With Design Shanghai fast approaching, we couldn’t help but dedicate our next travel guide to China’s biggest city. Located on China’s easternmost coast, Shanghai is a sprawling conglomerate of culture, design, art and architecture. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the best XLB soup dumplings, go on an expansive museum + art crawl to see the best of East meets West design, or just enjoy some R&R at your boutique hotel, there’s no shortage of things to do when you’re visiting Shanghai. Here are the spots we recommend hitting up on your next vacation.
WHERE TO STAY
Sleek and modern, the Puli Hotel and Spa designed by Kume Sekkei and Layan Design Group is a retreat away from Shanghai’s busy streets. The urban hotel pays homage to cultural design and aesthetics while incorporating an elegant, refined style, a welcomed sight for weary travelers. The interiors have a muted color palette of charcoal grays, porcelain beige and accented brass which play into the calming effect you experience once you step into the lobby. For extra tired travelers, the renowned Anantara spa will help you get into a state of tranquility with its tea-based treatments, like green tea scrubs and white tea wraps.
Don’t be fooled by this hotel’s rough exteriors. The Waterhouse at South Bund, a Design Hotels member, was designed by Neri & Hu Design who transformed the original 1930s building into a 19-room minimalist hotel that mixes antique with contemporary. The original facade, the exposed concrete and brick, and unfinished floors provide a nice backdrop with the hotel’s modern furnishings. Beautiful, non-conformist, and unrefined at the right moments, the Waterhouse deserves a check-in on your itinerary.
WHERE TO PLAY
Right in the middle of the People’s Square gardens, the Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai (MOCA) designed by Atelier Liu Yuyang Architects parts the green surroundings with facade of geometric, floor-to-ceiling glass walls. Be sure to check out the museum’s current schedule to see what exhibitions will be showing during your visit.
I love that these days, museums have embraced social media to share their current exhibitions and installations. Both in person and online, the Yuz Museum helps educate visitors and viewers while fostering their understanding and appreciation of contemporary art.
While I rarely flock to anywhere with a large crowd, taking a walk on the Bund along the Huangpu River is a must for architecture aficionados. The street is filled with notable buildings of different styles throughout the decades. On this one path alone, you’ll find 52 buildings ranging from Eclecticist, Romanesque Revival, Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival, Baroque Revival, Neo-Classical or Beaux-Arts styles, and Art Deco styles.
Finally, at the end of your day of sight-seeing and gallery-hopping, head to Cloud 9 at the Jin Mao tower at Grand Hyatt Shanghai to enjoy a spectacular view of the city with a cocktail in hand.
WHERE TO SHOP
Inspired by the Art Brut movement, Brut Cake is a shop filled with whimsical but functional objects for everyday life. Here you can find handmade ceramics and antique Chinese fabrics to take home as a souvenir.
Jing Republic curates a collection of modern homewares. To complement the objects it sells, the shop also hosts regular lifestyle and cooking classes, such as flower-arranging or baking, so you can put those homewares to use.
It’s always fun to see what a design furniture store curates in other parts of the world because the interior design always reflects the cultural aesthetics. At the Design Republic Design Commune, the flagship for Design Republic designed by Neri & Hu, you’ll be able to explore the design hub’s gallery, event space, cafe, restaurant, and 1-bedroom apartment.
Shanghai has become a destination for global and local design lovers. The city has hosted a number of different design and art fairs. Looking to see what’s new in international and Chinese design? Check out Design Shanghai. If you’re more of an art gallery person, the West Bund Art & Design and Art021 both cultivate a range of prominent and emerging art galleries highlighting top talents and artists. For photographers, the PHOTOFAIRS Shanghai is the fair for you.
Oh, and for the best XLB soup dumplings? Din Tai Fung gets my vote.
Shanghai is a big place, so what did we miss? Add your favorite spots in the city below so we can check them out!