I’d like to take you along on my very first real day visiting Shanghai with my most wonderful friend, a native to this extraordinary city. I’ll show and tell you about the best six things to see and do in this gigantic city, if you only have a day to visit, all whilst taking you with me as I experience and reflect upon each step of the way. That way this will be a mixture of a guide and a travel diary.
It’s going to be a long day, so let’s commence, shall we?
I started my day sweating, still feeling the effects of my nightly faux-pas tampering with the air condition (for the full story, click here) so to say the least, things could’ve been better, because I felt pretty dehydrated and nauseous. My friend asked me if I wanted to have porridge for breakfast and I exclaimed a yes of course, picturing cooked gewey oats with all kinds of toppings, just like that one fall porridge recipe I posted a long time ago
After a shower my nausia hadn’t really gone away, but I was still excited for the porridge and arriving at the breakfast table, I was introduced to Chinese Porridge… let’s say, it’s a tad bit different to porridge I’m used to: a bit of rice, unsalted, unseasoned, swimming in a pool of plain water. Porridge. Right. Alongside that my friend likes to eat an egg with soy sauce. At this point my nausia had reached a peak when I tried to at least eat something. There wasn’t any air condition in the living and dining room area, so I continued to sweat and my efforts trying to eat something failed miserably. I really couldn’t get anything into my system without having the urge to vomit and trust me it wasn’t the food, not even the liquidy-rice thing, it was just general nausia I’d already felt when waking up.
Nevertheless, I was only here for a week and so I was going to make it worth my while, nausia or not. The first thing we did after breakfast was going to get bottled water and let me tell you: that was a lifesaver! I felt so much better after chugging down a liter or so. We then went to take the bus, which had extreme air condition inside – perfect!! and transitioned to the metro, where we first had to go through this bag control just like those at the airport. My friend paid the metro for us with her phone, just swiping it above a surface when entering the station. I felt like I time traveled into the future. Literally. Phone swiping and back checking to enter an underground. I mean: legit.
1.Yu Garden 豫園 / 豫园 – a piece of Shanghai history
Our first stop was Yu Garden, where we met a friend of hers, whom we ended up spending the day with.
Yu Garden is an extensive chinese garden, built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty by a son of a minister for his father. Construction finished in 1577.
It’s pretty touristic to be frank, but still so so beautiful and hence worth it. You really get an idea of this very unique, old chinese architecture and you feel like you time traveled back. Lots of time traveling today. It is really, very different from modern architecture, about which I wrote in my last post.
Before I had left for Shanghai I had been at my grandmothers to look at old pictures of my grandparents in China 20 or so years ago and my grandmother had said the following about chinese architecture: “You have to experience it to understand it’s beauty.” Until that moment, standing in Yu Garden, those words had been a mystery to me, but looking at the beautiful old chairs in the unique houses that each had their own character, a cat straying between tourists and the plants nicely arranged to highlight not only the architecture but the tiny ponds as well… I understood. And just like that (+ 1.5 liters of bottled water later), my nausia faded away completely and was replaced by utter awe. What a beautiful place!
2. A Stroll through the Old City District to marvel
Near Yu Garden in the old city district we went to take a look at the City God Temple, which is also quite an attraction, but I have to say, so is the old city district you have to walk through to get from Yu Garden to the City God Temple. My amazement reached a peak in this district, the architecture and shops were all straight out of an old illustration of chinese children books. I mean all that was missing was the people dressed up like in olden times for the fantasy of it all, because the rest was fantastic! Needless to say, I loved it here and I would go back anytime! I mean, wouldn’t you?
3. The extravaganza of the City God Temple
We found our destination and the funny thing was we had to buy tickets. The place where the ticket were sold was just a small whole in the wall next to the grand entrance. So fun!
