From the maze of lanes in the Old City market where locals haggle over live flinching bugs, to Pudong’s illuminated space-age skyline, Shanghai is a feast for the senses.
Shanghai bridges the past to the future with sensory-rich experiences, but traveling with children in China’s most populous city needs clever planning. I’ve compiled some tips to keep the beasts at bay. First of all, the key to a smooth adventure is checking-in to a top-rated hotel with a knowledgeable staff. If you don’t speak Mandarin, they can help you write down your destination in Chinese on a piece of paper to show to taxi drivers – a must for foreigners in hopes of avoiding miscommunication and possible missed destinations.
The Peninsula Shanghai is a luxurious sanctuary on The Bund, the waterfront symbol of Shanghai. It boasts 1930’s art deco style and killer views, but most importantly, the hotel is staffed with the city’s top concierges. Any unforseen issues are solved with five-star ease. The kids will get a kick out of the Rolls Royce airport transfer and the unobstructed views of the Oriental Pearl Tower, with it’s giant silver and pink spheres branding the cityscape.
This child-friendly hotel offers ice-cream making courses on summer weekends where my six-year-old was gently welcomed to China by a bunch of Shanghainese little friends over candy, chocolate sauce and sprinkles—the universal language of sugar addicts.
Ask your concierge to book tickets to Shanghai Circus World, a jaw-dropping acrobatic spectacle. Any available seat will have a generous view in the intimate theatre, so snap up what you can. Tickets sell out at the speed of a circus motorcycle stunt cage rider (fast, in case you haven’t seen one!).
See, smell and hear the streets up close with a Shanghai Insiders motorbike side-car journey through the tree-lined French Concession neighborhood, a quaint residential settlement established in 1849. The youngsters will wave at street side vendors as the wind rushes through their hair.
Pat and prod some odd creatures at the insect market, a fascinating scramble of stalls where locals poke into clay jars searching for champion crickets, pink frogs wade in glass bowls and furry pet chinchillas await their new owners.
Thrill your tastebuds and stop by Yang’s fried dumpling store for a plate of crispy, plump ‘jiaozi’ filled with delicious meat and scalding soup. Bite a little hole in the side of the tasty parcel and suck out the porky juice before dipping into black vinegar and gobbling down quickly.
After a good feed, nourish your creative side at the M50 art precinct. Shanghai’s contemporary art scene is experiencing an exciting time of experimentation. The hip, graffiti-covered laneways and small tucked away art spaces at the Moganshan Road community will fill growing minds with inspiration.
Finally, push your senses to the max with a mind-bending odyssey from space to the core of the earth in the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, a bizarre multi-media maglev cable car ride under the Huangpu River. Zoom through lava into a snake’s belly, then pass through a psychedelic shower of stars. As you emerge from the journey with your retinas still buzzing, time warp back to the Roaring Twenties as you stroll past the gothic architecture of The Bund waterfront. The perfect trip epilogue: savouring Shanghai new and old.