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Business Travel Guide: Shanghai, China


Hailed during the 1930s as the "Pearl of the Orient" — one of its repeatable nicknames — Shanghai is experiencing a renaissance worthy of its pre-WWII heyday. Despite decades of shouldering the deadening weight of Communist rule, this city never lost its vitality. Yes, it may have been dormant for a while, but when the party ended, so to speak, it quickly returned to life. It now simmers with a buzzing, 21st-century energy, from its traditional Chinese District and elegant French Concession to its dignified Bund, a waterfront lined with regal, British-style buildings. It also added a new act to its repertoire: the Pudong District with its free-trade zone. Located across the Huangpu River on what was recently a sprawl of shanties, this area is concrete evidence of Shanghai's business boom, as is the city's selection as the site for the 2010 World Expo. From industry and e-commerce to finance and manufacturing (clothing and cars, the latter for the local market), Shanghai is racing to catch up with Hong Kong and Singapore. At the rate it's going, we're sure it will soon arrive.

Facts to Know Before You Go

Currency: Yuan

Commonly known as yuan, the renminbi (RMB) is pegged to U.S. currency at ¥6.53 per dollar. Yuan is available in bills valued from two to 1,000; one yuan can be divided into 10 jiao and 100 fen. Because RMB is not a hard currency, you cannot obtain it before arriving in China unless you are coming through Hong Kong — except if you’re from Canada, where you can buy RMB at Canadian banks. You can exchange money upon arrival at Pudong International Airport (there are exchange counters and ATMs), as well as at most Bank of China branches and the front desk of major hotels in the city. ATMs can also be found around the city, but they are not as plentiful as they are in many other major metropolises. Because of strict currency regulations (foreign currency is not allowed to circulate in China), it is recommended to use an official outlet when changing money. RMB cannot be changed back into foreign currency, except at banks in Hong Kong, so exchange only what you think you'll need.

Transportation:

Although Shanghai has two international airports — Pudong and Hongquio — only Pudong is used primarily for international flights. The older Hongquio caters mainly to domestic traffic. Once you arrive, transportation options are numerous: bus, subway, light rail and taxi. Since public transportation is often jam-packed, as well as circuitous and limited in its choice of destinations, taxis are your best bet. Avoid the taxi touts that wait outside the airport and instead hire a metered taxi from the line-up; the rate should be approximately $20 from Pudong to the downtown area. Of the most honest and efficient taxi companies in town, Da Zhong (turquoise) is ranked first, followed by Qiang Sheng (yellow) and Jin Jiang (blue). Carry small bills to pay your fare or pick up a taxi card at a ticket counter in a subway station. Also, most drivers don't speak or read English, so carry the address of your destination and the address of your hotel in Chinese characters.

Information:

The South China Morning Post published out of Hong Kong is the region’s major newspaper, offering international coverage with an emphasis on China. For more localized news, check out the Shanghai Daily, which also has a Saturday arts and entertainment section. Additional sources for finding out what's going on around town are City Weekend, Shanghai Talk and Metrozine.


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Where to Stay

88 Xintiandi
380 Huang Pi, Nan Lu
French Concession
86 21 5383-8833
www.88xintiandi.com

88 Xintiandi

While not a mega-business hotel like the others on our list, this tasteful property — featuring 53 executive residences — is highly recommended if work brings you to Shanghai. Located in the historic French Concession in the bustling Xintiandi entertainment district, it offers a soothing residential atmosphere. Accommodations consist of dining areas, stylish kitchenettes (complete with microwaves, refrigerators and utensils) and bedrooms separated from living areas by gauzy curtains. Basic amenities complement business extras such as in-room fax machines, voice mail and broadband Internet. Although rooms are more like small apartments, they come with daily housekeeping, concierge and room service. There is also a full complement of business services and an Executive Lounge for breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails. The adjacent Alexander City Club has a lap pool, massage pool, squash court and more.

