Spend a Day in Shanghai’s French Concession Area

August 27, 2015
Kayla Bernardino
5 min read

For this week’s Travel Influencer series, we have a guest blog by Ainslie Young, a blogger, passionate traveler and life coach in-training. Ainslie helps spirited women boldly step up and step out of their cozy little comfort zones so they can live the life that they truly desire.

Shanghai’s famous former French Concession area, commonly referred to as the “Paris of the East,” is a brilliant mix of East meets West and is a must-see when visiting this cosmopolitan city.

Picture wandering down atmospheric, leafy streets lined with beautiful Tudor style houses, sprinkled with French patisseries, trendy European styled cafes and local hole-in the wall eateries.

Below, I share how you can spend a relaxed day wandering the streets and enjoy the must-see sights of this incredible district of Shanghai.

Image source: Ainslie Young
Image source: Ainslie Young

1. Shanghai Propaganda Art Poster Centre

Start your day off with a hint of Chinese culture and visit the somewhat hidden Shanghai Propaganda Art Poster Centre. Don’t be alarmed when you arrive and realise the museum is located in the basement of a residential complex….you are at the right place!

Although the museum is small, it reveals so much of China’s recent history through its fascinating collection of propaganda posters. The owner of the Museum, Mr. Yang Pei Ming explains that most of the posters were rescued from rubbish bins and recycling plants and date from 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.

I can guarantee that a few of the posters will take your eye, but unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take photos in the museum. So I suggest you visit the gift shop if you have your heart set on a reproduction or even an original poster.

Location – 868 Huashan Road, Building 4, Basement (BOC), Changing.

Opening Hours – 10am –  5pm

Admission – 20 RMB

Image source: Ainslie Young
Image source: Ainslie Young

2. Fuxing Park

After you’ve got your fix of Chinese history, take a relaxing stroll through the lush, green surroundings of Fuxing Park. Whilst wandering through the shady sycamore tree-lined paths, you’ll find locals practicing tai-chi and enjoying animated games of mahjong and cards. You’ll even see Opera wannabes singing their hearts out to the sound of an accordion.

Along with offering fantastic people watching opportunities, Fuxing Park also showcases a fantastic blend of the colonial French era and the local Shanghainese vibe. As you continue wandering through the park, you will pass gorgeous fountains, statues, lily-filled ponds, seasonal flowerbeds and covered pavilions.

If you’re looking for a place to chill-out and recharge your batteries in Shanghai, this is the perfect place!

Location – 516 Fuxing Middle Rd, Huangpu District

Admission – Free

Image source: Ainslie Young
Image source: Ainslie Young

3. Zhou Enlai’s Former Residence

If you’re still in a strolling mood, continue walking from Fuxing Park down Sinan Road to 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 Party’s rise to power.

This three-story French Concession residence features sparsely decorated rooms with only a few belongings in each room.

I enjoyed seeing the inside of a French colonial home, particularly the beautiful back garden that can be admired from its sweeping balconies.

Admission is free and there is also a more comprehensive museum to the side of Zhou Enlai’s former residence, which is definitely worth a look if you’re a history buff.

Location – 73 Sinan Road, Huangpu District

Admission – Free

Image source: Ainslie Young
Image source: Ainslie Young

4. Tianzifang

If you’re keen for a bite to eat and some shopping whilst you’re in the French Concession area, head to TianZiFang off Taikang Road.

TianZiFang is a must-see in Shanghai and is a maze of narrow alleyways full of trendy boutiques, local art, design studios, and a plethora of yummy eateries.

If you need a caffeine hit and something sweet before you explore the labyrinth of shops, you definitely can’t go wrong with Trifelle. This quaint coffee house with a very narrow staircase sells, you guessed it, super yummy trifles and decent coffee! Hot tip – try the lemon meringue. It’s to die for!

Take your time and discover what TianZiFang has to offer by checking out the few remaining shikumen buildings (stone-framed-door houses) left in Shanghai. Locals still actually live in this busy area, which definitely adds to the atmosphere.

The range of shops is incredible, including the boutiques who stock up-and-coming local designers, a great leather shop that sells beautiful bound journals, and multiple cute card stores, where you can pen a postcard and send it on the spot!

Tianzifang can get pretty busy, so I suggest you visit on a weekday to avoid the crowds.

Location – Lane 210, Taikung Road, Luwan District

Opening Hours – all shops have different operating hours, but most are open between 10am – 11pm.

Image source: Ainslie Young
Image source: Ainslie Young

5. Eat Up A Storm

Shanghai has an abundance of amazing restaurants offering up cuisines from around the world and the former French Concession area is no exception. After a full day of wandering the streets, what better way to end your adventure with a scrumptious dinner?

If you’re frequenting the ‘Paris of the East’ you MUST dine in a French Bistro. I highly recommend Bistro Le Bec, full of rustic charm with its dark furnishings and high vaulted ceilings. This beautiful bistro offers an extensive menu, with a ‘must-try’ being the Beef Cheek with a side of mouth-watering, creamy mashed potatoes . If you have a sweet tooth, I also suggest you leave room for a heavenly pastry.

If you would prefer to feast on more local delights, Dim Sum Garden in the Changning district serves up amazing Cantonese cuisine. The classic Chinese dumplings and buns are not to be missed. Plus the prices are very reasonable!

Lost Heaven is another great dinner option in the former French Concession area, especially if you’re looking for something special. This enchanting restaurant specialises in the tribal cuisine of China’s Yunnan province and perfectly combines delicious dishes with an exotic atmosphere. Perfect for the younger hipster crowd, who enjoy good food!

Bistro Le Bec – 321 Xinhua Road, Changning District

Dim Sum Garden – No.396-1 Shanxi South Road, Xuhui

Lost Heaven – No. 38 Gaoyou Lu, Xuhui

Image source: Ainslie Young
Image source: Ainslie Young

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Featured Image Source: Ainslie Young