Restaurant and Eating Picks
- Street Food Skewers/Noodle Stalls – also known as kebabs or chuan in Chinese, these popular and cheap treats are available at pop-up street food carts and stalls around the city.
- Wagas – with a location right across the street from the Jinqiao dorms, Wagas is a popular and healthy option offering salads, sandwiches, pasta and more. It’s not the cheapest meal, but their other branches like Baker & Spice and Bistrow are worth checking out.
- Grandma’s (Wai Po Jia) – if you want to experience a huge Chinese family-style dinner, there’s no better place than Grandma’s. With a location about a 20 minute walk from the Academic Building (AB), Grandma’s is an affordable way to satisfy your Chinese food cravings.
- Boxing Cat Brewery – open from early evenings til late, Boxing Cat serves up delicious American comfort food and yes, all sorts of beers. It’s a great place to start your night out in Shanghai.
- Blue Frog – with multiple locations in Pudong, Blue Frog serves delicious American food like burgers, salads, and sandwiches, and also has a great variety of beer. They are most famous for their daily 4-hour Happy Hour and their two-for-one burger deals on Mondays.
- Halal Restaurants – a very common sight in any area of the city, Halal restaurants are best known for their beef dumplings, beef burger, and their noodles with soup. They are popular among students for their cheap yet good food, and are also a great place to buy their famous naan. Some of the bigger restaurants even feature performances.
- Kebabs on the Grille – one of the most popular eating spots for Indian and Pakistani food, Kebabs on the Grille has several locations throughout Shanghai and even Pudong, and offers several lunch, dinner, and buffet deals as well as happy hours.
- Yang’s Dumplings – no foodie list in Shanghai is complete without Yang’s famous pan-fried dumplings! Originally no more than a street food stall, Yang’s Dumplings are cheap, delicious, and everywhere around the city. There’s a Yang’s in the Carrefour near the Jinqiao dorms and one a short walk from the AB.
- Family Mart – probably the cheapest and easiest way to eat with a store right in front of the AB, students often get instant noodles, frozen food, or just a snack on the way to class.
- Mr.Pancake House – perfect for breakfast or brunch, Mr.Pancake House provides a wide array of pancakes, waffles, and other American breakfast goodies for when you miss diner food.
Food Bucket List
- Tea eggs – found in Family Mart of any local store, che ya den (茶叶蛋) are literally eggs boiled in tea, sauce and spices. It is a typical savory Chinese snack.
- Rainbow Xiao long bao – rainbow-colored xiao long bao’s (小笼包) containing different types of meat, can be found in several dumpling and xiao long bao restaurants such as Paradise Dynasty in IFC Mall.
- Stinky Tofu – a fermented form of beancurd, stinky tofu is a must try street food in Shanghai, and can be easily found in street-side stalls or wet markets. Don’t forget to close your nose before you eat it, though!
- Chicken Feet – this is a Chinese delicacy and can be found in street stalls as well as restaurants.
- Peking Duck – a speciality of Beijing, make sure you try this amazing duck in China! It’s just quite not the same anywhere else.
- Steamed Buns shaped like animals – if you haven’t come across a bun shaped like a pig or bird that is just too cute to eat, have you really experienced China?
- Fried Mantou – also called fried baozi (包子) in Shanghai, the dough usually contains pork or other fresh meat along with sesame, and tastes best when hot.
- Mooncake/yue bing – especially popular during Mid-Autumn Festival, mooncake is a typical Chinese bakery item and comes with a diverse range of fillings from red bean to egg yolk.
- Shou Zhua Bing – these are Chinese pancakes that are typically fried and served with a variety of meat, eggs, and cheese. Slightly crispy, very chewy, and definitely a popular snack among NYU Shanghai students, shou zhua bing can be bought at specific stalls in various neighborhoods.
- Halal restaurant flatbread – this is a must-try at any halal or Xinjiang restaurant in Shanghai. You can order using the term “naan” and it tastes best right out of the oven!
- The Bund – arguably the first destination you should visit upon setting foot in Shanghai – there’s nothing that screams “I MADE IT” like a selfie with Shanghai’s four most famous towers in the background. Living in Shanghai without visiting the Bund is like going to Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower.
