This section is designed for foreigners living in Shanghai to share their experiences and insights on daily life in their local communities. From hidden gems to popular spots, they will introduce you to the best food, drink, entertainment, and more in their neighborhoods.
Originally from 's-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands, Elaine Koo has been living in Shanghai for more than a decade. Her friends describe her as a natural "people connector."
Currently brand director at Highline, a modern rooftop restaurant and establishment in the heart of Shanghai, Koo's passionate about creating magic moments in her work. She is curious at heart and always ready to discover what's out there.
Q: Introduce the neighborhood you live in.
When I first arrived in Shanghai as an intern, I recall walking on Donghu Road after a hedonistic experience at the opening of Spanish restaurant el Willy, thinking if I ever moved to Shanghai, I would want to live in this area.
Xuhui District has always drawn me with its historic buildings, architecture and mix of super local and international vibes at the same time. Since I moved to Shanghai from the Netherlands, I've lived in six different apartments in Xuhui, from Huaihai Road M., Wuyuan Road, Huashan Road, Zhenning Road to Shaanxi Road S. Now I live on Zhaojiabang Road, close to Wulumuqi Road M.
Q: What's the best thing about living in this neighborhood?
It is truly a melting pot of people and activities in this vibrant area. Everything is within either walking or biking distance. It is peaceful and at the same time there is never a boring moment.
Q: What's the attraction here that should not be missed?
What I love about Xuhui District is that there are less high-rise buildings. I would say, make time to walk or bike around and there will be tons to discover. All the buildings have a story to tell.
Q: Each person may have different taste, but they all want a great café. What's your favorite café near home?
Here are a few depending on the time of day:
Crave (218 Xinle Road 新乐路218号) is on the way from my gym Orange Theory Fitness to home. A perfect pit stop for a flat white, croissant and people watching.
Egg (12 Xiangyang Road N. 襄阳北路12号): I get my favorite Coconut Cold Brew.
La Boulangerie et Patisserie by Pierre Gagnaire (1/F, 480 Jianguo Road W. 建国西路480号1楼): You can never go wrong with the bread and pastries here.
Luneurs (178 Wulumuqi Road S. 乌鲁木齐南路178号): It has a hidden rooftop, and for all the other obvious reasons.
Shanghailander (394 Wulumuqi Road S. 乌鲁木齐南路394号): It has hard-to-resist salted egg-yolk crepe cake.
Q: Where to eat around here?
Depending on your mood and craving, you can find almost any cuisine in this area. Unfortunately, I don't get to go out for meals much due to the nature of my job in hospitality.
When I do get the chance, I am delighted to be able to sit down to enjoy a meal whether alone or with friends. It is something many seem to take for granted. I see way too many people staring at their phones instead of talking to each other.
Here are some of the amazing places in my neighborhood, sorry if I forgot to mention your place as there are too many talented chefs around here!
Cuivre (1502 Huaihai Road M. 淮海中路1502号): A cozy good value place. Chef Michael Wending and his partner in crime, Nico Reno, will make you forget your sorrows with his food and charming personality. Don't forget to order the espresso martini!
Highyaki by the sea (Unit 113, Bldg 5, 8 Hengshan Road 衡山路8弄5号113): It is on my list of need-to-try places that I haven't gotten to. Anything by chef Carlos has to be good!
Juke (Unit 102, 11 Dongping Road 东平路11号102): I love anything chef Michael Janczewski creates. I'm a huge fan.
Mr Willis (3/F, 195 Anfu Road 安福路195号3楼): Open since 2010 by legendary Mr Willis with a rockstar team, it is quite a feat to be open for more than a decade in this challenging industry. Respect! Cozy living room vibe.
Solo Garden (333 Changle Road 长乐路333号): Perfect for outdoor dinner with friends or a date.
Suzie's Garden (38 Fumin Road 富民路38号): A beautiful villa with garden. Friendly crew providing excellent guest experience. Have dinner in the garden or first floor then go for a nightcap on the second floor.
Q: From high fashion to emerging designers, from flowers to fresh produce, where do you shop in your neighborhood?
I tend to shop only when it is necessary, preferably the old-fashioned way, by visiting the store. For me, it is all about the story behind and an experience of the senses.
For clothes, I prefer vintage shops, where it's fun to discover unique pieces and gems. Quite a few have opened on Yongkang Road, the part between Taiyuan and Xiangyang roads.
Below are some brands created in Shanghai by inspiring power women, that are worth checking out!
Eu Noia aromatherapy by Jann (No. 3, 212 Wuyuan Road 五原路212弄3号): It is my go-to lifestyle shop for gifts. Aromatherapy workshops are available too. It's open on weekends and via appointments.
Studio NooSH (No. 44, 820 Julu Road 巨鹿路820弄44号): Interior decoration brand created by two friends, Kim and Stephanie. It's great for original gifts and you can get them with customised embroidery too!
Okra (211 Anfu Road 安福路211号): Julie Pang calls it sacred jewellery to inspire your inner knowing. Her pieces are inspired by her childhood memories on the island of Mauritius. Meant to be worn as personal talismans.
Yi Collection (318-5 Julu Road 巨鹿路318-5号): Yi started in Shanghai as Style editor at Vogue China, then went on to create her own collection of fine jewellery which is now sold worldwide!
For groceries I like to go to Avocado Lady (274 Wulumuqi Road M. 乌鲁木齐中路274号): When I first moved to Shanghai, many ingredients were hard to find and you can bet on it she has it, or she will find a way to get it.
Q: Any neighborhood place for a night out or simply a drink after work?
I might be biased ... Highline (6/F, 282 Huaihai Road M. 淮海中路282号6楼) must be one of the best terraces in Puxi. Even in this heat, at night there is always a nice breeze perfect for chilling outdoors solo or with friends.
J. Boroski (2/F, 177 Fumin Road 富民路177号2楼): I love the element of surprise. Just name your base spirit and they will design a cocktail for you.
Capella (480 Jianguo Road W. 建国西路480号): The hotel garden or go for cocktails at Le Bar on the second floor! It is a hidden oasis in the middle of the city. Exquisite drinks, service and a very relaxing environment.
System (3/F, Yunhai Mansion, 1329 Huaihai Road M. 淮海中路1329号3楼): Go explore. Various art, music, performances, events. An inclusive and diverse cultural club, providing a platform for communication and collision between creators in different media and fields. It transforms from an underground club to a contemporary theater, art exhibition space, etc.
Tang (141 Tai'an Road 泰安路141号): You won't be able to find it on Dianping, but it has a small entrance located next to La Pentanque. It is super chill for lounging to good music and hanging with friends. Opens till late.
Ying Yang aka YYs (B1, 125 Nanchang Road 南昌路125号B1): One of the first bars I visited when I moved to Shanghai. Many great memories there! Do order wontons!
Q: Any new discovery in your neighborhood lately?
I was in the Blackstone apartment for after-dinner drinks in this tiny hidden bar at the back next to Casa Mia. Find Casa Mia and you will find this nameless secret gem. Believe me, it actually does not have a name or a sign! Cool laid-back artsy crowd.
Cinta Blue(1468 Hongqiao Road 虹桥路1468号) is in Gubei, but I need to mention it as it was the perfect cure for my craving for southeast Asian food. Owner Eric will make you feel like you are back in Southeast Asia with his homey hospitality and authentic food.
Cometa (1405 Nansuzhou Road 南苏州路1405号) is another one, a cozy design spot with irresistible cross-cultural bites to unwind and forget you're in Shanghai.