TLFL does Shanghai – what to see, do, eat and where to stay


Some links on Turning Left for Less pay us an affiliate commission to support this blog

Hilton APAC

A few months ago, I visited Shanghai with Roving Reporter shortly after Paul’s visit. This article will be a summary of what we did on our trips, as well as a few things from my previous visits. 

My previous trips

This was my third visit to Shanghai. The last time I had visited was on a work trip when I still worked for Air Traffic Control as a Safety Manager. On that trip, we were hosted by a certain local airline to give talks to their pilots about flying through UK airspace. That alone was an interesting experience, as it was apparently acceptable to put your jacket down on the desk and have a little nap during our talks!

As locals were hosting us, we saw a different side of the city. We were staying in a hotel near the domestic airport, and we were pretty much the only Westerners there. The hotel was really something else and not in the right way. In the room was a sign warning of ‘not go whoring around town!’ I can only assume this meant we were meant only to use the in-house hookers who sat in the lobby in the evening!

The two guys I was with were both pretty tall and well built. We were in the lift going down to the lobby when the doors opened, and a short Chinese man went to get in. He took one look at us all and stepped back out again. When we got down to the lobby, he emerged from the lift next to us after a few seconds!

We were given a tour of the city with an official guide. One thing you will learn in Shanghai is that the locals can come across as quite rude. We went to a traditional tea house, and the guide said she would recommend some teas to try for health. She looked at me, then pointed to the tea that was described as ‘fighting wrinkles’ and, then looked at my two companions and pointed to the tea for obesity! It got worse at lunch, my poor colleague was feeling unwell and wasn’t eating much. She looked at him and said “how you so big when you eat so little” Ouch!


How to get there cheaply and our flights

BA B777-300 at jetty

On both trips, we flew British Airways. Paul had bought the fantastic BA companion fare for around £2000 for two people. He used a Gold upgrade voucher to upgrade to First. You can read his flight review here. 

I used a British Airways companion voucher to do an open jar in First for 210,000 miles flying to Shangai and then back from Kuala Lumpur. Taxes were about £550 though these have now gone up to around £650. You can read my review here.

I would expect to be able to get a Shanghai fare on ex EU fare for around £1350 most of the time. There is currently a fare on BA from around £1405 from Brussels. You can read more here. 


Where to stay

Waldorf Astoria

Paul being a Hilton Diamond member stuck to Hilton and stayed at the Waldorf Astoria on The Bund hotel which he recommends. The hotel is situated on the Bund giving some amazing views from the hotel.

View from room at Waldorf Astoria

Mandarin Oriental

RR and I decided to use the opportunity to stay somewhere different as there was a great offer on a Club room at the Mandarin Oriental. It was around £800 for three nights in a River View Suite. The hotel was situated in Pudong, but it was around 20 minutes to get to most places by cab, which was very cheap.

The lounge at the hotel was probably one of the best I have been to in terms of the food and drink offerings. It was so good we had dinner there on two of the evenings. They served breakfast, afternoon tea and then evening drinks including champagne and “snacks” which was more than enough for a full meal. There was also a good view of the Pearl Tower from there. 

Getting around

High-speed magnetic levitation train. Shanghai, China

The faster and most fun way to get from the airport to the city is the Maglev train, which is the fastest commercial electric train in the world, reaching speeds of 265mph. The train line connects Shanghai Pudong International Airport and Longyang Road Station (in the outskirts of central Pudong), where you can change to the Shanghai Metro to continue to the city centre.

It runs from 06:45 to 21:30, with services every 15 to 20 minutes. A one-way ticket costs ¥50 (US$8), or ¥40 ($6.40) if you show proof of your flight. A round-trip return ticket costs ¥80 ($12.80) and VIP tickets cost double the standard fare. It gets up to 155 mph, and the journey takes 7-8 minutes.

Maglev train

It was sometimes tricky getting a cab when you tried to flag one down when we were out and about. Quite often they would sail past any westerners and pick up a local a few feet past you! The taxis were generally very cheap, but you need to pay cash. They usually spoke no English and can’t read English characters. The Trip Advisor app has a useful feature where it will show you the name of the place in Chinese to show to a cab. Your hotel should give you a card with the address in Chinese and can also write down destinations for you as well.

