China's most cosmopolitan city is best visited in spring, before the heat and humidity of summer sets in.
Shanghai is split in half by the Huangpu River, with Puxi (meaning west bank) on one side and Pudong (east bank) on the other.
Pudong is the city's financial district. Its burgeoning skyline of skyscrapers, dominated by the spike of the Oriental Pearl Television Tower, is one of Shanghai's landmarks.
Puxi remains the city's historic centre, home to the Bund – the embankment lined with grand neo-Renaissance buildings that served as the headquarters for big Western businesses in Shanghai's 1930s heyday – and the French Concession, the leafy residential district that is easily the most charming part of the city.
In the absence of a useful tourist offices, the best source of information is the official tourism website: meet-in-shanghai.net.
Take a hike
Start at Fuxing Park, a rare burst of greenery, and walk amid the fountains and pavilions, passing men playing cards and couples ballroom dancing. Exit by the west gate on to Gaolan Road and turn left on to Sinan Road, where you'll find the former residence (now a museum) of the founder of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-sen at 7 Xiangshan Road (open 9am-5pm; free guided tours every weekday at 10.30am, 2pm and 3pm).
Continue down Sinan Road, popping into the delightful antiques emporium-cum-café Antique Garden on the way, until you get to Taikang Road. Turn right and you'll see the entrance to Tianzifang (10) on your right, a labyrinth of small lanes that house little cafés, boutiques and art galleries (open 10am-11pm).
Lunch on the run
In Tianzifang, Bali Bali at No 18 Lane 274 is a big local hit. Join the queue at the soup window for a bowl of tofu broth for RMB8 and eat it at one of the wooden tables outside. Back on the main road is Tsui Wah, a Cantonese restaurant at 618 Xu Jia Hui Road (tsuiwahrestaurant.com). Order a delicious barbecue pork bun the size of a hamburger from the counter.
For a characterful experience away from the malls, head to Xintiandi, a pedestrianised enclave of boutiques in traditional shikumen houses with beautiful stone doorways.
Head to Shanghai Trio at unit 129, 245 Madang Road for colourful bags, scarves and wallets. Four blocks east along Xintiandi Park is Dongtai Road and its renowned antiques market. Avoid the Buddha replicas and statues of Mao and seek out old leather suitcases, vintage lamps and curios. But remember to bargain hard.
Take a view
The Park Hyatt hotel at 100 Century Avenue in Pudong (shanghai.park.hyatt.com) is situated at the top of the Shanghai World Financial Centre.
One of the highest hotels in the world, it boasts spectacular views of the Bund and Puxi beyond. The bar on the 91st floor is fun and thumping; the elegant Living Room next to the hotel lobby is quieter and more refined.
Dining with the locals
No trip to Shanghai is complete without an evening on the Bund, the riverside strip of grand buildings that's home to swanky restaurants. Rub shoulders with Shanghai's glitterati at the smart Italian restaurant Mercato at 3 on the Bund (jean-georges.com), the latest from Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
For a more low-key choice, Lost Heaven at 17 Yanan Dong Lu (lostheaven.com.cn) is just round the corner and serves Yunnanese food to a mix of Shanghainese and foreigners. The jin bo ghost chicken and spicy Burmese tea leaf salad are the dishes to go for. Expect to pay RMB250 per person without wine.
A walk in the park
Get up early enough (between 7am and 9am) and you will see locals of all ages practising t'ai chi in any open space available. Jingan Park is no exception, plus here you'll find a group of women doing a sort of Chinese line dance to music while having a good old gossip. The benches around the pond are a particularly nice place to pause.
Go to temple
Across the road from