This several mile-long road lies at the heart of Shanghai’s shopping scene. Huaihai Road has an abundance of malls that serve all needs and budgets as well as major brand outlets and the trendy Xintiandi quarter. Huaihai Road’s charm lies in its juxtaposition of sleek new label boutiques alongside individually manned stalls that sell either knock-offs or cheap local brands of the same goods. Along the street are hundreds of stores, punctuated with restaurants, bars, salons and gyms. The old-style and recent architecture along Huaihai Road also gives a strong sense of the city’s changing style.
If you care about your sanity, avoid Huaihai Road on Saturday. This is the main drag of the fashionable French concession and the high street for local fashionistas aged 20 to 30. Most of the stores are either big-name global brands or Chinese inspirations-copies of European trends selling at low Chinese prices. Do a drive-by in a taxi first to find the parts you want to explore on foot. Not only is the street very long, but it also has east and west portions. The western portion has the shops you will be most interested in; the eastern portion is just now getting it together.
Perhaps the most famous street in Shanghai after the Bund, Nanjing Lu is also the city’s main shopping drag, despite its enormous length (over 10 km). It has two clearly different parts, Nanjing Xi (west) Lu and Nanjing Dong (east) Lu, with People’s Square marking the border between them. Nanjing Dong Lu is a pedestrian mall. Don’t miss this at night-stores are open until 9 or 10 pm. If you plan to have a stroll to see a good bit of this famous street, begin at the Bund and the Peace Hotel. After a few banks and hotels you will cross Shanxi Road and find yourself in the heart of the pedestrian mall and shopping greats. This is the eastern part of Nanjing Road.
In the eastern part, you’ll find everything from silk shops to TTs (tourist traps), from pearl shops to stores that specialize in gadgets and others for sports equipment. There’s Western style, Eastern style, and no style whatsoever, but plenty of McDonald’s and lots of bright lights. It’s the most crowded street of Shanghai, especially during weekends. It’s also the favorite place for “tourist hunters” who try to attract foreigners to their stores. Our advice: ignore them. They get a percentage from the sales that they provide to the stores.
This part of the Nanjing Xi Lu caters for foot traffic only and is famed for being China’s premier shopping street. Not for the faint-hearted or the crowd-phobic, this is probably the busiest shopping area in Shanghai. There are over 500 shops, old and new, housed in distinctively Chinese structures. Old architectural buildings stand alongside brand new stalls. This is a must-see for foreigners and new arrivals. However, because of its popularity, it is not the best place to go to get a good deal on an item. Goods are sold at “tourist prices” and you are likely to be able to get the same items for a much lower price at smaller markets of less renown.
There are also many stores that carry international luxury brands, with their luxury prices. At 580 of Nanjing Xi Lu you will find the most famous fake market of Shanghai, the Taopao market (nothing to do with the popular sales website). Bags, clothes, software, suitcases, shoes… you can find almost anything in this paradise for consumerists. Take into account that, despite whatever the vendor says, everything is a counterfeit of well-known brands, but it’s true that there are different qualities. Exhaustive bargaining is indispensable.
QiPu Lu Market
Located in the northern Shanghai district of Zhabei, QiPu Lu Market is where the majority of the traders from the disbanded Xiangyang market have moved. The market is made up of hundreds of small stalls on either side of QiPu Lu selling a variety of knock-offs, traditional artifacts and other knick-knacks designed to catch tourists’ attention. QiPu Lu market is also, unfortunately, a pickpocket’s dream so you need to be very aware of your money and wherever you are keeping it. At the market, you can buy goods individually, or in bulk. At all times, bear in mind that the prices the vendors quote you are not the prices you should pay. Bargaining is king in China and Shanghai is no exception to this rule. You can get anything from 30 – 60% off of the originally quoted prices. Stick to your guns and be prepared to walk away (or at least pretend to) if the vendor will not agree to your price. Nothing at the market is unique. If Vendor A will not accept your offer, Vendor B will.
