Must see attractions in French Concession

  • Top ChoiceSights in French Concession

    Tianzifang

    Tianzifang and Xintiandi are based on a similar idea – an entertainment complex housed within a warren of lòngtáng (弄堂, alleyways). Unlike Xintiandi, families actually reside in Tianzifang and have done so for decades, meaning there's a genuine charm, vibrancy and community. 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 Shanghai's oversized malls and intimidating skyscrapers.

  • Top ChoiceSights in French Concession

    Xintiandi

    With its own namesake metro station, Xintiandi has been a Shanghai icon for over a decade. An upmarket entertainment and shopping complex modelled on traditional alleyway ( lòngtáng) homes, this was the first development in the city to prove that historical architecture makes big commercial sense. Elsewhere that might sound like a no-brainer, but in 21st-century China, where bulldozers are always on standby, it came as quite a revelation.

  • Top ChoiceSights in French Concession

    Shanghai Museum of Public Security

    This offbeat and macabre museum over three floors details how the Chinese authorities keep control. Display cases depict the illicit activities local cops have encountered, the equipment police use to aid their work and the punishments given for such crimes. On display are tasers, lots of guns (one concealed in a violin case), seized gambling tables, restraining equipment (handcuffs, stocks and shackles), and a model-scale replica of the room in which war criminals were hung, among other eye-opening displays.

  • Top ChoiceSights in French Concession

    Propaganda Poster Art Centre

    Design junkies and history buffs will love this vast collection of original posters from 1950s, ’60s and ’70s China, stored in the basement of a residential block. Many were produced in the golden age of Maoist poster production and are awash with iconic emblems of communism: red tractors, bumper harvests, muscled peasants and lantern-jawed proletarians. The exhibition rounds off with a collection of cigarette posters from the 1920s. There's also a shop selling collector’s items including original and replica posters and postcards.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Liuli China Museum

    Founded by Taiwanese artists Loretta Yang and Chang Yi, the Liuli China Museum is dedicated to the art of glass sculpture ( pâte de verre or lost-wax casting). Peruse the collection of ancient artefacts – some of which date back more than 2000 years – to admire the early artisanship of pieces such as earrings, belt buckles and even a Tang dynasty crystal wéiqí (Go) set.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum

    Repositioned as a museum, this arts and crafts institute displays traditional crafts such as needlepoint embroidery, paper cutting, lacquer work, jade cutting and lantern making. Watch traditional crafts being executed live by craftspeople and admire the wonderful exhibits, from jade to ivory to inkstones and beyond. The 1905 building itself is a highlight, once serving as the residence for Chen Yi, Shanghai’s first mayor after the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Soong Qingling’s Former Residence

    Built in the 1920s by a Greek shipping magnate, this quiet building became home to Soong Qingling, wife of Dr Sun Yatsen, from 1948 to 1963. Size up two of her black limousines (one a gift from Stalin) in the garage and pad about the house, conjuring up sensations of yesteryear from its period furnishings. The highlight is the gorgeous garden, with tall magnolias and camphor trees towering over a delightful lawn, where Song entertained guests with conversation and tea.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Fuxing Park

    This leafy spot with a large lawn, laid out by the French in 1909 and used by the Japanese as a parade ground in the late 1930s, remains one of the city’s more enticing parks. There is always plenty to see here: the park is a refuge for the elderly and a practising field for itinerant musicians, chess players, people walking backwards and slow-moving taichi types.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Shikumen Open House Museum

    This two-floor exhibition invites you into a typical shíkùmén (stone-gate house) household, decked out with period furniture. The ground-floor arrangement contains a courtyard, entrance hall, bedroom, study and lounge. There's a small kitchen to the rear and natural illumination spills down from tiānjǐng (light wells) above. The small, north-facing wedge-shaped tíngzijiān (pavilion) room on the landing, almost at the top of the stairs between the 1st and 2nd floors, was a common feature of shíkùmén, and was often rented out.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Sun Yatsen’s Former Residence

    Sun Zhongshan predictably receives the full-on hagiographic treatment at this shrine to China’s guófù (国父, father of the nation). A capacious exhibition hall next door has more than 150 cultural items on exhibit exalting his memory and serves as a full-on prelude to his pebble-dash ‘Spanish-style’ home. There's a free audio guide if you leave your driving licence or passport for a deposit.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Ba Jin’s Former Residence

    This charming little pebble-dash residence with a delightful garden is where the acclaimed author Ba Jin (1904–2005) lived from 1955 to the mid-1990s. Ba was the author of dozens of novels and short stories (including Random Thoughts and Family, which later influenced Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen). His house today contains a collection of old photos, books and manuscripts.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Chinese Printed Blue Nankeen Exhibition Hall

    Head down the lane and through courtyards until you see blue cloth drying in the yard. Originally produced in Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guizhou provinces, this blue-and-white cotton fabric (sometimes called blue calico) is similar to batik, and is coloured using a starch-resist method and indigo dye bath. This museum and shop display and sell items made by hand, from the cloth right down to the buttons.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Zhou Enlai’s Former Residence

    In 1946, Zhou Enlai, the much-loved (although some swear he was even more sly than Mao) first premier of the People’s Republic of China, lived briefly in this former French Concession Spanish villa. Zhou was then head of the Communist Party’s Shanghai office, giving press conferences and dodging Kuomintang agents who spied on him from across the road.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Wukang Road Tourist Information Centre

    On one of the area’s best-preserved streets, this centre displays scale-model concession buildings, photos of historic Shanghai architecture and maps for self-guided walking tours of Wukang Rd. It’s in the former residence of Huang Xing (1874–1916), a revolutionary who co-founded the Republic of China together with Sun Yatsen. Note the fantastic art deco extension to the south along Wukang Rd.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Ferguson Lane

    On those rare days when Shanghai’s skies are cloud-free, the chic Ferguson Lane courtyard fills up in the blink of an eye with boutique browsers, latte lovers and brunch fanatics. Centred on a 1920s villa, the small art deco complex houses an art gallery, a couple of shops and a few tempting places to eat. It sits on historic Wukang Rd and is a lovely place to wander.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Xiangyang Park

    This small, French-inspired park features a central avenue lined with statuesque plane trees. Come evening, this walkway regularly transforms into a stage for lively dancing locals. Leafy trees, colourful flowerbeds and well-trimmed hedges fill the rest of the space, making for a scenic stroll away from the busy, neighbouring shopping highway. A short breather here will leave you feeling calm and recharged.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Beaugeste

    One of Shanghai's top galleries, this small space is concealed high above the street-level crowds. Curator Jean Loh captures humanistic themes in contemporary Chinese photography, and his wide range of contacts and excellent eye ensure exhibits are always both moving and thought provoking. Note that during the week the gallery is open by appointment only.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Leo Gallery

    Spread across two buildings in the charming Ferguson Lane complex, the Leo Gallery focuses on works by young Chinese artists.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Moller House

    One of Shanghai’s most whimsical buildings, the Scandinavian-influenced Gothic peaks of the Moller House could double as the Munsters’ holiday home. Swedish owner and horse-racing fan Eric Moller owned the Moller Line, a shipping firm. Previously home to the Communist Youth League, the building now houses a hotel, the Hengshan Moller Villa. No photos allowed.

  • Sights in French Concession

    Shanghai Library

    This is China’s largest public library, with a copy of Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker plonked outside. For a postmodern white-tile building, it is actually quite impressive. Free reading cards valid for a year allow you to read but not borrow foreign publications. For foreign-language books, newspapers and magazines, head to the 4th floor. The library has a useful internet room and free wi-fi.