Travel Report: Shanghai French Concession Part I.

Walking route Shanghai French Concession.

March 2019. If I had to pick my favourite Shanghai day it would definitely be the hours I spent mooching about the city’s historical French Concession. A million miles away from the teeming masses of The Bund, Shanghai’s French Concession is a sleepy network of tree-lined streets, flowery alleyways, ultra-trendy cafes, bars and restaurants plus… quite possibly its main draw… a vast array of handsome heritage protected colonial buildings.

Spanish style residence Route Ferguson The French Concession Shanghai.
Spanish style residence, Shanghai French Concession.

March 2019. Established in the late 1840s by the French consul to Shanghai, The French Concession became a cultural melting pot for people from all over the world who settled here to live in grand residences often designed in the style of their native lands. The above house is a Spanish style garden residence on Route Ferguson dating back to 1932.

Shanghai Film and Performing Arts Association Shanghai French Concession.
Shanghai Film and Performing Arts Association.

Some of these old buildings are majestic, such as the white, balcony-adorned Shanghai Film and Performing Arts Association on Wukong Road. Keep an eye open for the golden plaques outside that indicate heritage protected status by The Shanghai Municipal Government.

Ramshackle old house Wukong Road Shanghai French Concession
Colonial residence on Wukong Road, Shanghai French Concession.

March 2019. Not all of the buildings have weathered so well, as this charming, ramshackle pile of old bones shows. Taking a sneaky peak through the open gate, I couldn’t help but feel a bit like Tom Hanks in The Burbs. “I’m telling’ ya’ officer, there’s a body buried in that house!”

Former residence of Ba Jin The French Concession Shanghai.
Former residence of Ba Jin, Shanghai French Concession

Some of the old French Concession buildings are former residences of famous people. One of these belonged to the renowned Chinese writer Ba Jin, who lived at 113 Wukang Road. Some of his best known works were written here, including his so-called masterpiece Random thoughts.

The Sunshine Room Former residence of Ba Jin Shanghai French Concession.
Former residence of Ba Jin, Shanghai. French Concession

It’s free to go and have a look in Ba Jin’s old house, which now stands as a little museum. I was particularly taken by The Sunshine Room, where the great man sat in his later years receiving guests, writing and gazing out over his garden.

Visit Shanghai French Concession.
Shanghai French Concession.

March 2019. The joy of Shanghai’s rambling French Concession is simply loading up Google Maps and working your way around the place, picking out little landmarks here and there.

Lokal Bakery Shanghai French Concession.
Lokal Bakery, Shanghai French Concession.
Lokal Bakery Shanghai French Concession.
Lokal Bakery, Shanghai French Concession.

There are an abundance of fantastic albeit pricy places to rest for a drink and a bite and the area boasts one of Shanghai’s best coffee scenes! A deservedly popular spot is Lokal, a bakery-cafe-restaurant with a cosy  outdoor decking.

Fergson Lane Shanghai French Concession.
Fergson Lane, Shanghai French Concession.

A much fancier alternative is the SwankyMcSwank Route Ferguson, a complex of high-end stores, cafes and restaurants that I initially mistook for a hotel. This is one of The French Concession’s hippest coffee spots!

Florist on Ferguson Lane Shanghai French Concession.
The Florist at Ferguson Lane, Shanghai French Concession.

Access to Ferguson Lane is gained through a gorgeous alleyway to the side of the main building where a florist lays out all her lush plants and bouquets. It’s almost impossible not to stop and have a look, which I suspect is exactly how she likes it. I ended up stopping for an hour to do some writing and wolf down a delicious tuna lasagne at joint called a French pizza joint called Coté.

In the end I found it impossible to cover Shanghai French Concession’s numerous delights in just one article. So don’t miss tomorrow’s concluding piece: Shanghai French Concession Part II.

Like this? Check out more articles from my wanderings around Shanghai.

Wanna delve further afield? You’ve come to the right place, as I’ve written hundreds of reports from all over China.

For a more detailed and personalized slant, you might want to take a look at my short story series Challenged in China.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001, so why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

Leighton Literature Travel blogger Travel reports short stories.


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Freelance travel writer, voice over and English teacher from London. Former music and film journalist, interviewer of the stars. Passionate about travel, film, music, football, Indian food.

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