We know that while you’re on your China vacation you’ll want to take a tour of China’s culinary scene too. In fact it’s a major incentive to travel to China; the chance to try Chinese food. However, we also know that sometimes on your China trip – you’ll want a taste of home too. Here’s a quick guide to the best burger places in Shanghai so if you want to eat American-style, you can:
Homies (Changle Lu)
Homies is a touch in the basic side but the burgers are pretty good. You won’t want to spend the whole of your China tour eating here but it may be the perfect pit stop when moving from one China vacation hotspot to another. The burger is served relatively plainly and you’ll need to add cheese, bacon, etc. to get the perfect choice for you.
West Chophouse (Jingan Shangri-La Hotel)
From one extreme to another; it’s worth making a trip half-way across China just to get at the Wagyu beef burger sold in the West Chophouse. As you might expect this isn’t a budget travel dining option and this burger will set you back over $20 but it’s worth it. This is high quality imported beef dancing with incredible cheese and luxury bacon. It may be the best burger in China for our money.
Dakota (Donghu Lu)
This is a nice little backwater burger joint and you’ll be rubbing shoulders with locals and expats alike if you decide to visit Dakota. It’s a good quality burger with rather excellent caramelized onions (something that many other burger places in Shanghai seem to struggle with) and they serve the meat medium-rare which is very, very unusual in China. Don’t expect a fancy dining room but this is a decent burger that won’t leave you hungry or disappointed.
Piro (Changshu Lu)
This burger is popular with Time Out magazine and we can see why; it’s an American-style sports bar setting that prides itself on authenticity. The burger’s a slightly strange affair in that it’s served in split buns but the Australian beef is top quality and the burger always comes with all the trimmings.
There’s supposed to be a special happy hour offer on Monday too when the burger comes with a free pint of Belgian lager (which can’t be bad and saves you a decent amount of money on a pint).
The Cove (Xikang Lu)
This is a great place to go on your China vacation; we’d recommend taking some time out of your tour and relaxing with China’s most laid back burger venue. Stylish and sleek interiors don’t stop them from delivering something special. The burger gets a touch of teriyaki and a hint of pepper to add a local identity to an American classic. The burger, in our experience, is one of the most tender and tasty in town. They also appreciate the need for good cheese and that means no mucking around with side orders and the like.
Travel in China can be a little hectic and it’s nice to take some time on a China vacation to relax with a drink and watch the world go by. Knowing where to go during your China tour can make all the difference and we’ve got some great little terrace bars to recommend for your China trip:
Azzurra (Fenyang Lu)
This is a very busy part of Shanghai and yet if you make a trip to this little side street terrace; you’ll suddenly feel like you’re in another part of China altogether. This building was once “The Dragon Club” but today it’s all about great pizza and fantastic wine. Italian food is slowly taking off in China (despite their similarities noodles and pasta are not the same thing) and this is a great place to sample some of the best Italian food during your China vacation.
Fenyang Garden Hotel (Fenyang Lu)
Only a short walk from Azzurra but a world apart. If you want to see the more reserved side of China during your tour; this is a great place to travel to. This is China’s upmarket terrace culture and despite the incredibly hectic locale – there is peace and solitude within. It comes at a price but one worth paying for this lovely, nearly private terrace that no-one else seems to have discovered yet.
Bubbles (Fenyang Lu)
This place is fantastic. It’s a Spanish oasis in this part of town and we absolutely love it. You won’t find anywhere easier to just sit and chill in Shanghai and that’s no bad thing. You can get a very reasonable bottle of wine for a fair price and then kick back and let the world go by. After a day’s tour of China’s biggest city; you’ll be ready for the feel of the cool air rushing over you and the atmosphere of relaxing locals and expats unwinding after a day in the city that never sleeps.
Lotus Eatery (Dingxi Lu)
This second floor terrace gives you a great view of the busy Shanghai streets below. It’s famous for its excellent Yunnan cuisine and rather miraculously despite the location; it’s not in the remotest bit pricey. If you want to grab a nice lunch and a few reasonably priced Chinese beers then you might want to put Lotus Eatery on top of your agenda for a day.
How Lounge (Huating Lu)
This is the techno-savvy travellers dream. If you want somewhere to plug in your laptop and watch the world go by during your China vacation; there are few better places to do just that than the How Lounge. During the day you can grab a coffee and a bite to eat. At night, you might want to put away the laptop and chat with the young bright folks that this place attracts. There’s not much of a wine list but the prices are fair and this is one of the most serene spots in Shanghai. Check it out if you get the chance.