Just a few hundred yards from the Nanjing Road is Fuzhou Road. Fuzhou Road became known as Shanghai’s premier “Culture Street” over a century ago. This busy street is clustered with stores that retail books, music, musical instruments, art and art supplies. The outlets here are mostly of an artsy nature and here is where you will find a plethora of galleries, potters and cobblers. In the evenings, as the businesses in the area close for the day, the Shanghainese spill onto the streets along Fuzhou Road to browse the street’s wares or stop for coffee in some of the stylish cafes.
Pudong isn’t really a neighborhood; it’s a city – a big city with many neighborhoods. The business district of Pudong is called LuJiaZui; the Stock Exchange is here, as are many main offices of the big banks, the Jin Mao Tower, the Shanghai World Finance Centre (the tallest building in Asia), the Shangri-La Hotel, and, of course, the Pearl TV Tower.
Pudong changes so much that there’s not much that can be said that will remain accurate. Whether you stay in this part of town at some point or not, you must, must, must go to get a view of the Bund at night. And don’t forget the brown noodles. Or the Lotus Centre, which is in the Super Brand Mall. To see what’s happening, you want the area nestled between the river and the Pearl TV Tower. The rest is just there. This can be done in a drive-by, and then you can explore the mall on foot.
Located on a bend in the Huangpu River, the Bund is enhanced by the river’s natural curve. It is called Waitan in Chinese. There are buildings on one side of the waterfront, then comes the part for cars (some call this a street), and then, right alongside the quayside, there’s a large boardwalk so that one can promenade along the river. Yes, there are guys with cameras who will take your picture for a small fee; it’s just like Atlantic City. This is not a great shopping street, but it is changing, and Armani has arrived. The side streets jutting away from the river right off the Bund are the ones to watch, starting with Fuzhou Street.
The Portman Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, the JC Mandarin, the new Shangri-la, and many, many other hotels – and a few shopping malls – are in this part of town. It includes West Nanjing Road and the Shanghai Exhibition Centre, which is across the street from the Portman Ritz-Carlton. This is not much of a funky shopping district, although it has a big mall, Westgate; several other malls are building up around here, such as the new Plaza 66.
This part of town is also called Nanjing Road West because the far-reaching Nanjing Road comes up here, but it is not the same animal as the Nanjing Road you will learn to love in the center of town near the Sofitel Hyland Hotel.
Xintiandi is in the French concession and resembles a film set or an American festival marketplace, although it was built with Hong Kong money. It is said to be a restoration of old Shikumen-style houses, converted to stores and restaurants. The feel is wall-to-wall charm with tons of hot design looks in the use of tiles, inventive seating, and unusual light fixtures. In short, this is a village of cutting-edge chic. This complex – a true must-do – is at the eastern end of Huaihai Road. Office buildings have arrived; luxury housing is expected soon. The bars are downright inspirational, from a design point of view.
This is the name most often given to the oldest part of town, which is also known as Nanshi. This was the Chinese city in the days of the foreign concessions — it was walled many years ago. It is quickly being torn down and replaced with the New China, but some quaint winding roads, alleys, and tin shanties remain to fill you with glee.
Also here are the Yu Yuan Gardens, a Disney-meets-Chinatown parcel of land with buildings and gardens, a teahouse, a temple, a market, and antiques stores. It’s the city’s number one tourist attraction, for good reason.
The Old City is also home to the Dong Tai Antiques Market, which feels a lot more authentic than just about any other part of town. Nearby is the Dong Jia Du, the fabric market – which may become your favorite shopping space in Shanghai.
This area includes the Hongqiao International Airport, the Hongmei Road area, the Gubei community of expats, many furniture and antiques warehouses, a mall or two, and huge gated communities where wealthy expats live in either modern high-rises or town houses organized as village developments. Even though traffic can be fierce, if you have any interest in furniture, clothes, or great restaurants, you won’t want to miss this district.