Shanghai, the city of surprises, the Paris of the Orient, the city representing the new China is quite simply, a city for shoppers. The city is a delight for those with all tastes and budgets and there is something for everyone on your shopping list. The variety and quality of available items in Shanghai is the best in China. Let’s explore the shopping sights, make a list and hit the street.
Overview of Markets
- Nanjing Road: There are several large malls in Shanghai however the traditional shopping markets are still the best place to get finest selection for the tourist and business traveler. There are 3 main markets, Nanjing Road is the first and the oldest and touts the reputation of being the number one commercial street in China. Here you will find the smallest shops naturally mixed in the midst of large modern malls all flourishing with people even on a weekday afternoon.
- Huaihai Road: Huaihai Road is where many Chinese shop for the finer items in mainly boutique type stores. Sophisticated, it features top-end designer brands from all over the world. It also sells clothing of every description.
- Middle Tibet Road: This is the place to buy local food and local arts and crafts. Several small vendors have set up shop catering to tourists.
- Four Cities: The “Four Cities” in Shanghai are also bustling shopping areas. Small Chinese goods such as fans, curios, antiques, silver jewelry, and local crafts can be found in Yuyuan Shopping City.
- Xujiahui : The newly-established shopping and entertainment plaza, Xujiahui is a newer place and is also an entertainment hub with theatres. Large stores with mid and upper ranged goods are available. New Shanghai Shopping City is built on a grand scale and offers the best facilities and amenities. Located in the middle of Pudong Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, it is surrounded by a variety of retail outlets. Jiali Sleepless City has shops selling handicrafts, gift items which could be purchased as souvenirs. There are numerous shopping that sell apparel, accessories and all the products are moderately priced.
- North Shaanxi Road is famous for its shoes. All varieties and styles
- Fuzhou St, also known as Culture Street, is known for books, art and music.
- Dongtai Road Antique Market, a well-known tourist destination, is a market mainly dealing with the porcelains, jade wares, bronze wares, wooden wares, calligraphy, paintings and embroidery utensils.
- Xintiandi is on every tourist operator’s itinerary. It addition to designer names and labels from all over the world it has some unique shops where you will find out of the ordinary home wares and stationery. A trip here in the evening is ideal as you can take advantage of the outdoor cafes and restaurants.
- Shanghai Tang is an up market store with a Luxurious and magnificent collection of Chinese-inspired clothing, home accessories and gifts. There are branches in Xintandi and Huaihai Rd.
- Shirt Flag has original Retro-Cultural-Revolution t-shirts, bags, hats, and accessories. Photos of Mao and red stars are prominent. Located at 330 Nanchang Road, between Shanxi Nan Road and Maoming Road.
- Shanghai Trio has unusual small silk bags for every occasion. The designs use traditional cotton and silk fabrics for the modern need such as a cell-phone case or jewelry bag. A charming line of children’s items are also available. Located at the North block of Xintandi.
Make a List
- Pearls: Next to diamonds it is pearls that women like and China is the place to buy freshwater pearls. The best stores with the most variety are in the Huaihai Road area. If you want the real deal then be prepared to spend time shopping around. Learn how to make the difference between real and fake pearls with the tooth test. A real pearl will feel gritty when you rub it across your teeth, a fake will feel smooth and slippery.
- Pearl City – 558 Nanjing Dong Lu –Nanjing Rd.
- Hong Qiao New World Pearl Market – Hong Mei Road on the corner of Hong Qiao Road- Huaihai Road area.
If jewelry is not what you had in mind then clothes, bags, jade, silk scarves or a porcelain wares for the house are choices depending on her taste. Nice handmade leather bags also a good choice. The fake brand names that China is famous for is slowly being curtailed but still noticeable in a few street markets.
- Porcelains – The Shanghai museum gift shop has the largest variety of different porcelain items. Nice store with friendly staff that is not pushy. Located in Nanjing Rd. area.Leather bags and purses – these are available nearly at every market and shopping area. Nanjing and Huaihai Road.
- Clothes – The best variety is on Nanjing Rd. Designer items are available in the larger malls on Huaihai Rd. and Xintandi.
- Silk Pajamas — Shanghai Shiliu Puhong Qixiang Cloth Market –this market has three floors of fabric and tailors –168 Dongmen Road, not far from Yuyuan Garden.
- Electronics – Cybermart is an entire 3 story mall with electronic goods. Everything from laptops, cameras, software, mobile phones and all the necessary peripherals are exhibited in bright lights with salesmen ready to please. All qualities of goods are available. Inexpensive goods may not last and returning the item is obviously not an option so beware of items that may seem like excellent bargains. Reasonably priced cables and accessories are always useful gifts and men like utility. Software and games, both original and pirated, are available for all systems. Again beware of system compatibility. Cybermart is located in the Huaihai Rd. area, recently relocated to another building in the same area.
- Books and Photographs (great gifts for women as well). The architecture of Shanghai has changed considerable in only the past 10 years and the city continues to be transformed. Several photographers have captured interesting cityscapes and the prints are something worth taking a look. Several architecture books are also available on the change of Shanghai. All types of books including coffee table books, text books and casual reading books on this subject are out of the ordinary and make excellent gifts for the man in your life.
- Shanghai Ancient Books Store: No. 424, Fuzhou Road
- Shanghai Books City: No. 401, Fuzhou Road
- The Old China Hand Reading Room, #27 Shaoxing Road (between Ruijin Er Road and Shanxi Nan Road)
- T-shirts –Unusual t-shirts with interesting Chinese motifs and characters are available at Shanghai Tang, 15 Xintiandi North Block, Xintiandi.
- Beijing Olympics and Shanghai Expo merchandise –Olympic
- Merchandise Store – Ground floor, No.800 Nanjing East Roa
- Stuffed pandas – the symbol of China.
- Inexpensive and all sizes are available at most Shanghai markets including Nanjing Rd and Middle Tibet Market
- Expensive: Shanghai Tang, 15 North Block, Xintiandi
Chinese tea is an integral part of Chinese life and through the centuries has the medicinal qualities to give the Chinese a long and healthy life. It is an acquired taste and it may not suit the sweet milky tea loving people’s palate however if acquired then there is no turning back. Your trips to China bringing back good quality jasmine and green teas will be looked forward to.
You will also enjoy the shopping experience of tea. Tea boutiques are plenty in the city where you can sample the dozens of varieties of tea somewhat like wine tasting where you smell the fragrance of the tea and the check of the texture of the tea leaves. It makes you want to buy all types of tea, all of which are marketed boasting the advantages of anti-oxidants that the tea has.
If tea is not appealing then porcelain items or a tea set makes a nice gift. The variety of tea sets is many at all different price ranges. Tea Fragrance Garden –Bund Huangpu Road –East Nanjing Road
A Few More Tips
- Pressed for time, hate shopping, but have to get something, then run to East Nanjing Road and you will get what you need for everyone except the books and computer items. There are numerous stores selling jewelry, porcelain, bags, tea and clothing.
- If you need to get a special gift then make a trip to Shanghai Tang. The store is exclusive and many one of kind items can be found for everyone.
- Always carry the Chinese address of your shopping destination—the hotel concierge can write it for you.
- And remember, bargaining can be done in most stores barring the most exclusive designer shops. Many times up to 75% of the price can be knocked down!
- And finally after a long day of bargaining give yourself a treat; look for a foot massage parlour. There is one on nearly every street. The cost is approximately $20 an hour. It is one of the best parts of the Shanghai shopping experience.
Published in Jetwings, November 2008