Travel to Hong Kong as part of your China vacation and you'll feel like you're in a different world. Hong Kong's a very popular China tour destination because it offers a unique insight into this former British colony which is now very much a part of mainland China. If you do decide to make the trip to Hong Kong from China – here are some fun things to do when you get there:
The Star Ferry
A tour of Victoria Harbour on the Star Ferry is one of the cheapest trips you can make in China. It's also one of the best views in China as Hong Kong's incredible sky-scraping skyline is all available from here.
Happy Valley Races (Wednesday)
A China vacation shouldn't be about gambling but this incredible Hong Kong institution embodies the life and vibrancy of the Hong Kong horse racing scene. It's an unmissable night out; just keep your stakes small and your China travel experience will be enhanced by your visit.
Ride an Escalator
This might sound rubbish at first glance but the mid-levels system is the world's largest outdoor escalator system. It also has quite a few bars running alongside it to help encourage you to make the trip.
China's shopping may be cheap but Hong Kong's is the best in the world. If you want to shop until you drop this wonderful mall which offers great views over its surroundings is just about the perfect place to do it.
The Ladies Market
Ignore the name, gentleman are perfectly welcome to take a tour of the market too, this is where China's fake and counterfeit skills come alive in Hong Kong. There's plenty of legitimate products to choose from too but be amazed at the sales skills and sheer performance of this incredible market.
Yuen Po Street Bird Garden
Hong Kong is one of the most crowded places on earth and that means real estate is amongst the most expensive on earth. Most Hong Kong folk (Honkies as they call themselves) simply don't have room for a pet cat or a pet dog but they do keep pet birds. Head to Yuen Po Street anytime between 7 in the morning and 8 at night and watch the Honkies take their birds for a stroll.
If you'd like a break from Chinese food; then you might want to try the most authentic Indian food in China. Chungking Mansions is the world's most ethnically diverse block and while you want to avoid changing money or buying a fake mobile phone here – you really should hit the curry houses; they're spectacular and incredibly good value.
Drink in the Ozone Bar
This is supposed to be the highest-elevated bar in the world. It's not cheap but the drinks are simply sublime. You can get whatever you want made exactly the way you want it. Once you've ordered you can soak up the view of the city from the 118th floor of the ICC building.
A Yangtze River Cruise is part of many people’s dream China vacation. As your boat tour wends its way through the heart of China eventually it will reach the city of Chongqing. Chongqing’s one of the biggest cities you will see on a China trip and yet most of the people who travel there won’t have heard of it until they reach China. It’s a wonderful place to visit and there are many family friendly activities to do there:
Tour the Jialing River
If you’ve not had your fill of water life on your Yangtze River Cruise then why not take a day trip on to one of China’s lesser known rivers – the Jialing? There’s not as much drama as there is on the Yangtze but that makes it easier to spend time relaxing as a family and enjoying scenes of rural China and the contrast with the sprawling dynamic megacity of Chongqing. That’s the joy of this kind of travel; it frees you up to be together and laugh as a family. That can often be hard to do within the hectic pace of life back home.
Walk through Jin Gang Bei
Chongqing’s an industrial behemoth; it’s the center of the world’s biggest factory and that means that some of the city isn’t so pretty to look at. Jin Gang Bei, on the other hand, is absolutely gorgeous. It’s home to the best preserved ancient architecture in Chongqing; it’s one of those unique China experiences that the best vacations are made of. You can wonder the cobbled lanes and explore perfectly safely.
One thing you may have learned on your Yangtze River Cruise is that Sichuan (the province in which Chongqing resides) is the culinary heartland of China. When your tour arrives in the city it’s time to go and explore that cooking together as a family. All of China’s restaurants are family friendly – children are welcome everywhere (though be aware that this may result in delighted locals touching your children’s hair, faces or even prodding them – this isn’t rude or disrespectful but rather a culturally normal display of fascination and care). From spicy spare ribs to the local hot pot – there’s something on the menu for everyone.
Go Hiking in the Mountains
The Jinyun Mountains just outside of Chongqing are a natural treasure. They’re a state protected wildlife preserve and there are 9 different peaks to climb. (You probably won’t have time to climb them all on a single visit). You’ll find charming temples dotting the landscape everywhere and the Giant Buddha figure that smiles down impressively on his devoted subjects. Then there’s the plant and animal life to discover.
Visit Lao She’s Home
Lao She is one China’s most famous novelists. If you’re looking for a quick fix of family fun – this is a lovely residence to explore. The children can play in the grounds while the adults catch up with the life story of this important cultural figure.
