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An Unconventional Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai

Sick and tired of the same ol’ guides to Shanghai you’re coming across on the internet? Why do they all recommend the same cheesy places anyway, do they all copy each other or something?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - The Bund

The first time I went to Shanghai was back in 2012 for a university exchange program. I stayed in the city for more than three months.

But when I returned this year, I realised the Shanghai I knew is now a completely different Shanghai to the one today. What do you do then when you return, but have already seen all the tourist attractions?

I mean, honestly, these tourist attractions have now boomed into cash cows. Think Tianzifang, which was filled with genuine artists four years ago. Now? It’s a street full of big brands that have multiple stores scattered on every corner of the once authentic alleyways.

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Tianzifang
A chain store selling Moomin products in Tianzifang.

However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t visit the major locations. By all means, please do, especially if you haven’t yet! Head to The Bund, check out the Oriental Pearl Tower, dance with the locals in Yu Garden.

For this particular guide to 24 hours in Shanghai, though, we’re gonna play it unconventional and trendy. So without further ado, here’s the Unconventional Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai.
 

8:00AM: Rise and shine

Good morning! It’s 8AM, the sun is bright and… my description ends here, because there is only one 8 o’clock in the day for me.

However, you’re on vacation. Stop wasting your time, whether you’ve just arrived at the airport after an overnight flight or have had a full night’s rest. Get out and explore the stunning city you’re now in.

In this guide to 24 hours in Shanghai, I’m going to begin with two recommendations for places to stay in during your visit.
 

AirBnB

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Minimalist AirBnB

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Minimalist AirBnB

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Minimalist AirBnB

Wake up in your perfect AirBnB – because who still stays in hotels today anyway? Your grandfather? Plus, you can pick your budget, your location, the type of design you like. This is the perfect minimalist AirBnB I stayed in, just minutes away from the town centre.

The AirBnB I stayed in can actually accommodate up to four people. How, I don’t know, because there is only a double bed and a smaller, side bed. But I only went with my boyfriend, so it was more than enough for us.

If you’re looking to save up, make sure your AirBnB has a kitchen space to cook. It’s always cheaper to eat in than out, though who’d want to make their own food in Shanghai? The streets are lined with dirt cheap grub.

Read more: Minimalist AirBnB in Shanghai for White Addicts
 

The Waterhouse at South Bund

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

If you do have the money though, I recommend staying at The Waterhouse at South Bund. The stunning architecture of this boutique design hotel will get you up bright and early every morning. Guaranteed.

A former dockyard building and warehouse, The Waterhouse at South Bund has a history tracing back to the 1930s. Shanghai-based architecture firm Neri & Hu Design and Research Office restored the old constructions and transformed it into a truly unique space.

Read more: Forget AirBnB, You Need to See This Design Hotel
 

8:30AM: Morning fuel

But first, coffee. Oh, and food. Because what guide to 24 hours in Shanghai would be complete without food recommendations, given the affordable abundance of restaurants and cafés? If you can’t choose, I’ve narrowed it down for you.
 

Baker & Spice

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Baker & Spice Café

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Baker & Spice Café

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Baker & Spice Café

Known for its pastries, Baker & Spice stays true to its name and serves up a delicious, affordable brunch. And most importantly, it’s trendy as… ahem. It is a chain café run by Wagas, so you’ll have to make sure you visit the original branch on Anfu Road, which is arguably the most photogenic of their shops.

Baker & Spice has fresh baked goods made daily which you can buy for takeaway if you’re in a rush. But you’re on vacation, so sit down, grab a coffee, and people watch from your very Instagram-worthy seat.

Read more: 3 Instagram-Worthy Cafés You Must Visit in Shanghai
 

9:30AM: Visit a museum

“Culture is the air we breathe all around us.” – Josh Fox

Okay, I just googled “culture quotes” and picked the best one to sound smart.

There are two routes down this cultural path I’d recommend: seeing an exhibition at an art gallery and going to a museum. It all depends on what’s on and what you’re interested in!

I visited the Long Museum West Bund while I was in Shanghai. I was strapped for time, so my primary goal was to check out the architecture of the museum building itself. But you, you should get a ticket and explore the exhibition that’s on inside!
 

Long Museum West Bund

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Long Museum West Bund in Shanghai

Not to be mistaken with the museum of the same name in Pudong, the Long Museum West Bund is a stunning restored coal transportation wharf that houses one of the largest private collections in China. You can be assured you’ll be seeing quality art inside, as the founders handpick their exhibitions with the aim to promote cultural education in mind.

