24 hours in Shanghai

Discover the "Paris of the Orient", China's most populous city and the country's economic capital

Shanghai – 1000 Trees – Photo courtesy Heatherwick Studio

With more than 30 million inhabitants and the country’s main port, a recent survey ranked it as one of the most fashionable cities in Asia and 14th in the world. Spread over more than 6,340 square kilometers (New York is nearly 784 and Rome over 1,285), Shanghai is an unmissable opportunity to visit one of the most vibrant and dynamic areas on the planet. Given its size, it is inevitable to make choices to savor the city nicknamed “Queen of the Orient”, “Pearl of the Orient” and “Paris of the Orient” in 24 hours. For those interested in art, new architecture, coexistence with older architecture and the world of design, here is a guide to the most interesting places.

Oriental Pearl Tower, Shanghai

On subway line 9, which runs along the southern edge of the French Concession, the area of Shanghai administered by France from 1849 to 1946, to the east, it is worth stopping in downtown Pudong, where the Museum of Art Pudong (MAP) is located just below the world-famous Oriental Pearl Tower and opposite the historic buildings of the Bund. Designed by Jean Nouvel, a former Pritzker Prize-winning architect and designer of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi and the Qatar National Museum in Doha, among others, it is an exquisite synthesis of the simplicity of modern style and the peculiarities of Chinese culture.

West Bund Museum, Shanghai

From here you can reach the West Bund Museum and the Long Museum West Bund, a gallery for contemporary art. The former, designed by the Berlin and Shanghai offices of David Chipperfield Architects, takes the form of an imposing building with three 17-meter-high pavilions that fan out around the central hall; the latter, founded by millionaire collector Liu Yiqian and his wife Wang Wei, bears the signature of Chinese architect Liu Yichun of Atelier Deshaus and consists of a building that extends over 33,000 square meters, 16,000 of which are dedicated to exhibitions and displays.

Power Station of Art, Shanghai

Another point of interest is the Power Station of Art, the city’s first and most important public museum, for which the French fashion house Chanel recently announced a 10,000-square-meter renovation project. The new Espace Gabrielle Chanel will house the country’s first public library of contemporary art. Close to the quintessential M50 art district, which is home to 120 galleries and art studios from more than 20 countries, is the 1000 Trees mixed-use complex designed by Thomas Heatherwick: the nearly 61,000-square-meter site was conceived as two hills covered with 1,000 trees and 250,000 plants, covering shops, cafes, new public spaces and promenades.

Xin Tian Di, Shanghai

Entering the pedestrian zone of the Xin Tian Di district means immersing oneself in one of the most typical architectural styles of the metropolis, the “Shikumen” style, which first appeared in 1860 and combines Western and Chinese elements. Australian brand Aesop, which opened its first store in the city in 2022, and cosmetics concept store Harmay, which opened a futuristic store designed by Aim Architecture the year before, have found their ideal home here.

Molteni Flagship Store, Shanghai – photo © Jonathan Leijonhufvud

The French Concession is home to Domus Tiandi, one of the most prestigious design venues in China. It houses the showrooms of famous Italian brands such as Oluce, Minotti and Molteni&C. In the Jing’An district, a renovated former police station is home to The Design Republic concept store with the world’s best design brands, the first Fendi Casa flagship store in Asia, which opened last year, and, since 2016, the Boffi | De Padova flagship store in the nearby Fuxing Park district.

EHB, Shangai

Finally, a look at restaurants where the experience is a clever blend of avant-garde cuisine and design venues. These range from Danish star chef Esben Holmboe Bang’s EHB, set in a historic villa where traditional Chinese medicine meets the purity of Scandinavian landscapes in Chris Shao Studio’s design, to Lunar, opening in 2021 under the design supervision of So Studio and the cuisine of Singaporean chef Johnston Teo. At the end of the evening, a trip to the reservation-only bar J. Boroski is a must, where atelier XY has designed an immersive venue with a mix of wood, glass and leather, warm colors, soft lighting and hundreds of insects kept under glass on the walls.