Things to do in Shanghai’s Koreatown

Shanghai Living

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Koreatown is a weird place for foreigners in Shanghai. While many of you will undoubtedly have been at some point, chances are it was a one off occurrence. Much like Pudong, Koreatown’s distance from Jing’an and Xujiahui dissuades many from visiting the area which sucks because Koreans really know how to eat, drink and have a great time. Here’re some of the best things we enjoy doing down in K-town.

Many of the people we speak to in China are surprised to find out that it’s relatively easy to visit North Korea and that there are direct flights from Shanghai to Pyongyang. Still, if you’re a bit too nervous to plan your next holiday in the hermit kingdom, the Pyongyang restaurant (Chinese name: 平壤雪景馆) in Koreatown makes for a nice alternative. Compared to the city’s other North Korean restaurants, the food is relatively cheap and at 19:30 every evening the waitresses put on a performance that features Korean KTV classics like 반갑습니다, dancing, and even a bit of gayageum (the Korean instrument in the picture above) shredding. 

Sannakji, truly one of South Korea’s most controversial dishes. For those of you who haven’t seen our video, Sannakji is live octopus that’s cut up at your table and that still squirms around in your mouth as you bite into it. While we don’t particularly enjoy eating these eight-legged sea creatures we’ve got to admit, sannakji is the best tasting octopus we’ve ever had.

While Kimchi is pretty easy to buy around Shanghai, the supermarkets in Koreatown are the only places we’ve found where you can buy the freshly-made variety. The kimchi we bought here is on par with some of the better portions we’ve enjoyed in Seoul.  Of course if you’re more interested in quantity over quality, Koreatown has you covered on that front as well. Avid kimchi lovers will be happy to know the stores here stock 5kg sacks of the fermented Korean side dish.

Ah Kyochon, before we found you we were convinced that nothing could beat the combination of buffalo wings and a blue cheese sauce, how wrong we were.  Seriously, if you’ve never been to Kyochon you’re missing out. They serve a small selection of Korean-themed dishes but they’re most famous for their chicken wings which come in three different flavours, soy garlic (original), red pepper (spicy), honey (bring you to the point of orgasm). Go for honey flavoured wings and thank us later.

We know, who would’ve guessed that Koreatown is home to Shanghai’s best Korean food?! While we have our own personal K-town favourites on this trip we were determined to find out where the local Koreans in the area go when they’re missing home. After asking around, the one place that kept coming up was Zixiamen in the Korea Food Plaza. When we visited the service was great and the BBQ was on point. We also saw large numbers of Koreans eating and working in the restaurant, definitely a good sign.

While winter may well be on the way, there’re still a few warm evenings left to enjoy sitting outside and getting your drink on. If you’re reading this and it’s already freezing, don’t worry, once the cold sets in many of the restaurants have covered, heated outside areas where guests can continue to enjoy their Soju. One thing we do promise is that a night out here will be far more enjoyable than that hellish shithole Yongkang Lu ever was.

After you’ve had your fill of Soju and incredible food head on over to New Star Spa to relax and sweat out the booze. For those who haven’t been to a Jimjilbang it’s basically a large bathhouse separated into wet and dry areas. The wet areas are divided by gender where guests strip down to their birthday suits and bathe in a number of hot and cold pools of water. The dry area is where men and women can relax together and features saunas, relaxation rooms, a cinema, a Korean restaurant, massage areas, and hair and nail boutiques. We usually go to the New Star on Yan’an Xi Lu, so this one felt a little smaller than usual but it’s just as enjoyable. 

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