Four Seasons Shanghai
500 Weihai Lu
Central
86 21 6256-8888
www.fourseasons.com/shanghai

Four Seasons Shanghai

Reliable Four Seasons service and style make this hotel a solid choice for traveling executives. Its European ambience is reminiscent of the city's grand old hotels, but its facilities are pure 21st century. The 439 guestrooms, including 79 suites, are striking and well-equipped with high-speed Internet access, laptop safes, multi-line phones, speakerphones and voice mail. Complimentary amenities in the Executive Club Lounge on the 37th floor include breakfast buffet, cocktails, all-day refreshments, pressing, local phone calls, dedicated business and concierge services, and use of a boardroom. Included among the 13,778 square-feet of meeting space (equipped with Wi-Fi access) is an opulent Grand Ballroom; there’s also a full business center. The indoor pool is paired with a beautiful landscaped rooftop garden. The luxurious spa features Balinese masseurs who are considered the best in Asia. The elegant Si Ji Xuan restaurant serves traditional Cantonese cuisine combined with Shanghaiese favorites in a refined atmosphere. Both traditional and modern dim sum is served at lunch along with other Cantonese delicacies, and at night it’s a seafood restaurant.

Grand Hyatt Shanghai
Jin Mao Tower
88 Century Blvd.
Pudong
86 21 5049-1234
www.shanghai.grand.hyatt.com

Grand Hyatt Shanghai

Magnificent views set this hotel apart, although if you’re afraid of heights this is definitely not the place for you — it’s located on the 53rd to 87th floors of Jin Mao Tower. The atrium soars 33 stories high, and the décor gives more than just a nod to the Art Deco movement. Claiming to be the most spacious in Shanghai, the 555 guest rooms and suites are contemporary in style with Asian touches and, naturally, amazing views. They feature two-line phones, voice mail, broadband and high-speed Internet access and interactive TVs with email, Internet and remote keyboards. The Grand Club, which comprises seven stories, offers business extras such as complimentary boardroom use. The business center is open 24 hours, and three floors of flexible meeting space can cater groups up to 1,200. Of note: the collection of international buffets on the 54th floor, and the 87th-floor Cloud 9 for cocktails.

The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai
1376, Nanjing Xi Lu
Central
86 21 6279-8888
www.ritzcarlton.com

The Portman Ritz-Carlton, Shanghai

Well-known for its excellent business amenities, this hotel is a favorite with more conservative business travelers. Old school offerings such as the cigars (there's a walk-in humidor with private lockers) and malt whiskeys in the bar have traditional appeal. The 578 guest rooms and suites include Club Rooms on the 39th to 44th floors; the latter enjoy their own lounge and five complimentary food and beverage presentations daily. Two-room Executive Suites enjoy access to the lounge, as well. Along with meeting space for up to 500, the hotel features the Sheng Rong Guo Ji luxury cruise boat for up to 250 — ideal, and impressive, for private upscale events. Additional facilities include a 24-hour business center, six restaurants, a truly beautiful pool area and a health club with indoor tennis, squash and racquetball courts.


The Westin Shanghai
88 Henan Central Lu
86 21 6335-1888
The Bund
www.starwoodhotels.com

The Westin Shanghai

Surrounded by the Bund's landmark buildings, this modern hotel stands out — we're not sure how we feel about its crown, which resembles the top of a pineapple, but we do have to admit it's distinctive. Inside is a tamer story, with tasteful décor that follows the Westin's signature style. The 301 guest rooms and suites are furnished with all the basics; for more business-oriented amenities, check into a Westin Executive Club Level Room. The 1,410-square-meters of meeting space are comprised of the Diamond Ballroom (capacity: up to 800 for a reception) and twelve function rooms, including a boardroom. A full business center and Wi-Fi are available. For relaxation there’s a fitness center, an Asian-style spa and a contemporary and light-filled indoor pool area.

Pudong Shangri-La Shanghai
33 Fucheng Lu
Shanghai
86 21 6882-8888
www.shangri-la.com

Pudong Shangri-La Shanghai

Situated on the Pudong side of Shanghai in Lujiazui finance and trade zone, the ultra-luxurious Shangri-La is a perfect location for business travelers. The 981 modern rooms in two 28-story towers feature floor-to-ceiling windows, flat screen TVs, and marble bath facilities. Many rooms overlook the Bund and the Huangpu River. Yi, the largest of the hotel’s restaurants, features ten international cuisine stations. The signature restaurant, Jade on 36, is an elegant, modern dining room and bar. The hotel has large banqueting facilities and an always-open business center. The award-winning holistic Chi spa is one of the most beautiful and relaxing in China. You’ll also enjoy an indoor swimming pool and tennis courts, along with a well equipped gym. The executive floor Horizon Club, which boasts breathtaking city views, provides the many extra services that business travelers require: Personal concierge, valets, breakfast and sumptuous hors d’eouvres and drinks in the evening. The hotel also offers Rolls Royce transfers to and from the airport.



