Beijing-Born and Sydney based, Icy Ling has regularly visited Shanghai in the last few years, falling in love with the dynamic city. In Icy's role as Fashion and Beauty Editor of Indulgence Magazine, she shares the deluxe destinations of Shanghai.
As China’s largest city and a global hub, describe Shanghai for us.
Diverse, vivid, multi-cultural, dynamic and fashionable.
What are your favourite hotels in Shanghai?
Waldorf Astoria at the Bund - Waldorf is on the top of my list and I always love my stay here. The view of the most incredible Shanghai landscape is definitely the bonus of staying there.
Banyan Tree - facing the Pudong financial district, the resort-like Banyan has incredible wellness facilities. Each room has a huge bath tub, next to the window. You could have a rose petal bath facing the Pudong view, and there is a roof-top bar for friends catching up or meeting new friends. I also recommend having high tea at ‘The Ocean’ restaurant. Great value for two.
Park Hyatt - I heard it is the highest hotel in the world. I had the pleasure staying there. I like the simple interior design with an elegant touch. The restaurant is at level 87 but even sitting at the lobby bar, you could still feel like touching the air.
What are your favourite restaurants, cafés, eateries and bars?
Yangfang Hotpot in Xintiandi - there are a few of hot spot restaurants like this in Shanghai. It is like a time travel back to the 1930s when you eat there. Enjoy the fresh seafood, the waitress will cook the food for you. Make sure you taste the hotpot soup, very healthy.
T’Ang Court in The Langham Shanghai - it was quite hard to book, but I was finally lucky enough to get a table during my last stay in Shanghai. This restaurant has won many awards, especially it has been awarded 3 in the Michelin Guide. It was so difficult for me to order because I went alone, but there are so many awarded dishes I could have tried. So definitely call a few friends to go together.
Tao Yuan Juan Cun - this is the franchise restaurant where you can have local Chinese food with a tiny twist by the Taiwan chefs. Basically, it is like having breakfast at any time of the day. Most of the food on the menu are local Chinese breakfast dishes.
Lan Xin - local food that my Shanghai friends have recommended. They don’t accept bookings and it is around 30 minutes wait. There is always a queue, so please arrive earlier if you are hungry. People call this cuisine ‘grandma homemade’ dishes. The duck, the shrimp, the vegetables are all worth to give a try.
Xiaduo Garden (Xia Duo Hua Yuan - the one on Fuxing West Road) - I have been to this place a few times with a few girlfriends for afternoon tea. Walking on Fuxing Road makes you feel you are in France somehow. The service is great, drinks are great and the bakeries are great. I could sit there whole day. No need to book unless weekend.
The House of Roosevelt - some would say they have the best steak in Shanghai. Some would love the view. I love everything. The roof top bar offers afternoon tea. You could order a large selection of alcohol at the bar while waiting for your table. Once you get the table, you would not be able to decide whether to look outside the window or just focus on the food. Please book in advance.
Hotel Indigo Shanghai Restaurant - I personally would say Indigo has the best steak in Shanghai. Pick a knife to bespoke your dinner. The restaurant would assist you in pairing a nice glass of wine with your meal but don’t forget to order some French Oysters. And you ought to try Rohnney cocktails after dinner.
1921 Gucci Restaurant - it is world’s first Gucci Restaurant. I have been there a few times for coffee or afternoon tea but dine in style. There is a balcony too.
Vivienne Westwood Cafe K11 - I don’t think many people know this place but every time I go shopping in K11, I would step into this cafe for a few desserts and an espresso. It is next to the Vivienne Westwood boutique. Green-tea Latte is also good if you have already had your coffee intake of the day.
VUE Dining - when I stayed in Hyatt on the Bund hotel, VUE Dining and VUE Bar are two of my fave places to go. By now you probably have noticed what I love to go in Shanghai - any place with a nice Pudong view. And what I suggest is going to VUE for dinner then go to the VUE bar roof top for a nice glass of cocktail before wrap up the night.
Where are the best cultural landmarks to visit in Shanghai for a first-time visitor?
Oriental Pearl Tower - please allow some time to queue, try not to bring too many things because you will need to go through security check.
