Shanghai's Yu Gardens and The French Concession
Yu Gardens (also called Yuyuan Gardens) is known for its spectacular classical beauty, and for uniquely Chinese Old Town bazaar that is adjacent. While the area known as the French Concession has colonial history, European feel combined with traditional Chinese sensibilities.
Shanghai has had a long tumultuous history that has created a cultural pastiche. Colonized by the British and French, with Americans joining in as well, subdued during the Opium Wars, these countries put their imprint on the city. It is somewhat ironic that an era that was so difficult for the Chinese has helped create an open, vibrant and sophisticated city.
Yu (Yuyuan) GardensYu Gardens, the 5-acre classical garden, is a magical place, with meandering mosaic paths, pavilions connected by bridges, and artfully arranged stones and water. But the same beauty has made it a tourist lure of little equal in the city (except for the attached bazaar).
A staple of tours and tourists, itís hard to enjoy a moment of contemplation amid the press of others also seeking that moment of solitude. If you canít visit out of season Ė try a late afternoon visit when the tour buses have generally left.
Yu Gardens Bazaar
Hustling entrepreneurs offer knock offs and intriguing novelty items. In contrast the sedate and very well-stocked government store offers guaranteed genuine merchandise complete with eager sales associates and higher prices. The merchandise is definitely quality and worth a visit, but you wonít find irresistible bargains.
French ConcessionIn the list of things to see and do in Shanghai, one of the most westernized experiences yet with traditional Chinese overtones, is a visit to the area called the French Concession.
It is to the credit of Shanghai and the Chinese government that this architectural and cultural legacy has been retained.
While the Bund is famous, visitors should definitely explore the lesser known (and therefore less crowded) French Concession.
The area wanders along Fuxing Road, and the lovely Fuxing Park. This beautiful and well-preserved section is dotted with historical buildings, cafes and restaurants, fountains, shops, museums, and pedestrian friendly streets.
In the park itself, youíll find the residents of the city practicing tai chi, singing, strolling around the lake, practicing music. Marx and Engels are honored with statues in the park.