Between the hot months and the chill of winter, with fresh mornings and balmy afternoons, October is a great time to visit Shanghai.
The annual Golden Week holiday falls right at the start, and September’s Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes will still be in the shops.
This month also sees the 15th Shanghai International Arts Festival, with a vibrant mix of Western and Chinese music performances from artists such as Cecilia Bartoli and Karen Mok
(both of whom are MO Fans)
. Catch dance recitals from the Chongqing Ballet and traditional opera shows in the Peking and Pingju styles. The festival runs for a month, starting on 18 October, at various locations around the city.
Shanghai’s neighbourhoods and districts have their own character and identity. The Pudong (east) side of the Huangpu River is the city’s modern economic powerhouse and home to the Oriental Pearl Tower. In 1994, the Pearl was the tallest building in China, and although that accolade was later taken by the nearby Shanghai World Financial Center, it remains an icon, with its space-age spike and glittery pink façade. The glass-floored viewing deck is well worth the entrance fee, and the panoramic overview of the city is a good way to get your bearings and understand Shanghai’s scale.
Old Shanghai’s commercial buzz centres on the Puxi waterfront, where you’ll find the legendary stretch of neo-classical buildings known as the Bund. Once nicknamed the ‘Wall Street of Asia’, it was here that foreign companies, from shipping firms to banks, kept their headquarters. Start at Bund 1 at the junction of Yan’an Road and walk up to the Garden Bridge.
Shanghai also has pockets of history dating beyond the Concession era. The Old City, a warren of roads and lanes, once encircled by a Ming Dynasty wall, retains its charm. The Yu Garden, the most famous site in the area, is usually packed with tourists and touts, so head to the nearby City God Temple – a better bet for experiencing both the city’s past and its quiet continuation of ancient religions.
The French Concession is defined by its attractive architecture – art deco villas and apartment blocks – tree-arched streets, quiet lanes, and countless bars, cafés and boutiques. Explore it with a stroll, starting where Yongjia Road begins, at the junction of Ruijin Road, and head west along its full length, ending up at Hengshan Road. And if this has whetted your appetite for the glamorous and Gallic, you can dine on French cuisine at Fifty 8˚ Grill at Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai, whose gastronomic flair, in a stunning art deco-inspired space, comes courtesy of Michelin-starred Richard Ekkebus.
Susie Gordon is a Shanghai-based journalist and author of Moon Handbooks Beijing & Shanghai