If quirky and kitsch is what you’re into, then look no further than the streets of China. Venture to the outskirts of Shanghai and you may think that you’ve stumbled into a parallel universe. Instead, you’ve simply entered one of China’s replica towns, built to exactly mirror a little slice of Europe thousands of miles away. Check out a few of the best here.
Thames Town, Songjiang District
With its cobbled streets, mock-Tudor architecture and chain of high street shops, this could be almost any town in modern-day Britain …but it’s not. This is Eastern China, just 19 miles from Shanghai, to be precise.
Thames Town is a full scale replica of a classic British town, complete with a local fish and chip shop, iconic red phone boxes and a weekend market. The local church is modelled after Christ Church in Bristol, and the pub after The Cross in Chester. No Greggs yet, though.
Although Thames Town isn’t exactly thriving, and the houses are almost entirely owned by the rich as ‘second homes’, it’s proving very popular as a kooky setting for wedding photos.
Also known as Holland Town (unsurprisingly), Shanghai’s Gaoqiao is modelled on a Dutch architectural theme. With its very own windmill, a Netherlands Maritime Museum and a Bijenkorf department store, there’s no mistaking the Dutchness of Gaoqiao.
One part of the town was deeply inspired by Kattenbroek in Amersfoort, and there’s even a replica of Hofwijck Mansion in Voorburg. Dutch architectural firms Kuiper Compagnons and Atelier Dutch worked together to design the town – and the only things missing are an abundance of tulips and a population riding around on two wheels. Add those and you’ve got yourself a fully-fledged Holland town.
Thousands of miles from the original, a luxury real estate development has been built to exactly mirror the desirable streets of Paris. Tianducheng is made up of super stylish Parisian boulevards, a replica of the fountain from Luxembourg Gardens and even a 300ft tall Eiffel Tower.
The area’s main square is named - you guessed it - the ‘Champs Elysées’, after the luxury French street, bringing that Parisian glamour halfway around the world. Tianducheng is supposed to house 100,000 people, but the streets are largely deserted since outside of the Parisian bubble lies mostly farmland and quiet countryside.
Luodian Town, Baoshan District
Designed to look exactly like the Swedish town of Sigtuna, Luodian Town is just 16 miles outside of Shanghai – but feels a million miles away from China.
Designed by Swedish architectural firm Sweco, Luodian Town boasts Swedish style houses, shops and even a castle! What’s more, the man-made Meilan Lake has been inspired by Sweden's Lake Mälaren. Unlike some of the other imitation towns in China, Luodian is a popular and thriving hub, bursting with Scandi fever.
Pujiang, Minghang District
Sometimes referred to as Citta di Pujiang, this town’s Italian theme is undeniable. Sitting in the Minghang district of Shanghai, Pujiang was designed by Italian architects Gregotti Associati - and the architecture is a wonderful take on life in Italy.
With garden villas, an Italian palace and a piazza with a bell tower, Pujiang hits the nail on the head. Boasting outdoor cafes with a distinctly European feel and a canal that has a hint of Venitian glamour, this town is your one-stop-shop for all your Italian cravings in the heart of Shanghai. Magnifico!