The bonus of visiting Long Museum West Bund as opposed to other museums in Shanghai is the stunning architecture. The project was shortlisted for the Design Museum’s 2015 Designs of the Year awards, making it the ultimate paradise for photographers.

Read more: Why You Must Visit Long Museum West Bund
 

12:00PM: See an art exhibition

When it comes to art, where else to dip into your inner artist than an art gallery?

My gallery of choice was very specific. I visited the Magda Danysz Gallery with the goal to see Charles Pétillon’s photography exhibition. It blew my socks off (and was very Instagram-worthy).
 

Magda Danysz Gallery

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Charles Pétillon exhibition at Magda Danysz Gallery

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Charles Pétillon exhibition at Magda Danysz Gallery

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Charles Pétillon exhibition at Magda Danysz Gallery

Magda Danysz has three galleries worldwide: in London, in Paris and in Shanghai. Charles Pétillon rotated his installation and photography exhibition, Invasions, through the three locations. Shanghai was the second stop, and at the time of Invasions’ showing, I was in the city.

It was everything I wanted in an art exhibition. It had a mixture of media featuring built structure and photography, demonstrated a deeper meaning tied to humanity and nature, and most of all? It was photogenic.

Read more: 3 Essential Ingredients for a Balloon Takeover
 

2:00PM: Go café-hopping

Oops, you’ve missed lunch now. But it’s fine since millennials and trendy people don’t eat anyway.*

Plus, you can grab a light afternoon snack at my next recommendations.

In continuation of getting cultured in our guide to 24 hours in Shanghai, what better way to experience the atmosphere of Shanghai than to visit their most trendy cafés? After all, coffee is an art. Step into a local youngster’s shoes and head on to these top three Instagram-worthy cafés in the city.

* I’m joking, I don’t advocate fad diets in any way. Please eat.
 

Aunn Café

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Aunn Café

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Aunn Café

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Aunn Café

Legend has it that Aunn Café offers one of the best cuppas in Shanghai. I can’t confirm that legend for you, unfortunately, because I’m not a coffee drinker. But if anything, the architecture of the café is enough to make you go there.

Spread over two floors, furnished with 3D printed chairs and designer lighting fixtures, the minimalist coffee shop is rarely empty even on weekdays. Hear it firsthand from me that a seat is worth fighting for just to enjoy the ambience of Aunn Café. Instagram to your heart’s content.

Read more: 3 Instagram-Worthy Cafés You Must Visit in Shanghai
 

Seesaw Coffee

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Seesaw Coffee

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Seesaw Coffee

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Seesaw Coffee

Wasn’t Aunn Café delightful? Well, there’s more to see at Seesaw Coffee. Opened by the same founder, this coffee shop is really something altogether when it comes to architecture. Make sure you visit the branch at Yuyuan Road. Seesaw Coffee has both an indoor and outdoor area for your choosing, but if it’s not raining or sweltering hot, you must choose to sit in the courtyard.

The main character of beautiful space is an unmissable spiral staircase that brings you upwards to the rest of Jing’an Design Centre, where Seesaw Coffee is located inside. It’s undoubtedly one of the most trendy spots in Shanghai for Instagram photos.

Read more: 3 Instagram-Worthy Cafés You Must Visit in Shanghai
 

4:00PM: Enslave your Instagram husband

In the late afternoon of our most upcoming guide to 24 hours in Shanghai, what better thing to do than to take advantage of the brief break between tea and dinner to take photos for social media? I mean obviously, you ain’t trendy until the whole world sees it.

Go grab your Instagram husbands, grab your Instagram wives, and let’s get snapping. If you’re travelling solo, a tripod does wonders. *wink*
 

SOHO Fuxing Plaza

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

When I visited the city, I took the time to visit two very unconventional spots that put the U in our Unconventional Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai. Two commercial buildings. Say whaaaat? Well, these buildings aren’t just office buildings. They’re sleek, modern and definitely contemporary when it comes to design.

SOHO Fuxing Plaza is my favourite of the two. Located at the Li Long-inspired site of SOHO Fuxing Road in the Huaihai central business district, the building stands tall and unmissable. You’ll know where the jaw-dropping photography hotspot is as soon as you enter the office tower. The lift lobby is really something altogether. Don’t I look like I just stepped into a sci-fi movie in the photos above?

Read more: 2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai You Cannot Miss
 

The Exchange SOHO

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

The second place to drag your Instagram husband to with your remaining time is The Exchange SOHO. Like SOHO Fuxing Plaza, The Exchange SOHO is also an office tower. The skyscraper is conveniently located in the core of West Nanjing Road’s central business district. No excuses for not going.

