Shanghai French Concession – Shanghai, China - Atlas Obscura
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Shanghai, China

Shanghai French Concession

An out-of-place slice of France, smack in the middle of Shanghai. 

While this Shanghai neighborhood no longer has any official French ownership, the area is still ruled by a laid-back attitude and European architecture.

Located in the northeastern portion of the modern day Xuhui District of Shanghai, the former Shanghai French Concession was a region under French control from 1849 until its return to the hands of the Chinese government in 1946.

Although the Old French Concession is now one of the most vibrant shopping districts in Shanghai (including the massive Xujiahui complex), the wrought iron fences, tree-lined boulevards, hidden cafés, and vibrant architecture have allowed the region to maintain a distinctly European flair that harkens back to its days as a French-controlled enclave. Visitors are encouraged to explore the many winding streets on foot to take in the unique combination of Chinese and European culture.

To witness some traditional Chinese tai chi or Chinese opera, head over to the sprawling Fuxing Park. Or if ancient temples are more your thing, a visit to the Longhua Temple might be in order. Indeed, with the original construction dating to 247 CE, Longhua is one of the oldest temples in Shanghai. Conversely, the area was also the hub for Catholicism during much of its French ownership and some of the gothic churches remain in the area.  

Not surprisingly, the former Shanghai French Concession also offers its share of historical attractions. The region served as home to some of the most militantly anti-imperialist Chinese, a fact that may seem somewhat counterintuitive, at least initially. However, it is important to note that the foreign rule of the concession made the region more attractive to radical thinkers than areas under Chinese law. Indeed, the Communist Party had its first national meeting here, while the region also served as home to many prominent political figures. 

Know Before You Go

The Metro Line 1 runs along Huahai and Hengshan Roads, with stops at S. Huangpi Road, S. Shaanxi Road, Hengshan Road, and Xujiahui. The Metro Line 10 runs west from Laoximen with stops at Xintiandi, S. Shaanxi Road, Shanghai Library, and Jiatong Unviersity. The Metro Line 9 services the southern end of the French Concession, stopping at Dapuqiao, Zhaojiabang Road, and Xujiahui.