Chengdu's a popular vacation destination in China. It's often included as part of a Yangtze River Cruise on a larger China tour. It can often appear that travel in China, at first glance at least, is not that family friendly. Whereas there are lots of places you might visit during your China trip that welcome families – here are some you might want to consider in Chengdu:
Polar Ocean World
If your kids enjoyed the Yangtze River Cruise; they will absolutely love Polar Ocean World. It may be the best marine themed park in China. Unlike many of China's zoos and aquariums this one is very much up to Western vacation standards so don't worry about making a trip here – it's a lot of fun. There are sea lions, giant turtles, and many other attractions. We particularly like the artificial beach they built for the penguins.
The ancient town of Huanlongxi is about 40 minutes travel in a taxi. This is one of the nicer ancient towns in China and not too touristy. It's the perfect place to go for a stroll as a family. We'd recommend heading down to the river if it's getting a bit hot and then taking a very slow boat trip in the breeze. You'll find plenty of alley ways and courtyards to explore in the town, there are a lot of traditional craftspeople making and selling their wares and the markets are stuffed to the brim with bargains. It's a good place to pick up souvenirs from your China tour.
Happy Valley is China's most famous theme park. Compared to Disney or the offerings in Orlando, Florida – this is all quite tame. That makes it the kind of place that a family can enjoy a day out together; there are no ridiculous roller coasters or scares to face. It's just good clean fun. It's also one of the places where the food is recognizably Western inspired and if your kids are getting tired of Chinese chow this might be a great place for them to get back in touch with their culinary roots for an afternoon.
Chengdu's Panda Research Center
Let's be fair about this; the main attraction for families in Chengdu is China's most famous animal and best loved symbol around the globe – the giant panda. You cannot visit Chengdu and not spend some time at the Panda Research Center. It would be like visiting New York and not seeing the Statue of Liberty.
The Panda Research Center is fantastic too. Not only do they have an intensive panda care and breeding program which means you can meet some pandas very close up (though please don't get too close – they are bears and we don't want anyone to get bitten). You can also get to grips with many of Sichuan's other native wildlife (including the very shy but equally cute red panda). Your family will never forget a day out at the Chengdu Panda Research Center.
If your children have been accompanying you on a tour of Mainland China then you may want to give them a bit of treat when you take a side trip into Hong Kong. This special administrative region of China is much more "Western" in its appeal to visitors than some of the rest of China and that means there are theme parks and other attractions you won't find elsewhere on a China vacation. This is China's most child friendly travel destination. Keep your eyes peeled for:
Discovery Land (Lantau)
This is billed as an "indoor family entertainment center" which seems to cover a multitude of options. You can take a trip on a slide, grab a water pistol and soak everyone in range or check out any of the other rides, courses, etc. This is Hong Kong and you can be certain that this is a safe destination for you and your family's vacation in China too.
Ocean Park (Ocean Park Road)
Ocean Park is Hong Kong's biggest theme park and many people travel from Mainland China and farther afield to experience it. There's no doubt that it's the highlight of a China tour for many adults and children. There's a great new reason to take a trip to Ocean Park this year – they've just opened their "Shark Mystique" experience. That's an open aquarium where you can get right up and close to a lot of sharks. It's China's most thrilling underwater experience!
Ryze (Trampoline Park)
Trampolining is one of the best exercise routines you can try. It's very much a full body workout with plenty of cardio thrown in. Better still it's a lot of fun and there a very few places you can travel to in China with over 8,000 square feet of trampolines available. Ryze Trampoline Park is perhaps the only one of its kind. There's more to do besides Trampolining too – such as learn to parkour...
Elephant Parade (August and September Only)
Throughout the months of August and September; Hong Kong comes alive with elephants. These are moving exhibitions that are designed to raise public awareness of elephant conservation. However, they are also extremely attractive and a whole lot of fun for kids (and adults too). They are scattered all over the island and you should be able to find a venue that fits in with the rest of your China tour itinerary.
Zuma Restaurant (The Landmark, Central)
Once you've been to look at the family side of Hong Kong – you'll want a family meal. Zuma's a great choice because it offers both free food and loads of toys and coloring books to kids under 10 – at the same time; there's no compromise on the adult's food and you can get the kind of meal you want even if your children want to indulge their inner-junk-food demons for the afternoon. We like the sushi which is great value and incredibly well-prepared. The Landmark also offers some pleasant views of the neighborhood.
