After spending a few days in Shanghai’s picturesque French Concession Area, it’s easy to see why this city was known as the ‘Paris of the East.’
The wide tree-lined streets are dotted with European styled cafes as well as local hole-in-the-wall eateries. Beautiful Tudor style houses sit behind high walls surrounded by leafy green gardens and locals pedal past on their bikes.
I spent a good two days just wandering the streets of the French concession and below I share my highlights from the East to the West to help you plan your visit to Shanghai!
1. Walk The Streets
Shanghai is super flat and made for walking. You could pretty much start your tour at any place within the French Concession area and just start strolling.
There is so much to see and walking is definitely the best way to really experience this sensational part of Shanghai.
A street that I particularly enjoyed was Wukang Road, which interests with a number of pretty streets including Fuxing Road and WuLuMuQi Road. These are some of the most beautiful French Concession streets thanks to their quiet nature, tree-lined appeal and them teaming with boutiques and restaurants.
To explore the French Concession area by foot, all you have to do is arm yourself with a map, an adventurous spirit and follow the signs. Thankfully all of the Shanghai street signs are clearly marked in English and Chinese and show directions (ie. North, South etc) which makes wandering around super simple.
2. Fuxing Park
Whilst you’re in the walking mood, take a stroll through this expansive and lush green parkland and get a feel for the mix of colonial French era and the local Shanghainese vibe.
As you wander through the shady sycamore tree lined paths you will pass gorgeous fountains, statues, lily-filled ponds, seasonal flowerbeds and covered pavilions.
Fuxing Park is fabulous for people watching!
You will witness locals busting out their Tai-Chi moves, animated oldies playing mahjong or cards as well as a few boisterous guys belting out Chinese opera to the sound of an accordion.
Fuxing Park is a great place to recharge your batteries whilst absorbing the local culture from the comfort of a park bench.
Where – Fuxing Park
Location – 516 Fuxing Middle Rd, Huangpu District
Metro – Xintiandi Station
Admission – Free
3. Zhou Enlai’s Former Residence
A short walk from Fuxing Park is Zhou Enlai’s former residence.
Serving under Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai was the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China and played a significant role in the Communist’s Party’s rise to power.
You will find Zhou Enlai’s three-story residence on Sinan Road just down from the Sinan Mansion complex.
This French Concession house features sparsely decorated rooms with only a few belongings in each but it’s an experience to just see inside this type of dwelling.
I especially enjoyed admiring the back garden and looking out the balconies, imagining what Shanghai was like in Zhou Enlai’s time.
Admission is free, and it’s a great opportunity to wander through the residence and get a feel for the French architecture.
Where – Zhou Enlai’s Former Residence
Location – 73 Sinan Road, Huangpu District
Metro – Xintiandi Station
Admission – Free
If you want to do some shopping whilst you’re in the French Concession area, head to TianZiFang off Taikang Road.
TianZiFang is a gritty labyrinth of narrow alleyways, which is known for its art and design studios, craft stores, boutiques and trendy eateries.
TianZiFang is one of a small number of remaining Shanghai shikumen buildings (stone-framed-door houses). Locals still live in the heaving lanes, which really adds to the vibrant atmosphere.
Take your time to explore all that TianZiFang has to offer and enjoy browsing the quaint shops.
I especially liked the multiple postcard shops, where they encourage you to write a postcard and send it there and then! Plus, there’s a great leather shop that sells bound leather journals and little accessories.
If all the wandering through the French concession area makes you hungry, there are a multitude of great dining options in TianZiFang.
I can highly recommend a stop off at a little coffee house, Trifelle. We got our caffeine hit with a shot of espresso and of course we had to try their yummy looking trifles! The lemon meringue and red-velvet were delicious!
Where – TianZiFang
Location- Lane 210, Taikung Road, Luwan District
Metro – Dapuqiao Station, Exit 1
Opening Hours – all shops have different operating house, but most are open between 10am – 11pm.
*I recommend going on a weekday if possible to avoid the crowds
5. Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre
Whilst you’re wandering the streets of the French Concession make sure you visit the somewhat hidden Shanghai Propaganda Museum.
Situated in the basement of a residential complex, once you pass the security guards you will find yourself amongst a fascinating collection of propaganda posters.
Many of the posters were rescued from recycling centres and rubbish bins and date back to the early days of 1949, the founding of the People’s Republic of China, to the end of the Cultural Revolution in the late 1970’s.
Although it’s small, it provides a fascinating insight into China’s recent history.
The gift shop is also worth a look, as it sells both original and reproduction prints of the various posters.
An original and colourful poster of the YuYuan gardens took our eye and we made it our own….something to remember our short stint in Shanghai!
(You’re not allowed to take photos in the Museum – hence the one sneaky photo above and a picture of the gift shop below!).
Location – 868 Huashan Road, Building 4, Basement (BOC), Changing.
(You will come to the gate of the residential complex and the security guards should give you a little business card with directions to the Art Centre – it’s easy to find).
Metro – Shanghai Library Station – 20 minute walk
Opening Hours – 10am – 5pm
Admission – 20 RMB
6. Dine at a French Bistro
Shanghai has a wealth of amazing restaurants to choose from, but you can’t hang out in the French Concession area without having a French meal!
Friends who live in Shanghai recommended we try the quaint Bistro Le Bec on Xinhua Lu, and it didn’t disappoint.
The Bistro definitely has rustic charm, with it’s high vaulted ceilings and dark wood furnishes. Again, the tree lined streets give a not-so-subtle hint that you could be dining in Paris.
The menu is extensive and written in French, English and Chinese.
I can highly recommend the Beef Cheek with a side of creamy mashed potatoes. If you still have room after a rich French meal you can’t go past Bistro Le Bec’s dessert menu.
We shared a slice of the Lemon Tart and it was scrumptious!
This is a great place to just chill out, have a hearty meal and enjoy a glass of wine as the streets of Shanghai pass you by!
Where – Bistro Le Bec
Address – 321 Xinhua Road, Changning District
Metro – Hongquio Station
Opening Hours – 11.30-2.30pm, 6-11pm Tue-Sun.
Have you been to Shanghai and wandered around the French Concession Area? Was there anywhere I missed that you think I should know about? I would love for you to share your thoughts in the comments!
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