Again, you’ll feel as if you’ve travelled to the future as soon as you enter the building. The designated photo spot is a few steps in. It’s a large-scale spiral staircase that reaches up to the banquet floors. Check out the location tag on Instagram for ways you can frame your photo. My snaps above don’t do the staircase justice because unfortunately, the guard wouldn’t let me up when I visited. 🙁

Read more: 2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai You Cannot Miss
 

6:00PM: Time to grub (again)

What’s that? Did I hear your stomach rumble? No wonder, serves you right for skipping lunch just to go café-hopping. Kids these days.

It’s six in the evening, so let’s move quickly before the office workers rush out for their evening drinks. Leave the traditional xiaolongbao for another day. Tonight, we’re going to eat good and feel good at the same time at a vegetarian restaurant that is all the rage right now.
 

Pure & Whole

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Pure & Whole

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Pure & Whole

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Pure & Whole

Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai - Pure & Whole

Post-dumpling guilt is no more at Pure & Whole, a plant-based restaurant in the Jing’an District.

Vegetarian or not, this healthy destination has been a hit with locals and tourists alike since its opening. The eatery has three branches spread around Shanghai, making nutritious dining within a modern setting a convenient option.

I went to the Yanping Road shop and spent ages going through the menu because everything sounded scrumptious. It was lunch time when I visited, so my Instagram husband and I both got set meals with drinks and appetisers. Our vegetable paella and detox salad were so good. Even though there was no meat in our food, we left the restaurant fully satisfied – stuffed, actually. We couldn’t finish our meals and had to grab the leftovers to-go!

If you’re still hankering after those dumplings, Pure & Whole does offer a vegetarian jiaozi. It’s filled with a plethora of vegetables wrapped in rice paper and served with cashew sauce. Much better than the streetside fake pork meat, am I right?

Pure & Whole
98 Yanping Road, Jing’an District, Shanghai
+021 5175 9822
http://www.pureandwhole.com/
 

9:00PM: Night night, sleep tight

So that’s about it for this guide to 24 hours in Shanghai. Walk off your food baby from dinner on the beautiful streets of Jing’an and have a safe return to back to your AirBnB, or back to The Waterhouse at South Bund. Get to sleep early. The real trendy youngsters may still be out clubbing or whatnot, but that’s enough unconventional activities for the day. For now, let’s play it safe and rest up for what’s to come tomorrow.

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Thank you for sticking by and reading this Unconventional Guide to 24 Hours in Shanghai! It’s longer than my usual blog posts and took forever to piece together, so I hope you enjoyed it. Please go through my entire Shanghai series (links below) for more details on each of the locations I’ve covered. If you have any further questions, feel free email me at charmainenyw@gmail.com or comment down below – I’m a quick replier!
 

Shanghai series:

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2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai You Cannot Miss

On a trip to Shanghai, you might visit The Bund, Yu Garden or the Oriental Pearl Tower. Maybe you’ve done more research and are headed towards M50 or the Oriental Art Center for less popular photos that haven’t been tried and tested by every tourist ever. Yeah, yeah. Been there, done that. Let me introduce you to something fresh, something trendy. The best photo spots might be right under your nose. You could’ve passed it a million times. In this post, I’ll be letting you in on two photogenic commercial buildings in Shanghai that you absolutely cannot miss.

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

The great thing about these commercial buildings in Shanghai is that they are easy to get to, and chances are, you’re walking past them every day. Oh, and of course, I’m your budget-friendly homegirl so visiting these spots are free! When I think about it, the people who work in these towers are very lucky they get to experience a great architectural working environment on a daily basis. I think I speak for all of us slaving away in gloomy, messy offices when I say I’m jealous.
 

SOHO Fuxing Plaza

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - SOHO Fuxing Plaza

The first of our two Instagram-worthy commercial buildings in Shanghai can be found at the famed SOHO Fuxing Road in the Huaihai central business district. SOHO Fuxing Plaza is the commercial symbol of a Li Long-inspired site designed by German firm gmp Architekten. The building towers above Shanghai Xintiandi proudly, offering a mixture of old and new with its strategic setting between the hundred-year-old Saints Church and high-end retail outlets.

The designated photo zone of SOHO Fuxing Plaza is instantly recognisable as soon as you enter the office tower. The museum-style lobby will catch anyone’s eye immediately with its light rings adorning the lift area. The design is described as embodying a full artistic atmosphere – and it really does show through. I’ll let my pictures speak for themselves.