Many people choose a side trip to Hong Kong when they take a vacation in Mainland China. This is a great way of getting more out of your China tour package and can enhance a China travel experience considerably. Hong Kong’s a special administrative region of China today and as you can see during a visit to the former British colony – it retains its own unique identity. There are some interesting festivals celebrated in Hong Kong throughout the year and if you’re luck you might be able to catch one of these:
Wong Tai Sin
Wong Tai Sin, is held in September each year, on the 23rd day of the 9th lunar month. It is held in the very popular Wong Tai Sin Temple complex which is probably going to be on your Hong Kong tour itinerary as it’s one of the most popular temples in this part of China. The festival offers worshippers a chance to invest in spiritual guidance for good luck throughout the year.
Che Kung Festival
This one takes place in February at the Che Kung Temple. Che Kung was a former military leader in imperial China and was respected for both his martial skills and incredible good luck. This vacation day celebrates that luck and aims to instil some of it in worshippers. That’s why gamblers travel from all over China to take part – they think it will help before they move on to a trip to Macau (China’s other special administrative region).
Kwun Yum Treasury Festival
In March, the ancient Goddess of Kwun Yum’s temples come alive with a celebration of a deity who precedes Buddhism, Taoism, etc. by centuries but has nonetheless become enmeshed with their practice in China. It might be nice to take a little time out of your trip to take part in this festival – all donations raised by the temples are used to help impoverished children throughout China.
Tam Kung Festival
This one is held in May and is a tribute to the gods of the sea. You’ll need to take a tour of Shau Kei Wan and stop at the Tam Kung temple to get the most out of this. There’s much jollity with spectacular performances from local Wu Shu (Kung Fu) practitioners and some incredible lion dancing. Prayers are offered to keep the seas under control for the coming year and to protect the safety of local fishermen.
Tai Wong Yeh Festival
June is the time for the Tai Wong Yeh Festival. It’s an odd festival because no-one can agree on just what Tai Wong Yeh stood for and thus most visitors are in attendance for different reasons. It’s probably a festival that would have fallen out of favour at some point down the years apart from one thing – it’s held the day before the dragon boat races begin in Hong Kong. That major celebratory point of the Hong Kong year appears to have lent its life blood to the Tai Wong Yeh festival.
Hong Kong is a great side trip on your China vacation. This former English colony is now a formal part of Mainland China but still feels very much separate to it. Take a tour of China’s special administrative zone and you’ll soon find out why. One key differential is that Hong Kong is a lot more expensive than China in the main. However, if you travel carefully there are still plenty of bargains to be had in Hong Kong – like these great breakfast locations:
Urban Bakery (Langham Place, Mong Kok)
There are plenty of different branches of Urban Bakery if you can’t find the Mong Kok location. This is where you come to get away from the somewhat unusual breakfasts of Mainland China for something a touch more familiar on your vacation. Think great pastries and decent coffee and you’ll be ready to take a trip to the Urban Bakery. They have the best croissants in China.
Hokkaido Dairy Farm (Citylink Plaza, Sha Tin)
A tour of the enormous shopping complex at Sha Tin; yields this surprisingly good breakfast option. There are several Mainland China favorites on the menu but we’d recommend sticking with the somewhat more familiar option of a Scrambled Egg Sandwich. Very cheap, very filling and the location means that when you’re ready to travel on to somewhere else in Hong Kong – the MTR is immediately on hand too.
Toast Box (Tong Yin Street, Tseung Kwan O)
This is another chain though not quite as prevalent as Urban Bakery. Toast Box reflects the breakfast culture of another “China but not quite China” location – Singapore. If you want something sickly sweet to start the day on then the Kaya Toast is about perfect. Coconut, sugar, eggs, and more coconut offers an unusual taste sensation.
Superior Steamed Rice Roll Pro Shop (Portland Street, Prince Edward)
The name is an English translation of the original Chinese and thus sounds a little more boastful than it’s meant. If you’ve missed Mainland Chinese breakfasts on your side trip of Hong Kong then you can make up for it here. This is where the Chinese steamed bun (rice roll) is taken to a whole new level. We particularly like the BBQ pork variant but there are dozens to choose from.
Sing Heung Yuen (Mei Lun Street, Central)
If you were hoping to get something that says “authentic Hong Kong” for breakfast during your China vacation – then you can’t go wrong with a visit to Sing Heung Yuen. This is where you can grab a “crispy lemon bun” which is what the locals will be chowing down on around the city before the morning commute.