Officially the City Temple of Shanghai, is a folktemple located in the old city of Shanghai. It commemorates the elevation of Shanghai to municipal status and is the site of the veneration of three chinese figures honored as the city gods of the town.Wikipedia: City God Temple of Shanghai
I have to say that was something to take in. So much luxury. So much gold. Lots and lots of different figures that are being worshipped with prayer and offerings, a way I had never seen worship before.
Some of these figures even had glowing red heads, which was weird. The temple was large and extravagantly designed. Behind the main city gods were more rooms that showcased even more figures. Just breathtaking.
After a long time in the temple, we stopped to eat lunch, mostly for me to finally try dumplings. A specific kind of dumpling to be exact. A huge one. It was filled with meat and lots of liquid. To eat this kind of dumpling you had to first poke in a straw and drink the liquid. The dumpling then looked like a sad piece of dough that had collapsed into itself. Once it looks like this, it is ready to be eaten. With chopsticks of course. Turned out to be harder than it looks. To say the least: I struggled.
After that dumpling we had another kind of dumpling, way smaller, easier to eat. That kind of dumpling that looks exactly like the dumpling emoji. In addition to that I tried mooncakes and rice balls. The moon cakes I liked, the rice balls were just too much for that day with the nausia and all. That taste was just straight out of my comfort zone, so weird! Like nothing I had ever tasted before. We tried meat rice balls and sweet rice balls. I didn’t like either. But what I didn’t know then, was that I would find a love for them just a few days later and that those rice balls would be the one thing I would really love to import to Germany.
Another thing I had never tasted before was Chinese Coconut Water and I have to say I loved it!! So so much! Such a refreshing, sweet and exotic taste that kind of brought me back to life, because the weather was still excruciatingly hot and humid and Yu Garden and the City God Temple didn’t have air condition.
After lunch, we strolled around the beautiful houses of the old city district and we found a tiny shop at the side of the road that writes your English name into Chinese. It wasn’t expensive at all, just like one euro or so.
One year later, I still have my name in Chinese hanging above my bed: a beautiful reminder of my exceptional time in China.
4. Waitan / The Bund, preferably at night, for those insta pics
From the beautiful old buildings we made our way through newer parts of town on our way to The Bund or as the Chinese say: Waitan. This is a waterfront area, the place where at night most Shanghai Tourist pictures are taken, because at night the buildings are illuminated in colorful lights. I would recommend going there at night as well, I didn’t and I regret it. Also because it was unbearably hot and humid at midday surrounded by concrete, the sun was really burning down on us.
5. Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the best view
Entrance costs: from 160 to 260 CNY
We crossed the river and walked along the skyscrapers of the working district to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower.
When we entered we felt cold air greet us… air condition! Finally!
The Tower is quite touristic as well, there are many shopping opportunities and things for kids to do, like light shows, mirror rooms… quite strange ones I have to admit, but it does keep the kids occupied.
In order to enjoy the view from the top of the tower, you have to wait in line… for ages!! Luckily we had so much to talk about and catch up on, the free time not looking at anything or doing anything was more than welcome and we had a great converstation, especially because I had a hunch that our surrounding didn’t understand a word we were saying in english, so ironically in the biggest of masses we were able to have the most private of conversations.
An hour later, we were at the top and the view was breathtaking! So worth the wait!
6. Immerse yourself in the history of Shanghai in the Shanghai Museum
Entrance fee: 35 CNY
Once we hit ground level again we had a look at the Shanghai Museum and that I have to say, I recommend to everyone! They spared no expense whatever of bringing to life their history. From a certain perspective of course, but nevertheless really interesting and so worthwhile. If you’re visiting with kids, this is one museum, where kids won’t get bored at all, au contraire!
My feet started to hurt slowly but surely from all the walking, so after the museum and we took the metro back to her place, not the best of ideas at a time like late afternoon/evening, because it was so so crowded, but I mean, that way I was able to experience normal Shanghai working life and that was what I came here to do: experience China like a local and of course visit and see my dear old friend again.
What would you add to the list of top things to do in Shanghai? Have you ever been to Shanghai? Comment below!