A local’s guide to Shanghai
- By Lisa Movius
- Photos by Yue Wu
Shanghai is a city for getting lost. With its walkable historic neighborhoods, engaging street life, and expansive cultural and dining scenes, the totality is the appeal. Even though its hundreds of museums, galleries, theaters and parks can overwhelm, Shanghai is better nibbled than gulped.
This municipality holding some 26 million people generates hype for things like skyscraper futurism, a rising financial industry and expensive shops and restaurants, but its greatest charms lie in mundane little rituals, from the grannies buying their daily fish off a morning bike cart to midnight merrymakers at the ubiquitous bottle shops and craft breweries.
Shanghai’s mythos is heavily tied to a romanticization of its tumultuous colonial period. Even under Western dominion, it was Chinese film, theater, literature and music that flourished here. International influences intermingle with modernizing Chinese traditions to form what is known as Haipai, or Shanghai style. Today, in this increasingly international city, Haipai remains alive and lively, constantly reinventing itself.
Meet Lisa Movius
Lisa has lived in Shanghai since 1998, working as a journalist covering art and culture around Asia but with occasional side gigs working at rock club Mao Livehouse and teaching college journalism. She misses the open-water swimming of her native California but plunges into as many of Shanghai’s pools and murky lakes as she can.
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Explore more of Shanghai
- Intrepid travelers, try the buses. In off-peak hours, seats can be had; since they face forward, if you look foreign, there’s less staring to endure.
- The native tongue of Shanghainese is distinct from Mandarin. Domestic immigration and government Mandarinization campaigns have made it less common, but there’s a movement to preserve it.
- Western social networks are blocked but can be accessed via roaming on your international number. To use them on WiFi, download a VPN. Everyone uses WeChat.