French ConcessionShanghai has always been China’s most cosmopolitan city. After the first Opium War (1839–1842), the city was divided into foreign concessions and entered a golden age, with a thriving nightlife scene, an active film industry, and a booming economy. In the period during which the Japanese invaded Shanghai in World War II and afterwards when the People’s Republic of China was founded, most of the concessions disappeared—the French Concession is the only one that retains its old name. Its quiet streets are still lined with imported London plane trees, and its regal houses, in architectural styles like French and Spanish Renaissance and art deco, are still intact. This is the perfect neighborhood to take in what remains of Old Shanghai.
After the first Opium War, Shanghai was divided into foreign concessions. The French Concession is the only one that retains its old name, its streets lined in imported London plane trees and its large, Western–style houses and municipal buildings still intact. Among these is the grand 1905 French Renaissance–influenced building that’s now the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Museum. Come here for an overview of Chinese folk arts and to see artisans at work carving jade and doing needlepoint.