One of the city’s most charming streets, quiet Shaoxing Lu sums up all that’s great about the French Concession. Formerly known as Rue Victor-Emmanuel III, once home to a community of Russian Jews, and long a center of publishing in the city, today it’s given over to cozy tearooms and cutting-edge art galleries. It takes barely five minutes to walk from one end to the other, but dipping in and out of the various points of interest along the way could easily take a whole day.
Oriental Vista (OV) Gallery (19C Shaoxing Lu) showcases all manner of contemporary art and installations, by both local and international artists. Check their website to find what’s on.
The Old China Hand Reading Room (27 Shaoxing Lu) is a labor of love for Shanghainese photographer Deke Erh, whose books are among the many you can peruse while sipping your herbal tea. In a previous life, the house was lived in by a mistress of notorious ’30s gangster Du Yuesheng, and it remains wonderfully atmospheric to this day.
If it’s coffee you prefer, you can’t do much better than Vienna Cafe(26 Shaoxing Lu), a slice of old-world romance right next door. Among the many things — espresso, pastries, hot chocolate — they do well, their classic film nights are particularly good.
Shaoxing Park (62 Shaoxing Lu) is both the city’s smallest green space (at less than 2,500 square meters), and one of its best kept secrets. (Though it makes a fleeting public appearance in the music video for “Walking On A Dream” by Aussie duo Empire of the Sun.)
Number 96 is regularly cited as the best preserved example of Shanghai’s old shikumen (“stone gate”) style of housing; it’s certainly more authentic than the refurbished versions on show at the better known Xintiandi.
And that’s just the start. You can eat Sichuan style at New Quixote Restaurant (#9), see the building the Russian Jews called home (#18), check out more art at Angle (#40-42), pick up some of the best porcelain in the country at the Hai Chen Teahouse (#62), and buy leather goods from Tree (#90). And when you’re done, it’s only a short walk to the even bigger collection of boutique stores and cafes at Taikang Lu.