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
instagram place to start off the day. I love that they keep their menu simple and can always count on having a nice breakfast here (I adore the sweet soy milk). Taoyuan Village does get quite full on the weekends but turnover is fast. It’s a stone’s throw away from Tianzifang (literally across the street!) and a great place to sit down for a nice breakfast before heading off for some meandering.
Popular Taikang Lu branch has some outdoor seating (these go fast!); while there’s nearly always a queue to order, service is quite efficient so don’t be intimidated!
The aesthetic interiors make it an instagram heaven
If you want a bite of traditional Chinese breakfast, this is the nicest environment you’ll find in Shanghai (although definitely do visit the road-side stalls if you’re curious for a more ‘authentic’ experience)
咸豆花 Savory ‘Douhua’ Soft Tofu is a popular Chinese breakfast item, you can have your douhua in many different ways. If you opt for the savory option above, it comes with pickles, nori, scallions, and a dash of spicy rayu oil!
My FAVORITE breakfast item: 烧饼油条＋蛋, which is a griddled ‘pancake’ stuffed with an ‘oil stick’ (think a savory churro), plus eggs. Dream combo!
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.
Look for the #39 in Tianzifang (or for the shop with lots of Michelin Man on the outside!)
EAST Bao Tasting Platter is a trio of assorted Taiwanese buns stuffed with tasty fillings such as pulled pork & duck
Korean style rice cakes (dokbokgi) that were spicy and sweet–I suspect they give the rice cakes a flash fry before coating it in the signature gochujang because these had a nice crispy skin to it!
Fish & chips topped with fried lotus roots–battered cod and salmon
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.
#41 in the maze of Tianzifang, look out for the 丹 character up front
Eclectic cafe bar, full of decorations from Japan (you can watch your cup of coffee being made here!)
Large windows+ceiling windows=NATURAL LIGHT!
Extensive menus for both coffee+traditional Japanese cafe foods
Classic Cafe Dan Blend, with beans they roasted themselves
Cold brew+coffee jello kakigori
Cold brew+coffee kakigori is my dream combination, so you can imagine why I visit Cafe Dan just for this.
Cafe Dan’s special oyakodon is incredibly juicy and comes with a side of miso soup+cup of coffee at the end . Just in case you want a sneak peak of Cafe Dan’s extensive menu!
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.
1st floor is where you can find a great collection of home goods and trinkets from Japan & Europe. The careful curated items for sale by the TASTE shop team is amazing! I spotted some amazing artisanal card holders here that I’m dying to pick up next time.
1st floor coffee menu; more seating+food menu is available upstairs on the 2nd floor
2nd floor cafe plus my favorite interior design touch: ceiling windows!
MATCHA! If you order matcha at the bar, (left is the matcha latte, and right is just ice matcha) they will whip it up in front of you
Simple but beautiful photo exhibit of the Japanese artists
Exhibition space on the third floor–check out the Taste Shop social media for updates (instagram: tasteshopsh)
Object and space
An ideal room in my house
Our magical sales person, now a majestic creature lazing around
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.