One of the more cultural places in Shanghai that reminds you of the olden times is 豫园. The yuyuan garden is, essentially, a Chinese Garden. To give you a little history lesson, it was first built in 1559 during the Ming Dynasty by a guy called Pan Yudan...and eventually the expanse of the garden led to their ruin. Guess some things don't really turn out your way, do they?
Don't expect a museum outpouring of knowledge, though: this place is a clump of shops all gathered together with a sprinkling of pavillions and viewing gardens up for grabs. If you're so inclined, pop a snack, take a nice long stroll, and buy a souvenir or two.
The second must-visit place is none other than 田子坊, Tian Zi Fang, a really posh and pretty area in the heart of the French Concession.
This place, just like most other places, is another shopping joint, however it's well worth it to come simply to admire the brick walls and beautiful architechture too. Since it's my 3rd time visiting it, I didn't pick up anything, but there are many shops selling little trinkets that you can gift to friends or family back home. Apart from souvenirs there are a lot of clothes shops, tea shops, and general bric-a-brac that's sure to come in useful for a present, if you're anything like me and prefer an extra gift lying around.
Also look out for small art shops and art galleries. Though they exist to sell rather than exhibit, there's nothing stopping you from taking a tour of the pieces inside. It's a nice way to get in touch with the local art scene and maybe get inspired yourself.
I also spotted a tiny museum on this guy- but for the life of me I can't remember his name or what exactly he contributed to history. Sorry, folks. It was closed when M and I were there, but if you ever get to see it, tell me what he's all about! (There's a relatively grand statue of him right outside the entrance.)
If you only step into one shop in Tian Zi Fang though, let it be Des Stories @ Here, an unobtrusive cafe tucked away into one of the more quiet walkways.
Weary from the walking and a little chilly, M and I stumbled across this obscure cafe and decided to take a brief respite.
It was stepping into a fairytale. One where you go traipsing down streets filled with exposed brick facades and lush plants and there is a cafe run by a grandma with her two little dogs, walls covered with Ghibli stills, as if they might step out of the walls at any moment, and whirl you up, up, into the great unknown....
If you are magic, you might see the grandma, but if you are smart, you'll know to walk inside before the cafe disappears when the sun sets.
And if you are lucky, the grandma will talk to you, make you superb coffee, and will let you rest in her lair while her dogs sniffle about for an hour before the real world calls you away.
L / 18 / SG / ACJC
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last updated: 5 september