Where to Dine

1221
1221 Yanan Xi Lu
86 21 6213-6585

$$$$$

One of the first restaurants to capitalize on the city's turn-of-the-21st-century expat invasion, 1221 has stood the test of time. Both expats and locals remain loyal to its homey attitude, vast menu of Shanghainese and classic cuisine and moderate prices. The convivial, bustling atmosphere is reminiscent of a traditional Chinese restaurant, without the fluorescent lights and sensory overload. It’s well suited for a casual business lunch or dinner.

Jean Georges Shanghai
3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu (The Bund)
86 21 6321-7733
www.jean-georges.com

$$$$$

Jean Georges RestaurantJean-Georges Vongerichten's first eponymous restaurant outside New York City, this venue blends Shanghai's romantic French influences and urban Asian style. The dining room is imposing, with its dark wood pillars and rich tones. In contrast, the cuisine emphasizes simplicity — light French flavors enhance organically grown local produce and fresh local seafood. An excellent wine cellar (over 5,000 bottles) and a hip, attractive clientele make this the place for impressing on an expense account.

Lu Bo Lang
238 Fuyou Lu
86 21 6328-0602

$$$$$

Lu Bo Lang RestaurantFounded in 1979, this state-owned eatery is the real deal. Pay no heed to the hordes of tourists. There's a reason they line up with the locals here. In a word (or two): dim sum. The three-story, faux Ming Dynasty restaurant (complete with upturned eaves to deflect evil spirits) resides in the Old Chinese City. Although not the hippest spot in town, it's definitely worth a visit. Just ask Castro, Queen Elizabeth II and Clinton — all have raised their chopsticks here.

Meilongzhen
1081 Nanjing Xi Lu
86 21 6256-6688

$$$$$

In a city that has seen its fair share of revolutionary changes over the past century, it's nice to know that some things remain the same. Meilongzhen, established in 1938, is considered an institution both by locals and in-the-know travelers. Szechuan style influences the cuisine, providing a variation on the typical Shanghainese dishes served at many other upscale Chinese restaurants. Because the dining room is divided into smaller, traditional Chinese-style eating areas, it makes a good choice for a quiet business meeting.

Nanxiang Steamed Bun Shop
Yuyuan Bazaar
85 Yuyuan Lu
86 21 6355-4206

$$$$$

While this isn't the place to go to seal a lucrative business deal, you can sample the city’s authentic Chinese dumplings here. Located in Yuyuan Bazaar in the Old Chinese City, the shop has been drawing crowds for almost a century. Locals line up at the downstairs counter for dumplings to take away, but you can grab a seat upstairs and dine in on buns stuffed with pork and crab meat. Fun facts: dumplings originated in Nanxiang in Jia Ding District, and Nanxiang Steamed Bun's popularity has turned it into a brand name.

Shanghai South Beauty 881
881 Yan An Middle Lu
Shanghai
86 21 6247-1581
www.southbeauty.com

$$$$$

Full of trendy young Shanghai sophisticates, this bustling hot spot serving spicy Hunan and Sichuan food takes stylish dining to a new level in Shanghai. Situated in an elegant 1930s-style mansion, the front features comfortable white and beige banquettes for lounging and relaxing. The back of the restaurant, the shimmering Glass House, has a more traditional layout enhanced by 19 private dining rooms. The elegantly presented and served cuisine is modern, leading-edge Sichuan. Try the fiery dan dan noodles and the tongue-numbing tofu. Fish and seafood preparations are wonderful, but the most popular dish is beef cooked over hot stones with a heat-defying sauce of garlic, chilies and peanuts. Service is professional and helpful, but you’ll want to ask for an English speaking waiter. There are other South Beauty restaurants in Shanghai, but this is the flagship property.

T8 Restaurant Bar & Club
8 Xintiandi N. Part Ln.
181, Tai Cang Lu
86 21 6355-8999
www.t8shanghai.com

$$$$$

T8 Restaurant Bar & ClubT8 is one of those restaurants responsible for bringing the phrase "reservations required" to Shanghai. It belongs to the mass of sleek new eateries in the Xintiandi Entertainment District, and it is also arguably the most popular. Aussie chef Patrick Dang crafts Western cuisine with Asian influences, and the wine list showcases boutique vintages. The kitchen is open, the décor dignified, the clientele stylish and the menu worthy of both discriminating palates and expense accounts.

