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Tiánzǐfáng and Xīntiāndì are based on a similar idea – an entertainment complex housed within a warren of traditional lòngtáng (弄堂; alleyways) – but when it comes to genuine charm and vibrancy, Tiánzǐfáng is the one that delivers. You do need to wade through the souvenir stalls to get to the good stuff, but this network of design studios, cafes, bars and boutiques is the perfect antidote to Shànghǎi's oversized malls and intimidating skyscrapers. With some families still residing in neighbouring buildings, a community mood survives.
There are three main north–south lanes (Nos 210, 248 and 274) criss-crossed by irregular east–west alleyways, which makes exploration slightly disorienting and fun. Among the art galleries is Beaugeste, a forward-thinking photography gallery (only open at the weekends, by appointment at other times). The real activity is shopping, and the recent explosion of creative start-ups makes for some interesting finds, from vintage spectacle frames at Shanghai Code and cool homewares at concept store Taste, to hand-wrapped pǔ'ěr teas from Zhēnchálín. Elsewhere, a growing band of cool cafes, restaurants and bars, such as Kommune, East, Bell Bar and I Love Shanghai, can sort out meals and drinks and help take the weight off your feet.