As a freelance market consultant and writer who spends a lot of time working in coffee shops, I feel confident I could add “professional cafe-goer” to my resume. This was a difficult list to whittle down because my favorites are always changing. New cafés open up every couple few weeks in Shanghai, giving me ample opportunity for caffeine-fueled exploration. This week I plan to visit Le Mar, which has a window-front bar overlooking idyllic Shaoxing Road. When I’m not trying new spots, I rediscover old favorites, like Coffee Tree in Ferguson Lane that has a lovely, quiet terrace shared with French wine bars and bistros. More bistro-bakery than café, Sunflour is an Anfu Road staple that’s always bustling. That said, I tend to remain loyal to these five hangouts, which span from a sunny hipster hideaway with Wi-Fi and extension cords to a fancy French bakery with unbelievable pastries and a shady patio that’s perfect for reading.
See + Saw
Opened in 2013 in Jing’An district, SeeSaw is a popular Wi-Fi cafe for freelance creatives who need a strong Internet connection and even stronger coffee. Run by friendly local staff—self-professed “die-hard coffee nerds”—the cheerful spot is hidden away from the busy street, nestled into the light-flooded atrium of the modern Jing’an Design Center. Any time of day SeeSaw is packed with stylish young people lingering over their indie magazines and MacBooks for hours on end.
Baker & Spice
This wildly popular chain of cafes belongs to the omnipresent Wagas Group. While it isn’t the most charming or original café on this list, Baker & Spice has many locations around town and is a solid, reliable option for breakfast, lunch, or afternoon tea. Its reasonably priced, freshly made artisanal breads, gourmet pastries, decent coffee, and healthy lunch options never fail to please.
KIN is the city’s certifiably coolest menswear store and hip-hop hub run by Shanghai’s veteran DJ Gary Wang. The KIN compound is also home to the Grumpy Pig, an open, airy eatery with a sunny central atrium, Asian fusion menu, and old-school soundtrack featuring the likes of James Brown. Come here after the lunch rush to relish a cappuccino in a relaxed, stylish setting with metal bistro chairs and wooden tables under a skylight.
Californian David Seminsky opened Sumerian a few years ago for fellow hardcore coffee lovers who share his passion for brewing the perfect cup. Don’t be fooled by Sumerian’s serious, sommelier-like obsession for coffee—the earthy cafe is very relaxed, warm, and welcoming with just a few tables and large windows overlooking the street. In addition to coffee, Sumerian also has a healthy menu including quinoa salads and giant green smoothies.
Farine is a chic artisanal boulangerie headed by one of Shanghai’s most respected French chefs, Franck Pecol. Located in the stylish Ferguson Lane block, the petite-yet-airy café is perfumed with the gourmet aroma of pastries, coffee, and breads (along with a distinct whiff of Parisian snobbery). It’s expensive here, due to Pecol’s insistence on importing most of the ingredients from France to ensure high-quality, authentic flavor. In case you’re wondering, it’s worth the price.