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Home Travel in Shanghai The French Concession
The French Concession
Travel in Shanghai

The French Concession (shàng hǎi fǎ zūjiè 上海法租界) was the foreign concession of France in Shanghai (shàng hǎi 上海), China. Established in 1849, the concession was progressively expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The concession came to an end in 1943. The area covered by the former French Concession was, for much of the 20th century, the premier residential and retail districts of Shanghai, and was also the centre of Catholicism in Shanghai. Despite rampant re-development over the last few decades, the area retains a distinct character, and is popular with tourists.

A quiet, leafy street in the former French ConcessionThe French Concession covered what are today Xuhui District (xú huì qū 徐汇区) and Luwan District (卢湾区 lú wān qū), occupying the centre, south, and west of urban Shanghai. A small strip extended eastward along the rue du Consulat, now the East Jinling Road (金陵路 jīn líng lù), to the Quai de France, now East-2 Zhongshan Road, which runs along the Huangpu River to the south of the Bund.

To the south-east of the French Concession was the walled Chinese city. To the north was the British concession, later part of the Shanghai International Settlement. The British and French quarters were separated by the Yangjingbang, a creek flowing into the Huangpu River, which was later filled-in and became Edward VII Avenue, and is now Yan'an Road.

Lokawei (lú jiā wān 卢家湾), "Lu's Bay", an area named after a bend on the Zhaojiabang creek. The main police depot and prison of the French concession was located here. Today's Luwan District is named after this locality. Since the 1990s, this area has seen high volume residential developments.

XujiahuiZikawei, now Xujiahui, (xú jiā hùi 徐家汇), "Xu's Confluence", an area named after the family of Xu Guangqi and the confluence of two local rivers. While Xujiahui was technically not part of the French Concession (lying immediately west of the boundary of the concession), it was the centre of Catholic Shanghai, featuring St Ignatius Cathedral, the Observatory, the Library, and several colleges, all of which were French-dominated. Today, Xujiahui is a busy commercial district. Today's Xuhui District is named after this locality.

Avenue Joffre, now Central Huaihai Road, was a boulevarde stretching across the French Concession in an east-west direction. The road was renamed after Joseph Joffre in 1916, with the new name unveiled by the marshall himself in 1922. Avenue Joffre was a tram route. Its eastern section featured Shikumen residences. Its western part featured high-end residential developments, including stand-alone houses and apartment blocks. The central section was - and is - a popular shopping area, with many shops opened by the Russian community. The former Avenue Joffre remains a high-end retail district.

Avenue Petain, now Hengshan Road, was a major boulevarde linking Xujiahui with the centre of the French Concession. It represented the centre of the French Concession's high-end residential district, featuring a large number of mansions and expensive apartment buildings. Since the 1990s, some of the former houses were converted into bars and nightclubs, making Hengshan Road one of Shanghai's premier night entertainment districts.

altXintiandi (xīn tiān dì 新天地), (Near Metro Huangpi South Road). Xintiandi is a popular spot for young people, particularly well-heeled yuppies. It is a place where you can find a lot of restaurants and clubs. Besides these pubs you can also see some traditional Shanghai-style lodgings (Shikumen) which are a unique blend of European and Chinese design. There is a nice miniature museum, showing the configuration and interior of a recreated 1930s shikumen house.

Old French Concession Streets. Get away from the busy streets and explore the area between Julu Lu to the north and Huai Hai Lu running through the center, plus Mao Ming Lu and surrounding area to the south of Huai Hai Lu. Pleasant tree-lined streets and local Shanghainese bustle, combined with a growing number of trendy boutiques and restaurants. Chang Le Lu and Xin Le Lu are rapidly becoming the places to find small designer clothing shops. Interesting architecture built with French and Belgian money and showing mixed Chinese-European styles.

Bar street

Fuxing Road (fù xīng lù 复兴路). Walk along Fuxing Road to see classical old buildings and enjoy the neatness of the road.

Shanghai Xintiandi (新天地), Lane 181, Taicang Road. Enter this small pedestrianised area of the city featuring rebuilt traditional shikumen [stone gate] houses. Housing a cinema complex, mall, numerous bars, cafés and art galleries marketed towards foreign visitors and the more affluent locals. Close to where the Communist party headquarters were located.

Sylvan streets. Explore the Sylvan streets and admire Shanghai's Art Deco residential architecture, reputedly the world's largest (although not the most well-kept). Most historic buildings have a bronze plaque that details their original use. The area sandwiched between Fuxing Road and Huaihai Road is particularly interesting with a sprinkling of tucked-away shops and discreet cafes, a refreshing alternative to the city's generally megalomaniac streetscape.
Bar and club districts. Experience the nightlife in one of the many bar and club districts: Julu Road, Hengshan Raod or Xintiandi.

How to get there
Major Metro stops include Line 1's Huangpi Lu (huáng pí nán lù 黄陂南路) (near Xintiandi), Shaanxi Nan Lu (shǎn xī nán lù 陕西南路), Changshu Lu (cháng shú lù 常熟路), Hengshan Lu(héng shān lù 衡山路) and Xujiahui. Line one arcs from northeast to southwest through the French Concession, with Xujiahui marking the area's far southwest limit and Huangp.


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