Shanghai’s shopping is second only to Hong Kong and you’ll find goods from all over China and the world. The most obvious shopping street is Nanjing Lu, which gets increasingly classy as it shifts west, but there are also an army of shopping malls and markets to scour.
To escape the bright, air-conditioned malls, Shanghai’s markets are as interesting for a slice of the city’s life as they are for the astounding range of products they offer.
Bird and Flower Market, Jiangyin Lu (daily ; Renmin Square subway). A lively and buzzing market, the streets around here are crammed with birds, fish, flowers and bonsai. Prepare for a noisy excursion as hawkers and customers haggle over the best prices to the backdrop of bird song.
Dongtai Lu Antiques Market, Dongtai Lu and Liuhekou Lu, off Xizang Nan Lu (daily ; Huangpi Nan Lu subway). This is a great place to come for a stroll, some browsing and light haggling. The market is spread over a few streets on the western side of Xizang Lu and is a treasure trove of cheap Mao nicknacks, with a few genuine antiques. Expect to knock two-thirds off the asking price.
Xiangyang Market, Xiangyang Nan Lu (daily ; Shanxi Nan Lu subway). For fake goods, this is the place. Hidden in its grid of stalls you’ll find DVDs, handbags, sportswear, sunglasses and almost anything else that can be copied. Bargaining is essential.
Shopping Streets & Malls
China’s version of London’s Oxford Street, Nanjing Dong Lu, offers over a mile of shopping from around the world and is a great place to get a feel for the pace of the city even if you manage to avoid buying anything. Pedestrianised for over half its length, Nanjing Dong Lu is also an easy place to shop and has everything from small one-off outlets to enormous malls.
It’s a good place to pick up souvenirs like chopsticks and silk, as well as international brand clothing and sports goods, although larger-frame Westerners may have trouble finding clothes to fit.
There are plenty of good restaurants in the vicinity for those all important pit-stops and, if you can’t face the walk, there’s even a mini-train that can take you along Nanjing Dong Lu between Henan Lu and Renmin Square for ¥2.
One of the grandest and newest malls is the shining tower of Heng Yuan Xiang Department Store on the southern side of Nanjing Dong Lu by Huangpu Lu and just across from Renmin Square. Some relics from the past still manage to survive on thriving Nanjing Lu, including an enormous pharmacy, the No.1 Dispensary.
As you progress west past Renmin Square, the street becomes Nanjing Xi Lu and the shops and malls start to get more upmarket. This is Shanghai’s version of Fifth Avenue and you’ll find all the usual characters – Prada, Versace and friends. One of the glitziest malls is Plaza 66 at 1266 Nanjing Xi Lu.
Arts & Crafts
Other places to try for handicrafts include the Arts and Crafts Museum and trendy Taikang Lu, south of Jianguo Zhong Lu, which has contemporary shops selling paintings, pottery, jewelry and other arts and crafts.
Silk & Tailoring
Shanghai is close to the silk-growing areas of Suzhou and Hangzhou and has a long history of fine dressmaking. Cheongsams or (qipao in Chinese) were the cutting edge in the 1930s and have seen a renaissance of late as people re-embrace their past.
You can pick up inexpensive readymade dresses just about anywhere in town (Xiangyang Market, see above, is very cheap), but if you want a quality dress made up, then head for Silk King at 66 Nanjing Dong Lu. Silk costs around ¥30-40 per meter (3 ft 3 inches) and tailor-made dresses can start from as little as ¥500, depending on the fabric chosen.
Quality men’s suits can also be made for significantly lower prices than in Europe or North America – Dave’s Custom Tailoring at 6, lane 288, Wuyuan Lu, north of Huaihai Lu, is recommended, although suits take 10 days to complete.
If you’ve been having trouble with any of your electronic equpment or just want to pick up some new headphones, a flash-disk or even an adaptor, you can get it all at Modern Electrical City on the southwest corner of the junction of Fuxing Zhong Lu and Xiangyang Nan Lu (Shanxi Nan Lu subway).
After more than half a century of being stifled by authority, Shanghai’s club scene is once again coming of age, albeit slowly. The city once renowned for its rowdy sailor bars, opium dens and good time gin joints dances to the beat of another drum these days, but has a few clubs worth checking out, including:
The lost-world feel of Mural (¥100 cover, including the unbeatable offer of all you can drink on Fridays) at 697 Rongjia Lu (Hengshan Lu subway).
Japanese hip-spot, Rojam (¥50 cover) on the fourth floor of the Hong Kong Plaza at 283 Huaihai Zhong Lu (Huangpi Nan Lu subway).
Both clubs are open until at least , but neither really gets going until . As in most cities, the club scene in Shanghai is fast-moving and fickle, so check Shanghai Talk and that’s Shanghai for the latest.
Like the club world, Shanghai’s thriving bar scene is constantly morphing, so it’s worth checking out the local magazines (see above) for the latest. Traditionally, the French Concession has been the bar district, but nearby Xintiandi’s redevelopment, the new string of upmarket bars on the Bund and some high-flying options over in Pudong have diversified the scene. Many of these places also serve food and some also function as clubs later in the evening.
In Pudong, Cloud 9, (87F, Grand Hyatt Regency Hotel, Jin Mao Tower, Mon-Thur 6 pm-1 am, Fri 6 pm-2 am, Sat 11 am-2 am & Sun 11 am-1 am) truly does sit among the clouds and is worth a visit for the spectacular vistas alone. Ambient music, studded steel support beams and different seating levels seamlessly complement the celestial cool.
Events & Festivals
Any festival in Shanghai is a memorable event and, if you’re lucky enough to be there for some of the bigger holidays, it will really make your trip. Chinese New Year sees Shanghai at its noisiest, with fireworks and crackers going off at every turn and dragon and tiger dances at Jing’an and Longhua Temples.
The colorful Lantern Festival is also a treat with most houses and shops displaying red lanterns and Yuyuan Gardens transformed by 10,000 lights. Another favorite is the Dragon Boat Festival where you’ll see longboat competitors racing along the Huangpu River
As Shanghai becomes rapidly becomes more international, so do its festivals. The line-up now includes a Flower festival (April), Music festival (May), Film festival (June), Beer festival (July) and an Arts Festival (November).
All are great fun and worth a look if you’re visiting, but remember that Shanghai gets very busy during these times.
For art lovers, another not-to-miss event is the Shanghai Biennale, housed in the Shanghai Art Gallery from October to November. Since beginning in 1996 the Biennale has been a great hit and now offers a chance to see ultra-modern Chinese and international art.
Shanghai will host the 2010 World Expo, which is also sure to attract attention, visitors and more investment.
Getting to Shanghai, Getting around
The Bund, Renmin square, Jade Buddha Temple
The French Concession, Xintiandi, The Old city
Pudong, Xujiahui, Longhua Temple, Water Towns
Travel guide to Suzhou
Shanghai Travel guide homepage
Cities and regions of China homepage
China Travel Guide homepage