The Insider’s Guide to Shanghai

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Feb 03, 2016

by GENEVIEVE ROSEN, Writer

Shanghai-born, Melbourne-raised, New York-trained (this fashion designer cut her teeth at an internship at Alexander Wang) Kara Liu is one to watch. Her emerging womenswear label Interval is finding its way into some of the country’s stylish wardrobes, thanks to its fresh, contemporary and clean aesthetic… not to mention, a strong roster of local stockists, including Curated by Glue Store, Topshop Australia, Myer, Abicus, Fox & Dove, Kawani and Wolfe and Ordnance. When Liu’s not working on her “effortlessly elegant” range, she can be found holidaying in Shanghai, a city, you’ll find, that’s brimming with history, opulence, glamour and surprises…

Best Hotels

URBN Hotel and Hotel Massenet at Sinan Mansions 

"One of the best areas to stay in Shanghai is the former French Concession. Here, classic European mansions meet charming Chinese laneways, with loads of amazing restaurant, cafés and bars. URBN Hotel is a beautiful boutique hotel just steps away from this historic district. It’s very modern and curated, but has a quintessentially oriental and Zen feel to it. It’s also a carbon-neutral hotel. If you are travelling in a big group and looking for luxury, book a garden villa at Hotel Massenet. The hotel is a collection of villas and mansions originally built in the ’20s and ’30s, with a really authentic early 20th century, East-meets-West feel. It’s super luxurious. You even get a butler for your entire stay! Also, the in-house French restaurant Aux Jardins serves the most decadent food."

Best Coffee

WuMing ShuShu Café

"WuMing ShuShu, otherwise known as Uncle No Name Espresso (pictures), is a little hole-in-the-wall near West Nanjing Road. It’s really cosy and relaxed. The baristas are friendly and have got some serious foam-art skills. The lattes and double espressos are great, almost as good as the kind available in Melbourne. Oh, and they use Australian coffee beans! Enough said."

227 Fengxian Lu, near Nanhui Lu, Jing’an district

Best Bar

Barber Shop 

Barber Shop is a fun and quirky speakeasy style bar. You have to go through the barbershop front to get to the actual bar. The vibe is relaxed, with jazz playing in the background. Their creative cocktails are great and really fun (I had the Hong Lou Meng, named after a well-known Chinese love story; the most popular at the time was the Justin Bieber!), but they can also make a mean old fashioned if you ask for one.

615 Yongjia Lu, near Wulumuqi Nan Lu, Xuhui district 

Best Restaurants

Yuxin Chuan Cai and The Cathay Room 

"Yuxin Chuan Cai is the way Sichuan cuisine should be: hot, spicy, flavoursome. It’s a favourite among locals, so you know the food is good. Be sure to try the twice-cooked pork and Chongqing chicken. Although you can’t really go wrong, as everything on the menu is fantastic, and best served with a cold Tsingtao beer of course! If you are after something more elegant and with a great view of Shanghai, head to the Cathay Room at the historic Fairmont Peace Hotel. Sit on the terrace, where you can watch the sun go down and the lights lit up over the Bund, for one of the most amazing dining experiences."

Yuxin Chuan Cai – Fifth Floor, Huasheng Building, 399 Jiujiang Lu, Huangpu district

The Cathay Room – 20 Nanjing Dong Lu, Huangpu district 

Best Boutique

Triple Major

"Triple Major stocks the best up-and-coming and established local designers, as well as a good selection of lesser-known independent international labels. There are a lot of things at Triple Major you can’t get anywhere else, like beautifully crafted patched linen shirts, crazy colourful sneakers and hand-painted porcelain dishes... all well curated in a four-level raw yet refined space."

No.1, 25 Shaoxing Lu, Huangpu district 

Best Park

Fuxing Park

"Fuxing Park is an elegantly manicured park downtown where locals go for a walk, a picnic or simply to relax. Get there early in the morning or mid-afternoon to watch the seniors practice perfectly choreographed fan dances or tai chi."

115 Yandang Lu, Huangpu district 

Don’t leave Shanghai without visiting

Night Food Markets 

"Some of the best food I’ve had in Shanghai was after midnight, from many of Shanghai’s night markets. Go with a local if you can, and try everyone’s favourite: the lamb shish kebab. The vendor will take your order and cook the sizzling, fatty, thin sticks of meat right in front of you over hot coals, while he casually fans to control the heat and smoke. When it’s done, it’ll be covered in a thick layer of chilli and delicious mix spices. If you are adventurous, there are many other varieties on offer."

Image via Uncle No Name