Tianzifang 田子坊 is Shanghai’s charming equivalent of New York’s Chelsea Market+Highline. Once a 市集 (traditional Chinese marketplace), Tianzifang was remodeled in 1998 to become an artsy retail complex. From small trinkets to independent art galleries, there’s no shortage of things to see and eat. The area’s biggest charm? The lines of clothes drying in random corners of the streets, reminding you that older Shanghainese locals still live in the traditional lane houses.
Tianzifang is known to be very touristy but since making my official move this January I’ve discovered so many more unique storefronts. Like most places in Shanghai, Tianzifang is full of little alleyways that are incredibly fun to get lost in. As this area is always on my list of recommendations for visiting friends that only have a weekend layover in Shanghai, I’ve been wanting to consolidate a short list of food options in the area. The below is by no means a comprehensive list of things to eat in Tianzifang but these are a selection of my favorites that all have distinct shop styles of their own.
A popular Taiwanese-style breakfast spot, Taoyuan Village is the perfect
*Updated October 2017, EAST has now closed in Tianzifang with new location TBA.
Located conveniently in the middle of Tianzifang, EAST is a Michelin recommended eatery that serves a wide variety of Asian fusion dishes such as spicy rice cakes, baos, yakitori, etc. Think of an izakaya style eatery where dishes are great for sharing and even better with a glass of beer. You’ll find more authentic Korean/Japanese restaurants elsewhere in Shanghai but if you’re looking for a place that’s trendy with a twist of fusion dishes, this is the perfect mid-day stop.
Hands down my favorite cafe in Tianzifang, Cafe Dan is where I can always count on getting some writing and reading done. Don’t be daunted by the steep wooden steps at the entrance (they grow on you each visit I promise!), they’re worth the hike up. Once upstairs, you’ll find a Japanese-style cafe bar with owners that really take their coffee seriously. Not only do they roast their own beans, Cafe Dan has an entire section of the menu just dedicated to explaining the various types of coffee they have. My favorite thing at the cafe? Their coffee jello kakigori with a cup of cold brew.
Cold brew+coffee kakigori is my dream combination, so you can imagine why I visit Cafe Dan just for this.
I’d be lying if I said I only come here for coffee because they can really whip up some simple but hearty Japanese dishes as well. My favorites are the Special Oyakodon and Unagi-don lunch sets, which all come with a miso soup and cup of coffee. Come for the coffee, stay for a bite if you can!
A lifestyle boutique shop with a really well-curated collection of lifestyle goods, TASTE Shop is a beautiful space in Tianzifang that also hosts special exhibits. I managed to catch their recent exhibit TASTE | Teibann Tenn which showcased a lot of daily objects and Japanese ceramics. The 1st and 2nd floor of TASTE both have a cafe bar but other than coffees here, I’d recommend trying the iced matcha/matcha lattes. I always love watching them whisk the matcha in front of me, it’s really an art.
Actually, I discovered TASTE Shop when I was walking past it with a friend once, and randomly, this beautiful cat came out to greet us. We were convinced it was a moment from Haruki Murakami’s books because the cat led us into the 1st floor shop where we met the owner, and then up to upstair cafe & gallery space. Either that cat was a great sales person (it is the owner’s cat after all), or the whole thing was orchestrated a little bit like a Murakami moment.
So the above places are where I recently find myself when I’m in the Tianzifang area. Since I just discovered TASTE Shop recently, I definitely plan on going back soon to see when & what their next exhibit will be about. That being said, there are so many shops in the area that I haven’t visited. Most of the time, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of people the cobblestone alley ways can fit (the answer is A LOT!!). Tianzifang has its charms but is also quite touristy so definitely be prepared to brace the crowds for your visit.
Hope you enjoyed reading the above recommendations! It’s been a while since I posted, but I promise I’ll be getting back into blogging more. I’ve discovered a lot of new cafes in Shanghai recently and definitely want to put together a blog post on that soon (maybe a coffee+croissants, Shanghai edition).
Directions // Take Metro Line 10 to 打浦桥 Dapuqiao Station and follow the signs for ‘Taikang Lu’ and you’ll find yourself right at the entrance of Tianzifang 田子坊. For each individual store front, follow the green number signs.