Tiffany Tan’s Travel Black Book

Love in a city

Shanghai holds special memories for e-tailer Tiffany Tan, who lived there with her husband

Who: Tiffany Tan, 32, owner and creative director of home and living e-tailer Cluster-Cluster (www.cluster-cluster.com).

Favourite destination: Shanghai, China 

Why: I love Shanghai for its energy and its original blend of East meets West. Despite its size, it is a great walking city and I love being part of its vibrant street life.

I lived there for more than two years with my husband, British entrepreneur Gordon Steel, 31, and I still travel there regularly for business. We got married at the city's iconic Fairmont Peace Hotel earlier this year and with so many amazing memories and friends there, Shanghai is a second home to us.

Favourite hotel: The Peninsula, Shanghai (shanghai.peninsula.com/en/) is our favourite hotel to stay in. I love that the hotel is on the north end of the Bund, the waterfront area where there is a cluster of some of the world's finest Art Deco architecture. From its rooftop bar Sir Elly's Terrace, you have a full view of the Pudong skyline. It is a stunning sight by night and a perfect backdrop for sunset cocktails.

Favourite restaurant: For a contemporary take on Shanghainese cuisine, I go to FU 1088 (375 Zhenning Road, Changning; tel: +86-21- 5239-7878). Located in a shikumen mansion, a traditional Shanghai- nese terrace house which combines Western and Chinese elements, the building alone will wow you with its untouched vintage interiors straight out of the 1920s.

Reservations get you a private room where you will be served some of Shanghai's famous dishes such as the Shanghai Hairy Crab and the juicy and slightly sinful Hong Shao Rou (red roasted pork).

The restaurant has a minimum spend of $80 a person, so it is a good option for group dinners.

Favourite bars: Two of my favourite speakeasy bars are Speak Low (579 Fuxing Zhong Lu) and Senator Saloon (www.senatorsaloon.com) in Wuyuan Road.

Speak Low is owned by Japanese barman Shingo Gokan who recently worked at famed New York cocktail bar Angel's Share in the East Village. It is a secret bar within a secret bar, hidden behind a shopfront manned by a dapper, bow-tie wearing man who slides open a cupboard to reveal a pathway to some of the best cocktails I've ever had.

Senator Saloon, a dimly lit 1920s- styled smoky bar run by an ex-New York cop, is a serious drinking destination with its cosy ambience, vintage vibes and potent, well- made drinks. It is a great place for catching up with friends in a location that feels like the set of TV show Boardwalk Empire.

Favourite cultural tour: Taking a walk through the bustling streets in the older residential neighbourhoods in the South Bund area surrounding the Shanghai Confucian Temple (215 Wenmiao Road, Huangpu; tel: +86-21-6377-1815) feels like taking a walk back in time. It provides a window into a traditional lifestyle that is fast disappearing.

Favourite neighbourhood: I used to live in the Shanghai French Concession area where the French community lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Its lush tree- lined boulevards and European- style architecture make it a wonderful place to explore. 

Favourite shopping destination: For tourists, places to shop include the antique shops in Jiashan Road, Jinxian Road and Huating Road. There's also Mu Lan Hua Ge antique market in Pudong. Bargain hunters can retrieve Art Deco chairs from a 10m-high mountain of junk. For touristy souvenirs, go to Tianzifang, a maze of little lanes in the French Concession neighbourhood.

Best place for breakfast: I normally head to Ferguson Lane, a converted villa and terrace in Wukang Road, or Anfu Road for breakfast. There are so many cafes and bakeries in those areas which are great for fresh produce and baked delights.

Best hidden find: One of my favourite places to watch the sunset is a backpackers' hostel called Captain Youth Hostel (www.captainhostelshanghai.com). At the top of the building is a terrace with a slightly divey-looking bar from which you can admire the view.

Fun day trip: Take the 45-minute bullet train to Hangzhou. The beautiful West Lake area is filled with cultural and historical sites.

I also recommend taking the bullet train north to Nanjing. The former capital is filled with historical attractions, including the Ming City Wall. About 25km long, it was built in the early 5th century and is one of the oldest city walls still standing in the world.

Event to bookmark: Chinese New Year in Shanghai is an experience. Although the city does feel quieter than usual due to many residents going back to their home towns, by night, the city lights up with fireworks and firecrackers explode in the streets all night and all week long. 

Ideal length of stay: Four or five days, leaving some time for day trips. 

Advice for travellers: Be prepared to walk - that's the best way to see the city. It is easy to get around with cheap taxis or by cycling. If cycling, look left and right even in a one-way street because traffic can get hectic. Lastly, do not eat the food in hole-in-the-wall restaurants or from street vendors. Most of them aren't hygienic and are quite possibly using recycled gutter oil to cook their food.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 11, 2015, with the headline 'Love in a city'. Print Edition | Subscribe