- M50 Art District – satisfy your inner art and culture geek by taking a trip out near Suzhou Creek to see Shanghai’s art district, M50. Featuring small restaurants, creative photo ops, and a variety of art galleries, the exhibitions change every few weeks, so be sure to stop by a few times a year to see something new.
- Nanjing East Road – New York City’s Times Square meets the biggest mall you’ve ever seen – Nanjing East Road may be crowded, but it’s definitely worth a trip to check out the megastores and small surrounding neighborhoods. It’s also a great place to do some shopping if you miss your favorite international brands from back home.
- Disneyland Shanghai – have you ever been to a Disney site? Shanghai’s newest attraction is the cheapest of the Disneys, and the closest. Grab a few friends and visit the most magical place on Earth before it gets too cold!
- People’s Square – a large public square in the center of Shanghai, People’s Square is between West and East Nanjing Roads by some of Shanghai’s biggest malls and most famous museums.
- The Pearl Tower – arguably Shanghai’s most famous landmark, the Pearl Tower is the centerpiece of Shanghai’s famous skyline and contains a museum at its base, a revolving restaurant and multiple viewing platforms for seeing the city in all its glory.
- JingAn Temple – one of the most famous temples in Shanghai, JingAn Temple is a Buddhist and Taoist temple open for tours. The area around the temple (JingAn District) has a variety of restaurants, cafes, and malls to explore.
- Yu Gardens – a 400 year-old garden, Yu Gardens is the most famous classical garden in Shanghai and offers a glimpse into China’s iconic architecture and design style with pagodas, rock gardens and more. But be prepared to take on the tourist crowds!
- Museums (Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, Shanghai History Museum) – Shanghai is one of China’s most modern cities, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a ton of great museums showcasing Shanghai’s history, culture and more. Check out some of the biggest museums on the Bund and in Lujiazui, and look around for some of the city’s smaller art and history museums, too!
- French Concession – originally owned by the French until 1943, the French Concession is one of Shanghai’s most unique areas with several historical buildings showcasing Shanghai’s rich history as a foreign outpost in China. The area also has countless interesting stores, cafes and restaurants, and is a great place to walk around on a sunny afternoon.
Vegetarian- and Vegan-Friendly Restaurants
- Jen Dow – Originating from Taiwan, Jen Dow Vegetarian Restaurant offers an upscale buffet for vegans and vegetarians, which is only 138 RMB on Mondays.
- 焱格格 (Yang Ge Ge) HotPot – one of the most famous vegan hotpot places in Shanghai, Yang Ge Ge is known for their wide variety of fake meats which taste incredibly real. The pot comes with a hourglass with purple sand which indicates when the food will be ready.
- iVegan – iVegan provides all vegan food with prices ranging from cheap to moderate, and is especially popular among students for their lamb chuars and wontons.
- Vegetarian Lifestyle – this is the restaurant to go to if you are ever craving Peking Duck, without the duck. Make sure to try their soy meat with flour wrappers as well as their rice cakes and fake pork.
- Happy Buddha – located near Jiashan Market, Happy Buddha has an entirely vegetarian menu with vegan options and is known for its American-Mexican type food.
- Spring Vegetarian – one of Spring Vegetarian’s most popular dishes is the Indian pancake, made by an Indian man they hired just for this purpose. He works everyday except for Tuesdays.
- Pure and Whole – definitely one of the most popular healthy and vegetarian restaurants in Shanghai, Pure and Whole serves up delicious dishes ranging from salads to curries. Favorite dishes include Arabian Wrap, Bliss Balls, and their Black Bean Patties.
- Ji Xiang Cao/Lucky Veg – Lucky Veg out in Xintiandi makes Shanghai’s best vegan cha siu pastry and has a quiet atmosphere perfect for a rainy day. Recommended for Chinese home-style vegan food.
- D’Lish – D’Lish is great for anyone who misses the American vegan classics like buddha bowls, and also attracts health-conscious, paleo, gluten-free, soy-free, and sugar-free vegans.
