No trip to China is complete without a slip into Shanghai, one of China's busiest and most vibrant cities. For travelers looking to experience the hipper, artier and tastier side of the city, take a stroll less trodden with this itinerary.
In Shanghai's city center, weave in and out of the 500-year-old Shanghai Bazaar filled with food, fashion and curios. Enjoy traditional Shanghainese-style gardening at Yu Yuan garden from the Ming era before a traditional tea at Huxinting, the oldest teahouse in Shanghai. Head to the famed Din Tai Fung, known for Shanghai-style dumplings, where both the broth and filling are sealed in the doughy shell.
Known for its cutting-edge design, Shanghai is pitch-perfect for architecture addicts, with buildings from the colonial era to early 20th century, the largest number of art deco buildings in the world and a mad mix of some of the tallest modern skyscrapers.
For a dip into deco, visit Shanghai Grand Cinema Theater. Built by Hungarian-born Laslo Hudec, one of Shanghai's most prolific architects, this is but one of 60 of his landmark buildings in the city. Built in 1928, the cinema recently underwent extensive renovations. Take a self-guided tour complete with a cocktail at the rooftop garden, which overlooks People's Square below.
One can take in Shanghai by looking up, or can go up to look down. For a loo with a view, Key Arena Observatory in the World Financial Center, known as "the bottle opener building," has the world's highest-altitude bathroom, at 1,388 feet.
Move in a more modern direction with the pedestrian-only cobblestone streets of Xintiandi. Considered one of China's first lifestyle centers, the affluent area is frequented by students and expats who enjoy a mix of Eastern and Western eateries, art galleries and shops in renovated shikumens, traditional stone gate houses. Grab an al fresco bite before heading to the Shanghai Center Theater for the traditional acrobat show.
Finish off at the Brew at the Kerry Hotel, one of only five craft breweries in all of China. Brewmaster Leon Mickelson, a New Zealand native, will spoil you with Longjing Lager Tea Beer; Dragon Hot Pot Ale, brewed with Sichuan peppercorns; and Lemongrass Ale, to name but a few of his in-house creations. For more on the Kerry Hotel Shanghai, go to www.shangri-la.com/Beijing/Kerry.
Kick off your morning at the edgy enclave Taikang Road. The Aussie-owned Kommune offers the best lattes this side of Sydney along with fresh juices and classic Western breakfasts.
Once fueled, take in art and photo galleries, hip stationery stores and chic boutiques boasting local designers, like Yamado's high-end leathers. Around the corner from Taikang is Lane 248, with a grittier offering of arty cafes and shops.
Expand your Asian art horizons with a visit to the M50 Shanghai Art district, filled with artists in residence, galleries and coffeehouses. Then grab a sunset ride on the Huangpu River, as there is no better way to seize Shanghai's past and present than to sit between the two eras.
The Bund, Shanghai's central waterfront area, features a stunning display of historical European-style buildings that line the western bank of the river, while the modern mix of skyscrapers such as Jin Mao and Pearl Tower soar on the east side in Pudong.
Feast on the food and the view at Mr. & Mrs. Bund's Restaurant, where Bund buildings come to life at night. Paul Pairet, one of Shanghai's most celebrated chefs, serves the best French food in Shanghai with no less than 250 French dishes and 32 wines by the glass, including Chateau Petrus.
Clink your final glass of the night at Alchemist Cocktail Kitchen in the bar- and restaurant-savvy section of Sinan Mansions. Food-forward locals are known to enjoy their Asian-inspired and seasonal molecular cocktail menu, broken down into four sections; sweet, sour, dry and bitter. Expect foams, fogs, gels and vapors in your gourmet glass.
Take a final spin in the city with Shanghai Sideways, a tour that kicks off in the tree-lined French Concession, a part of Shanghai administered by the French from the late 1880s through the mid-20th century.
Tidbits rich in history are delivered casually in conversation while riding in a vintage sidecar. You'll stop at Yongfoo Elite, originally a members-only club and once home to the British Consulate. Now a restaurant, the vintage decor is a feast for the modern eye and a plum place to look back at the roar of the '20s and '30s.
The Kee Club, another such spot, is an exclusive club where members indulge in finer things such as art, food, fashion, wine and each other. It's where the arty, influential and entrepreneurial mingle, make deals and get into mischief.
Savor that final slice of the city as that slower pace allows for an inspired look back at a city that seems to be moving full speed ahead.
For more information on Shanghai Sideways, visit www.shanghaisideways.com.