Parents’ Travel Guide: What to Do in Pudong, Shanghai
Observing life unfold beneath the skyscrapers is part of the allure of Shanghai. Our China vacation began at Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai.
Observing life unfold beneath the skyscrapers is part of Shanghai’s allure. From chatter at trendy cafés in Xintandi to card games in People’s Park—or dumpling shops requiring not much more than pocket change to the world’s most glamorous rooftop bars—Chinese tradition weaves its way through modernization. This surprisingly-seamless juxtaposition of old and new is what makes China’s largest city so unique.
The international metropolis can be sectioned roughly into two parts by the Huangpu River. Most of Shanghai’s historic sites are found on the Puxi side, while one of the world’s most important financial centers buzzes inside Pudong’s recognizable skyline.
Our fabulous China vacation began at Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai in the Lujiazui area, the heartbeat of Pudong.
- Glitzy Pudong: At just a few decades old, Pudong brims with a hipster vibe and Western conveniences that are mirrored flawlessly by the hotel.
- China chic: Shop for custom qipao (traditional Chinese dresses), blue-and-white porcelain, fine teas, antiques and jade—with expert advice from the concierge. The up-and-coming local fashion designers do not disappoint in this trendsetting city.
- Local eats: From street food to haute cuisine with panoramic views, myriad dining options await. Seek out dumplings, red-cooked (barbecued) pork and hairy crab (when in season).
- Kid-friendly itineraries that incorporate parent must-dos: These are easy to build in Shanghai, with a number of popular sights just a short walk or drive from the Hotel.
- Shanghai is an excellent air, rail, road and water transportation hub. Explore the rest of China from here with ease.
- A Four Seasons hotel on each side of the river: Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai and Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai. Stay at both for two different yet equally luxurious experiences.
What the kids will love
- The pool. While you sip bubbly or admire the Shanghai skyline from the infinity edge, the kids will love splashing around this fancy heated pool surrounded by incredibly comfortable lounge chairs. Speaking of lounge chairs, there are some underwater ones in the whirlpool, too.
- Lujiazui Central Green. An oasis in the concrete jungle is located just across the street from the Hotel, easily accessible with a stroller. There are loads of grassy areas for kids to waddle or cartwheel over and paths to walk for exercise in between admiring statues and water features. We were lucky enough to catch an art exhibit displaying horses throughout the park.
- Oriental Pearl Tower. Visible from all over the Hotel, the space-age looking TV tower in Pudong mesmerizes kids. Eleven spheres (the two large ones are the most visible) are connected by three enormous columns. My daughter started referring to the landmark building as “the shot” for its resemblance to a syringe. Inside, there’s a rotating restaurant, shops, sightseeing hall and the Shanghai Municipal History Museum.
- Shanghai Ocean Aquarium: Home to 450 species of fish and the world’s longest underwater viewing tunnel, Pudong’s Shanghai Ocean Aquarium design is meant to take guests on an underwater journey from the Yangtze River in China to the rest of the world. It houses the only exhibit in the world dedicated to endangered Chinese aquatic animals.
What you will love
- Attractions open early! If kids start bouncing off the walls when the sun rises or are feeling jet-lagged, many major attractions can be visited starting at 8 am.
- The spa at the Pudong hotel: Glow after a relaxing Guerlain treatment at the exclusive FLARE Spa.
- Shopping and more shopping. Xintiandi, Shanghai’s fashion and dining hub, is set among mid-19th century shikumen (stone houses). Or, seek international brand retail therapy on Nanjing Road, the world’s longest shopping district. Browse souvenirs and Chinese kitsch at Yu Yuan Garden. Bring magazine clippings for inspiration. Shanghai’s famous tailors can customize stylish clothing in the comfort of your hotel room.
- Panoramic views. The nearby Jin Mao Tower and Oriental Pearl Tower both have observation decks. Many bars and restaurants also showcase the skyline. The Shanghai World Financial Center Observatory’s 100th floor viewing deck—with viewing windows in the floor—is next door to the Pudong hotel.
- Easy transportation. While taxis are plentiful in Shanghai, the complimentary Four Seasons shuttle chauffeurs guests within a short distance of the Hotel. Drivers are available for longer adventures (handy for those traveling with carseats). An iPad loaded with apps and treats entertains kids in the car.
