Home to the world’s largest man-made structure, biggest population, one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of our time and around half of the bicycles on the planet, China is undeniably an immense destination in more ways than one. Recently I had the opportunity to discover this diverse land, its friendly people and significant culture by immersing myself in one of the country’s most iconic cities: Shanghai. Here are the top five experiences you must enjoy in each city when you next travel to this amazing destination.


An hour from Shanghai’s city center is the small water town of Zhujiajiao. Here, life exists closely to how it was 1,700 years ago during the Ming and Qing dynasties. For the ultimate afternoon of aimless exploration, make your way across the 36 footbridges that crisscross the town’s waterways. Find yourself wandering the charming streets and alleyways to discover pearl shops, fortune tellers, old homes, quaint cafes, and traditional fare.

Zhujiajiao Water Villages, Shanghai

The Middle House

A lifestyle hotel that has raised the bar of luxury in a rapidly transforming city, the Middle House provides an enchanting hideaway from the bustling city streets. Tucked away behind bamboo courtyards are two towers—the residences and the studios—where Milan-based architect Piero Lissoni has crafted a modern and chic design with no detail left untouched.

The Middle House Hotel, Shanghai

Yuyuan Garden

Despite Shanghai’s crowded lanes and teeming masses, Yuyuan Garden remains a serene sanctuary tucked away in the city center. The garden houses the quintessential elements of a traditional Chinese garden (think pavilions, koi fish ponds, intricate foliage, unique rock formations, and a gamut of bridges) and is an exquisite must-see masterpiece of the Ming period style.

Yu Yuan Garden, Shanghai

Tea Ceremony

While in Shanghai, be sure to partake in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. Our tea aficionado poured and dumped and strained and seeped all while juggling teacups as if she were conducting an orchestra. Elaborating with every cup, with every cup served, on the health benefits of each tea strain: jasmine for good skin, oolong for gut health, and green tea for just about any ailment under the sun.

Tea Ceremony, Shanghai

French Concession

Predominantly French until the 1940s, the French Concession is just as fascinating today as it ever was. A hipster paradise and expat haven, the neighborhood’s tree-lined streets are home to bohemian boutiques, music venues, and a conglomerate of Japanese ramen noodle houses, Spanish tapa bars, French bistros, and traditional Hakka restaurants. Something for everyone, no matter where you call home.

French Concession, Shanghai

To book this experience, please contact Esther Klijn.