The French Concession area of Shanghai, China was the area designated for the French in the years before the Second World War. Since China shed its curtain of secrecy and moved into the modern world, the French Concession area has also become one of Shanghai’s fastest developing areas and one of the city’s top tourist attractions. With trendy cafes, restaurants and shops, European-style architecture and historically-important buildings, it’s easy to see why the French Concession area is so popular. If you’re planning on visiting on your next trip to Shanghai, although there are many things to see and do, make sure you do these top five.
Become a Street Walker – The first thing you should see when you get to the French Concession area are the tree-lined avenues, incredible architecture, cool and trendy shops and restaurants, and little tucked-away cafes. The area has such a unique feel to it, the only way you’ll experience it properly is to walk and soak it all in.
While other guides will tell you “start off at this street, then go to this one”, I recommend simply starting at one end of the French Concession area and walking all of it. There are so many interesting alleyways, stunning houses and cute cafes and shops, it would be a crime to miss any of it.
Zhou Enlai’s Former Residence – One of the must-sees in the French Concession area is Zhou Enlai’s former residence. Zhou Enlai was the popular first leader of the People’s Republic of China and lived in this Spanish-style villa while plotting against the government. One of the places where the beginnings of the great modern nation of China really started out, the house is now a museum that shows the rise of the Communist Party in China. It also has free admission. Zhou Enlai’s Former Residence is at 73 Sinan Road, French Concession area, Shanghai.
Fuxing Park – Fuxing Park is a lovely part of the French Concession area and a wonderful way to observe authentic Chinese life. Here, you’ll see Chinese tai chi practicers, old women singing Chinese opera, dancers and old men and women playing mahjong during the daytime, while the young folks gather at night to walk, talk and sit at small restaurants and cafes in the park to relax and watch the world go by. Fuxing Park is a beautiful oasis away from the bustle of Shanghai and a pleasant place to just watch Chinese life. Fuxing Park is at 105 Fuxing Zhong Rd, Shanghai.
See a Movie at the Cathay Theare – One of the first examples of Art Deco architecture and one of the first movie theaters ever built in Shanghai, the Cathay Theatre still shows movies today. With a choice of Chinese or western movies, it’s well worth spending an afternoon at the Cathay Theatre just to admire its former glory and to imagine the hundreds of thousands of Chinese who sat here before you.
Shanghai Arts and Crafts Research Institute – An incredible place to watch authentic Chinese artists as they make traditional Chinese arts and crafts. Traditional Chinese paper cuts (those amazing pictures of typical daily scenes, flowers and birds made out of one single sheet of paper) are created here, along with embroidery, porcelain, handmade snuff bottles and more. Best time to visit is in the morning. Shanghai Arts and Crafts Research Institute is at Fenyang Lu 79, Shanghai.
How To Get to the French Concession Area – The last thing you need to know is how to get to the French Concession area of Shanghai. It’s easy. Take the Metro Line 1 subway line, and get off at either Shanxi Nan Lu Station or Xujiahui Station and start to walk.
Zhou Enlai’s Former Residence