Top 5 Western Architectures in Shanghai Old French Concession

Top 5 western architectures in Shanghai Old French Concession

Shanghai‘s French Concession stands as a testament to the city’s rich historical tapestry, where remnants of Western influence intertwine with Chinese culture. Amidst the bustling streets and modern skyscrapers, a stroll through this enclave unveils a treasure trove of Western-style buildings that once defined the city’s landscape. In this guide, we delve into the top five Western architectures nestled within the charming lanes of the Old Shanghai French Concession, each bearing witness to a bygone era of elegance, opulence, and architectural grandeur.

1. Si Nan Mansion | Beloved Residence of Social Elites

Highlight Features: Before exploring Si Nan Mansion, let’s take a look at Si Nan Road. This road, built in 1912 within the Shanghai French Concession, initially had no name. It wasn’t until two years later, in memory of the famous French musician Massener who passed away in Paris in 1912, that the Municipal Council named it Massenet Road. In 1920, villas and mansions rose on both sides of Massenet Road, now known as Si Nan Mansion.

Tips: Adjacent to Si Nan Mansion, there’s a cluster of old Western-style houses. Among them, at No. 517 Fuxing Middle Road, was the former residence of the patriotic poet Mr. Liu Yazi. In 2018, this three-story house with an attic was transformed into a bookstore named “Si Nan Bookstore” and officially opened to the public on World Book Day of the same year. After touring Si Nan Mansion, if time permits, you can visit this bookstore, a new cultural landmark in the Shanghai French Concession.

Address: 23 Fuxing Middle Road, Huangpu District


2. Heishi Apartment | Century-old Luxury Apartment

Recommended Reason: If there’s an apartment in Shanghai that can rival the Wukang Building, it’s Heishi. In 1924, American missionary James Harry Blackstone aimed to build China’s most upscale luxury apartment in Shanghai. This ambition led to the construction of Heishi Apartment, located at the physical center of the French Concession.

Address: 1331 Fuxing Middle Road, Xuhui District


3. Mahler Villa | Fairy-tale Castle in Dreams

Recommended Reason: At the end of Shaanxi South Road, amidst towering skyscrapers, stands a castle reminiscent of a fairy tale. This is the Mahler Villa, exuding a Nordic charm. The dreamy villa originated from a dream of a British girl in 1926 during her stay in Shanghai. Her father, British tycoon Eric Mahler, decided to turn her dream into reality. Completed in 1936, the castle boasts both Nordic roofs and Chinese glazed tiles. Unfortunately, shortly after its completion, the Mahler family was sent to internment camps by the Japanese, and the villa became a clubhouse for the Japanese military.

Address: 30 Shaanxi South Road, Jing’an District


4. Shanghai Museum of Arts and Crafts | French-style Romantic Little White House

Highlight Features: This century-old building, constructed in 1905, was originally the residence of a director of the French Concession Municipal Council. The three-story symmetrical garden villa features a strong French Renaissance style. With its nickname “Little White House of the Magic City,” the villa offers exquisite interiors, including a spiral staircase connecting three floors, pink relief on the dome, and a vaulted porch on the second floor, adding elegance to the details. It is now used at the site for the Shanghai Museum of Arts and Crafts.

Address: 79 Fenyang Road, Xuhui District Opening Hours: 9:00-11:00, 13:00-16:00

Average Cost: 8 yuan per person


5. 1933 Old Millfun

Highlight Features: Unlike the previous Western-style buildings in the French Concession, this old building, located in the former British concession, has a distinct style. It was once the Shanghai Municipal Abattoir. Covering an area of over 30,000 square meters, the five-story building, designed by the famous British architect Balfour, was the largest and most modern slaughterhouse in East Asia. Integrating both Eastern and Western elements, the building’s design follows the Feng Shui concept with its square exterior and round interior. The building, now a creative park, hosts numerous specialty shops and restaurants. Due to its concrete construction and deep gray walls, it has become a favorite venue for fashion shows, dramas, and various cultural events, with movies and TV shows such as “Tiny Times” and “Run Brothers” filmed here.

Address: 611 Liyang Road, Hongkou District

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