From Art Deco architecture to blues and jazz, and acrobatics performances to a delicious dim sum lunch, the Pearl of the Orient has plenty to seduce its guests this August
Glamorous Shanghai has reinstated its legendary position as the eastern metropolis of excess and extravagance, a city where Charlie Chaplin, Noël Coward and Aldous Huxley were once spotted in its elegant dance halls or opium dens.
A Thirties copper door, part of Shanghai’s rich Art Deco heritage
There is still an echo of the swinging Twenties and Thirties in Shanghai’s cityscape, and next year in November the biannual World Congress on Art Deco will take place here. Until then, you can get a taster with Historic Shanghai’s Art Deco walking tour, held at 10am on 9 August. There’s no need to reserve a place, just show up at the corner of Gao’an and Kangping roads.
If that doesn’t satisfy your desire for vintage Shanghai, there’s Big Band, Swing and Dixieland playing at jazz venues across town this month. JZ Club in the French Concession showcases Bebop and Latin; around the corner the smoky Cotton Club knows how to jazz it up, and don’t miss traditional jazz Sundays through August at the House of Blues and Jazz, which offers classic New Orleans sounds.
The Cangelosi Cards jazz band performing at Shanghai’s House of Blues and Jazz
Until the end of August, the Shanghai Museum in People’s Square will be hosting Tracing History: Archaeological Discoveries in Shanghai, featuring hundreds of locally unearthed artefacts such as Neolithic jades, bronzes of the Spring and Autumn period, and religious objects of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Ambitiously, the exhibition aims to use these fragments of history to forecast Shanghai’s future urban evolution.
The Royal Asiatic Society has an alluring book club date in August exploring Hergé’s famed cartoon Tin Tin and the Blue Lotus. The story traces Tin Tin’s adventures in Shanghai, where he faces several hair-raising attempts on his life. The beloved Belgian cartoonist is acclaimed for his draughtsmanship and twisting-turning plots. Join the discussions at the Sino-British College at 7pm on 18 August.
The Shanghai Museum, home to ancient Chinese art
It’s cheesy but it’s undeniably spectacular: ‘ERA Intersection of Time’ is Shanghai’s best acrobatics show, bringing together traditional Chinese arts and cutting-edge special effects. The storyline follows China’s epic history, highlighting inventions and discoveries through the centuries. There are more than a dozen acts, including human pyramids, mirrored mirages and extreme trapeze, and it’s held every night in August at 7.30pm at Shanghai Circus World.
For the perfect way to find some inner peace, catch ‘Dance Theatre Dreams of Zen’, a performance inspired by the classical Chinese novel A Dream in the Red Mansion, as well as Buddhist and Taoist themes. It will be showing on 8 and 9 August at the Shanghai Culture Square.
Acrobats take part in the performance ‘ERA Intersection of Time'
Finally, Shanghai is not only about feeding the soul. Have an alfresco dim sum lunch at the Xin Dau Ji restaurant in leafy Xiangyang Park. After dark, try the newly opened Bistro 321 Le Bec, serving impeccable French food courtesy of Michelin-starred chef Nicolas le Bec. For slick Shanghainese dining, Yuan Yuan touts excellent seafood and local speciality xiaolongbao, a soup-filled steamed dumpling. And the culinary delights continue at Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai’s three restaurants. Choose from Fifty 8° Grill, offering a fusion of classic and modern French food; Yong Yi Ting, for delicately flavoured, aromatically-scented regional Jiang Nan cuisine; and Zest, a stylish all-day dining room, serving Asian and international dishes.
Michelle Jana Chan is a travel writer and the presenter of the BBC’s Global Guide