French Concession, Shanghai
The French Concession Villa which is now used as the Arts & Crafts Museum has many rooms reflecting the early 20th century architecture.
The villa was built in 1905 and for those times the bathroom was huge. However what took my notice was the elaborate shower, never have I seen anything like it.
This was our first stop during our Neighbourhood Walk of the French Concession. Out Guide Book detailed an extensive walk through this exciting district of old Shanghai.
This beautiful villa was the home of a high ranking official of the French Municipal Administration and later occupied by Chen Yi, the first Communist mayor of Shanghai.
The villa is presently the home of the Arts & Crafts Museum and the villa has been maintained in good condition. For a small entry fee you can gain entry to the villa where much of the original furniture and fittings remain.The teak paneled library, marbled fireplaces, luxury entrance foyer, coffered ceilings, beautiful staircase are all features of the typical French Concession properties.
The opportunity to enter such properties now is rare. Many of the great villas' have been converted to business premises, rental flats, or demolished.
The exhibits of Arts & Crafts are of a high standard and we purchase a doll.
My in-laws and I went on a tour of the Former French Concession with Spencer Dodington of Luxury Concierge China. Initially, we thought it was strange having a foreigner guide us through a part of Shanghai. But it was incredible mainly because Spencer was so passionate of that area, and knew so much about the history, architecture, and lives of famous people who had lived in the area. He also impressed my in-laws with his knowledge of Art Deco. On top of all of that, he spoke a perfect Shanghainese, and Mandarin too. I haven't met any foreigners yet who could speak both languages so well. Anyhow, we had a great walk in the Concession, it was fun and insightful. The area is really beautiful, especially in Spring and Fall, with all its alleyways, and roads lines with trees. Many buildings have been renovated for the Expo, so it is even nicer now. This area is definitely the most charming in the city, and discovering it with Spencer made it even more special.
The French Concession was established on 6 April 1849, when the French Consul to Shanghai, Charles de Montigny, obtained a proclamation from the Governor (Daotai) of Shanghai, which conceded certain territory for a French settlement.
Its borders were expanded twice, in 1900 and 1914. During the 1920s, the French Concession was developed into the premier residential area of Shanghai. In 1943, during World War II, the government of Vichy France announced that it will give up its concessions in China.
The French Concession covered what are today Xuhui District and Luwan District, occupying the centre, south, and west of urban Shanghai. The area comprises boulevards, shops and cafes (such as the Xintiandi), and some very nice houses and churches.
For sure you will enjoy the French Concession...try the Boonna Cafe, on Xinle Rd., as it is a fabulous place to relax, use the internet, meet people, eat some good panini sandwiches, get a cup of joe...very bohemian and relaxed. The shops in this area are wonderfully small, eclectic and tempting. Also, Garden Bookstore has incredible books on Shanghai (etc.) that are not available anywhere else...and just walking around. (have to admit the Starbucks here has the best pudding cakes!).
We found the Jinjiang hotel to be historic as well as convenient. It has the best beds. The City Hotel is decent too, with reasonable rates and a delightful cafe area with many (free) newspapers and magazines.
The Ritz Carleton was a treat, and is an area that offers a lot of opportunities for walking around some historic sites. They offer specials , so check their website.
We found that walking around without an agenda yielded the best,most serendipitous experiences.
The people of Shanghai were extremely helpful, kind and receptive.
The old French Concession of Shanghai, now Luwan district, is an enchanting part of the city for a stroll. It contains old villas and apartment blocks, and is lively with shops and restaurants. Some minor sights in this area are Zhou Enlai's former residence (on Sinan Road), Sun Yat-sen's former residence (on Xiangshan Road), Fuxing Park (off Sinan Road) and Taikang Lu Art Street (off Jianguo Middle Road). Also here is the lovely Ruijin Guesthouse (see tip). Maoming South Road is full of bars and a trendy hang-out at night.
Frenchtown (the former French Concession) is the area around the Jinjiang Hotel and Huahuai Lu, and is well worth a look, particularly if you have shopping in mind.
It is a glitzy alternative to Nanjing Lu, on the other side of the city centre, and offers large department stores and some (who need it), much-needed retail therapy.
A short walk in most directions from this area and you will come across beautiful old Art Deco appartments and mansions, and more stunning architecture besides.
So many coffee shops and bars are all around the Former French Concession. It's a real mix of old, new, western and Chinese.
Check it out. Anfu Lu by Wulumuqi Lu is a good starting point.