Hóngkǒu and North Shànghǎi (虹口区、北上海) may not have the lion’s share of sights in town, but prize chunks of heritage architecture rise up from the swirl of street life and an authentic grittiness survives.
The up-and-coming North Bund area beyond Sūzhōu Creek is worth exploring for its impressive buildings, including the granddaddy of heritage hotels – the Astor House Hotel – looming art deco blocks and noteworthy concession-era classics. The American Settlement was originally here, merging with the British Settlement in 1863 to form the prosperous International Settlement. To the west, Zháběi became infamous for its sweatshops and factories and was later flattened by the Japanese in 1932.
A rich vein of Jewish heritage survives towards Yángpǔ in the east, dating from the days when Hóngkǒu was home to thousands of Jewish refugees, mostly from Germany, who transformed ‘Little Tokyo’ (where 30,000 Japanese lived) into ‘Little Vienna’. The Ohel Moishe Synagogue stands as a testament to this era. Wander round this neighbourhood and you’ll also find examples of Shànghǎi’s trademark terrace-style shíkùmén (stone-gate house) architecture, lòngtáng (alleyway) houses and narrow alleyways in between.
Close to the Bund, Hóngkǒu has some excellently positioned accommodation options, and while notable restaurants may seem thin on the ground, work your shoe leather and you can track down excellent options from across China.