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Olivia von Halle’s Shanghai

Designer OLIVIA VON HALLE shares her local tips for uncovering all that buzzing Shanghai has to offer


“I moved to Shanghai in 2008, having never been before. It was quite a rogue decision, but I stayed for three years and fell in love with the city. The first thing to say about Shanghai is how much fun it is. It has changed so much in the past 15 years; the whole city is imbued with this incredible sense of optimism and the feeling that anything can happen. It’s super entrepreneurial and everyone here loves meeting people and making new friends. There is a joke that no one ever gets a flight out of Shanghai having been to bed. Somehow, what starts out as dinner ends up with you falling out of a club at dawn, having had an insane night that you hadn’t planned. I love that it’s China, but not as you would expect, and I love that it makes New York seem slow.”

For a chic sleep…

The PuLi Hotel and Spa is the place to stay in Shanghai. It is amazingly well positioned on the edge of the former French Concession, so you can just walk in. The rooms are lovely and spacious, especially the ones that have beautiful free-standing baths with views of the city. The pool and spa are fantastic and the food is delicious. The Long Bar is the best spot for a fun hangout – I’ve bumped into Bella Hadid and Cara Delevingne there on two separate visits.”


For a stylish bite…

Crystal Jade is a Shanghai institution for dim sum on the weekends – only expats and locals know about it. It’s the most delicious mixture of the best food from China: Cantonese dumplings, Hunanese noodles, xiaolongbao from Shanghai and – my favorite – crushed pickles and chili cucumbers from Sichuan. I also love M on The Bund; go for eggs benedict and a bloody Mary on Sunday mornings. It was the first restaurant to open overlooking the Bund and it wouldn’t be a trip to China without a photo taken against the backdrop of skyscrapers rising up out of the Huangpu River and Pudong behind.”

For some Shanghai-style shopping…

“I love spending an afternoon pottering around the French Concession where I used to live. There is a huge variety of stores, from the beautiful 1920s art-deco atelier of By Fang (a super-talented Chinese womenswear designer) to the Feiyue store where you can buy the original Chinese kung fu shoe. Madame Mao’s Dowry is a real must-see, selling original propaganda posters from the Cultural Revolution as well as fun tongue-in-cheek gifts like Chairman Mao Christmas baubles. I love going to the Bird and Flower Market near Xizang South Road, just around the corner from People’s Square. It’s an old traditional market that gets super crowded, but you get a real taste of local life.”

How to unwind…

“There are some amazing Korean bathhouses in Gubei, like the New Star Bathhouse, where you can spend all day and even sleep there, if you like. The men and women are split up and you start with a long soak in the many different pools of varying temperatures; there are also several steam rooms and saunas. My favorite treatment is the ‘honey massage’, where you are put on a slab in a room full of people, honey is poured over you while you are massaged, and then you’re scrubbed clean. You can spend 24 hours here just eating, enjoying massages and facials, lying around watching films and generally hanging out. It’s a really fun way to spend a rainy Sunday.”

For incredible views…

“I love fighting my inclination towards vertigo and going to the top of the world’s second-tallest building, the Shanghai Tower. It’s 2,073 ft tall and, although it’s shorter than the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, it has the world’s highest viewing platform. It’s a real feat of engineering, and on a clear day you can see for miles over Shanghai and get a sense of the scale of this massive city.”

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