Most travelers visit foreign countries hoping to experience authentic lifestyles while learning about the development of history and culture in the area. Others prefer sticking to more modern attractions, seeking out the neighborhoods and sites they can identify with the most. If you’re a true partier and lover of adventure than no trip to Shanghai will be complete without a visit to Xintiandi.
What is Xintiandi?
Xintiandi is one of the newest and most modern neighborhoods within the city of Shanghai. The name Xintiandi literally translates to mean “new heaven and earth” and the area certainly does live up to its name. This upscale neighborhood is literally overflowing with restaurants, bars, clubs, museums, and shops – all designed to keep you entertained.
You’ll find Xintiandi unique compared to other neighborhoods in Shanghai, especially the older ones. Xintiandi has a compact street layout full of cobblestone lanes – a setup that is very easy to navigate. The design of the buildings within the district, with new yet stylish grey stone fronts, was created to honor the ancient history of the city while embracing the present. The entire area is car-free.
Xintiandi was developed by Shiu On Land. He developed the area during a time when areas surrounding this particular neighborhood were being redeveloped. Several of the old shikumen houses had been scheduled for demolishment but were instead restored and turned into the restaurants, shops, and art galleries you see there today.
Xintiandi is considered a tourist attraction of its own within Shanghai, mostly targeted at gaining the attraction of international visitors (locals know the area is too expensive and avoid it at all costs). Visitors love shopping, dining, and simply walking the alluring neighborhood streets. If you’re on a budget, walking is all you might be able to do as both eating and shopping is quite expensive in Xintiandi. Rumor has it the prices here rival those in New York City, London, and several other major cities.
Dining in Xintiandi
Despite your budget, or lack thereof, you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to eat while exploring Xintiandi. The neighborhood is full of dining establishments of all varieties, ranging from sit down restaurants to cafes and comfy bistros. You’ll find all varieties of fare as well, from Western cuisine to traditional Chinese dishes.
If you can imagine a style of cuisine, you’ll find it in Xintiandi. One of the most popular destinations is a Bavarian beer hall known as Paulaner Brauhaus. Paulaner Brauhaus serves not only traditional Bavarian cuisine but features a small microbrewery as well – something almost unheard of in China, let alone Shanghai. Not into beer? You’ll find a number of restaurants serving Shanghaises, Vietnamese, French, Italian, Chinese, and American dishes as well.
Shopping in Xintiandi
Whether you’re shopping with a purpose, browsing for something special, or merely window shopping, you’ll find exploring the myriad of stores and boutiques in Xintiandi to be an incredibly interesting experience. Imagine stepping foot inside of some of the most luxurious boutiques in France, London, or even New York and you’ll only begin to scratch the surface when it comes to the shops that line the streets of Xintiandi.
Some of the shops feature Chinese fashions while others focus on international styles. The store known as Shanghai Tang is a very popular destination for shoppers, featuring a unique line of clothing that blends ancient Chinese style with today’s modern trends. There are even a few eco-friendly shopping establishments, like Elements, featuring lines of clothing made only from natural fabrics.
The area’s jewelry shops, including PH7, feature spectacular designs of all shapes and sizes. The ornate patterns used to create necklaces, bracelets, and earrings are like none you will see elsewhere in the world. In these shops you’ll find a distinct blend of Chinese culture and individual design.
If you’d prefer something similar to your local shopping mall, head towards the South Block to check out the largest shopping center in Xintiandi. Inside you’ll find a number of shops boasting western names, including United Colors of Benetton, Giordano, and the French Connection. They may not be Chinese names, and they may not be cheap, but they’re definitely fashionable.
No trip to Shanghai is complete without at least one trip out to Xintiandi. The contrasts from the rest of the city are astounding and – who knows – you might just find something authentic and affordable to take home as a souvenir!