Braised Pork Belly (红烧肉)

We’re big on pork belly here in China. Hongshao, or red braising, refers to this special cooking style. The pork belly (hóngshāoròu, 红烧肉) is slowly cooked with both light and dark soy sauces, cooking wine, ginger, scallions, soybean oil, and sugar for up to 24 hours to create a tender and delicious melt-in-your-mouth dish. We try a version of this dish on our Shanghai evening food tour!

Eel Noodles

Another seafood item on our list, though maybe not what you typically expect. Wheat noodles, served cold, topped with hot stir-fried eel which is cooked up with soy sauce, ginger, and scallions. Good eel is a delicacy in Asia- just look at any sushi menu, and we love the contrasting pairing with humble noodles. The eel is cut up into long pieces – and maybe not a dish for those with a snake phobia!

Frog Noodle Soup

We’ve had hundreds of guests who have never tried frog before. Their first words? “Tastes like chicken. Bullfrogs are actually pretty common in Shanghai’s cuisine, and this dish is a great testament to its popularity. Tasty frog meat is served in a clear, sweet, and peppery broth, with veggies and fresh wheat noodles. Don’t let the unfamiliar scare you off – we think this is a delicious dish worth trying out. 

International Cuisine

As a bustling international hub with a ton of expats from all over the world, it should be no surprise that Shanghai has some excellent international cuisine offerings worth trying. French-style cuisine at the popular Franck, American-style foods at Chloe’s, Italian at Bella Mia, a myriad of fusion options, and more – Shanghai has something delicious for everyone, no matter what mood you’re in!

Our Favorite Restaurants in Shanghai

BenLai Jingpin ChuanCai (本来精品川菜)

This is our favorite Sichuan restaurant in Shanghai – and considering the fact that our founder is from Sichuan province, that’s a high compliment. If you enjoy spicy food and the unique flavors of Sichuan peppercorn, this is the place to go. Check out more recommendations for restaurants in Shanghai! The average price here is about ¥134 RMB/person.

Open from 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 10pm.

What to Order:

  • Sichuan pepper fish (自贡大麻鱼)
  • Chili noodles (宜宾燃面)
  • Steamed Chicken with Chili Sauce (特色口水鸡)

Address: 35 Shaanxi South Road. Accessible by line 1/10/12, South Shaanxi Road Subway Station, 0.57km from exit 2.

Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,请带我去陕西南路35号,本来精品川菜,谢谢!

Google Map; Baidu Map

LanXin CanTing (兰心餐厅)

LanXin CanTing is an authentic Shanghainese restaurant that’s been run by a local family for over 30 years. It’s located on one of the most picturesque streets in the French concession. The restaurant space is limited so it’s very likely you will have to queue with locals, but the flavor is worth the wait! The average price here is about ¥78 RMB/person.

Open from 11am to 1:30pm and 5pm to 9pm.

What to Order: 

  • Oily Eel (响油鳝丝)
  • Braised pork belly (红烧肉)
  • Wine Grass (酒香草头)

Address: 130 Jinxian Road. Accessible by line 13, Middle Huaihai Road Subway Station, 0.52km from exit 3.

Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,请带我去,进贤路130号,兰心餐厅,谢谢!

Google MapBaidu Map

Aura Lounge & Jazz Bar

Located on the 52nd floor of the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai Pudong Hotel, the Aura Lounge and Jazz Bar boasts incredible views with a great ambiance and fantastic high-end European and pub food menu. The service is warm and friendly, and the bar also offers Instagram-worthy afternoon high tea, with a side of one of the best views in town. The average price here is about ¥343 RMB/person.

Try the afternoon tea set for the scones, the chocolate cake, and the sushi/sashimi specials.

Open from 10am to 7pm.

Address: Floor 52, Ritz-Carlton Pudong, 8 Century Ave, Lujiazui, Pudong. Accessible by line 2, Lujiazui Subway Station, 0.4km from exit 6.

Show your taxi driver: 师傅您好,陆家嘴世纪大道8号国金中心,丽思卡尔顿酒店,谢谢!

Google MapBaidu Map

Things You Must Do in Shanghai

Take a Lost Plate Tour!

Our food tours are an excellent way to pull back the curtain and see real-life here in the big city. But don’t just take our word for it, take a look at what past guests have said about our tour. We offer an Old Shanghai Breakfast Tour and a Shanghai Evening Food Tour. Both our tours offer authentic Shanghai cuisine experiences, in small local eateries, away from the crowded tourist spots. Learn about the restaurant owners, the dishes, and the neighborhoods. We also offer an Old & New Shanghai Photo Walk to explore Shanghai street scenes and leave memorable pictures.

Walk the French Concession

Originally established in 1849, the French Concession dominates central Shanghai with beautiful streets lined with trees, quaint cafes & restaurants, and Tudor-style housing. Formerly created for the French occupying Shanghai, this area now offers a scenic walk with many spots to stop for a photo or to grab a coffee. We recommend just wandering around and eating whatever strikes your curiosity, after all, the food is good here: we stroll through parts of the area during our Shanghai Evening Tour.

Get a Birds’ Eye View

The Oriental Pearl Tower is a quintessential part of the Shanghai skyline. Opened in 1994, the Pearl Tower is the second tallest building in Shanghai standing at 1535 feet. The tower has 15 observation levels, and for those without a fear of heights, the upper observation platform offers a walk outside on a 1.5-inch glass floor. Other spots to check out include the Shanghai Tower (the 2nd tallest buildings in the world) and the Shanghai World Financial Center. Shanghai is also home to many excellent rooftop bars including Hyatt on the Bund, Vue Bar, and Kartel. Grab a drink while you take in the view.