Be careful when walking on the pavements and crossing the road as often people will ride motorbikes on pedestrian areas! The traffic seems crazy, but everyone seems to understand the rules as they weave in and out of the lanes of traffic constantly!


What to do and see

Shanghai is well suited to a short break with 3 or 4 nights being about right. We then went to Hong Kong next using Avios on Cathay before ending up in Langkawi. You can avoid needing a full visa by staying a maximum of 144 hours if you have a UK passport and then leave the country flying to another country but not back to the UK. Hong Kong counts for this purpose. 

Both Paul and I used the hop on hop off bus tour to get around the see the city. It wasn’t a particularly great tour, but it was much easier than getting cabs around, and it takes you to all the main sites.

Yu Gardens

Shopping are around Yu Gardens

The shopping area around Yu Gardens

I particularly like the Yu gardens, but they get swamped. I would recommend getting there early to beat the crows. Yu Gardens is located next to the City God Temple in Shanghai’s Old Town. Also around this area, there are lots of shops in traditional buildings if you want to pick up a souvenir.

Yu Gardens

The gardens were created in classical Chinese style.  

Entrance to Yu Gardens

Entrance to Yu Gardens


Sky-high views

There are lots of tall buildings in Shanghai that give you a magnificent panorama but we chose to go up the Shanghai Tower. You can buy tickets in advance. The viewing area was well organised, and the views were excellent as you walk all the way around. 

The tower ranks as China’s tallest building and second in the world. Three of the lifts can send passengers up to the 546 meters sightseeing deck from street level within one minute, which was a world record holder until recently. 

The views at night are equally spectacular.

The Bund

View from the Bund at night

The Bund is a bustling riverside street full of colonial buildings with stunning views across the river. Again it is worth exploring both during the day and night. A lot of hotels, restaurants and bars are situated close to here. 

The Bund at night


French Concession

Empty street in sunlight in the French Concession 

It’s hard to call the French Concession an attraction, as it is merely an area that was the home of the French government during Shanghai’s colonial days. However, the area is unique due to its architecture and street style. It’s the perfect place to take a walk or a bike ride on a beautiful day. Some of the city’s best dining and drinking options are here, so it is a good place for a leisurely lunch. We stopped somewhere that felt more like Paris! There are boutique shops to have a nose around too.


Nanjing Road Pedestrian Street

This is the busy road that leads to the Bund and very touristy. It worth seeing at night even just for all the neon although there are lots of shops and restaurants too. 


South Bund Fabric Market

If you want some clothes made up head to the South Bund Fabric Market with a picture of your design. There are three floors of tailors that can make outfits to order. Most stalls specialise in suits, coats or traditional dresses, but you can usually find one to do what you want. As a general rule, avoid the first-floor stalls as the worst tailors are here.


Where to eat and drink

Both Paul and I ended up eating at the same place on our visits. This was The House of Roosevelt restaurant situated on the Bund. There are great views from the dining room. The meal was not as good on our visit as Paul’s, probably due to the sizeable public function, they had on. I loved the way they fold the napkins!

The restaurant feels very formal though the menu less so. It serves traditional French food mainly with indulgent options such as caviar and lobster. 

One of the things I love about Shanghai is the fantastic bars. We tried the Penninsula lobby bar twice which was out favourite. There were no views, but it was very atmospheric, the service was excellent and the cocktails delicious.

Peninsula Bar

Peninsula Bar

The Bulgari bar had great views and was housed in a beautiful building in a quiet location. You can also eat here.

Bulgari Hotel bar

The Ritz Carlton was close to the Mandarin Oriental so we popped in to try that too. This is a rooftop bar with an open-air terrace. It has some great views, but we weren’t keen on the inside of the bar which felt very tacky for a Ritz Carlton. 

View from Flair Bar

The final one on our list with The Shanghai Edition.