- Xiangge Vegetarian Restaurant – this is a must-visit restaurant for their vegan xiao long baos, essential to living in Shanghai!
On Campus Activities
- Sleeping in the AB – to no one’s surprise, sleeping in the AB is the best way to waste time between classes, during classes, or when you realize you’ve procrastinated the essay that’s due in just four hours. Be prepared to fight to the death for a beanbag in the library stacks or Health and Wellness.
- HackShanghai/Ally Week/Dumpling Fest – kudos to organizations planning school-wide events that have become a favorite. Dumpling Fest consists of literally nothing but thousands of free dumplings and fun activities; Ally Week honors the diversity, acceptance and love that makes us all proud to call ourselves NYU Shanghai; and HackShanghai encourages innovation and creativity through technology. Which event are you going to participate in this year?
- On Century Avenue (OCA) – we’re not sure who filled out this survey, but hey, we’re not complaining! OCA combines writing and art with exploration of the school and the city around us. Be prepared to ask the tough questions and be the first on the scene at a new restaurant or event. Don’t be afraid to get involved!
- Guest Lectures – NYU Shanghai has a lot of sway in the academic community and has hosted such notable speakers such as environmentalist Jane Goodall, China-watcher Kaiser Kuo, U.S. Congressman Chris Smith and countless others in various fields. Attending a few guest lectures in the evenings is the best way to learn more about real-world careers and problems in areas that you are interested in.
- KTV in the AB – what else could you do in an empty classroom that is equipped with a projector and Internet? KTV (Karaoke Television) is a cherished Chinese tradition, and AB KTV is our NYU Shanghai twist on the Chinese classic.
- Deans’ Service Scholars (DSS) – a collaboration between the Dean of Students and the Dean of Arts and Sciences, DSS allows students to travel internationally and within China to pursue various kinds of service activities, while also immersing in culture. Involving many students and departments on campus, DSS aims to look at service through an academic lens.
- Sports/Athletic Teams – let’s be real, NYU New York isn’t known for its sports, and NYU Shanghai even less so, but that almost makes it more fun! From beginners to seasoned athletes, joining one (or a few!) of the dozens of sports teams we have here is a great way to meet new people, stay active and have fun.
- On-Campus Job – working a job on campus – in the gym, Academic Resource Center (ARC), Career Development Center – is a great way to build up your work experience, connect with faculty and staff, and make a few extra RMB on the side.
- Dances – jazz Night, Spring Formal..there’s no better time to dress up and dance the night away in a great venue where everyone looks amazing. Yes, it’s better than your Prom. So are the after-parties.
- Student Government – Student Government is one of the driving forces for change and student voices in NYU Shanghai, and getting involved is a great way to meet people from all classes and have a major say in the running of NYU Shanghai.
- Student Clubs/Organizations – if you’re interested in something, there’s probably a club for it, and if not, why not start a club? Whether you’re interested in dance, business, trivia, the environment, LGBT+ rights, or anything else, get connected with one of NYU Shanghai’s many clubs.
Off Campus Activities
- Off-campus internship – internships are an essential part of any college experience, and in Shanghai there are hundreds of opportunities year-round in practically every career field. Most students get internships through Shanghai job posting websites, NYU Shanghai’s Career Development Center or through friends.
- Off-campus part-time job – getting a job, whether it be tutoring, bartending or any other small job around the city, is a great way to make some extra cash and meet other expats and locals around the city.
- Concerts/Music Festivals – whether you want a relaxing evening listening to classical music at the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Concert Hall or music festivals like Shanghai Strawberry Festival or Storm Electronic Music Festival, Shanghai’s music scene is diverse. Stay tuned to websites like Smart Shanghai and Timeout Shanghai for the latest concert listings!
- Volunteer at events/fairs around the city – getting connected by volunteering at Shanghai events is a great way to get behind-the-scenes views and perks at some of Shanghai’s most exciting events, like food and beer festivals and music festivals.
- Volunteer at NGOs around the city – giving back is a wonderful feeling, and there’s no better way to experience Shanghai life and help others along the way then by spending time volunteering around the city. Check out Smart Shanghai’s volunteering guide to get started with recommendations.
