Stroll into history along a street full of delights
Fuxing Road M. in downtown Shanghai extends almost 3.5 kilometers, connecting Xizang Road S. in the east and Huaihai Road M. in the west. It’s interesting that this road, divided by Shaanxi Road S., belongs to two districts, Huangpu and Xuhui. Before 1943, it was called Route Lafayette, named after renowned French military officer Marquis de Lafayette from the French Revolution (1789-99). Today, the road is well-known for its rich history, a number of protected historic sites that used to be the residences of many famous figures from all aspects of society, and some nice treats during your exploration of the city.
New kind of museum
Sinan Mansions, a total of 51 garden houses that are protected historic sites, is a unique place in Shanghai where you can not only learn about the history of the massive complex but also have a fun experience in a cluster of boutique stores, bookshops and cafes.
In 2017, the area was been designed as a new kind of museum, the Sinan Open Air Museum. With no opening hours or entrance/exit, it is open 24/7 and visitors can feel free to learn the story of various structures simply by scanning QR codes on the buildings’ facades or an information board. Boasting an area of 50,000 square meters, Sinan Mansions has many garden houses linked to celebrities and politicians in the last century. For example, renowned Peking Opera artist Mei Lanfang, and Mo Yan, the first Chinese writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012.
As brick-and-mortar businesses gradually recover in the post COVID-19 period, Sinan Mansions is welcoming new “tenants.” RIO LAB, for example. Opening its doors to the public on July 29, the lab is spacious with seating areas both indoors and outdoors. The minimalist design style is emphasized by its “childish” chairs and inspiring origami stools. The origami homeware series seems more like a display than functional objects. The high ceiling and all-around big windows allow in sunlight, creating a nice background for photography. The open kitchen gives you a view of how each beverage is made.
In fact, some of the low-alcohol beverages are just like cocktails but be cautious with the milk teas sold here as they all contain alcohol. Yakult is not the one you know but contains gin with a 1.8-percent alcohol content. The drink with the highest alcohol content is Lemon & Gin, at 7 percent, which contains your choice of gin, liqueur and lemon. If you are after something fruity, go for White Grape, which is mixed with white wine, soda and grapes at 3.7 percent alcohol content. DIY options, such as ice, sugar, extra shots of liqueur, puddings, coffee/alcohol jellies or bubbles are available.
A taste of history and life
Opposite Sinan Mansions lies the south entrance of Fuxing Park, which is the only French-style garden in the city. Originally it was privately owned, called Gu’s Garden. When the French took it over to station armies in 1900, a series of French elements were added and are maintained to this day. Its name was changed to French Park in 1909, then to Daxing Park in 1944, and finally to Fuxing Park in 1946 after the Chinese won the war against Japanese invaders.
Today, many residents and visitors still enjoy the special layout of the park and use it as an undisturbed place for jogging or a date.
If you walk down Fuxing Road M. from east to west, it’s intriguing to experience the local lifestyles from modern to traditional. There is much more to explore on the road. By taking a closer look at many historic structures or buildings along the road, you will find some former residences of famous figures, such as famous Chinese scholar and author Qian Zhongshu’s on No. 573 where he wrote the book “Fortress Besieged,” and Chinese painter Liu Haisu’s on No. 512.
New cafes and coffee shops also spring up like mushrooms along the road, just like in many other popular streets citywide. Brews & Cheers, also known as B+ Coffee, is one of them. Its signature Fairy Pineapple drink contains no caffeine. Along with Choco Bob and Chai Latte, it is a great alternative to another caffeinated signature Lychee Orange Waltz. If you come after work, you will have a wide range of choice of draft beers, cider, IPA, stout and lager.
For coffee hunters, you can still get a caffeine fix on the road. Barista Made Coffee uses two different beans for espresso-based drinks. Rich Blend is composed of 40 percent washed Ethiopian and 60 percent washed Guatemalan beans. For those who like single-origin espresso, its washed Kenya AA will give you outstanding acidity with fruity notes.
For those who prefer a more spacious and quiet cafe with good coffee, Ji Coffee ticks the boxes. It is a cafe and bar owned by a 4S car dealership. The Flat White tastes good plus there’s a nice complimentary Belgian cookie. The front door looks quite small but the cafe is indeed much bigger than you would think — it has two SUVs parked inside. Please note that you are not allowed to bring in any drinks with you.
When in Rome, do as Romans do? Well, you definitely have to try this Shanghai traditional street food.
Surrounded by residence communities and local food markets, Chaipan Xiang is a small restaurant famous for traditional Shanghai-style snacks, or dim sum. Small dumplings in a Chinese casserole pot, fried chicken slices, fried pork chops … what you are going to taste is that of some childhood memories of Shanghai locals.