Wanderlust Wendy

Shanghai Living Quick Start Guide

This post has been on my to-do list for ages. Today, I met new friends who are in the city for the first time to attend Le Wagon coding camp! Finally, I have a reason to write this and add some value. Living in Shanghai can feel overwhelming at first. With all the resources out there, here are some of my favourite places in Shanghai. If you’ve been in Shanghai for a while, please feel free to add your favs in the comments!

To Live: 

My favourite Shanghai neighbourhoods to live are Jing’an & Xuhui (Former French Concession). Five years ago, I lived in Jing’an when I first moved to Shanghai. Back then, there were still a great deal of old Shanghai neighbourhoods, today, most of which have been taken over by high-rises. At the same time, foreigners have moved in in droves. Today, you can find a variety of western restaurants and bars next to some local favourites.

Over the last 3 years, I’ve been living on the cusp of the FFC and Jing’an. Best of both worlds, in my opinion. You get the tree-lined streets, old-time charm, but still modern conveniences. All away from the madness of tourists, yet easy access by subway, bus, or Didi (Uber-equivalent) to the hot spots around town.

If you are just visiting, I recommend staying near the following subway stations: South Shanxi Road (line 12/10/1), Jing’an Temple (2/7), West Nanjing Road (2/12/13), Changshu Road (1/7), Jiagshan Road (9/12) Shanghai Library (10), Hengshan Road (1).

If you are here for longer-term stay, rent may be a bit cheaper just one or two stations further out from these stops.

To Do:

Walking the streets, discover what is left of Old Shanghai. Here are some of my favourite neighbourhoods to wander, but I actually recommend all the walking-guide routes published on TimeOut Shanghai.

Former French Concession: There are lots of nice cafés and tree-lined streets to walk around.

Houkou District – Former International Settlement (mostly English) & Jewish neighborhood. Really interesting history. The old neighbourhoods are also quickly vanishing, so catch them while you can!

Tianzifang – old lane houses turned tourist shops. Great for kitchy souvenirs.

Xintiandi – restored neighborhoods with fancy shopping & restaurants. The Shikumen museum is a worth a visit.

The Bund – both on the old (Puxi) and new (Pudong) sides. Puxi side has the colonial buildings and great restaurant/bars with stellar views. The old neighbourhoods are worth exploring before they get demolished.

Pudong side has the new futuristic skyscrapers. The new Shanghai Tower is worth checking out if the sky is clear. Park Hyatt sky bar is a great spot for a drink and soak in the view.

West Bund – site of old warehouses transformed to a riverside park great for running & biking. Some of Shanghai’s best museums line this strip. At dusk, you see some serious elderly kite fliers and dancing grannys.

Smart Shanghai, Time Out Shanghai, and That’s Shanghai all have comprehensive coverage on the best things to do in Shanghai. You can also find tickets of various events at 247tickets.com.

Here are my favourite pampering spots. Not as cheap as Southeast Asia, but the prices are much worth a splurge if you are coming from Western countries. These spots below all have quite a few locations within the city.

Yu Massage – as the name suggests – great massages with great value!
Dragonfly – one stop shop for nearly all beauty treatments that you want.
Everlasting – They are more local, but great facials!
Flower Finger – clean and reasonably priced nail salon.
Browhause – as the name suggests – for your eyebrow. I go occasionally for eyebrow threading.

To Eat: 

Where do I start. Shanghai restaurant scene is constantly evolving. To keep up with it, you gotta download BonApp. They have great curated restaurant lists with updates all the time. But if I must suggest some restaurants, here are a few of my favs. You can find them all on BonApp.

Lost Eatery – Yunnan (used to be quite down to earth & local, but now you see a lot of foreigners. Still solid food though)
Lost Heaven – Yunnan (a place to impress the tourists. I suggest the location on the Bund; there is a great rooftop.)
Jianguo 328 – Shanghainese. Tiny restaurant with great food. If you go during peak hours, you have to wait in line. They don’t take reservations.
Han Mama’s Noodle – Solid Taiwanese noodle soups and other snacks. Good value for the environment.
Dim Dim Sum – casual dim sum spot.
Dim Sum Garden – fancier dim sum with nice atmosphere.
Commune Social – great brunch, Australian fusion.
Bull & Claw – solid lunch menu & good brunch.
Beef & Liberty – my go-to burger joint. Never disappoints.

Finally, my favourite cafés & bakeries:
Lost Bakery – great place to get some work done during the week.
Pain Chaud & Avec Toi – solid boutique French bakeries.
Egg – hipster café with creative food (with eggs, obviously).
Baker & Spice – a bakery-chain in the city, but always reliable spot for good pastries, salads & healthy food.

You will need a VPN. Every few years, new players come into the scene providing better service. I’ve been using Astrill for the last few years, and they are…. alright. I’ve heard ExpressVPN & StrongVPN are the best right now. You should try to set these up before you come to Shanghai.

Google Chrome – if you can’t read Chinese, the auto translate plug-in in this browser will help you make all that tabao purchases and other Chinese reading needs. But you need VPN for this to work.

Same logic follows that Google Map doesn’t work in China without VPN. I use Apple Map & Baidu Maps. Couldn’t be bothered to fire up my VPN on the go every time I need a map.

As for Apps, TimeOut Shanghai has put together a pretty decent list of apps to download. The others that I use on a regular basis are:

SmartShanghai – comprehensive directory where you can find the aforementioned places.
Mobike – bike sharing app. In my opinion, the bikes are more solid and the app interface easier to use than Ofo.
Chope – restaurant reservation app. You can earn points when you reserve to redeem for free dining vouchers. I’ve had MANY free meals from this. They are also integrate with BonApp.
Ele.me – by far the best food delivery service that’s risen in the Shanghai scene over the last few months. The app is in Chinese, but with so many icons, it’s relatively easy to navigate.
Yimishiji – I buy most of my meats from here. They source organically from local farms in the Shanghai area. Great quality in their groceries & solid value.

WeChat Official Accounts:

WeChat, is the key to survival in China. Think WhatsApp, Venmo, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and more all in one single app, and that’s what you go! Once you get WeChat set up, you’ll want to follow these official accounts to get updates on what’s happening around the city:

Shanghai happenings: @Thats_Shanghai @CityWeekend_Shanghai @ShanghaiWowEng
Fitness: @RunnersHai @FitFamShanghai @GuavaPass @Functional45 @gkcore @OliveBranchFitness
Events: @GreenInitiatives @jzmusicsh @MotivateShanghai @TEDxShanghaiWomen @YejoCircle-Shanghai

Some of the best info are from WeChat groups (second-hand sale, homemade food, book exchange, etc). Email me if you’d like to be added, and I’ll see what I can do! I hope these info are enough to get you started. Feel free to leave me a comment if you’d like to know more that I haven’t covered!

Join the conversation. Remember to be kind.