Shanghai is a city of contrasts – it has skyscrapers of more than 100 floors, it has a train that travels more than 250 mph, the nightlife is incredible, but it also has street markets where a savvy shopper can find many bargains and a dollar (or a euro) goes a long way.
The markets listed below are just a sampling of what you might find a one of the world’s greatest cities. Every district has several bustling markets where locals and expats alike can choose from among the thousands of different brands (real or not?) and bargain until the day ends. It’s all in great fun and the experience is energizing and enjoyable.
Remember your bargaining skills: cut the price in half, then half again. Expect to bargain ruthlessly; haggling can take hours. However, be aware that you are undoubtedly buying a fake antique. Don’t show any interest unless you are inclined to buy, and then bargain hard. Because of the popularity with tourists, prices tend to be inflated especially along Old Street; knowing a little Chinese, such as the numbers, can be a big help. We suggest that you stick to these rules:
- Say Something in Chinese: Try to say at least Ni hao ma?, (How are you?) or a Duo shao qian?, (How much?). Opening with some Chinese will ease you up to the bargaining table and will put a smile on the vendor’s face.
- Make Your First Offer a Very Low One: Ideally, you would like to pay 20-25% of the asking price. Typically, if shopping for inexpensive items, try for 25-50% of the original price. If the seller asks for 50 RMB, you should offer 15 RMB and work up from there. If the item is very expensive, it’s better to start lower, say 10% of the asking price, so you have more room to maneuver.
- Don’t Be too Interested: Be patient. Time is not on your side: the vendor has all the time in the world; he can sell his trinket tomorrow. If you can, take time and don’t be rushed. If the seller isn’t coming down on the item you want, walk away and peruse other stalls. You might find it cheaper elsewhere and you can use the price to drive the other vendor down.
- Learn to Always Walk Away: The seller will almost always come after you with a new improved price. After you reach an impasse and the price is still too high, give your final offer and walk away slowly, but looking pointedly at other items. Usually you will be called back.
- Watch Out for Pickpockets: Crowded markets are a pickpocket’s natural working area. If you can, divide your cash up in several places (front pockets, money belt, wallet, or purse), and don’t carry your passport unless it is necessary.
Dongtai Lu Antique Market: Open daily, all day while there is sunlight, on and around Dongtai Road, just south of Huaihai Zhong lu, near Huaihai Park. This street market has been in existence for several generations. You will see men playing card games, women laughing while play mahjong, and a plethora of singing birds out for their daily “walks.”
You will be able to bargain for better prices later in the afternoon, when vendors are slightly more tired or anxious to make a sale. You won’t hear much English, but you can point and use the vendor’s calculator to show your price. However, at times, you can find English-speaking sales people and decent wares at these dealers:
- Da Feng Tang Antiquary (44 Dongtai Road), old Chinese dishes and vases (500-50,000 RMB), wooden jewelry boxes (200-1,500);
- Yu Fi Fang Art (62 Dontai Road), a great place to browse or buy historical photos of Shanghai (framed, 40-80 RMB);
- Chu Ming Meng (39 Liu He Kou, off Dongtai), marvelous woven fabric from southern China’s tribal regions, and a huge variety of tiny shoes once worn by women with bound feet (100 RMB to 4,000 RMB for rare pairs up to 200 years old).
- Cai Min Jia (9 Liu He Kou Road), a stall filled with clocks and watches, including old pendulum clocks from Japan and Europe.
Yu Yuan Gardens: Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m., in the center of the historic old city, also along FangBang Zhong Lu, and Fuyou Lu, where the long-running Fuyou Antiques Market is now an indoor flea market on four floors and well worth a look. The Wife Ding Handspun Cloth Store (438 Old Street) is popular with expats, with its clothing in the old (batik-looking) blue-and-white style of Shanghai, and a loom inside for weaving demonstrations of this traditional cloth, turned by Mrs. Ding into items like bedspreads and blouses.
Come as early as possible on Saturday or Sunday morning, preferably the latter, when vendors come in from the surrounding countryside. The goods are various and few are polished up; many of the items are from the attic or the farm, though increasingly also from some factory backroom that churns out modern pieces that are then scuffed up with mud to look old. Porcelains, old jade pendants, used furniture, Qing Dynasty coins, Chairman Mao buttons, old Russian cameras, Buddhist statues, snuff bottles, and carved wooden screens are just a few of the treasures here, none with price tags.
The City God Temple: This market has changed over the years and now offers many items from Tibet. You will find many very nice, but small handicraft stores, restaurants and food stalls. This daily market starts out in the basement of the Haobao Building (Fangbang Lu 265, Old Town Bazaar, Nanshi), but on weekends it spills into the courtyards of the temple and nearby Yu Yuan pedestrian mall. Stores will usually remain open until about 9 pm.
Qibao Old Street: Many wine shops, restaurants, snack stores and century-old stores. Located on Fuqiang Road, Qibao Town in the Minhang district. DO NOT go there at weekends, or get prepared for the stream of people. The old street has lots of restaurants, offering typical local snacks like dumplings.
Yunnan Nan Road: Located at the intersection of Yan’an Road and Xizang Road in Huangpu District. The street is famous for stocking regional specialties. The most popular restaurants are Xiao Shao Xing, Xiao Jin Ling and Chang’an Dumpling House. In addition to shopping bargains, South Yunnan Road is also an old food street. It is about ten minutes’ walk from the People’s Square and adjacent to Dashijie Amusement Park, so it is also called Dashijie Food Street.
Changli Road Shopping Street: Located in the southwest corner of Pudong, Changli Road was part of the old town before Pudong began its modernization in 1990. This small road is crowded with vendors. It is called the “Pudong Nanjing Road”. There are various kinds of vendors selling CDs and other items. Nowadays, you will see large Lotus Supermarkets and the Pudong Department Store in the same area, but the small stores are where you will find the interesting bargains.