Photo credit: Jacky Czj
The prosperous commercial neighbourhood of Xintiandi Shanghai is unique in more ways than one. The urban entertainment and lifestyle centre is located in Shanghai’s former French Quarter and takes its name from the Mandarin for “New Heaven and Earth.” Along with its self-confessed status as the place “where yesterday meets tomorrow in Shanghai today”, Xintiandi is a location filled with aspirations and steeped in modernism.
Where East meets West
Xintiandi Shanghai is a landmark development that has boldly made its mark on the international landscape, making waves in the design, travel and cultural arenas. Its eye-catching design preserves the historical and cultural legacy of the city through an innovative, highly ambitious concept from Boston-based architect Benjamin Wood and Japanese company Nikken Sekkai. This is the place where East meets West, old meets new and the 19th century comes alive again within a hip and extremely modern framework.
The $200 million structure is divided into two parts – North Block and South Block – covering an area of sixty thousand square metres. It takes in ultra stylish entertainment hubs, fashion boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes. The centre also features a number of serviced apartments where residents can boast about their exclusive neighbours; Xintiandi Shanghai is one of the most expensive real estate areas in the world and home to celebrities, government figures and members of the Chinese elite.
Ambition and innovation
This project has really fulfilled architect Benjamin Wood’s ambition to “breathe life” into the old city of Xintiandi Shanghai. The centre has revitalised this tired, struggling area and even been credited with bringing Shanghai into the 21st century. The architects have achieved this astounding success through a careful revamp of many of the 19th century Shikumen-style buildings that characterise this part of the city.
Shikumen is a design style that originated in Shanghai in the mid-19th century and once accounted for sixty per cent of the city’s residential buildings. While it is no longer feasible in modern Shanghai, where most residents live in high-rise apartment blocks, the designers of Xintiandi have recreated the area’s original beauty and paid homage to its monumental status through extensive preservation and a stylish modern twist.
Xintiandi’s interiors showcase cutting-edge, modern design from both Western and local talent with features such as handspun glass, while the majority of the exterior is made up of original Shikumen homes – both two – and three-storeys. Unique features include an expansive courtyard, red and black brick buildings with Baroque doorframes and grey flagstone flooring while the cobbled, jagged streets have also been worked into the modern structure. Visitors no doubt can imagine that they are walking along the streets of old Shanghai as they absorb the vitality and vibrant atmosphere of the complex. The entire area is also free from cars, providing a clean, soothing retreat within the bustling city. The modern design pays elaborate attention to detail and accounts for every creature comfort, with features such as air conditioning and broadband.
An entertainment paradise
The diversity of the neighbourhood doesn’t stop at the design; it can also be felt in the range of leisure activities on offer. Fashion boutiques include local brands such as Shanghai Tang – a dynamic label inspired by traditional Chinese culture whose designs have attracted the likes of Naomi Campbell, Angelina Jolie and Kate Moss. A number of other prestigious labels are also located in the centre within a shopping area that covers everything from clothes to souvenirs, accessories and wellbeing products.
When it comes to dining, Xintiandi Shanghai has it all. Themed restaurants take in a diverse international cuisine, including Brazilian barbecue, classic Thai and original Cantonese. There is also a creamery (for a throwback to childhood days), a sophisticated wine bistro and a Chinese teashop where you can take part in a world-renowned local tradition. Many of the restaurants also have outdoor seating and live music, making the complex the ideal place to relax from the day to night.
Shanghai’s living room
Nicknamed, “The City’s Living-Room” there is entertainment abound at Xintiandi, offering local and international visitors the opportunity to rest, relax and indulge their every whim. A number of art galleries fulfill cultural cravings, while the Wulixiang Museum is also well worth a visit. As a recreation of a 1920s-style Shikumen home, it offers a sense of nostalgia and an authentic experience of the old city.
If you fancy a spot of exercise, head over to the Y+ Yoga Center where you can take a class with world-renowned instructors in a state-of-the-art studio that welcomes views over the surrounding lake. Alternatively, you can sing your heart out at the Fame Karaoke Club, enjoy a massage at the Dao Spa or have a mani-pedi at Hello Nail. The on-site cinema – UME International Cineplex – is a star in its own right, showing original English language films on decadent, colour-themed screens which come in red, pink, sky blue, bright yellow and purple. The cinema also includes reclining lazy-boy seats or love seats for romantic nights.
This groundbreaking project has set a new standard for design in China. Xintiandi Shanghai is a distinctive place that celebrates all the wonderful things about travelling and about life in general, setting visitors on a journey of discovery, history, cuisine, shopping, entertainment and indulgence.
Where to stay
Located in downtown Shanghai, Xintiandi is an extremely affluent and beautiful area that is frequently listed as one of the top five places to visit in the city. The Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai is an exceedingly comfortable and stylish hotel that is the ideal base from which to explore all of Shanghai’s delights. Guests can enjoy the exciting yet peaceful atmosphere of the local area, which takes in the most exclusive shopping and commercial centres in the city. The Andaz is easily accessible via metro from Xintiandi (Line 10) or South Huangpi Road (Line 1) and is also situated on many local bus routes. The Xintiandi compound also features on the city’s sightseeing bus trail.