- City sports teams/clubs – NYU Shanghai is small and may not have the sports team you’re looking for, but it’s certain that someone else in Shanghai has started the club, team, or class that you’re looking for. Check out local gyms or offbeat options like parkour, rock climbing, or scuba classes.
- Local competitions/debates/conferences – competitions about all over Shanghai, focusing on anything from technology to business ideas to debate. Sometimes conferences have openings for judges, and you can make a few hundred kuai on the weekends judging a debate competition.
- KTV – for some odd reason the Karaoke craze has sort of died down in America; but it’s alive and well in China! Called KTV here, it’s a fun, different way to spend a night with friends. And since drinking in the private rooms you have is practically encouraged, there’s no need to worry about a less than stellar voice or awkward dance moves; it’s all in good fun!
- Brunch – even if you are not a “brunch and mimosas” kind of person, when you’re so busy studying and often chowing down on Family Mart and street food, it can be really nice to dress up a little and grab everyone’s favorite pseudo meal with some friends.
- Movie at the theatre – from the thirty-kuai streetside movie theaters to the more upscale theaters like those in Lujiazui’s IFC Mall, watching the latest movie release is a great way to unwind after a long day.
- Perry’s/Ellen’s/Helen’s – with several locations around the city, these dive bars attract some of the youngest crowds in Shanghai. Expect buckets of cheap, questionable alcohol and a lot of hookah smoking. Make sure to find a spot to scribble your name on their hallowed walls (and keep a lookout for names of NYUSHers past.)
- Monkey Champagne – arguably the best hip-hop club in Shanghai, and definitely the most consistent in its offering of hip-hop (and pop) music. This is your go-to for a night of hardcore Drake and Kanye.
- Windows Scoreboard – ah yes, Window’s Scoreboard. It may be half filled with 15 year old international high school students and 40 year old Chinese men, but nonetheless it’s still a popular place to go. With cheap drinks, pool, darts, and beer pong, it’s inevitable that it draws a college crowd.
- Barbarossa – this definitely isn’t a ratchet club scene, but it’s a great way to start, or even finish, a night. This multi-level restaurant and hookah lounge has a beautiful rooftop you can sit at to bask in the chill, cozy atmosphere with some friends while enjoying some fragrant hookah and delicious (albeit a bit overpriced) drinks.
- Bar Rouge – Bar Rouge is one of the nicest bars in Shanghai, and has both a dress code and a pretty steep entrance fee of 100 kuai if you don’t have a password. Drinks are pretty pricey as well, but absolutely delicious, and the gorgeous view you get of the Shanghai skyline makes Bar Rouge a must-go (as well as a pretty nice photo op).
- Lucca – formerly known as 390, this is probably the most popular and best LGBT bar and club in Shanghai. The venue is split up so you can choose to hang out in the bar area up front or have a little more fun on the dance floor.
- Zapatas – the Zapatas complex on Hengshan Lu has an outdoor terrace area where you can chill with some hookah and food, as well as an indoor space where you can expect to dance on table tops and take one too many shots of tequila.
- Arkham – this grungy, underground club is a good place to go if you enjoy electro music and are looking to avoid the more pretentious scenes in the city. They do a good job in putting together some solid acts, and any big names that come into town will usually be playing here.
- M1NT– the shark tanks at the entrance of the venue might be the coolest part of the club, but as a Shanghai classic, at least one visit is a must. It’s marketed as one of the most “exclusive” clubs in Shanghai, but as long as you’re not wearing flip flops and shorts, you shouldn’t have a problem getting in.
- Shanghai Brewery– if you’re looking for more of a pub or sports bar feel Shanghai Brewery is a good option. The cocktails are sub-par but they offer a nice selection of beer. The happy hour also makes this place pretty affordable, but also attracts an older after-work crowd.
- Metro – at 4 kuai a ride (that’s less than $1), you really can’t beat metro prices, and the stops are pretty conveniently located. While most trains and stations are air conditioned, just beware of the rush hour when you’ll get off the subway covered in other people’s sweat.
