The Former French Concession is a part of Shanghai which was administered by the French government for almost a hundred years, from 1849 to 1943. (Concessions were lands given over or conceded to other countries, e.g. France and Great Britain, and controlled by their respective governments.) The French Concession has no definitive boundaries now; its extensive 8 km area falls within the current urban center of Shanghai’s Puxi side of the Huang Pu River, and west of the Bund.
The French Concession is an oasis of calm in the midst of the modern, crowded, and bustling skyscraper Shanghai jungle, dotted with a wide variety of trendy cafes and restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, and antique stores. The early 20th century Tudor and European style mansions, villas, and buildings built along the avenues, streets, and alleys of the area are lined with gorgeous Sycamore trees imported from France during the time of its governance.
By the 1920s, it had become a premium residential area in Shanghai, and today it is one of the most sought-after places to live, besides being home to popular shopping and dining spots.
Even though the area has a French flavor, it has a quintessentially Chinese essence.
Things To Do In The French Concession
- There are a number of parks in the French Concession including Xiangyang Park, Shaoxing Park, and Fuxing Park which is the largest and most popular park here, filled with mahjong players and tai chi artists in its several gardens, open seating spaces, and restaurants.
- Shop till you drop! Innumerable shopping opportunities abound in the leafy streets of this neighborhood; some good streets for shopping in the French Concession include;
Xinle Road – women’s boutiques Nanchang Road – women’s boutiques, cafes, DVD shops, antiques, and curios
Tianzifang – a pedestrian-only shopping and eating district with a high concentration of one-of-a-kind trendy and traditional stores
Anfu Road – everything from bakeries to art galleries and Tibetan carpets
Ulumuqi Road – fruit, veggies, and all kinds of local hardware and homewares
Times Square – some of the larger malls are found here
Julu – a collection of creative boutiques
Changle – handicraft stores including pottery and silk qipao shops
Xujiahui – everything electronic including game consoles, computers, MP3 players, memory cards, and computer accessories
Xintiandi – has both a mall and several small stores
- For history buffs, there are a number of historic buildings here including:
Sun Yat-sen’s Former Residence, now a museum of the founder of China’s republic.
Zhou Enlai’s Former Residence, the former Shanghai Office of the Delegation of the Communist Party in China, now a museum of the Communist revolution in China.
Soong Ching Ling’s Former Residence, a museum with about the official founding of the P.R.C.
Site of the First National Congress of CPC, where the Communist Party of the P.R.C. had their first congressional meetings.
- The French Concession is packed with exquisite, tiny, well-known restaurants serving authentic and inexpensive, rich foods. If you want to fully relish the flavours and aromas of local foods, go on a culinary tour of popular Shanghainese, spicy Hunanese, exotic Yunnanese, or nouveau Chinese cuisine to explore the wide array of Shanghai’s signature soup dumplings or xiaolongbao, saucy rice dishes, rice noodles, Henan hand-stretched noodles, chowmien (fried noodles), Lo Mien noodles, or ‘eight treasures’ congee made with peanuts, dates, red beans, yam, lotus seeds, green beans, and the iconic bamboo shoot.
- One of the distinctive features of the French Concession is its shady Sycamore-lined avenues which are perfect for long walks along which you can admire the stunning French-style architecture with its prominent red bricks and ornate window fittings. You can keep stopping for coffee, food, or shopping breaks along this delightful walk. Some famous roads include Wukang Lu, Fuxing Lu, Tai’an Lu, Dongping Lu, Julu Lu, Taojiang Lu, Wulumuqi Lu, Yongfu Lu, Xinle Lu and Changle Lu.
- Famous Areas not to miss;
Huaihai Road – located in the downtown of French Concession; one of the busiest and most beautiful commercial streets in Shanghai with its modern architecture and top-end fashionable shops and restaurants.
Tianzifang – an iconic Art Street with a maze of alleys housing funky art stores; pop-up art galleries; creative studios; furniture, décor, and handicraft shops; tea houses; open-air restaurants; outdoor cafes, and boutiques. The old alleys still have homes from the early 20th century with dormer windows and red tiles.
Sinan Road – home to the Sinan Mansions, a concentration of almost all the classic architectural styles of early 20th century Shanghai. Walk along the boutique hotels, service apartments, and residential and commercial mansions here for a fascinating and charming architectural display.
Ruijin Second Road – a tree-lined boulevard with authentic Shanghai longtangs, a distinctive Shanghai architecture style.
Sylvan Streets – home to Shanghai’s Art Deco residential architecture, said to be the world’s largest.
Tips for the French Concession
- Due to the French Concession’s vastness, it is not possible to explore all of it in one go, so select your personal preference and try to explore that facet. If you want to see local architecture, go to Xintiandi; if you want to go shopping, go to Huaihai Lu.
- Between your sight-seeing, squeeze in some walking and eating sessions for a fuller experience of character of the French Concession.
Recommended Walking Tour Of The French Concession
This walking tour will take almost a whole day as it covers most of the highlights of the area. Start, break or end the tour as you like.
Xintiandi – Fuxing Park – Sinan Road – Former Residence of Dr. Sun Yat-sen – Sinan Mansions – Former Residence of Zhou Enlai – Taikang Road – Tianzifang – Jianguo Middle Road – Ruijin Second Road – Shaoxin Road – Shaanxi Road – Yongjia Road – Cultrural Square – South Maoming Road – Rui Jin Guesthouse – Wukang Road – Middle Huaihai Road – Jinjiang Hotel – Garden Hotel – Changle Road – Julu Road – Moller Villa – North Xiangyang Road – Orthodox Cathedral – Xinle Road – Fenyang Road – Conservatory of Music – Arts and Crafts Museum – Dongping Road – Hengshan Road – Christian Church – Xujiahui
Recommended Hotels in French Concession
Getting to French Concession
Take the metro line 10 or line 13, and get off at Xintiandi Station.
Take the metro line 13, get off at Middle Huaihai Road Station.
Take the metro line 1, line 9, or line 11, and get off at Xujiahui Station.