Shanghai Xintiandi is an urban tourist attraction imbued with the city’s historical and cultural legacies. Located in downtown Shanghai, and only one block south of the prestigious Huaihai Road Middle (former Avenue Joffre in the heart of the French Concession in the early 1900s) and its Metro station, the project has a site area of 30,000 square meters and a gross floor area of 60,000 square meters. Xintiandi features a multitude of specialist F&B, retail, entertainment, cultural, recreational, commercial and residential facilities in restored "Shikumen" (meaning "stone gate") houses – a special old form of building architecture only found in Shanghai – as well as state-of-the-art new buildings, catering for both residents and visitors. With this postmodern "yesterday-meets-tomorrow" design concept, Xintiandi has won many awards.
Opened in 2001, Xintiandi has become a hot meeting point for tourists and expatriates. Many nouveaux riches come to Xintiandi to blow their cash at the city’s latest luxury symbol. The area is divided into the North and South Blocks. In the North Block, antique buildings with their modern interior design, decorations and equipment play host to a dazzling array of restaurants specializing in French, American, German, British, Brazilian, Italian, Japanese, Taiwanese and Hong Kong cuisine, putting on display its full international dimension. To my surprise, this is one of the few places in Shanghai in which western faces outnumber Chinese (highly recommended for students to practice oral English). Luna, a handsome restaurant and bar in the center of the Xintiandi pedestrian area, offered pleasant catering solutions. While we enjoyed the delicacies of Mediterranean cuisine without noisy distraction, a funny waiter named Jerome impressed us most. The dividing line between the two blocks, Xingye Road, is the site of the First National Congress of the Communist Party of China. In the South Block, modern architecture is the motif while Shikumen is an accompaniment. A shopping, entertainment and leisure complex of 25,000 square meters in the South Block opened in mid-2002. Aside from a series of international restaurants representing the flavors of the world, there are classy boutiques, accessory shops, a food court, a movie cinema, a great one-stop fitness centre as well as 88 Xintiandi Executive Residence, which offers luxurious serviced apartments. There is also an underground car-park with 220 parking spaces.
Despite its lofty name, Xintiandi – literally, New, Heaven, Earth – has more modest hopes, merely intending to revolutionize entertainment, shopping and dining in Shanghai. Its success has fuelled demands for the preservation of historic buildings across China. Similar projects are now underway in other Chinese cities.