Visit the Xintiandi district. As a car-free shopping, eating and entertainment area of Shanghai, Xintiandi is composed of an area of restored traditional shikumen ("stone gate") houses on narrow alleys, a modern shopping mall with a cinema complex, and some adjoining houses which now serve as book stores, cafes and restaurants.
Xintiandi covers two city blocks in the French Concession district of Shanghai, an area that was originally developed in the 1920's during Shanghai's colonial period when the city was a cosmopolitan, louche trading port. The French Concession is distinguished by tree-lined streets of two-story, gray-brick houses that have stone arches for doorways and terra-cotta tile roofs. Narrow alleyways intersect the streets, giving passage from one to the next.
After 1949, the buildings in the French Concession were turned into communal dwellings, with as many as 10 families living in a house intended for one, and the area became known for overcrowding and poor sanitation.