Kitsch and fun Tianzifang is a labyrinth of traditional Shanghai alleyways that are chock-full of trinket shops, bars, restaurants and art galleries. Take a walk on the Tianzifang side with our pedestrian’s guide to the neighbourhood.
One of the great joys of Tianzifang is wandering around its maze of small lanes while absorbing its frenetic energy. On a weekend or busy day it’s almost impossible to follow any kind of dedicated route, so don’t try to fight the crowds that throng here; just give in and let them take you on a unique adventure.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Start with the art
Taikang Road on gate number one is a good place to start your Tianzifang exploration. The road is easily accessed from exit one of Dapuqiao metro station, and is right next to a tourist information centre where you can pick up a handy map of the area. The gate is also the entrance to Lane 210, where Chen Yifei, one of China’s most renowned contemporary artists, took over two abandoned factory buildings and converted them into his studios in the late 1990s. With cheap rents and large residential buildings available, local artists from around the world set up shops in the area, which eventually turned into a thriving district with a commercial neighbourhood.
As you enter the lane, keep a look out for the stone archway that welcomes visitors into the labyrinth, engraved with the Chinese characters for Tianzifang. When it was redeveloped, the area was named in homage to China’s earliest recorded painter, Tian Zifang, which in itself was a nod to the area’s reputation as a bastion of creative expression in the city.
One of the buildings that Chen took over is still open as an art studio at 2 Lane 210. As you begin your wanderings, take a quick look into his studio to see some of his artwork and the restored factory building. If you are after something modern, check out Lu Shanghai, where you can get cool contemporary Chinese designs printed onto a T-shirt. Elsewhere on Lane 210, the Tianzifang Art Centre provides local artists with a venue for photography, painting and other art exhibitions.
Distinctive architectural style
From Lane 210, as you go deeper into the heart of Tianzifang, pay attention to the distinctive shikumen buildings that house the area’s shops, bars and restaurants. Meaning ‘stone warehouse gate’, shikumen residences are regarded as the most representative of Shanghai’s styles of houses, as characteristic and typical of the city as the hutongs and courtyards of Beijing.
Shikumen combine Western and Chinese architectural styles and feature distinctive large doorways framed in stone. There are some particularly nice examples of these on the upper part of Lane 248, which you can access from Lane 210, but you can see them dotted all around Tianzifang.
The shikumen in this area were built in the 1930s and, as with the nearby Xintiandi area of bars and restaurants, the buildings in Tianzifang have been carefully restored for commercial use. But while Xintiandi’s renovators went for a polished new look, restoration work at Tianzifang has been approached with a light touch. The area has a distinctively lived-in atmosphere, and some buildings are still home to local residents. You can even spot their washing hung out across the streets!
Shop till you drop on Lane 248
Smack-bang in the heart of Tianzifang, Lane 248 is the centre of the action. Here, you will find almost everything from gaudy souvenirs, cute handbags and purses to contemporary takes on traditional Chinese clothing. Shi Yi Ji, which has a couple of branches on Lane 248, sells a particularly cute assortment of postcards, home accessories and stationery, while Beijing Fan at number 37, is dedicated to handmade silk fans. Off the main drag, the many tiny novelty shops that occupy the arterial streets off the lane are an excellent place to practise your haggling skills, as the sellers here drive hard bargains for their steamed bun magnets and panda soft toys.
To fuel your shopping, you’ll find a host of restaurants and food stalls all along Lane 248 vying for your attention. Gain culinary inspiration by observing the weird and wonderful things on sticks that everyone here indulges in. Many stalls even have free samples, allowing you to try the different snacks available. If you need to take the weight off your feet, Café Dan at number 41 is well known for its freshly brewed coffee and Japanese homestyle food.
After dark in Tianzifang
Tianzifang is fairly big, and you can easily spend a couple of hours wandering around and visiting all the shops and galleries. If you can time your visit to be here when night falls, you will find that, after dark, Tianzifang takes on another feel. The area is filled with many trendy bars and pubs dotted throughout its alleyways.
Hidden right in the centre, Kommune is worth searching out, not only for its simple yet tasty food, but also for its unique setting and excellent cocktails. On a warm evening, the wonderful outdoor seating area is usually overflowing with arty locals and creative expats, maintaining Tianzifang’s reputation as the coolest art district in town.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.