In the morning we will head for the French Concession, a symbol of a time when Western powers were accorded many privileges. You will start your trip with a stroll through Fuxing Park where you will have the chance to watch the Chinese practising their ritual of morning exercise. Especially worth watching are the tango dancers whose music fills every corner of the park.
Afterwards you will wander the surrounding roads, admiring the old colonial homes that have now been transformed into restaurants, bars and different boutiques. During colonial times the French Concession was a no-go zone for the police and was home to gangsters, mafia, opium traffickers, prostitutes and people looking for a good time. Shanghai earned itself the title of one of the world’s vice capitals.
You will continue on to Xintiandi, an entirely renovated area that is considered one of the liveliest parts of the city. You can end your walk at Tianzifang, a maze of animated alleyways full of restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries similar to those found in Xintiandi but much more authentic.
Your walk will end in the Old Town, which today has mostly been rebuilt but which still has some of its old lilongs (which are like the hutongs found in Beijing) alive with the chatter of the Shanghainese and decorated with people’s washing strung out across the streets to dry. The Old Town also home to the famous Yu Yuan Gardens, a superb example of the art of Chinese garden landscaping, which is particularly common in this region. Traditionally Chinese gardens are a miniature reproduction of nature: the presence of rocks represents mountains, ponds represent lakes and running water imitating rivers. The quest for harmony takes precedence over the rigorous geometrical planning that you would see in most Western gardens. Their shape is therefore never rectangular, encouraging visitors to wander around with only their thoughts and no definite aim.
Conclude the day with a visit to the local bazaar, where visitors and locals come to haggle. It’s a perfect chance for you to buy some souvenirs before your departure the following day, or take a rest at the Huxingting tea house, which is located at the centre of the lake opposite the Yu Yuan Park, and is one of the most famous in China.
Overnight in Shanghai.
Superior: New West Lake Shanghai
Deluxe: Hyatt on the Bund