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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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