The Edition hotel

This has two beautiful bars. Downstairs there is the Lobby Bar, but we headed up to the cutely named Canton Disco bar for some great cocktails at the bar. 

The lobby bar at The Edition

Canton disco bar at the Edition hotel

Have you been to Shanghai? What are your top tips? Let us know in the comments below or on social media. 

10 Comments on "TLFL does Shanghai – what to see, do, eat and where to stay"

  1. Where to eat – I have to recommend the local noodle restaurants. Delicious and incredibly inexpensive, even with drinks (local beer!). A chance to experience Shanghai as the locals do!

  2. Peter Stansfield | 4 August 2019 at 8:44 am |

    The Peninsula in Shanghai I think has the BEST views from a bar of anywhere. But you need to go to the ROOFTOP bar. It overlooks Pudong. It also has my favourite Chinese restaurant in Shanghai

    Also worthy of mention is Lameloise, on the 67th floor of the Shanghai tower. Great French foord with Asian influences and amazing views. We were there only last week

  3. For a night out go to Xintiandi, lots of places to eat and drink, and also try Soho which is next to Xintiandi.
    If you go to the pearl tower and then walk to the river there’s a lovely cycle, walking and jogging track that runs along the river. There are also ferries that can take you across to the other side, the one to Hongkou costs just 3RMB.
    Rent a bicycle with the Mobike app and cycle along the river (don’t forget to lock it when you finish.
    Take Line 2 to JingAn temple, you can pay to go in it’s a lovely area

  4. Four Seasons all the way for me. That pool is literally like swimming in the stars and the views are to die for.

  5. Hunterstrystjambo | 4 August 2019 at 11:07 am |

    Loved the French Concession area and a walk along the Bund. However I should point out the top operational speed of the Maglev is around 268 mph!

  6. On board the maglev, the speed is displayed in KM/H

  7. Jason Hindle | 4 August 2019 at 12:49 pm |

    A timely piece! When booking my upcoming holiday, BA were selling for £1350 for a return from BRU. Lufthansa, starting at home (MAN) were selling for £1800. Ultimately, I went with Lufthansa. Factoring in positioning flights, a hotel at BRU each way, and having to go with the the hand baggage policy of the positioning airline. If I were chasing miles with a particular programme (makes no sense, at this point, given my travel patterns), then the messing about would be worth it.

    Getting around Shanghai: The local Uber equivalent, Didi Chuxing now claim to offer English language services and accept foreign credit cards. I’ll be testing that out.

    I find myself quite envious of the hotels in this article. I’ll be staying a Holiday Inn Express in walking distance of my friend’s place (and directly on top of one of the line 13 stations).

  8. Didi rejected every UK issued card I have when I was in Shanghai in March 2019- unable to use at all.

  9. I’ve been in Shanghai loads but don’t stay in the same areas or the same price bracket.

    Normally courtyard Marriott in XujiaHui. There is a cracking traditional hot pot restaurant round the corner next to Leshan road and also a metro next to it.

    Before flying from PVG I stay in the Royal International (quiet) but has a great restaurant. However, the problem as a solo or dual business traveller is the portions are massive so you don’t get a good chance to taste the variety. Free airport shuttle which is usually a limo.

    The other hotel in the area is the Cube (both in Chuansha). Last time I got a 95sqm suite for £110 🙂 and next to that there is a shopping mall with loads of new fantastic places to eat. Very street food like but still great.

    PS there is an amazing cake shop on the basement floor. Buying clothes is good and you get then altered in 15 mins 🙂

    In town the Raddisson is not too bad and 10 mins walk to the bund. It does have a skybar.

    Jason. If thinking about the DIDI app, please install it well in advance. I tried and failed because you need to load the Chinese version first.

    To pay for things or have a look at menus, use WeChat app. Instant translation. Remember, no google, whatsApp etc for translation. VPN sometimes works in hotels (Radisson used to be one, which is why I booked there the last time) but is being really clamped down upon so even the main chain hotels don’t have it.

    A wonderful place mind you. 🙂

Comments are closed.