Shanghai, the most populated city in the world and the global epicenter of China, is still largely shrouded in mystery to many. I have to admit, when I moved here a few years ago to teach English, my perception of the city was warped and misinformed, based on outdated propaganda from the West. Most people harp on the perceived restrictions put on citizens, however, there’s plenty of innovation and creativity thanks to Chinese millennials and expats who are changing the cultural landscape. Shanghai is a city that is more than the sum of its past.
V Spot (218 Xinle Lu) is a female-centered adult shop with a mission to empower women to celebrate, express, and enjoy their sexuality. They keep it classy with luxurious, handcrafted leather strap-ons and whips, as well as kitschy vibrators—like the ice cream cone-shaped i-Scream—and dildos from conceptual sex toy designer Shiri Zinn. The store also hosts drag workshops, pole-dancing tutorials, and burlesque classes. Fashion lovers will find no shortage of boutiques selling expensive designer wear, but if you’re going to drop a pretty penny, Pawnstar (Xiangyang North Street, Lane 34, No. 1) is the place to do it. The consignment shop houses an eclectic mix that consists mainly of well-preserved high-end labels from the ’60s and ’70s.
For more modern treasures, Madame Mao’s Dowery (207 Fumin Lu) carries a wide range of locally designed clothing, artisanal accessories, and modernized propaganda art. Come here for quality Shanghainese souvenirs, from stationery to baby clothes and handmade jewelry. And no trip to Shanghai is complete without an obligatory fake market (Line 2 Metro Science and Technology Museum) visit, where hundreds of stalls are stocked with knock-off clothes, Chinese souvenirs, “designer” handbags, shoes, and much more. Barter hard for the best prices and avoid electronics and makeup at all costs; everything else is fair game, though.
Shanghai’s culinary star is on the rise, so be sure to get your fill of all the regional and international delights the city has to offer. Go straight to Xibo (83 Changshu Lu) to try authentic Xinjiang food. Enjoy Northern-style delicacies like mutton, noodles, and pickled vegetables; the pumpkin-stuffed dumplings are not to be missed. Di Shui Dong (2/F, 56 Maoming Nan Lu) specializes in ultra-spicy Hunan-style cuisine. Daring eaters should order the pidan (aka century) egg (preserved by way of an intricate months-long fermentation process) with green peppers. If moldy eggs aren’t your thing, go for the earthy, cumin-rubbed spare ribs. With whimsical décor that includes a full-size slide and several dining chairs replaced by swings hanging from the ceiling, Daliah (408 Shaanxi Bei Lu) provides the perfect backdrop for an Instagram-worthy selfie. The Austrian- inspired food is just as quirky: rainbow- colored hummus is served alongside staples like veal schnitzel and minced meatballs.
Start the night off with libations at Kartel (1 Xiangyang Bei Lu). This three-story French wine bar boasts one of the most impressive rooftop views of the city. Swanky cocktail bar Candor (57 Maoming Nan Lu) offers theatrical cabaret-style performances most nights of the week. The décor transports patrons back to old Shanghai with its golden-age-of-burlesque aesthetic. Roxie (359 Kangding Lu), Shanghai’s only lesbian bar, is a chill spot for a relaxing weekday drink. Weekends tend to get packed when a DJ sets up shop and the space is transformed into something more nightclub-worthy. Underground dance club Elevator (218 Xinle Lu) has become the go-to spot for shaking it to house, disco, and techno, especially at its monthly queer dance party, “Medusa.”
With a rich history spanning more than 700 years, Jing’an Temple (1686 Nanjing Xi Lu) is the most famous Buddhist temple in Shanghai and a good place to soak up what’s left of the city’s old culture, since much of it has been replaced by skyscrapers. Enjoy the countless pavilions, bridges, and colorful pagodas at the beloved Yuyuan Garden (137 Anren Jie).
Get lost in the maze of indie art galleries and showrooms at M50 (50 Moganshan Lu), a contemporary art district known for the colorful graffiti that lines most of the surrounding street walls and alleyways. Finally, get away from the hustle and bustle with a day trip to the “Venice of the East,” Zhujiajiao, one of the region’s last existing villages built around water and canals—temples, gardens, and ancient curved rock bridges abound.
By Niesha Davis
Photographed by Fulden Dehneli
This article originally appeared in the August/September 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!
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