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A Walking Tour of Xintiandi, Shanghai

Pedestrians window shopping in small shops, Xintiandi, Shanghai
Pedestrians window shopping in small shops, Xintiandi, Shanghai | © George Brice / Alamy Stock Photo
Xintiandi is like a little city within a city. Taking up just two blocks, it offers rich pickings for those exploring on foot, from beautifully preserved 19th-century shikumen lane houses in the north to ritzy glass contemporary buildings in the south.
A street sweeper cleans up in Xintiandi Plaza shopping district Shanghai © Richard Ellis / Alamy Stock Photo

Once upon a time, Xintiandi was a residential area made up of shikumen lane houses that were home to hundreds of families. Today, Xintiandi is a more commercial area and one of Shanghai’s most popular lifestyle complexes, with a range of restaurants, bars and boutiques inhabiting the repurposed lane houses, plus glitzy modern architecture to the south.

Seeing Xintiandi on foot

The best way to experience the evolution of Xintiandi is to meander along the paths that connect old Shanghai with the present. Start off at South Huangpi Road metro station. Head south on quiet, tree-lined Danshui Road, then make a left onto Taicang Road and walk until you reach Harry Winston on your left and Starbucks on your right. You’ve made it to the north block of Xintiandi.

The narrow lanes of Xintiandi, Shangh © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo

Walk down the bustling, stone-paved pedestrian street of Xintiandi, which will take you by some of the area’s most popular places to eat and drink. You can find all types of cuisine here, from American, German and Italian to Japanese and Thai. The majority of these restaurants have outdoor seating as well, making for some great people-watching.

Some of the city's best dining and drinking options are in Xintiandi © TapTravel Stock / Alamy Stock Photo

If you want to escape the crowds on the main road, try turning down one of the small lanes. Spend some time strolling along these narrow pathways to get a feel for the beauty of traditional shikumen architecture, with its vaulted stone door frames and wooden doors.

Old Shanghai narrow lanes, Xintiandi, Shanghai © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo

Historical Xintiandi

To learn more about shikumen lane houses, check out the Shikumen Museum, which is located at the southern end of the north block of Xintiandi. It gives you a glimpse of what these houses looked like back in the day, and an idea of what life was like for the residents who called them home.

Street scene in the historic Xintiandi downtown area of Shanghai By gary yim / Shutterstock

History buffs should next turn left onto Xingye Road. At the end of the block you’ll come to the birthplace of communism in China: the Memorial House of the First National Congress of the Communist Party in China. Today, it’s a free museum featuring information about the country’s history and the Communist Party.

Street scene in Xintiandi, Shanghai © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo

Fill up and put your feet up

Cross Xingye Road and make your way down to the glossy modern south block. Here you’ll find a large selection of places to eat, drink and shop, plus a cinema. But most notable is the local branch of the popular Din Tai Fung restaurant chain, well regarded among locals for its superbly delicate xiaolongbao and exceptional service. Order a piping hot basket of xiaolongbao, stir-fried veggies and steamed pork buns, and you’ve got yourself a heavenly meal.

The old alley in the historic residential area in Xintiandi, Shanghai © gary yim / Shutterstock

If you’re still up for walking, head a little further south to Xintiandi Style. This mall features some of the super creative and innovative work of local designers. It’s a great place to browse for unique souvenirs you won’t be able to find anywhere else.

Finally, what better way to round off your walking tour of Xintiandi than with a foot massage? Walk back up north to K11 Art Mall, a creative concept that combines a mall and an art gallery, and go up to the third level, where you’ll find Green Massage – your feet will thank you tomorrow.

The narrow lanes that characterise Xintiang, Shanghai © Peter Horree / Alamy Stock Photo