This little walking tour takes you down two lovely quiet streets in Shanghai that are increasingly becoming full of great cafes and interesting shops. Located in the former French Concession, this tour can be combined, or you can do each street separately to ensure you see everything at a leisurely pace.
The best thing to do is go around mealtime. There are so many great cafes along these streets, it’s a good idea to walk a little, then duck in for a coffee, walk a little, then stop for a glass of wine or a snack. You’ll see a lot of colorful local life, glean a bit of history and enjoy a leisurely stroll that will keep you off the high-traffic roads.
Begin at the corner of Shaoxing (绍兴路 ｜ “shao shing”) and Shanxi Nan (陕西南路 ｜ "shahn shee nahn") Roads. Shaoxing Road is a small street that runs between Shanxi Nan Road and Ruijin Er Road (瑞金二路｜“ray jin ahr”) Road – so it’s only about two blocks long. Go east on Shaoxing Road from Shanxi Nan Road to begin your tour. Shanghai street signs are well marked in both Chinese and English and conveniently give directions (north, south, east or west) as well. This walk is very stroller-friendly.
How to Get There
Tell your taxi driver “shahn shee loo, shao shing loo”. Lu, “loo”, means road in Chinese. You can also take the metro. This walk is accessible from two different Metro stops. Dapuquiao Station on Line 9 and Shanxi Nan Lu Station on Line 1. The walk from Dapuqiao maybe slightly shorter.
How Much Time to Set Aside
That all depends on how much café/bar time you want. Stop for lunch on Shaoxing Road and then continue on to Taikang road to spend the better part of the afternoon shopping. Stop at any of the bars or cafes on Taikang Road for a sundowner and snack before returning to your hotel to freshen up before dinner.
Meander down Shaoxing Road enjoying the trees (if it’s spring or summer) and the street life. You never know what you’ll witness on the streets in China.
There are plenty of random little galleries and shops to stop in but don’t miss Shaoxing Park. It’s located on the left-hand side (assuming you’re walking east) of the street about mid-way down.
Duck in to find a lovely secluded little park with a few fish ponds, some exercise equipment and a neat man-made cave in the very back. Kids will love this little break and it’s a chance for you to sit down and have a look around – or at the map. Locals gather here to exercise, play cards or games or just sit and listen to the birds.
Shaoxing Park: #62 Shaoxing Road
Lunch at the Vienna Cafe on Shaoxing Road
If you’re feeling a little peckish, cross the street to the Vienna Café. This little Viennese jewel is tucked into a narrow house but once inside you’ll forget you left Shanghai outside. Enjoy authentic Viennese coffees and cakes. They have a simple but delicious menu and if you go on Sunday, you can enjoy a nice brunch (but I’d suggest booking because it can get crowded).
Vienna Café: 26 Shaoxing Road, telephone 021 6445 2131
If going Viennese in Shanghai is not your style, continue down Shaoxing Road to the Old China Hand Reading Room. Even if you have stopped for lunch at the Vienna Café, stop into the Reading Room to browse the wonderful books they have for sale about Shanghai’s architecture.
The Reading Room is run by Ms. Tess Johnson and Mr. Deke Erh, two well-known local architecture enthusiasts who’ve published a multitude of books on the European and Art-Deco heritage in Shanghai. The café itself is a nice place to go and, as the name describes, read. Or enjoy a cup of tea and a snack. Books are for sale in the front.
Old China Hand Reading Room: 27 Shaoxing Road
Continue Your Walk From Shaoxing Road to Taikang Road
Continue walking east on Shaoxing Road until you come to the end of the small street. You’ll find yourself at the intersection of Shaoxing Road and Ruijin Er Road. Turn right on Ruijin Er Road and head south.
Ruijin Er Road is a busier street but it has wide sidewalks and is easy to walk down. There’s plenty of street-life to see here and enjoy seeing people going about their daily business. Continue walking south on Ruijin Er Road.
At the Jianguo Road intersection cross the street to the other side of Ruijin Er Road and then cross Jianguo Road. Continue south on Ruijin Er Road and the next small street on the left-hand side will be Taikang Road, pronounced “thai khang”.
Taikang Road is a wonderful small street that is full of great local color. Unfortunately, all the old houses on the south side of the street have been knocked down and a huge construction site is currently there getting ready to build a high-rise or housing compound, no doubt.
The north side of the street is still full of fun shops selling everything from tin cups to huge pomelos. Enjoy this walk but it’s lane 210 you’re looking for.
Taikang Road Lane 210
You’ll know you’re at the right spot when you see the Chinese gate (see photo), but lane 210 is clearly marked. The area and warehouses that line this lane have been the territory for local and foreign artisans for many years. In the past year or two, more alleys connected to lane 210 have opened up – their occupants moving out to make way for cafes and shops.
Now the area is a maze of lanes opening up onto other alleys. It’s fun to take some time just to browse the shops and explore the area. Many of the shops are housed in unique-to-Shanghai shikumen brick architecture with gate portals above the entrances, so be sure to take notice of the outside as well as the inside.
Continue Shopping and Eating Down the Alleys Off Lane 210, Taikang Road
There are too many shops and cafes to go through each one and it’s a lot of fun just to wander and stop in where you like. The layout of the lane is as follows:
Lane 210 – as you turned down lane 210 from Taikang Road, you are on the main artery of the area. To the left are several interesting shops including a pottery workshop, specialty jewelers, Deke Ehr’s photo studio and a silk-robe shop (see photo) where the owner takes old silks and transforms them into beautiful robes and sashes. On the right are more shops including Marion Carston, a wonderful jeweler and Cho Lon, an import shop for all things Vietnamese.
Soon you’ll come to a chance to go left off the main laneway into a courtyard. Here you’ll find some of the oldest and most established of the Taikang Lu shops and cafes. Woo Cashmere on the left side of the courtyard is a great place to stock up on cashmere and silk scarves and wraps. Kommune café on the right has been there for years and serves a perfect latte as well as yummy lunches and snacks.
You can go to the next set of alleys by entering Kommune and going through the back exit or going back out the courtyard, turn left down the lane again and then hang the next left into a little alley. Here you’ll find the newer shops full of everything from tea and teapots to Buddhist statuary. Keep going back, don’t be shy to look behind corners in the alley because you’ll find that each alley connects to the next one and you’ll find a warren of other shops and cafes. Others to check out are:
- Bohemia Café – home cooked food and great wines
- NuZi – imports from New Zealand
- S&Q Décor – wonderfully bright porcelains and tableware