When the weather is nice in October and November, and you wake up on Saturday or Sunday to find a day drenched in sunshine, you have to get outside and wander around the city. This is Shanghai at its best, and last weekend we enjoyed a spectacular day that featured a variety of highlights. The day was so perfect I thought I should share the complete itinerary. The next time the weather is beautiful, try this out and see what you think.
We started our day at Al's Diner in the former French Concession. We sat outside at the 208 Xinle Street location and it was the perfect day to linger over delicious French toast and blueberry lemon ricotta pancakes, accompanied by thick, gorgeous milkshakes. We figured we would be walking a lot during the afternoon, so why not fortify ourselves as much as possible? And brunch at Al's Diner will certainly fill you up for some time, especially if you indulge in the pancakes. Make sure you make a reservation on the weekends (easy to do online at http://www.eatatalsdiner.com/).
When we couldn't eat another bite, we relinquished our table and caught taxis to the old Jewish settlement, past the North Bund in the Hongkou district of the city. This slice of Shanghai's history is fascinating and thankfully has been preserved in the Ol Moishe Synagogue (Ol Moishe犹太教堂), now converted into a museum. Over 23,000 Jewish refugees (some sources say up to 30,000) found a safe haven in Shanghai during WWII in this part of the city. Conditions were tough and most families lived in tiny, cramped quarters (in fact, some apartments and rooms were home to dozens of refugees and some stayed in the synagogue, as well).
During the war, this section of Shanghai was under Japanese jurisdiction and residents had to obtain permission to leave the area and go to other parts of the city. Stories about these challenges and more are documented in great detail throughout the museum, allowing you to glimpse into the lives of specific people and experiences. The documentation is well done, and many artifacts and primary source documents illustrate what life was like the Jewish neighbourhood in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
When WWII ended, almost all refugees left Shanghai to return to Europe or settle in Israel, and this entire chapter of Shanghai's history closed. Thankfully, the museum keeps knowledge of this era alive, and I highly recommend visiting the museum if you're in the city. You can find it at 62 Changyang Lu,near Zhoushan Lu长阳路62号, 近舟山路. This is very close to the Tilanqiao metro stop (map below).
When you exit the museum, turn right and then right again on Zhoushan Road to find more interesting buildings associated with the 1930s and 1940s and the Jewish Ghetto. There is some signage in both English and Chinese to explain some significant buildings along this street. In fact, half way down Zhoushan Road, stop to read 3 panels of information adjacent to the sidewalk, and then look across the road to see the entrance to some alleyways. There is a wrought iron sign above the entrance that says "Chusan Leigh" and if you wander beneath that sign, you'll find yourself in a warren of tiny alleys and apartment buildings. These were all occupied by Jewish refugees during the WWII era. Further along Changyang Road (at #138), you can find another sign indicating the first building that was converted into refugee housing in 1938.
If you exit the museum and turn left, crossing the intersection at Haimen Road (as if you are headed for the metro), keep walking for a minute along Haimen Road and you'll find the Xiahai Buddhist Monastery (夏海佛教寺院). The name of this temple translates into "Go to Sea Temple" or "Under the Sea Temple" and it was re-built in 1941 after the original temple burned down. Sailors used to visit this temple for luck, and it's a lovely, quiet spot. While you're in the neighbourhood, definitely stop in and check it out.
After we spent time fully exploring the neighbourhood, we walked for about 30 minutes towards the North Bund, turning left to get closer to the river. We discovered a lovely walking and running trail that runs along the water; if you're a runner, this would be a great place to enjoy some morning exercise. Along the way, you'll encounter some fabulous modern architecture (photos below). If you're using Google Maps to get around, put Hyatt on the Bund in as your destination and you'll easily see how to walk towards the water and then to the hotel.
Our goal was to visit the Vue Bar (at Hyatt on the Bund) and soak in some skyline views bathed in late afternoon light. While the vistas from the roof of the Vue Bar were beautiful, there was limited seating and we ended up downstairs enjoying a sundowner with a window view. While other bars in Shanghai are better bets for both drink options and skyline access, if you're in this neighbourhood, it's worth stopping at the Vue Bar. Getting up above the city is always a treat and I never tire of seeing Lujaizui and the Bund from a variety of angles.
To top off our fabulous day, we grabbed taxis and made our way over to the Old City to find Jackie's Beer Nest (76 Zhaozhou Lu, near Dongtai Lu肇周路76号， 近东台路). This is said to be Shanghai's original craft beer emporium and it is an absolute must if you enjoy good beer. Jackie will be there himself to pour you some pints, and you can choose from many options; there must be about 50 beers on tap and more bottled options, too. It's a small, quaint place with pine-panelled walls (one wall is adorned with a deer head to complete the cabin-like decor). With some picnic tables in the middle and some stools against the walls, the environment inspires patrons to chat and socialize; while there, we met some lovely American travellers from 3-4 different states.
If you get hungry while sipping your pints, you can order lamb skewers that will be served piping hot from a vendor around the corner. We enjoyed several of these, along with some noodles from a noodle shop (around the same corner, just left of Jackie's), before calling it a day and heading back to the Pudong side of town.