Shanghai lives like someone has the finger jammed permanently on the fast forward button of life. But in the midst of this chaos is the French Concession. Leafy back streets wend through four distinct districts of this city, which was once ceded to the French as a colony before World War II.
The resulting mansions and art deco apartments are woven together with relatively quiet streets. This relative quiet is still marred by scooter and car horns and screeching brakes, but it’s a little bit less insane than the more modern parts of town.
But like the rest of Shanghai, there are stark contrasts, often right next to each other. In this case, tony shops could be right next to a grubby repair shop.
Most of the mansions are inaccessible behind closed doors. But one old house is open, and the Arts and Crafts Museum is a good place to start your stroll. This building was once home to a French official, it now houses displays of several industrial arts, such as needlepoint, painting and costuming.
Many artisans are working at their crafts in the museum, and there are ample opportunities to buy samples of their work, such as the silk lantern maker in the basement.
The French Concession is also a wonderful place to find food from many countries other than China. Indian curry, Irish and German pubs and Simply Thai, which has an outlet here.
A walk through the district offers a lot of architecture popular during the 1920′s and 30′s. Art Deco for example, pokes up in several locations.
Looking for a place to sleep in the area? Check out the Mansion Hotel. Originally built by a notorious gangster, the lobby is jammed full of period furniture, gramophones, clocks and even an old camera obscura.
Well, that’s a lot of walking. Time to relax and take a load off the feet at one of the local restaurants in Epcot-like Xintiandi.