While the French Concession embodies Shanghai’s colonial past, and Pudong its bustling future, Jing’an – with its ancient temples sitting beside multistorey malls – manages to be a balance of both. Luxury-brand flagships are juxtaposed with parks and art museums, and redevelopment seems to be the only constant.
This year, a block of Jing’an’s 19th-century shikumen (literally “stone, frame, door”) houses are being renovated, preserving the original architecture while transforming them into something new altogether.
Add in recent developments – such as the HKRI Taikoo Hui mall and its two luxury hotels – and the district is primed to be one of Shanghai’s most dynamic and fastest-growing areas, while still retaining a feel for the past and its beautiful green spaces.
Galleries to visit
Art spots in mansions and factories
“Jing’an used to be just the temple and some shopping malls – now you see all these boutique stories” – Lyndon Neri, founding architect of Neri&Hu
Jing’an buildings reveal the area’s long history
1. Qing dynasty
First established in the year 247, the current Jing’an Temple was completed during the Qing dynasty. It served as a plastics factory in the days of the Cultural Revolution.
2. British Concession design
Designed like British townhouses, these luxury complexes were built in 1845 and feature a combination of British and Chinese architecture.
3. Art Deco
Famous architect László Hudec is responsible for many of Shanghai’s most iconic Art Deco buildings, including the Pei Mansion located in Jing’an.
Jing’an brings together the best of Chinese fashion and hip, global multi-label stores
“I wanted to bring together clothes that a modern working woman here would wear – it’s not all about qipaos” – Yilei Wu, founder of Xinlelu
This is the brick-and-mortar incarnation of Yilei Wu’s popular online store. Wu is known for working closely with designers to curate a store that’s all about the modern Shanghainese woman. Her minimalist-yet-cosy boutique space showcases items from a wide range of local designers, including delicate gold jewellery, and often hosts visiting designer shows from around the region.
2. Arete Studio
This is a contemporary women’s brand inspired by female travellers and warriors. Their style is a hybrid of Chinese and Western influences, with a sophisticated yet subtle power in their designs.
“Magnet Studio” written backwards, this jewellery brand was started by two fashion editors (one was Wu’s first assistant back in 2010) two years ago. The idea was to create affordable and sturdy jewellery with a specific focus on originality.
A new lifestyle brand for the Shanghainese of today stocking towels, candles and other products inspired by travel. One of their most popular items is a silk spray which helps reduce wrinkles.
Our pick of gents’ garments
One of Shanghai’s biggest menswear brands, STAFFONLY redefines traditional menswear with playful pieces and unusual silhouettes.
Standing for “never out of style”, NOOS sells dapper clothes from a range of hard-to-find British and Italian brands.
3. RJ Clothing
This made-to-measure menswear business by three Europeans aims to bring affordable, quality suits to global customers.
Located in an old underground bomb shelter, this store is worth visiting for its minimalist interiors alone.
Shanghai success stories and overseas imports are moving into the area
1. Grand Bar Flow Hotel
Eddy Yang of cocktail lounge and noodle shop Bar Flow has recently opened this new speakeasy that’s inspired quite literally by Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. It features brass finishings and luggage trolleys, and the drinks are as elaborate as the interiors – in particular the signature concoction that’s served in a glass milk carton.
Head to the sixth floor terrace area to check out the breathtaking city views at this Roppongi Hills import. The Japanese influence is clear in the sleek wood-toned interiors, while the menu invites you to pair prime cuts of wellaged beef and seafood with craft sake.
After the success of its fi rst spot on Anfu Road, this wildly popular French crêperie and wine bar now has a second branch in Jing’an on Xinle Road. You can expect its trademark delicious crêpes, cheesy galettes and great coffee.
4. Jin Hua
Once a zany-looking spot named after its flamboyant owner, Dahlia, this beloved eatery has changed its name and menu, which now puts the spotlight on Yunnan’s earthy, spicy flavours. But while the décor has taken on a more tropical tone, the space does still retain some over-the-top touches such as tassled lamps and the crazily designed bathrooms. The art and events space and the slide that takes you from the second to the first floor are also still around.
A city for cycling
Bike lanes and night rides abound
“Cycling is a big part of Shanghai life,” says David Deng, founder of Jing’an-based 17Teeth, which builds bespoke bikes for locals. “There are bike lanes everywhere.” On Friday nights, 17Teeth organises night rides, with up to 20 people joining. “We don’t tend to have a specifi c route.” Deng says. “We just pick a direction and go.” Destinations have included ancient water towns like Qibao and even Hongqiao airport. “Anyone is welcome to join,” says Deng, and you can rent bicycles if you don’t have your own.
“Er Guang Wonton and The Beer Lady near Suzhou creek are great places to stop at (after a ride)” – David Deng, owner of 17Teeth
Singapore Airlines flies daily to Shanghai. To book a flight, visit singaporeair.com
This article was originally published in the July 2019 issue of SilverKris magazine