All great cities have great streets, and Shanghai is no exception. And though it may be a few years yet before the Bund, Nanjing Lu and Huaihai Lu (Huáihǎi Lù, 淮海路) join the ranks of the Champs-Élysées, Park Avenue or the Vegas Strip, Shanghai (which is as much the New York or Vegas of the East as it ever was the “Paris of the East”) is well on its way to fame when it comes to global thoroughfares of note.
Huaihai Lu, known as Avenue Joffre back in the days when the French Concession really was the French Concession, has long been Shanghai‘s toniest commercial street, home to some of the city’s finest restaurants, shops and hotels. Of course, Cultural Revolution-era PRC policies put the kibosh on conspicuous consumption of all kinds, but today Huaihai Lu and the area surrounding it are once again hopping
If you’re just in it for the shopping (even if it’s only window shopping), you’ll find plenty to please, especially on Huaihai Zhong Lu (Huáihǎi Zhōng Lù, 淮海中路), or “Middle Huaihai Road,” where a succession of urban malls (including Times Square, Hong Kong Plaza and Parkson) house international brand-name purveyors of fashion, cosmetics, accessories, imported foods, electronics, shoes and more. Alongside these commercial behemoths, flagship stores for everything from Sony to Louis Vitton and H&M have begun to appear in the last half dozen years, and the trend shows little sign of abating.
History and architecture buffs have plenty to feast on. Historical structures emerge from the contemporary chaos of flyovers and skyscrapers, welcome flashes from a storied past that Shanghai’s current efflorescence has yet to match, both in terms of style and substance. A brief sampling from Huaihai Zhong Lu near Shaanxi Nan Lu (Shǎnxī Nán Lù, 陕西南路) includes the classic Art Deco of the Cathay Theater, the garden-fronted facade of the old Cercle Sportif Français (now topped by the high-rise Okura Garden Hotel), and the recently restored neo-classical villas at 796 Huaihai Lu (scheduled to house the Shanghai edition of Hong Kong’s famed private KEE Club, the ShanghArt Gallery, Swiss luxury watchmakers Vacheron Constantin and upscale menswear specialists Alfred Dunhill).
And that’s just within a block of the Metro Line 1 Shaanxi Nan Lu Station. Huaihai Lu extends more than 5 km (3 mi), stretching from Renmin Lu (Rénmín Lù, 人民路) in the east to Kaixuan Lu (Kǎixuán Lù, 凯旋路) in the west, and, like most long Shanghai streets is divided into three parts—in this case east (dōng, 东), middle (zhōng, 中) and west (xī, 西).