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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.

—–

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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108 Comments

  1. I would love to go to Shanghai, you made it look so great! x

    Jessica — NinetyCo

  2. Really nice photos and great guide! Shanghai looks really fun. 🙂

  3. I have a friend who adores Moomins. She’d be delighted to be surrounded by so many in one place!

    • Haha yeah, there are tons of shops selling Moomin products too! (Dunno if they’re fake or not, though!)

  4. Ada Ada

    Love this post! So fun to read! Thanks for all recommendations! Definetly come back here when I will plan my trip over there !

  5. Sofia Sofia

    What a gorgeous guide – great tips & photos 🙂

  6. I’ve really enjoyed browsing through your blog – I appreciate the time and effort you put into the blog post. Will definitely be coming here more to check out your new posts!

    Lena – zoyaandme.com/

    • Thank you so much for your comment, it really means a lot to me!

  7. I absolutely love your photos!

  8. Great guide! Love the alternative ideas and your photos are beautiful!

  9. OMG! I can’t believe you were in college in 2012, you look way younger than this!
    The images are great and it made me want to go and visit there.
    Love how you made a timeline too.
    How about we follow each other on bloglovin’? Follow me and I’ll follow you back.
    http://societyfix.blogspot.com.eg/

    • Haha yeah, people think I’m 16 or something all the time… I wish!

  10. I actually used to live in Shanghai for 3 years and it is by far my favorite city <3 However, I have never been to any of these places. Next time I go to visit ill make sure to check all of these out!
    Love,
    Thays

    http://www.simplythays.com

    • Wow, 3 years, that’s super cool! It’s a great city.

  11. I love this guide you created for Shanghai! I need to revisit this when I get a chance to go cause all the places you shared are like Instagram heaven! lol

    ~Crissy
    http://www.whimsicalfawn.com

  12. Shanghai looks absolutely amazing! I’ve never been but hope to visit some day! Thanks for sharing all these fabulous pics 🙂

    xo Raina
    http://www.themamaqueen.com

  13. All the places you picked have a very similar minimalist feel to them, I love it. It’s a side to Shanghai I haven’t seen recommended

    The Quirky Queer

  14. I love the look of the Waterhouse!

    Thanks for sharing this completely unique tour of the city…. <3

    • Me too, wish I could’ve stayed there, and you’re welcome!

  15. Such great tips! Your photos are incredible too! Props to you Instagram husband 🙂

    • Yes, all thanks to him for enduring my bad temper and more! 😉

  16. Your Airbnb was so lovely!! I love how everywhere you visited matched your minimalist style haha – love all the photos!

    • I didn’t even notice the similarities between the places until a bunch of commenters pointed it out, haha. Thanks!

  17. OMG, that IS a different guide! Very personal and authentic. And the food on the last picture looks so mouthwatering, just had my breakfast, but feel like I’m hungry again:))

    Kseniia,
    thestylejungle.ru

  18. Interesting post and the images were cool and neat. Loved the photography. Isn’t your text bit tiny though?

    • Oh, is it? I’ve already increased the size. THANK YOU so much for letting me know!

  19. Very interesting read, and your pictures are stunning. Very avant garde.

  20. This is such a great post! Love the light and mood in your photos! 😉

  21. Shanghai is always shine 🙂 I was in Shanghai in June. I fly through Shanghai Airlines. First of all, i would like to say, that i never thought, that i will impressed by this city. It was amazing! )) Street food also great)))

    thanks for article!

    • I love Singapore too! I went in 2015 and it was amazing!

  22. Nice clean and crisp photos. Seems like there’s a lot to do in Shanghai. 🙂
    Is it also good for traveling with a baby?

    • I would say Shanghai as a whole is very convenient to travel around with a great public transport network. I’d be careful of the food though – it’s not always clean.

  23. Shanghai! What a buzzing beautiful city, thanks for you perspective on this
    city and your tour c:
    The art gallery and museum is niiiice, I need to bookmark for when I ever
    set foot on Shanghai ^__^ Xx
    Ice Pandora

    • Yes it truly is a great city – except for the pollution, haha!

  24. seems like the perfect getaway! btw you are so small!

  25. lol im im back for a second comment. gotta be honest i just scrolled through before my first comment and now after i read everything im in love with your writing and sarcasm lololol

  26. Great post! I’ve never been to Shanghai but it’s somewhere that’s on my list, and of course, I’d always stay in an Airbnb too – I love the minimalist look of the one you found. In fact, all the places look very minimalist and funky!

    • Thanks! They are great places to check out if you’re into minimal design.

  27. gymbagsandjetlags gymbagsandjetlags

    I am so so glad I came across your blog! It’s so stunning and I actually learned something from this post (Shanghai is definitely on my list now!).

    xx, Pia
    http://gymbagsandjetlags.com

  28. Tay Tay

    These are beautiful photos and a great guide! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  29. Shanghai looks gorgeous! Those Totoro plushies were so cute. 🙂

    – goloveyrself.com

    • Yes they are, but I wouldn’t go to Tianzifang for them!

  30. Great trip, I just want to fly to Shanghai. And I love the art of Charles Pétillon.
    I´m an Art and Architecture fan, too so your blog is so inspiring for me.
    Greetings from germany
    Kathrin

    • Thank you so much! Charles Pétillon is actually holding the same exhibition in Paris right now, so you can go if you’re interested cos that’s much closer to you!

  31. I stumbled upon your blog link from another blog’s Comments. And I’m glad I did because I really like this post! You described Shanghai very interestingly and makes me wanna go there! I might do a similar post about Jakarta, I hope you don’t mind. And very nice photos!

    • It’s certainly been developing at a major rate these few years. You should visit!

  32. theluxilook theluxilook

    Love how detailed and informative this guide is – hoping to make it to Shanghai this year and will definitely be using this!! Thanks for putting it together babe : ) xx

  33. What a great guide. I haven’t been to Shanghai yet. I know I would go to all the touristy places haha but I would love to see a different part of the city as well!

    • Thanks! I wrote this guide because I’d lived in Shanghai for three months before, so I really wanted to explore the other parts of the city. 🙂

  34. Absolutely beautiful photography! Shanghai is definitely already on my list of places to visit, but even more so after this post. I much prefer guides that mention more unconventional places to stop at such as the little coffee shops and gallery’s like you have mentioned, and I honestly had no idea the architecture of these places in Shanghai would be this spectacular! I completely agree that not just for Shanghai but for the majority of places, most of the main tourist attractions just get turned into non authentic cash cow’s! It looks/sounds like you had a lovely time, and props to your Instagram husband for helping you snap, we all need one of those sometimes 😉

    Xo Gemma
    http://www.sundaysomewhere.co.uk

    • Thank you for your comment! Especially in China, tourist attractions are milked to the extreme. It’s crazy!

  35. I adore this post!! It offered some beautiful armchair travel for me. What great suggestions!

  36. Love those SOHO Fuxing Plaza shots – now definitely on my list

  37. Amy Amy

    Your photos! That washing machine! <3
    You have now made me add a new destination onto my bucket list! Love the post!

    Amy x
    AmyJaynesThoughts

  38. jan & Dave Wollet jan & Dave Wollet

    This was so interesting since I will be in Shanghai for 24 hours in April. Its our last stop in China before fling to Beijing to head back to the US

  39. The post is great! I really love your photos 🙂

    irinathayer.com

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