Turning right from the end of Sinan Lu onto Taikang Lu (泰康路, tàikāng lù) will bring you to the latest fashionably artsy shopping and lunching quarter, Tianzifang. The unassuming entrance, an arch over alley 210 on the north side of the road, leads onto Taikang Art Street, a narrow north–south alleyway off which you’ll find an expanding web of alleys filling up with trendy boutiques, coffee shops, handmade jewellery stores, art galleries and restaurants, all housed in converted shikumen houses. At its northern end, Tianzifang exits onto Sinan Lu, but don’t even try to come in from there – the entrance is really tough to find.
Inevitably, Tianzifang gets compared with Xintiandi; but whereas the architecture there is modern pastiche, this is a set of real, warts-and-all longtangs, with the result that it’s quainter, shabbier, more charming. If you’re looking for an artsy knick- knack or accessory, quirky souvenir, tasteful homeware or a designer original, this is the place to come (see p.383), though try to visit on a weekday as the narrow lanes get very crowded at weekends. For a coffee stop, central Kommune (see p.377) is a local institution.