While living in Shanghai from 2002-2006, shopping was one of my favorite pastimes. Even if you don’t buy anything, just wandering around the markets is a fun adventure and offers insight in the city’s culture.
Since 2006, many markets have relocated and shops have shut down; however, in the fast paced city you can always count on finding great shopping around almost every corner. In Shanghai you’ll find everything from high-end malls to colorful outdoor markets.
I had the opportunity to spend a summer in Shanghai a few years ago and revisit some of my favorite shopping areas as well as discover new ones. While you can find many malls with foreign brands, I prefer to visit the markets and street vendors to find unique products and great deals. There are so many shopping areas in Shanghai it’s hard to cover them all, but below you’ll find a variety of some of Shanghai’s most popular shopping venues that are a great addition to any China custom tour.
Nanjing Road and Huaihai Road
Huaihai Road and Nanjing Road are two of the most famous commercial shopping streets in Shanghai. Nanjing Road, or Nanjing Lu in Chinese, spans 3.4 miles from the Bund to Jing’an Temple. You’ll find upscale stores with name brands, in addition to traditional and specialty shops where you can find things such as silk, jade, artwork, knick knacks and other souvenirs. The one thousand year old street has both traditional aspects of Chinese culture and modern features.
Nanjing road is a major tourist attraction as it offers such a diverse experience where you can explore boutiques with unique art, enjoy tea shops and coffee bars, listen to the music played by the street performers, and experience food from around the world.
Huaihai Road has around 400 shops, restaurants and businesses, mainly selling female clothing and accessories. Huaihai is where you’ll find what is trendy and fashionable in Shanghai. There are department stores like Isetan, and smaller shops including Levis and Miss Sixty, among other designer brands from around the world. The French architecture is elegant and modern, and the bustling road demonstrates the prosperity and growth of the city.
Yuyuan market is an ideal shopping venue for local crafts, antiques, jade, jewelry, tea sets and other souvenirs. You’ll find large shops, as well as small stalls and vendors. Yuyuan Market, or Yuyuan Bazaar, is located right next to Yuyuan Garden, a beautiful Chinese garden that was established in 1559. While shopping at Yuyuan market you should definitely take the time to explore the gardens. The colorful market also has a variety of delicious local snacks, including some of the best steamed dumplings in Shanghai!
Nan Waitan Fabric Market
Nan Waitan (South Bund) Fabric Market is one of the largest fabric markets in Shanghai. Originally called Dongjiadu Fabric Market and located outdoors, it has relocated indoors to Lujiabang Road. You can find hundreds of stalls selling every type of fabric imaginable at low prices. You’ll find Chinese silk, thai silk, cotton, linen, wool, cashmere, etc. Additionally, many of the shops have their own tailor who can sew custom fit clothes for you.
Dongtai Road Antique Market
DongTai is the largest antique market in Shanghai, with hundreds of stalls and shops where you’ll find antiques, porcelain, furniture, jewelry, baskets, wood carvings, flowers, etc. It is located on Dongtai Lu and Liuhe Lu. Be cautious in your purchases as many of the antiques may be fake. Regardless, DongTai is a great place to explore the culture and history of Shanghai.
Most of the old markets in Shanghai are gone, and converted to markets selling clothes, watches, and fake handbags. Even if you are not looking to buy furniture it is fun to wander around the stalls, and soak up the culture. You will see vendors playing cards and Mahjong, a popular game in China.
Qipu Lu Clothing Market
Qipu Lu is a multi-story clothing market packed with vendors. Since the closing of Xiangyang market, infamous for it’s fake products, many of the vendors from Xiangyang have relocated to Qipu Lu. You will find clothes, shoes, accessories, bags, and jewelry all at affordable prices. There are many great deals to be had at Qipu Lu, though the large market can be daunting for the unexperienced shopper. Read some of the bargaining tips below to get accustomed with the shopping rituals in China.
Bargaining is a major aspect of shopping in Shanghai and is a must at most of the markets. Learning a few Chinese phrases can be helpful, though a lot of the bargaining can easily be done on a calculator. If you are on your first China tour, you may not be familiar with the market price of things.
One way to find out is to ask different vendors, compare their final prices to give you an idea of what a fair price is. Remember to be patient, bargaining can be frustrating, but it is part of the culture. Honor the price agreement you reach and try to have fun!
Guest post by Ali Dempsey
Megan Eileen McDonough is writer, blogger and social media specialist based in New York City. She also runs Bohemian Trails, a lifestyle blog designed for the savvy and stylish traveler. Bohemian Trails aims to feature must-see places around the world, covering everything from revamped neighborhoods and vibrant street art to innovative tech hubs and everything in between. Her cultural escapades have taken her to Latin America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.
Megan is also a freelance writer and social media specialist based in New York City. She contributes to various online and print publications in the travel and fashion industries and is an international correspondent for both Jetsetter and Northstar Travel Media.