The Ten-Point Escape Plan: Shanghai

Photo: Edward Burtynsky/Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum

Shanghai has been hot for a while now—so long, in fact, that it’s hard to believe the megacity could still be making travel news. Yet the great migration to the Pearl of the Orient is only accelerating, with everyone from three-star Michelin chefs and Hong Kong I-bankers to trend-obsessed shoppers and artists of every stripe racing in to feed on Shanghai’s unmatched energy. Fall, when the steamy blanket of summer lifts, is the best time to go. And whether you’re seeking high-end shopping, high-class dining, high-volume clubbing, or high culture—from art walks to architectural ogling—you’ll need at least a week to take it all in.

1 Hop Cathay Pacific’s nonstop to Hong Kong, then connect to Shanghai via Dragon Air. From the airport, take the maglev train downtown and check into the Grand Hyatt (from $320; 86-21-50-49-1234), with its panoramic views of the Merchant Ivory–meets–Blade Runner cityscape.

2 Take the kitschy, neon-lit Bund Sightseeing Tunnel across the Huangpu River to wander the Bund, home to pre–World War II architectural marvels, from the grand neoclassicism of the former HSBC building to the Deco Shanghai Mansions.

3 Luxe shopping centers are colonizing the classic edifices of the Bund; upscale boutiques (Cartier, Zegna) on the lower floors, food for the fashionable above. Book a table at Jean Georges or Sens & Bund, from Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, the youngest chefs ever to win three Michelin stars.

4 For karaoke, Cashbox has multilingual song lists and Shanghai’s favorite drink—Johnnie Walker and sweet green tea. When you’re hoarse, it’s club time: Hit Pegasus for hip-hop spun by D.J. V-Nutz, DKD for glow-stick-assisted booty-shaking, and Park 97 for its swank red-velour lounge.

5 Spend an afternoon exploring the French Concession, an elegant, walkable neighborhood of villas and quaint lilong, the labyrinthine, French-inflected housing blocks that are fast being demolished to make way for malls and skyscrapers.

6 Get a history fix with Jewish-heritage guru Dvir Bar-Gal, who knows every WWII-refugee hideout and Sephardim-built structure in the city ( Then consider the future at the urban-planning museum, where Shanghai’s next fifteen years are mapped out with fanatical precision.

7 For a low-key night, have cocktails at Arch, in Shanghai’s equivalent of the Flatiron Building, followed by homey French food at Saleya and after-dinner drinks at YY Club, a wood-paneled pub whose wide windows overlook a quiet street.

8 Allot a day for Shanghai’s art scene: the Dumbo-esque Suzhou Creek warehouse complex of galleries and studios (seek out ShanghArt, H-Space, and Art Scene China); the Duolun Museum of Modern Art, a sleek repository of Pan-Asian cool; and the avant-garde installations at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

9 Communism meets consumerism at Xintiandi, two blocks of renovated lilong, where you’ll find racks of Martin Margiela and Costume National at I.T, acid-bright togs at Shanghai Tang, and Simply Life’s shrine to international housewares—plus the site of the first meeting of the Chinese Communist Party.

10 Don’t head home without sampling Shanghai’s most famous culinary contribution, the soup dumpling. The tiny streetside Nanjing Xiao Long Bao is where you’ll find the purest expression of this homegrown treat: hot, porky, and full of juice. Consider the stains on your shirt a souvenir.

The Ten-Point Escape Plan: Shanghai