Check out the Skyline

Shanghai is home to one of the most iconic city skylines in the world. The mix of old and new buildings is stunning, and nowhere showcases the scene better than a walk along the Bund – the famous waterside walkway where you can take in the view and snap some photos.

Stroll the Ancient Yu Garden

Completed in 1577, the Yuyuan or Yu Garden is a gorgeous classical garden commissioned by a Ming dynasty government officer. The garden is huge, around five acres or 20,000 square meters. The garden in its current iteration was renovated and restored from 1956-61. There are pagodas, waterways, rock features and bridges; lots to see as you stroll around and snap pictures.

Ride the Maglev Train

There is no better way to experience modern and sleek Shanghai than by taking the train from the airport to the city center. This magnetic levitation (hence Maglev) train is the fastest train in the world – clocking in at 270 mph or 431 kph, and can cover 19 miles in eight (!!!) minutes.

Take a River Cruise

The Bund is the iconic walkway along the water that shouldn’t be missed for its breathtaking views of the skyline. But you can also take in the skyline from the water. Take a cruise along the Huangpu river, day or night, and enjoy the 360 views of the city. There are many river cruise options available, from 30 minutes to 3 and a half hours with food and drink options as well.

Shop Nanjing Road

Experience modern China on this 3.4 mile (5.5 km) long strip in Shanghai that boasts a myriad of shopping, restaurants and cafes, many of which are tucked away, up above the street. Western branded shops are side by side with Chinese shops where you may be able to try out your haggling skills. With lots to see and lots to eat, come with a willingness to fight your way through some crowds and an empty stomach!

Take a Day Trip to Zhujiajiao Water Town

This ancient village is only 50 km away from the Bund of downtown Shanghai but this quiet and well-preserved spot makes you feel as if you’re somewhere much further away. Zhujiajiao boasts canals, original bridges, and some very well preserved traditional Chinese houses. Some buildings date back as far as 1644! Enjoy a quiet walk along the canals, stop for photos of the waterways, ancient bridges, and buildings, and even take a tour via a small boat.

Where to Stay in Shanghai

Hyatt on the Bund

For travelers with a high-end budget, we recommend Hyatt on the Bund. Located conveniently on the northern end of the famed Bund walkway, Hyatt on the Bund is a beautiful luxury hotel situated on the banks of the Huangpu River. Nearly every room manages a great view of either the river or the historic Bund walkway. The hotel offers great dining experiences (including the aforementioned rooftop bar!), both Chinese and international, as well as a luxury spa and fitness facilities. See more details here.

Swissotel Grand Shanghai

For travelers on a mid-range budget, we recommend the Swissotel Grand Shanghai. The hotel is located in the upscale Jing’an district within walking distance of West Nanjing Road and several subway stations. The reasonably priced rooms of the hotel still come with great amenities, like access to three restaurants, exercise facilities including an indoor heated pool, and a spa. More information here.

Modena by Fraser Putuo Shanghai

This boutique hotel is also located conveniently near the subway and only four stops away from Jingan temple. Modena by Fraser includes 24-hour front desk concierge service, a gym with 24/7 access, a laundromat and a cafe, among many other great amenities. Click here for more details.

Tips for Shanghai

Prep for your Food Tour

Plan for the basics: arrive hungry, dress for the weather, wear comfy shoes, and don’t bring any large bags to ensure a comfortable tour with less hassle. 

Shanghai Summary

Shanghai is the largest city in China, and one of the most populous cities in the world, with over 24 million calling it home – 34 million in the Shanghai metropolitan area. It is a global financial and transportation hub, with one of the busiest ports in the world. If you think of China and imagine skyscrapers and neon cityscapes, you are thinking of Shanghai. The Shanghai area has been settled since 771 BC and is incredibly rich in culture and history, and of course as a big modern city, tons of shopping. This means that during your stay, you won’t run out of things to see. And since you’re in China, you definitely won’t run out of things to eat, either!

Climate & Weather

Shanghai has a humid subtropical climate, which means summers get incredibly hot and humid, and winters get surprisingly cold and damp. You may see a lot of rainfall in the summers, so make sure you bring an umbrella if you come to Shanghai during this season. The best times to visit are spring and fall, when the weather is warm and dry, though you may still see some rainy days in the springtime.

Our Shanghai Food Tours:

Shanghai Evening Food Tour

Old-Shanghai Breakfast Tour

Unlimited food & drinks while walking through the French Concession.

Discover how Shanghai locals start their day with the best breakfast foods in China.

$65 USD per person

$49 USD per person

Daily at 6:30pm

Daily at 9am

Includes all food & beer

Includes all food & drinks

Walking tour through the French Concession

Walking tour through local streets and alleys

Our Shanghai Food Tours:

Evening Food Tour

Unlimited food & drinks while walking through the French Concession.

$65 USD per person

Daily at 6:30pm for 3.5 hrs

Includes all food & beer

Walking tour through the French Concession

Old-Shanghai Breakfast Tour

Discover how Shanghai locals start their day with the best breakfast foods in China.

$49 USD per person

Daily at 9am

Includes all food & drinks

Walking tour through local streets and alleys

Get 10% off if you book multiple tours online!

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