If you’re looking for upscale glitz, colonial glamor, and sky-piercing buildings, two Chinese cities readily spring to mind: Shanghai and Hong Kong. Both cities are likely to appeal to a large set of visitors: from those seeking a glimpse at the colonial elegance of the past to those hoping to toast a cocktail high-up on some of the world’s tallest buildings. So, being pressed for time, how can you choose between Shanghai and Hong Kong?
Let’s take a look at what each has to offer:
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Hong Kong cuisine has been influenced from all over the world. Being a former British colony and international port, the flavors, spices, and influences vary broadly. Most traditional dishes, however, would fall under the category of “Cantonese”.
One of the best ways to experience Cantonese food is during a delicious dim sum lunch. Dim sum is typically eaten during the day time and features small dishes of a variety of foods. It’s a Hong Kong staple that will have you saying, “bring another round of those pork buns!” If you want to try something a little more exotic, seek out the “Phoenix Talons,” otherwise known as chickens’ feet. People believe that they are good for your skin and bones because they contain high amounts of collagen and calcium.
Whatever style of cuisine you are looking for, Hong Kong will have the answer. The city has more than its fair share of Michelin-starred restaurants and new ones pop up all the time. Your WildChina guide would be happy to give you a recommendation for dinner or can share our Hong Kong restaurant guide with you if you’d rather explore on your own.
Hong Kong offers much more than a vibrant city to experience. You don’t have to venture too far to find stunning hiking trails and isolated beaches. If you’re feeling lucky, Hong Kong is also just a stone’s throw from the Las Vegas of Asia – Macau. Directly North is Shenzhen, known as the home to China’s high-tech industry. So, whatever you’re in to, you have plenty of options.
Hong Kong has been an important trading port for nearly as long as China has existed. There’s even some archealogical evidence that it may have been inhabited since the Stone Age. In the mid-1800’s, Hong Kong became part of the British Empire and stayed under British rule until it was returned to the mainland in 1997. This colonial history has left it’s mark on Hong Kong, much of the architecture has a European flair and afternoon tea is still a popular pastime.
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On the Water
Hong Kong has some great options for those who want to get out on the water. You can climb aboard a small fishing boat and explore the floating villages hidden in remote corners of the island. Or, consider jumping on a “junk boat” – a sail boat that will offer an authentic sailing experience. WildChina will even organize a dinner and champagne reception onboard.
Hong Kong is home to a host of rooftop bars that will make the trip worthwhile. For those who want to check a box on their bucket list, there’s also the highest bar in the world: Ozone sits on the 118th floor of the ICC/Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong.
Check out our Hong Kong: Pearl of the Orient tour for a sample itinerary.
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Shanghai cuisine is known for succulent dishes like “xiaolongbao” a steamed bun filled with soup. Eating xiaolongbao can be a bit of a trial by fire for your mouth – here’s our tip: bite off the tip first, and then suck the soup out before eating the rest of the bun. Be careful not to squirt any soup on your shirt, or worse, on one of your travel companions!
While you can sidle up to a curbside vendor for some soup dumplings, Shanghai is also quickly becoming a gastronomic mecca. Thirty of Shanghai’s finest food and beverage hotspots were awarded highly coveted Michelin stars this year, while a further twenty-seven were awarded the Bib Gourmand. Let’s just say, food-wise, Shanghai is the best of both worlds.
There’s a phrase in Chinese that says “Heaven is above, Suzhou and Hangzhou are below” – in other words, the neighboring cities to Shanghai are literal heaven on earth. This isn’t to downplay the wonder of Shanghai, which is said to be the Paris of the East, but since they’re so close, it’s like a three-for-one package.
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Once just a small fishing village, the history of Shanghai is said to be a microcosm that closely reflects the history of China as a whole. With the rises, falls, and overturns, Shanghai has been along for the ride as one of the key trading positions. In Shanghai, you’ll find several locations oozing history, and museums chock full of relevant artifacts.
On the Water
Take a trip down the Huangpu River which is lined with some of the most iconic sights of Shanghai, including “The Bund” located on the western bank. Our Shanghai architecture expert, Patrick Cranley, will accompany you and explain the original purpose of each building. A Huangpu River cruise is also great at night, allowing you to see all the buildings of Shanghai in their illuminated grandeur. You’ll have several options of boats to take, from old-timey steamers to private dinner cruises.
Most hotels along The Bund have rooftop bars that offer an iconic view of Shanghai’s waterfront. One of our favorites is Sir Elly’s, the rooftop terrace at The Peninsula, Shanghai.
Our Shanghai Highlife Tour will give you an idea of how best to spend a weekend in the Paris of the East.
Both Hong Kong and Shanghai have so much to offer and you can probably tell that we’d struggle to choose between the two. Luckily for you, our trip designers are experts at customizing tours to fit your personal preferences and travel style. If you’ve not got time to visit both cities, get in touch and they’ll help you pick the right one for you.