Whampoa Club
3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu
(Fifth Floor, Three on the Bund)
Shanghai
86 21 6321-3737
www.threeonthebund.com

$$$$$

Whampoa Club RestaurantThree on the Bund is the place to eat Chinese. It serves serious, sophisticated modern Shanghai food in an Art Deco atmosphere with Asian touches. Look for the chandelier in the dining room that practically touches the floor! Jerome Leung, the executive chef, is one of Asia’s youngest master chefs. His contemporary Shanghaiese dishes use the finest ingredients, and he applies his natural talent and flair to make the old seem startling new. Specialties include contemporary interpretations of drunken chicken and stuffed crab claw with shrimp mousse, crab meat and roe jelly. Shrimp, stir fried with the extraordinary Long Jing tea, are delicate and light; his Shanghaiese dumplings are among the best in town. The best way to experience the complexity of his food is through the tasting menus. Service is attentive, but attempting a few words in Mandarin usually improves it.

Off the Clock

Old Chinese City

Planned entertainment developments are sprouting up all over Shanghai, but this neighborhood—by far the most entertaining of all—is as organic as they come. Isolation during the years of French and British rule helped the area maintain its traditional look and feel, and today it offers a taste of ancient China. It's also home to great shopping and dining. A cup of green tea at the pagoda-style Huxin Ting Lake Teahouse is a must, as is a browse through the fake (and occasionally real) antiques at Fuyou Market. Most fun of all: wandering the narrow back lanes for a glimpse of a world that time forgot.

Jazz & Blues

One of the most fascinating things about Shanghai is its longstanding love of jazz, which has remained strong ever since it gained a foothold here in the 1930s. You can hear cool jazz, smooth jazz, Dixieland jazz, improv jazz … even jazz from the '30s and '40s played by a band of musicians whose average age is older than the Cultural Revolution. Although this group, which plays at the Peace Hotel, is worth an evening out, aficionados may also want to check out the Cotton Club, Club JZ and CJW, which stands for Cigar/Jazz/Wine. The latter sits atop a fifty-story building with 360-degree views; it features fusion cuisine, vintages wines, Cuban cigars and a house band.

Shanghai Museum
201 Renmin Da Dao
86 21 6372-3500

CalligraphyWhen walking the streets of Shanghai, it sometimes seems as if the city has lost interest in its own history beyond the 1930s. But this museum will make you think otherwise. This monumental tribute to Chinese craftsmanship boasts over 120,000 works in eleven galleries, which focus on ancient bronzes, ceramics, calligraphy, jade, Chinese seals and minority handicrafts. The museum is well laid out for perusing, and it provides a hushed respite from the crowds outside. When you're done, if you still have the energy, cross the square to the Shanghai Art Museum (a beautiful, 1930s Neoclassical landmark) to gaze at some contemporary pieces, and to grab a bite at Kathleen's 5 Rooftop Restaurant & Bar, overlooking the square.

Three on the Bund
3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Lu
86 21 6323-3355
www.threeonthebund.com

Three on the BundAlthough this dining/shopping/art center may be a little too urban for some, there's no denying that Three on the Bund is upscale and that it represents the face of the new Shanghai. The few shops it has are exclusive: two by Armani among them. And the restaurants can be included in the city's best, including Jean-Georges, the Whampoa Club (with its dramatic modern take on Shanghai cuisine and even more dramatic interior), and the intimate Cupola in a former bell tower. There is also a classy barber, Evian Day Spa, Shanghai Gallery of Art and Third Degree music lounge. As for the seven-story building itself, it's a beautiful historical property right on The Bund.

Xintiandi Entertainment District

This is urban development as it should be — restorative, respectful and fun. Formerly a tenement-like neighborhood, this district is fashioned around (and in) a collection of pretty stone Shikumen houses — an architectural style found only in Shanghai. Gone is the laundry hanging from the windows; now boutiques, cafés, restaurants and clubs vie for the title of hippest locale. American designers have done dynamic things inside these buildings, and the maze of walk streets is lively and picturesque. You can dine on French, Italian, Cuban and more, as well as visit the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China — the birthplace (now a kitschy museum) of the Communist party, this structure anchors the district. And no, the irony is not lost on us.

 

View more Shanghai photos in our photo gallery

 

Going to China? Check our travel guide, or visit the official website for Shanghai.

 

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