Shanghai is a huge city that is mostly known for its plethora of surreal skyscrapers; however, some of the best parts of the city, I think, are the smaller and more historical parts. Two areas in the city known for their traditional Shikumen (stone-framed-door) architecture are Tianzifang and Xintiandi. Both areas have an eclectic array of art and exotic restaurants, but which one is better?
[NOTE: the above picture is from Tianzifang and the bottom picture is from Xintiandi]
The first place I will talk about is Tianzifang.
Tianzifang was a normal downtown street of Shanghai with random warehouses and bathhouses that seemed to be of no use anymore, so in 1998 the government decided to reconstruct the area based on the Shikumen-style architecture.
After being redesigned and reconstructed, the area began attracting many artists and soon became a popular hotspot for foreigners.
I really liked Tianzifang because it felt artistic and eclectic, but it still had a comfortable aura. There were also a ton of cute boutique restaurants! The prices were a little high, but it was definitely worth it! We ended up eating at a restaurant called New York Steak & Burger. I got a burger for about RMB 55 - it was worth every kuai!
Besides the infinite variety of food, Tianzifang had a bunch of little shops on the streets. Everything was so colorful and fun to look at!
At one point in our walk, my friends and I came across a man who was using a calligraphy pen and ink to draw pictures of people.
We weren't sure about getting one at first - I mean, what would we do with portraits of ourselves? In the end, though, we thought it was too cool and cheap to pass up. One by one we had our faces sketched.
It was funny how everyone's hair seemed to look alike in the sketches... finally, my turn!
Of course we attracted a ton of attention during this whole process, and everyone loved snapping a quick photo of us!
Some last pictures of Tianzifang..
After our trip to Tianzifang, I took the metro to Xintiandi. It has been raining a lot lately, but since today was sunny, I decided to get as many pictures as possible! The metro ride from Tianzifang to Xintiandi was only about 20 minutes; maybe less.
Xintiandi was built with the idea that every city should have buildings that represent the local history and culture; therefore, in 1997, the project to rebuild Xintiandi with the Shikumen architecture began.
I hang out in Xintiandi a lot because it's not only easy to get to by the metro (from my apartment), but it is also a really relaxing place. My internship is located down the street from this area, so it was always nice to walk through the beautiful architecture before heading to work.
Xintiandi is considered to be where "yesterday and tomorrow meet in Shanghai today." The area is split into two sections: the North Block and the South Block. Both areas combine aspects of the historical Shanghai architecture along with the comforts of the 21st century.
Can't forget about the Starbucks! I actually really enjoyed this Starbucks. Every day before work I would have a coffee and relax at the tables outside. It's always fun to people watch!
Have you decided which area you like better? I have been to Xintiandi numerous times but have only been to Tianzifang once... I will always like Xintiandi, but Tianzifang definitely exceeded my expectations. If you ever visit Shanghai definitely go to both and figure out for yourself which area suits your style.