Xintiandi - spend at least half a day there, lunch + afternoon tea or dinner + cocktails; there are shops and galleries there too. If you love watches, many watch brands have their flagships around Xintiandi.
Yu Garden (Yu Yuan) - allow at least half a day there for: Chinese garden, local food or go through the food market, shopping. If you love oriental designs, you can find Chinese fan, silk scarves, Jade accessories and many things there.
Shanghai Tower & Jin Mao Tower.
Disney Resort - new to Shanghai. Spend a day there. Make sure you stay for the fireworks.
China Pavilion - allow a few hours to see a few exhibitions.
Where’s great to go for…
... coffee? 20 Cafe, Fumi Coffee, Kaffeine Coffee, EDM Cafe, AND Coffee, Seesaw Coffee
... cocktails? Oji Cocktail & Whisky, Highline, Blendi & Trying Boys
... fine dining? Coquille Seafood Bistro, Shanghai Ye (Xintiandi), Estado Puro (Xintiandi), Xiangzhang Garden (Xiangzhang Huayuan), Sir Elly’s Restaurant (The Peninsula Hotel), MINT.
... art? Moganshan Road
... nightlife? MINT Club, Bar Rouge, VUE Bar, W Hotel WooBar, Heyday Jazz Bar.
Describe your favourite and “must-visit” hubs or districts.
Rong Zhai by Prada - Prada renovated this area and brought great art culture into this building.
Xintiandi - there are a few nice cafes, bars and restaurant here but I like to firstly spend sometime at the mini exhibitions around the Xintiandi area. There are also many art galleries and book stores.
Nanjing East Road - shop and eat like a local. It is quite crowded, don’t wear white sneakers. Bring tissues and hand sanitiser. A lot of food to taste.
Yue Hu Sculpture Park - about 1 hour drive from CBD, this is a park that you could spend couple of hours. Great for family picnic or get together.
Jing An Temple - Jing An.
Shanghai Haiwan National Park - a beautiful place to go but bring a mosquito spray and sunscreen with you.
Songjiang Taiwushi Xiaozhen - a romantic place for couples. Also good for Instagram photos. But please don’t go alone like I did - you will be surrounded by couples taking wedding photos!
Tell us more about the culture, atmosphere. Is there a philosophy to live by or be inspired by?
I think Shanghai is quite a friendly city. At the same time, the locals are very happy to keep the way they live, even though they are quite open to other cultures. I wouldn’t suggest people to visit Shanghai around late May as it can be quite humid and rainy. Summer is very hot, maybe avoid July and August too. I don’t find Shanghai is too badly polluted, but use anti-pollution/anti-oxidant skincare.
Don’t worry about speaking Chinese as you can easily find someone to translate for you in Shanghai, especially in the CBD area.
Dress up. Shanghai locals do care about their aesthetics and they would put on a nice outfit even just to get some breakfast snacks around the corner. The locals seek to make an effort to dress up as a way to show respect to others. I like it, I think we should all learn from it.
Do you have any insights or secret tips you can share with us?
I love to have Caviar at the Langham Hotel in Shanghai. Every time I go to Shanghai, I will always stop by and just indulge myself in the Caviar set menu with a glass of champagne - yum and great for your skin.
Speak English with hotel staff and Air-Cabin crew. This is one of my personal tips during travel.
As a hotel guest, if you would like to reserve a nice table with the best view at the bar, tell the receptionist that you are there to enjoy a bottle of champagne or wine. In that way, you will reach the minimum spending of such table and if you cannot finish the drink, just take it back to your hotel room and enjoy it later. If you do travel alone, like me most of the time; always acknowledge at least one hotel staff or bartender, so that they will make sure you get to the hotel room safe.
There are a lot of street-snap photographers around Xintiandi.
Are there any neighbouring cities one could visit, when planning a trip to Shanghai?
Suzhou is only 1.5 hour driving from Shanghai - the Suzhou Royal Gardens are worth to visit with great local food. I stayed in W Suzhou last time, great view and best W hotel service I have ever experienced.
Zhouzhuang & Wuzhen - they are a few hours driving from Shanghai but worth having a look.
You can follow Icy Ling on Instagram at @icybutterfly.
Image via: @hannynaibaho on Unsplash.