China's largest city is also one of the world's top shopping paradises. Shanghai has luxury malls, giant fast fashion stores, fine handicraft shops, top-notch tailors, cheap electronics markets, and nearly spot-on copies of famous brands if you know where to look.
The Promised Land of all shopping in Shanghai is the 6-mile-long Nanjing Road, one of the world’s longest shopping streets. Split into east and west sections, the east has tons of foot traffic, small shops, and specialty stores stocking clothes, jewelry, electronics, cameras, home appliances, and more. Go west for high-end shopping malls (Plaza 66, Westgate Mall, and the Jing An Kerry Centre) and prestige brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada. You can even see a runway show in Plaza 66’s VIC (Very Important Customer) lounge. The malls will take credit cards but have cash, or use Wechat for small vendors.
This upscale pedestrian street is lined with shikumen (traditional Shanghainese-style) houses and modern glass facades. Divided into two blocks, and dotted with luxury brands and wine bars, you can shop luxury labels, like Shanghai Tang, or pick up something from hot Chinese designers, like Uma Wang and Ban Xiaoxue, at Xintiandi Style Shopping Centre. While the mall does have international brands such as Vera Wang and Smudge, most of the stores sell Chinese brands and designers.
For more high fashion in the Former French Concession, head to Shanghai’s other most famous shopping street: Huaihai Road. Divided into three parts (the most popular being the middle), it stretches for over 3 miles and has more than 400 stores including luxury and fast fashion brands. Get your tea fix and buy your favorites to brew at home at Shanghai Huangshan Tea Company; or saunter into IAPM Mall for air-conditioned binge-shopping, more major brands, sportswear, and shoes from time-honored brand Onitsuka Tiger.
If you crave luxury but lack the funds to shop designer labels (and have no moral qualms about supporting counterfeits), take the metro to the Science & Technology Museum Station and go to AP Plaza’s Xinyang Fashion Market. This famous “fake” market will be your place to pick up fake handbags, sunglasses, shoes, and watches. Essential tips: bring cash or download Wechat to pay, and bargain hard. Go in the mornings to get the best prices, as it’s considered lucky to sell to the first customer of the day. Also, if you need an extra suitcase for your Shanghai shopping spree, this will be the place to buy it.
Qiujiang Lu Electronics Market
No trip to China would be complete without buying some electronics. Enter Qiujiang Lu Electronics Market. A dirty hodgepodge of computer and phone accessories, home appliances, karaoke equipment, and more, this is another market where you will need to haggle. The stock here isn’t limited only to tech like drones and laptops though, old Chinese records, imported medicinal alcohols, athletic gear, and massage equipment can all be found among the stalls. Window shopping here will be just as much fun as buying something, we guarantee it.
South Bund Fabric Market
Are you dissuaded with factory fashion? Go to Shanghai’s most famous fabric market for a custom-made garment. The South Bund Fabric Market on Lujiabang Road is known for its array of fabrics and hundreds of tailors. You can find silks, chiffon, leathers, and more to be made into whatever clothing item you desire. After you buy your material, select a tailor that specializes in what you want, be it a motorcycle jacket or an evening gown. Pieces can take as little as 48 hours to prepare, or as long as one month (depending on where you go and the piece’s complexity). Though the word “bespoke” gets thrown around a lot when people talk about getting clothing made here, don’t let that deter you if your budget is small. Haggling is expected, and you can even get a suit for around $100. Bring cash or use Wechat to pay, as most places won’t accept cards.
To continue shopping for items sans labels, wander through the former French Concession’s Tianzifang. It's a labyrinth of hip art galleries, jewelry stores, stationery shops, and clothing boutiques, with some carrying traditional Chinese clothing and accessories. Admire the shikumen houses here as you shop for stylish notebooks and qipao. Pick up T-shirts with artsy prints, photographs of local city scenes, and Miao-style hand-embroidered items at Harvest Studio. Once you're done, take a break at one of the many cafes or bars, and admire all of your purchases while you people watch.
M50 Art District
Find a hotbed of artistry at M50 Art District, where you can commission paintings and buy photographs, Art Deco furniture, pottery, and more. Formerly blocks of textile warehouses, in 2000 the area began to transform into a haven for artists to live, work, and display their art. Now, with over 150 galleries and studios, it's a major hub for Shanghai’s contemporary art movement. Exhibits and galleries change rapidly here, if you see something you like, it’s best to buy it immediately. If you’re lucky, you could be invited into an artist’s studio to watch them create their work.
Yunzhou Curio City
If you prefer old treasures to contemporary ones, head to one of the few remaining grand antique markets in Shanghai, Yunzhou Curio City. Furniture, jewelry, jade, and Mao-era items can be found within its seven floors. Pick up teapots, wood carvings, furniture, and porcelain on the first four floors. The fifth is devoted to stamps, the sixth sells old coins and banknotes, and the seventh is for exhibits. Come on the weekends for the most variety, when hawkers gather outside and the air electrifies with sounds of bargaining.