4 Artsy and Cultural Areas to Visit in Shanghai
A blend of culture, art, tradition, and modernity.
· 4 min read
With China is granting more countries with visa-free entry, are you also one of the many who is considering a visit to China? Shanghai, one of the most popular cities to visit in China, is a bustling metropolis with towering skyscrapers and neon lights that dominate the skyline. A visit to Shanghai is not complete without visiting the main attractions like The Bund, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, and Shanghai Disneyland.
But, Shanghai is not just about skyscrapers, grand architecture, and futuristic developments. Shanghai also has a vibrant art and culture scene. Interested to further explore the vibrant tapestry of art, culture, and tradition in Shanghai? Then, why not check out these 4 areas!
1. Zhang Yuan (张园)
![IMG_20230615_101634.jpg](https://cms.getnomad.app/uploads/IMG_20230615_101634_b76e11e527.jpg "Source: davidwin.net)
Zhang Yuan, or 张园 (Zhang Garden), is one of the trendiest spots in Shanghai today. Built in 1885, the garden was once the most famous garden in Shanghai. It lost its popularity in the early 1900s, but the government has recently repaired and restored the area. The restored garden reopened its doors in end 2022, and has been increasingly popular amongst locals. Today, the garden stands as Shanghai's largest and most well-preserved Shikumen houses (lane houses).
The historical charm of Zhang Yuan has attracted many luxury brands. High-end brands like Dior, Bvlagari, and Louis Vuitton have set up boutiques and/or pop-up stores at Zhang Yuan, leveraging the cultural and societal uniqueness of the compound to create a more immersive experience for consumers.
![Dior-Jing-an-Gov-1-1024x683.jpeg](https://cms.getnomad.app/uploads/Dior_Jing_an_Gov_1_1024x683_360d3658ae.jpeg “Source: Dao Insights")
Currently, only the Western section of Zhang Yuan is open to public. The Eastern section is set to open by the end of 2026. Under the development plan, the Western section (that is currently open) will be the most commercialised and busy section. The Eastern section is planned to be quieter than the currently opened Western section, and will feature more art galleries; and the Southern section will also be transformed into a trendy area for performing arts.
But, even if you are not looking to buy luxury items, Zhang Yuan at its present state is worth a visit. There are also casual restaurants and cafes for you to spend an afternoon at. Or simply walk through the alleyways, admire the architecture and installations, and watch out for timed exhibits!
🚆 How to get there: Take the metro to Nanjing West Road Station (Metro Line 2, 12 and 13)
2. Duo Lun Road Cultural Street (多倫路文化名人街)
Duo Lun Road, nestled in the Hongkou district, takes visitors on a trip back in time to the early 20th century. The tree-lined boulevard is adorned with colonial-era mansions, reflecting the city's historical significance during the tumultuous periods of the early 1900s.
The cultural street was once home to numerous Chinese writers and authors such as Lu Xun, Mao Dun, and Guo Moruo. Today, the street is lined with public and private museums and bookshops, along with tea houses, galleries, and quaint cafes and art spaces.
Aside from the many interesting shops and museums, the street also provides a glimpse to Shanghai in the early 20th century. As you walk along the street, observe the architecture of the old buildings — you will be able to see elements of Islamic, Jewish, and French styles infused with Chinese styles.
Some of the highlights along the street includes the Hongde Temple, a Christian church built in a Chinese style, and the political museum where the League of Left-Wing Writers was founded. Be sure to also visit the sculpture garden that showcases sculptures of famous writers, and the Shanghai Duolun Museum of Modern Art.
🚆 How to get there: Take the metro to Dongbaoxing Road Station (Metro line 3)
3. M50 Creative Park
M50, short for Moganshan 50, is Shanghai's contemporary art district. Situated in a former industrial area, M50 is a hub for contemporary artists, designers, and photographers. The district is home to numerous galleries and studios, showcasing cutting-edge works across various mediums. The industrial backdrop adds an edgy and urban contrast to the artistic atmosphere.
As you walk through Moganshan Road, you will see numerous gallery spaces, each offering art pieces of different styles and mediums. Let your artistic senses run free as you appreciate the different art pieces and works — some completed, while others still work in progress. And if you are interested in any of the pieces or if you would like to find out more, the gallery owners will be more than happy to explain the art pieces to you!
Beyond just the galleries, you can also see installations along corridors as well as street art along the walls of the buildings. Aside from gallery spaces, there are also small cafes and shops at M50 which also exudes a very artistic vibe.
M50 is a creative hub that is not so much a tourist attraction as it is a space where aspiring artists gather. If you are looking for an afternoon away from the crowds, M50 is a great choice for a relaxing afternoon.
🚆 How to get there: Take the metro to Jiangning Road Station (Metro line 13)
4. Tianzifang (田子坊 )
Tianzifang is one of the most popular tourist areas in Shanghai. Located in the Old French Quarter, it is best known for being an artsy area for tourists. The area retains an 'original' vibe that hasn't undergone massive redevelopment. The buildings, alleys, and streets in the area are remnant of the past, showing a glimpse of olden Shanghai.
Tianzifang used to be known for its many art and craft shops, as well as the affordable bars and cafes. It was also an attractive site as these shops were blended amongst actual residences, and it was an opportunity for many to get a glimpse into the Shanghainese way of life.
However, as it grew in popularity, many residential buildings were converted into shops; and prices had started to increase. Nevertheless, the myriad of shops and wide variety of trendy (or Instagrammable) shops and backdrop had continued to attract many visitors to the area.
Since the pandemic, many of the original shops had moved out; and locals are now choosing to visit Zhang Yuan or other locations instead — making it way less crowded than it was before. But while Tianzifang isn't as artistic as it used to be, nor is it as trendy a destination as it used to be, it still remains a rather popular destination with its many specialty shops, restaurants, and many photo opportunities.
🚆 How to get there: Take the metro to Dapu Bridge Station (Metro line 9)