In Shanghai, “café” is nearly synonymous with hipster. Still, the discerning trendsetter should check out one of these 13 spots to find a truly authentic experience.
Cafe, Tea , Chinese, $$$
Located on the trendy French Concession street Fumin Road is the even trendier coffee shop FUMI. Its owners entered the Shanghai food and beverage business by way of Flask speakeasy. FUMI may be easier to find than its late-night counterpart, but its fun and upscale coffee blends feel just as exclusive.
Sumerian is one of the few cafés in Shanghai that roasts its own beans and creates its own blends. The resulting brews have earned this bright, centrally located café fans from around the city, drawn to the flavor-packed coffees. It is run by the same team behind neighboring bar Dogtown and bagel shop Boom Boom. Keep an eye out for their frequent and popular block parties.
Go to Seesaw for the coffee, stay for the Strictly Cookies and French desserts. The café was founded by a group of young people who left positions at Fortune 500 companies to pursue their passion for coffee. That decision seems to have been the right one, as the coffee is simple yet consistently delicious, and the shop is as popular as ever.
While Mellower Coffee has brews that will knock over even the biggest caffeine fiend, sometimes it’s just about the Instagrammability of the drink. Meet “Sweet Little Rain,” a delightfully photogenic Americano served with a cotton candy cloud floating above it. As the steam from the coffee evaporates, it causes the cloud to melt and drip into the drink, sweetening the coffee and creating your own personal rain cloud.
Located at the junction of two high-foot-traffic Former French Concession streets, Anfu Rd and Wukang Rd, Marienbad Café is in the perfect position to welcome Shanghai’s yuppiest expats. Walking past, you will often find patrons with their furry friends sitting on the front porch watching the flower seller at her cart often parked across the street.
Part café, part street wear boutique, part record store, Kin is owned by one of the most active members of the city’s hip hop community. While you’re here buying the latest Yeezy’s and Vans, relax for a minute in the café and enjoy light snacks both Western and Chinese.
With its green façade, The Cottage is a visual highlight of cute Shanghai street Taojiang Rd, as well as a boho chic oasis with character in every corner. Here you’ll find an eclectic mix of antiques and travel books lining the walls, as well as vodka-spiked coffee, because sometimes you just need a little extra kick during the day.
It’s easy to miss Shaoxing Rd, but the historical street is packed with unique cafés, art galleries, bookstores, and publication houses. Combining the best of what the street has to offer is the Old China Hand Reading Room. This library-cum-café by photographer Deke Erh and historian Tess Johnston is the perfect place to bury your nose in an English book about China, all while enjoying tea and coffee.
The vibes at Xin Cafe in hip Changle Rd shopping center United Valley are open, airy, and industrial. The large space often hosts community events, and its walls are dotted with works by local artists. There’s plenty of space to get work done here. Coffee is simple, and prices are similar to those at Starbucks.
Brut Cake Cafe started life as a furniture store until enough people asked the question, “So where’s the cake?” The resulting East-meets-West café has quickly become the talk of the town. All the furniture is still for sale, but you can also eat delicious fusion treats like chicken and waffles, a steamed bun burger, or Chinese sausage Bolognese linguine. Coffee is also available courtesy of MQ Coffee.
Located in Shanghai’s trendy Xintiandi neighborhood is the upmarket specialty café Essence. Essence takes its coffee seriously, dealing only in single-plantation premium coffees. If you’re a connoisseur, or just not sure what you like, the menu describes the flavor profile and body of each brew. The café also spins creative coffee cocktails. A light Mediterranean-inspired food menu is available as well.
Cambio Coffee is much more than a coffee shop. Located in The Market, a converted indoor swimming pool, the walk-up café has neighbors like the vegetarian restaurant Happy Buddha, creperie Papito’s Pancakes, and fusion shop Asian Plus. This is a great place to get some work done during the day or to participate in one of The Market’s many private events.
The owner of under-the-radar spot 2nd Floor makes his own accordions, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to hear him play one while you’re in the café. The shop focuses on house-made sandwiches but also promotes the local arts and music scenes. Flip through one of the photography books and look out on bustling Changle Rd., and you have yourself a perfect afternoon.