A Tale of Two Cities – Discover the best of Beijing and Shanghai
While the Tiananmen Square should feature on your itinerary, a trip to Beijing will not be complete without visiting the Great Wall of China. Go on a road less traveled and experience spectacular views of one of the Seven Wonders of the World through a helicopter ride. For culture seekers, Pace Beijing and the 798 Art District, home to both lesser-known treasures and big-name galleries, are worth a visit. Located next to the Lama Temple, Nanluoguxiang offers quaint alleyways hiding myriad vintage boutiques and plenty of pit stop-worthy locales. Head west down Guozijian street to walk the paths of ancient imperial scholars who studied to become officials at the imperial academy, and head to the adjacent Confucius Temple for a spot of serenity.
Where to Eat in Beijing
From Xinjiang skewers to lamb hotpot, Beijing showcases some of the country’s finest regional flavors, and none more popular than the perpetually bustling Guijie or ‘Ghost Street’. Visit Baoyuan Jiaoziwu, serving an array of tasty home-made dumplings in rainbow hues, all naturally derived from vegetables, wash it down with suanmeitang (plum juice). For an unmissable taste of the capital’s famed Peking Duck, Shengyongxing offers perfectly roasted duck, in contemporary environs. For a sense of occasion, Fu Chun Ju pays homage to traditional Cantonese flavors with regional delicacies in a beautifully crafted space while Rive Gauche offers French “bistronomy” cuisine with sophisticated attitude, along with fine wines and cocktails. Head to nearby Arch for exceptional cocktails in a hidden location or Little Creatures for craft beer.
Where You’ll Stay in Beijing
The PuXuan Hotel and Spa is a modernist gem that pays respectful yet contemporary homage to one of the capital’s most important and distinctive quarters, minutes away from The Forbidden City. The hotel’s design seamlessly integrates luxury and understated metaphorical design throughout the modern sphere, emphasized by uniquely Chinese cultural influences, handcrafted furniture, and artisanal pieces.
Beijing Insider Recommendations
China’s Great Wall is a daunting structure. Figuring out where to see it is even more daunting if you don’t know the lay of the land. With Monograms, you don’t have to give it a second thought! We include a private guided excursion with a local expert who knows the best vantage points for viewing this incredible Wonder of the World.
Silk Alley Market
Whether you want to find designer clothing knock-offs or you just want an entertaining afternoon, a visit to this market is recommended. The bustle and searching is part of the fun, as is the bargaining. In fact, you’re expected to haggle and should never take the first (or probably second, or third…) price offered.
Houhai Bar Street
Houhai Bar Street in the famous Shichahai area is where traditional Chinese and western culture mix. With over 120 unique bars to choose from, visitors from all corners of the world can find one that suits their fancy.
Zhang Yiyuan Teahouse
Make sure you experience a traditional tea ceremony before you leave Beijing. It’s an opportunity to soak in centuries of history at the same time you relax with a soothing cup. Zhang Yiyuan has earned a reputation over many decades as a purveyor of quality teas, and the building is made up of seven private rooms, offering diverse environs.
Yonghe Lama Temple
Located in the northeastern part of Beijing, Yonghe Lama Temple is one of the largest Lamasery temples outside Tibet. Besides the magnificent buildings with both Chinese and Tibetan styles, the temple also had a number of priceless collections of Buddhist treasures, including a standing 26-meter high statue of Buddha Sakyamuni carved out of a single sandalwood tree.
A walk along Houhai Lake offers peaceful views of the distant ancient green-roofed and red-walled imperial palaces. Located at the center of Beijing City and about 5 bus stops from the Tian’anmen Gate, Houhai Lake meets the famous Beihai Lake in the south and faces the Summer Palace and Jing Mountain in the distance.
The former French Concession never ceases to charm with its treasure trove of one-of-a-kind boutiques, preserved mansions, hole-in-the-wall eateries and some of the city’s best third-wave coffee places, all charmingly interspersed amidst photogenic boulevards. With a world-class program of rotating exhibitions, Shanghai is also home to top-notch museums and art spaces. Check out the high-profile exhibitions at Rock Bund Museum or visit M50 for fine contemporary art, notably at ShangART. Shanghai Center of Photography offers a small but exceptionally well curated collection of 20th century photography. As night falls, head to the iconic Bund via Nanjing Pedestrian Street, and take in the dazzling view of the futuristic Pudong skyline set against the backdrop of neoclassical-style buildings, mostly built in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Where to Eat in Shanghai
Have breakfast like a local in the streets of the former French Concession and look out for ubiquitous street vendors selling everything from sheng jian bao (Shanghai-style pork buns) to jianbing (crepe-like wrap) and fried dough sticks with savory tofu. The perennial favorite xiaolongbao (steamed soup dumpling) can be enjoyed at Jia Jia Tang Bao or Fu Chun on Yuyuan Road. Visit Old Jesse for an impeccable taste of Shanghainese cuisine, be sure to book in advance. Refined palates will enjoy the intuitive French cuisine inspired by seasonal ingredients at one Michelin-starred PHÉNIX, with an intimate lounge space for pre- or post-dinner drinks. End the evening at The Cupola at Three on the Bund for mesmerizing views across the Bund and Pudong in a beautiful discreet space or stop by Japanese-style speakeasy Speak Low, concealed behind a hidden door, for quality cocktails.
Where You’ll Stay in Shanghai
A true enclave of serenity amidst one of the world’s most energetic cities, The PuLi Hotel and Spa is situated in the heart of the city’s business, shopping and entertainment district, with views across JingAn temple and the greenery of adjacent JingAn Park. Imbued with contemporary elements and accents of traditional Asian charm, the hotel offers a beautifully crafted and charming vantage point in which to start an exploration of the real Shanghai.
Shanghai Insider Recommendations
Jade Buddha Temple
Located in the western part of Shanghai the famous Jade Buddha Temple makes for an interesting visit. Built between 1918 and 1928, this temple is one of the city’s few active Buddhist monasteries. Here you can see two stunning jade Buddha statues that were brought from Burma in 1882 by a monk named Huigen.
This huge space features a multitude of food and beverage, retail, entertainment, recreational, and residential facilities in restored “shikumen” houses, a form of traditional and unique architecture only found in Shanghai. It is a nice place to wander around for a bit.
Nanjing road was one of the first commercial streets that appeared in Shanghai after the city opened as a port to foreign trade about 150 years ago. For decades, it was one of the country’s largest commercial hubs. In the 1930’s, Nanjing road claimed the reputation as the retail center in China, gathering almost all the most famous shops, many of which were established in the Qing Dynasty. Today, these century-old businesses continue to draw throngs of customers and despite the ups and downs in Shanghai’s history, Nanjing Road has not lost the reputation as China’s most bustling shopping street.
This area offers a wide variety of shops from cafes, bars and restaurants to art galleries, craft stores, and studios. What makes this area unique is that it doesn’t not look or feel like a shopping mall area. Tianzifang preserves its distinctly residential feel – with electric cables strung overhead and air-conditioning units perched to the outside of buildings.