Exploring Tianzifang alleyways and the French Concession area, Shanghai, China.

Having read a bit about the quaintness of the shopping alleyways of Tianzifang I was really interested to see them, so I headed out on the metro, using Line 9 to get to Dapuqiao station in the old French Concession area of Shanghai.  It you use exit 1 at the station, you come out on Taikang Road right across the road from Tianzifang.

Map of Tianzifang

Map of Tianzifang.

On the map, you can see Taikang road at the bottom, and the three entrances to the Tianzifang alleyways. I decided it made most sense to me, to start by going down the left hand entrance.

Entrance to Tainzifang alley

Entrance to Tianzifang alley.

Alleyway in the rain

Alleyway in the rain.

I arrived about mid morning on a weekday, and also I think because it was raining, it wasn’t terribly busy. However, I did spend close to 2 hours wandering the alleyways and browsing the shops and during that time it got quite a bit busier.

Tianzifang was originally built as a residential area in the 1930’s, but by the 1980’s it had turned into a place where artists, designers and vendors began to set up along with bars, cafes and restaurants tucked into the little labyrinth of alleyways.

Despite the light rain, I really did find it entirely charming to explore, it’s the perfect antidote to Shanghai’s large modern Malls and has lots of nice plantings to soften the buildings hard edges.

Umbrella was needed part of the time

Umbrella was needed part of the time.

Because of ducking into many of the little shops, I really didn’t need my umbrella too much, so it’s a good thing to do even on a rainy day.  I took my time and circled through the maze of alleyways, there are a few dead ends, but on the whole you can’t get too lost and the map I showed above is in a number of places to help you. And of course, with this many lovely shops I did find a few little purchases including a cute little ceramic vase as a souvenir for myself.

Steamed foods for sale

Steamed foods for sale.

And if you get hungrey, there are plenty of little restaurants and cafes to choose from, some western, and some more traditional, often tucked into the smallest alleys.

Alleyway restaurant

Alleyway restaurant.

After I had thoroughly explored all the alleyways, I exited out the back of Tianzifang onto Middle Jianguo Road, then turned left onto Sinan Road and walked along this typical tree lined French Concession street, that was almost completely lined with rental bikes, up towards Fuxing Park.

Sinan Road

Sinan Road.

Starbucks in typical French Concession style house

Starbucks in typical French Concession style house.

At the junction with E Fuxing Road there was a nice cluster of shops including some restaurants and a Starbucks, so I decided it was a good time to stop for a quick coffee.

This Starbucks was great, with a cozy feel inside, and on 3 levels complete with a balcony and even a coffee laboratory, a perfect place to take a break.  You can see photos of the cute little cakes available in this Starbucks on my post about foods I tried in Shanghai.

After my fairly quick coffee, I continued on across the street into Fuxing Park.  This is where most mornings you will find the Chinese retirees having fun, singing, dancing, playing cards etc, but on this day it was mid afternoon by the time I got there, so much quieter than when we had seen it a few days before in the morning.  One of the main features of the park is the Marx-Engels Statue made from Granite.

Marx-Engels Statue

Marx-Engels Statue.

I walked through the park exiting on the northeast corning and continued east to walk through bit of Xintiandi which is another shopping area.  By this time it was getting on in the afternoon, I was all shopped out, and I also wanted to beat the afternoon rush hour on the metro.  So as I headed south on Madang Road I kept an eye out for the helpful Metro signs, so I could find the Xintiandi Station and make my way back to my hotel for a rest and a nice cup of tea after my enjoyable day exploring Tianzifang and some of the French Concession area of Shanghai.

Sign for the Metro

Sign for the Metro.

Date of visit; Late November 2017.




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