Beautiful gardens, great shopping, sidewalk cafes and more in Yu Gardens and the French Concession in Shanghai China

Shanghai China: 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.

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Yu (Yuyuan) Gardens

Yu 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, it's hard to enjoy a moment of contemplation amid the press of others also seeking that moment of solitude. If you can't visit out of season -- try a late afternoon visit when the tour buses have generally left.

Immediately adjacent is the Yu Garden Bazaar, the newly-built Ming style buildings are sometimes call Chinatown in China. Unlike the China Towns in the United States, no one actually lives in that part of town. Regardless, it is a fun shopping and tourism destination that recreates the buildings and alleys of old.

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 won't find irresistible bargains. Although a communist society, the area also has a plethora of small individually owned shops selling all manner of products. Pearls abound, but there's also a store selling chopsticks of all price ranges and material, and next door, a tiny fan shop and a gallery selling beautiful original art work and scrolls. The are also photo opportunities aplenty especially given the classical architecture.

French Concession

In 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.

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, you'll 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.

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Neala McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Updated: October 29, 2016

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