- Swanky rooms. Zen radiates from dark woods accented by hints of color and fresh flowers. Enjoy in-room dining ordered by iPad while gazing through floor-to-ceiling windows.
- Extraordinary experiences at Puxi Shanghai. Through Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai at Puxi, you can explore old Shanghai on a personal half-day tour accompanied by renowned local photographer and historian Gang Feng Wang. He’ll guide you through the heritage Shi Ku Men area in Jing’An district, while shedding insight on the vanishing architecture and the area’s way of life.
- The Shi Ku Men tour is a must-do in Shanghai Puxi, and Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai is the only hotel with Shi Ku Men right at its door step.
- Book a sitter and end the evening by reserving a private, after-hours swim in the stunning pool at Four Seasons Hotel Pudong, Shanghai for you and your sweetheart (or private party) from 11:00 pm onwards as the skyline glitters in the background. Expert staff will design just the right personalized ambience, from beverages to music to décor, to create an unforgettably stylish evening.
The red candy machines. Answer the daily question correctly to earn a token from the concierge good for a handful of candy.
Plan your culinary itinerary carefully as not to miss a local hotspot, including both hotel restaurants. Even my daughter was using the iPad to constantly photograph her food.
- Fashionable Camelia is the place to go for French cuisine throughout the day, including a fantastic buffet breakfast, lunch and Sunday brunch, as well as afternoon tea. Dine al fresco on the patio or sip fine wine in the bar, conveniently located next to a rainbow of housemade macarons.
- With just 22 public seats and five private dining rooms, elegant Shàng-Xí is a bucket-list experience. My seven-year-old and I shared exquisite dim sum, marinated cucumbers and Shanghainese noodles from the extensive menu of delicacies.
- In-room dining: The 24-hour menu is a blessing for late arrivals like ours. Kids have their own menu and it’s an opportunity to try Shàng-Xí in your room. The barbecued pork glazed with honey is amazing.
- Shengjianbao (pan-fried pork dumplings) are a must-eat in Shanghai, especially at Yang’s Fry Dumpling. Luckily, there’s a location steps from the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium. Order at the register and trade your ticket for dumplings at the chef’s window.
- Din Tai Fung is famous throughout China for xiaolongbao (steamed dumplings) and there’s a branch about five minutes away from the hotel in the Shanghai World Financial Center. Multiple locations exist throughout the city.
- Huangpu Riverside Promenade: Go here in the evening for view of the Bund’s lighted buildings from the restaurants lining the river. Snack on Tavola’s Neapolitan pizza or cool down with a scoop of Häagen-Dazs.
5 family to-dos
1. See the acrobats. Book tickets for “ERA: Intersection of Time”. Shanghai’s most popular acrobat show incorporates traditional stunts with contemporary thrills from Han Dynasty jar juggling to multiple motorcycles racing in a 22-ft steel globe.
2. Visit the Bund. With Pudong in the background, this is the place for a holiday card photo opp (weather permitting). Walk the historic riverside area, explore the shops and perhaps catch a bite to eat. Get there from Pudong via the Bund sightseeing tunnel, a lighted psychedelic journey under the Huangpu River that kids love.
3. Cruise the Huangpu River. Far more than an opportunity for a nice meal and drinks, these cruises shed light on Shanghai’s past and present as they sail down the Huangpu, away from the Bund through less developed areas and toward the Yangtze river mouth. Choose from a variety of boats and cruise length time.
4. Take a day trip. Two of the most popular choices include Suzhou (71 mi, 1.5-hour drive) and Hangzhou (112 mi, 2.2-hour drive).
5. Tour Lujiazui near the river. Start at Shanghai Ocean Aquarium, grab a snack at Yang’s Fry Dumpling, then peek at or go into the Oriental Pearl Tower. The Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom is around the corner, or head straight to Super Brand mall for lunch (there’s a Din Tai Fung inside), shopping and arcade games. Each place is within steps of the other.
Part of the Yantze River Delta region, the ancient city of Suzhou is famous for its canals, stone bridges, pagodas and meticulously designed gardens. The West Lake area of Hangzhou’s appeal lies in its stunning gardens, teahouses serving the area’s prized Longjing tea, temples and silk fashion. Both Suzhou’s classical gardens and Hangzhou’s West Lake are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.