SOHO Fuxing Plaza
388 Madang Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
http://sohofuxingplaza.sohochina.com/
 

The Exchange SOHO

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

2 Photogenic Commercial Buildings in Shanghai - The Exchange SOHO

Towering at 217 metres, The Exchange SOHO comprises of 52 floors and took ten years to complete, with construction beginning in 1994 and ending in 2004. The skyscraper was designed by JY Design Planning, an American architecture and urban planning firm in Shanghai that was nominated “Most Popular” of their trade in 2004. It is conveniently located at an influential office area in the core of West Nanjing Road’s central business district.

The lobby of The Exchange SOHO is what you’d expect in a modern office building. Glass interiors and reflective surfaces cover the floors and ceilings, and I couldn’t help but feel a bit grimy as I stepped inside. What’s so special about The Exchange SOHO, though, is the large-scale spiral staircase that reaches up to the banquet floors. If you search the location on Instagram, you’ll find many beautiful shots of this large structure. Unfortunately, the guard wouldn’t let me up when I visited. He was in a sour mood, boo. 🙁

The Exchange SOHO
1486 West Nanjing Road, Jing’an District, Shanghai
+021 6171 8888
http://theexchangesoho.sohochina.com/

—–

Were you surprised that these two commercial buildings in Shanghai hid such great gems? I’m no Shanghai expert or travel expert, but next time you fly away somewhere, look in between the lines for places you could go to. Don’t just search through TripAdvisor for the most popular tourist spots. Dig into blogs and social media. You won’t regret it, I promise.
 

Shanghai series:

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Forget AirBnB, You Need to See This Design Hotel

Although I could not afford to stay at the famed design boutique hotel, I decided to at least pay The Waterhouse at South Bund a visit when I went to Shanghai. I only had access to a limited area as an outsider, but it was enough for me to have a taste of the beautiful architecture. I’m definitely not saying my minimalist AirBnB was bad – I loved it and it was great for its price – but if I could actually stay in an architecturally renowned building… wow.

The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

As its name suggests, the hotel is located at the South Bund district of Shanghai. The Waterhouse at South Bund unveiled itself in 2010 and was featured in the Design Hotels Book 2015. You might’ve even heard of it for its famous modern European restaurant, Table No. 1, headed by British chef Jason Atherton. If you decide to visit or stay in the hotel while in Shanghai, I highly recommend you to try Table No. 1’s brunch. It’s consistently rated as one of the best in the city.
 

The Architecture

The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

From the outside, The Waterhouse at South Bund looks like an unsuspecting worn-down factory block. But step in and you’ll discover a different story. Before its restoration, the hotel was a dockyard building and warehouse dating back to the 1930s. Much like the Long Museum West Bund, The Waterhouse at South Bund’s new architectural concept involved combining the old with the new. Shanghai-based architecture firm Neri & Hu Design and Research Office transformed the former construction into a four-storey hotel alongside a double-height, converted warehouse event hall.

Click here for a larger picture of the panorama above.

The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

The design concept of The Waterhouse at South Bund is based on blurring public and private by inverting the internal and external spaces. The architect uses windows and negative spaces of the hotel building to allow guests from inside to look out, and viewers from outside to look in. The resulting structures create an interesting, irregular facade that is not commonly seen around the city.
 

The Interior

The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

Inside, The Waterhouse at South Bund houses one of the largest collections of design furniture of any hotel in China. Expect to find works from reputable names such as Arne Jacobsen, Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner and more. All of the pieces are carefully selected by the owners and designers of The Waterhouse at South Bund itself. I felt like a queen sitting myself down on chairs and couches I could probably never afford!

The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

Further in, the Lobby Lounge is a café-cum-bar that serves light meals, coffee and cocktails. After a drink, guests are welcome to head deeper inside to find a comfortable seating area warmed by a fireplace where they can help themselves to a large range of leisure books and magazines.

The Waterhouse at South Bund, Shanghai

An area I didn’t visit at The Waterhouse at South Bund was the rooftop terrace, conveniently named The Roof. It features a bar overlooking the Huangpu river, but I never got to see the view for myself as it was unfortunately closed when I visited.
 

The Proximity

The Waterhouse at South Bund is rather inconvenient to get to if you’re taking public transport but don’t want to pay for a taxi ride like me (ha ha). The closest station is Xiaonanmen Subway Station, and from there, it is at least a 20-minute walk to the hotel. Alternatively, you can choose to hail a cab, which would bring you to the destination in less than five minutes.

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The Waterhouse at South Bund
1-3 Maojiayan Road, South Zhongshan Road, Huangpu District, Shanghai
+021 6080 2988
http://www.waterhouseshanghai.com/
 

Shanghai series:

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