- Taxi – hail one from the streets or order one from companies like Da Zhong Taxi, Qiang Sheng Taxi, and Jin Jiang Taxi to bask in the cheap fares. Just make sure you either are good at staying calm in stressful situations or don’t pay too much close attention to all the hectic antics going on in the street.
- Uber/Didi Dache – Didi Dache is basically the Chinese version of Uber. Either way, they’re both great if you don’t feel comfortable taking a cab in a foreign country or just can’t hail a regular one.
- Bus – Beating both taxis and metros in terms of pricing, taking the bus is only two kuai. With bus stops all over the city, it’s easy to plan your route by searching the bus routes on Chinese map app, Baidu Maps.
- Bicycle – as easy as it is to buy a bike and bike lock off Taobao or any street vendor, check out Shanghai’s latest bike craze, the Mobike. For just 1 RMB per half hour, you can pick up a bright orange bike, explore the city, and leave the bike wherever you’d like.
- The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel – looking for an interesting start to your trip into Puxi? Look no further than the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, a 3-5 minute journey under the Huangpu River through a multimedia light show. The price, however, is a bit hefty, at 50 kuai per person.
- Maglev – using magnetic levitations and travelling at speeds up to 431 km/h, the Maglev can be used to travel between the Pudong International Airport (PVG) and the greater Shanghai city through the metro for 50 RMB. The Maglev is connected to the Longyang Road metro station.
- Passenger Ferry Across Huangpu River – if you’re looking for a unique and cheap way to cross from Pudong to Puxi, look no further than the passenger ferry. For only two kuai, you can travel between Lujiazui and the Bund and take in the sights on both sides of the river.
- Tricycles/Rickshaws – You may have already seen small rickshaws, bikes, and motorcycles zooming around the city carrying passengers. These small bikes, known by a variety of names, are usually available in the vicinity of subway stations–a cheap and easy option to avoid the rain and heat. There isn’t any formal pricing, so make sure to agree on a cheap price before you hop on!
- By Foot – it might seem inconceivable if you’re not used to Shanghai heat, but walking is a great way to get around and lets you see and explore tons of the city you might not normally notice!
- Getting food – albeit often greasy and probably pretty processed, cheap food can be found at Halal restaurants, on streets stalls or local restaurants, and in Family Mart. If you’re willing to cook, check out the local produce market for raw fruits and veggies.
- Ordering food – there are several great Chinese apps and websites, such as Ele.me, for ordering cheap food online.
- Shopping – go shopping in “fake markets” or use Taobao for much cheaper rates.
- Groceries – but vegetables from local wet markets for rates as cheap as 2-3 RMB per vegetable.
- Clothes – check out local fabric markets such as the one in Qipulu.
- Transportation and Travel – the metro and the public buses are the cheapest methods of transportation in Shanghai, other than walking of course!
- Partying – look for days where bars/clubs give discounts like Ladies Nights or 10RMB/pitches.
- Nightlife – dive bars like Perry’s, Ellen’s, Helen’s, and Windows ScoreBoard are the cheapest options to have a good night out on a budget.
- Tourism – cut back on expense on tourism by exploring popular destinations on food, such as Yu Gardens, The Bund, Tianzifang, French Concession, and Nanjing Road. Museums in Shanghai (like the Shanghai Museum) are also generally cheap.
- City Discounts – your NYU Shanghai student booklet can get you a student discount at several places including famous tourist destinations and museums, so make sure to carry that with you at all times!
Websites and Apps
- Communication: WeChat, Facebook, QQ, Weibo
- Travel: Uber/Didi Dache, Shanghai Metro Map, Shanghai Toilet Guide, Qunar, CTrip
- Food: Ele.me, Sherpas, Dianping, Bon App!
- Instagram accounts: “Shanghai Girl Eats”, ZaiShanghai. OnCenturyAvenue
- News: SmartShanghai, The Shanghaiist, China Daily
- Shopping: Taobao/Alibaba, Alipay
- Art/Film/Music: Douban
- Education: Pleco, FluentU
- Health: Air Quality China
- Tickets/Events: Grewal, Damai.cn
This feature is brought to you by the On Century Avenue Editorial Staff.
Photo Credit: Savannah Billman