Yo Bago (Pan Hoi Street, Quarry Bay)
OK, this isn’t the most authentic of breakfasts (unless you’re Canadian) but the bagels at Yo Bago are extremely good. The best breakfast of them all includes bacon, eggs, cheese, ham, etc. and you can have all of these ingredients in one very tasty bagel. Perfect preparation for a hard day’s tour of the sights of Hong Kong.
China's not famous for its beaches and they don't tend to be the reason that most people vacation in the country. However, if you'd like a little break from the frenetic pace of a China tour and you fancy a little trip outside of Beijing, China's capital city. You could do worse than travel to Beidaihe which is a popular local tourist paradise in China.
How to Get There
Take a trip on China's excellent public rail network. It's only about an hour on the train and the ticket won't set you back much more than $10. Travel in style in first class or do what the expats in the know in China do and grab a chair in the very comfortable buffet compartments and just buy a drink to get the same facilities. When you get there; travel by taxi to the Tiger Rock Park which is the best place to get access to the beach.
When To Go
You should be aware that Beidaihe's no fun during the winter; it's too far North to be warm enough. It's best to go late-spring, all the way through summer or in the early-autumn.
What to Do
Rent a bike and conduct a little tour of the area China-style. You can pick up a bike for $1-$2 a day when you arrive at Tiger Rock Park. It's a good way of keeping up your fitness during your China vacation too. Don't forget to lock up the bike if you do decide to explore anywhere inaccessible; bike thieves are not uncommon sadly.
Travel West and down the Xihatian Lu which is a lovely tree-shaded street. If you've brought some binoculars with you on your China tour; this is a great place to use them as it's right on the migration flight paths for dozens of exotic birds.
Then make a trip to the Liangeng Mountain Park. It's not much of a climb but it offers spectacular views over the sea and the local area. It's one of the best coastal scenic spots in China; so take some time to savor it.
Then when you're ready; head down to the sandy beach which is often packed with visiting Russians (Russia lies to the North of China and Russians make up a large part of the tourist trade in Northern China). Enjoy the surf lapping at your feet and enjoy the spectacle of other tourists.
Then wrap up with a meal at one of the many beachfront restaurants; as you might expect all the seafood is incredibly fresh usually from that morning's catch and very good value for money. Do watch out for bones as fish is rarely (if ever) served deboned in China.
If you have any children with you; you might want to consider a trip to the Golden Bay Sand Sculpture World too. it's a fairly typical water park but with the joys of dozens of intricate Chinese sand sculptures dotted around the place too.
If you've booked a China tour that's passing through Beijing; you're going to be very excited about taking a trip round the Hutongs. They're the ancient pathways of pre-industrial China and sadly, they're very much under threat by the modernization of China. There are still several interesting hutongs you can see on your China vacation and one you might want to travel to is Dashilar Hutong; here's why:
The Spoonful of Sugar Cafe
Cafés are a bit of a rarity in China. At least cafes like the ones you get back home are. The Spoonful of Sugar is an awesome place to take a break from your China tour because it's got a great Chinese twist to the café concept but retains all the comforts you'd expect. You won't break your budget on a trip to this café as in general nothing costs much more than a few RMB. Do take a trip up to the roof to enjoy the rooftop herb garden (all of which are used to make the goodies served below). The coffee is also pretty darned good and that's very, very rare in much of China.
If you want an awesome souvenir from your China vacation; look no further than this wonderful Chinese specialty store. It's an eclectic mix of Chinese kitsch through the ages. It's like time travel without having to leave the present. We wouldn't want to own everything here but some of the stuff is so fantastic we couldn't imagine leaving without buying something.
The Ubi Gallery
China has a thriving modern art scene which is often lost in the huge volumes of “copy shops” particularly in more commercial art areas. Ubi Gallery, is a wonderful collection of the best of China's current offerings. It's not cheap so if you're concerned about your budget you might not want to spend too much time out of your China tour here. However, it is always interesting and as this Hutong is still “up and coming” – most of the time you can have the gallery to yourself. Please don't take photographs inside.
If you want to get creative in China; you might want to do some drawing or writing. There's nothing quite like an artisan book to get the creative juices flowing and that's what Twelve Moons specializes in. We like it because they've got a whole bunch of designs that you'd be proud to carry under your arm in public; which is often not the case in many Chinese stationery stores where the emphasis can be on “nauseatingly cutesy” instead.
If you want a break from Chinese food; then this little Japanese place (which is part of a larger chain) is quite excellent and the food is very good value for money. There are a lot of rabbit shaped decorations there and we've never been able to work out why – but that really doesn't matter. Grab a Japanese curry and a steaming plate of rice and chill out for a bit.