First impressions matter, but Shanghai isn't all just about the Bund and Nanjing East Road.
In this post I review couple of places I visited in Shanghai that tourists typically miss but should definitely keep in their itinerary - the French Concession, Jing An villa and Tianzifang.

French Concession 法租界

How to go: Metro Line 1 takes you near Huaihai and Hengshan Rd. South Shaanxi Road station takes you closest to the heart of the french concession. To enjoy the streets and architecture, it's best to take a stroll from the metro. Walking with some historical attractions and directions here
Review: An area once designated for the French in shanghai, and now home to both Xintiandi and Tian Zi Fang, popular dining and shopping stretches for both tourists and locals alike. Main areas include the stretch along Julu road, Changle road, HuaiHai road and Maoming road.

The roads are also no short of classic European architecture, quirky clothing and bookstores and nice cafes. The entire concession area is huge and quite impossible to complete in an entire day, but you can cover some key attractions easily within an afternoon. For a self-walking tour, refer to this article or this map.  


I took an afternoon walk starting from Julu road to maoming road area, then  following the route provided from the second map, ending off at Tianzifang for dinner. The roads near Julu road were quiet and really beautiful in early spring. 


Tianzifang 田子坊

How to go: Take the metro to Dapuqiao station and exit the shopping mall, following the crowd towards Taikang road. 

Review: Located off the french concession area, Tianzifang is a clutter of streets and alleys, originally a residential area, that houses various different stores, cafes and restaurants. The area consists of alleyways off  the main Taikang Road 泰康路 and is a typical example of how the traditional shikumen architecture has been preserved, in a way similar to Xintiandi.  

There are a couple of art galleries, cafes and eateries that make for the perfect hideaway to spend the afternoon away from the maddening crowds swirling outside. 


Admittedly the prices of some things sold at Tianzifang are aimed at tourists (read: daylight robbery prices), however, with a discerning eye, you can definitely suss out some unique products and crafts here you won't find anywhere else as there are many locally designed clothes, accessories and souvenirs sold here. Here's an article to help you suss out the good from the bad. 


JingAn Villa 静安别墅

How to go: Take the metro to Nanjing West road and walk in the direction towards JingAn temple. It's easy to miss the place as it's very nondescript- the area is smack between two old-looking residential blocks. Just keep a look out for a small sign on the fence that looks like this: 

Review: It's a residential area of linong (narrow lined alleyways) where cafes and small unique stores have begun to spring up and take over. Aside from cafes and stores, there are art galleries, nail parlours, tea kiosks as well. For a more comprehensive guide to recommended hunnts in JingAn villa, refer to this article

JingAn villa has been called the next up and coming 'Tianzifang', and for a good reason -there's much more character here because majority of the alleyways are still housed with people, making it very 'real' as compared to Tianzifang which is decidedly more touristy. I had tea from Denny House and it was very good. Also bought quite a few souvenirs from Cute stuff