The term "market" is flexible, and in Shanghai, it applies to vendors selling virtually the same thing all under one roof, or in one open section of space. Unlike the Western sense of competition, the Chinese believe that if you are all selling the same thing, you'll attract more customers. Fair enough.
Indeed, this makes life easy for the shopper. Want pearls? Go to the pearl market. Want fabric? Go to the fabric market. Want crickets? You guessed it, go to the cricket market. Just remember your bargaining skills! You'll need them in the markets of Shanghai.
Let fantasy be your guide. For pennies, you can design jewelry to your heart's content. Every vendor will have loads of ready-made jewelry for you to look over but you can also design your own with wholesale freshwater pearls, seawater pearls, natural stones, and crystals. Just wait a few minutes and they'll string everything for you as you watch. Remember the golden rule: bargain, bargain, bargain!
First Asia Jewelry Plaza, 3rd floor, 288 Fuyou Lu
Shanghai Shiliu Puhong Qixiang Cloth Market
This market is very similar and similarly priced to the other fabric market on the list, but is much quieter and has a lot fewer foreigners standing around looking confused. You'll find three floors of tailors and fabric: Cashmere, silk, linen, wool, and cotton. Many vendors speak a bit of English but if you're having something complicated made, it's best to take along someone who can speak a bit of Chinese.
168 Dongmen Road, not far from Yuyuan Garden
Flower, Bird, Fish, and Insect Market
Unless you're in the market for fighting crickets or grubs to feed your birdies, this is more of a gawk-stop than a real shopping trip. It's worth the trip for the weird and unusual and you'll get some great photos. You'll find a crazy maze of vendors selling pets and supplies. The bugs are really the main attraction.
Tibet Road at Fuxing Road (just a few minutes walk from Dong Tai Road)
Most people can afford one pair of glasses every few years. You wear them so long that your friends have to tell you that round Harry Potter glasses are really, truly out. Those days are over. One trip to the Shanghai Optical Market and you'll have new face furniture for every outfit with 2 floors within a shopping mall full of nothing but glasses.
Weekly Friday Muslim Street Market
This is an interesting place to see some non-Han Chinese culture. It's a small area of a street with roadside vendors gathered selling Muslim foods and products. Check out the different offerings, sample some street food and even have a wander around the mosque. Most of the vendors come from Xinjiang Province and their cuisine is very different from eastern China. Folks are friendly but don't speak a lot of Mandarin - hand signals and smiles are useful. Ask before taking photos. The market is open weekly on Fridays from morning until afternoon. It's best to go in mornings before lunchtime to catch all vendors.
In front of the Huxi Mosque, 1328 Changde Lu, near Aomen Lu, Northern Jing'an District
Tianshan Tea Market
If you want to get all your tea shopping done in one place, this is the place. It's a 3-story market full of Chinese tea. If you can, take along a Chinese speaker. None available? No problem, allow yourself plenty of time. Arm yourself with a dictionary and go sample tea. Shop owners are extremely friendly. Don't be afraid to touch, smell, and ask for tastes. Most will invite you in to have a cup of tea, smell the wares and browse at will. The first two floors are all tea, the third floor is a mix of tea and curios. You'll find everything from Long Jing green tea, Yunnan Province Pu'er tea, jasmine, and oolong, everything is here.
Go to see the flower culture of China with two floors of flowers, both live and fake. There are also gifts available. Especially during Chinese New Year, the flowers and plants are just amazing.
Mu Lan Hua Ge Antique, Curio and Junk Warehouse
Make sure you visit this market with plenty of time. A few well-spent hours digging through the piles in this enormous warehouse crammed floor-to-ceiling with old furniture, ceramics, and junk will surely yield some amazing treasures.
No. 1788-A Ji Yang Road, near Shang Pu South Road
The market is a little out of the way for the normal tourist who is staying downtown, but if you have time since they are open until late evening, make the trip out. Like Pearl's Circles, vendors have ready-made items for you to buy, but you can do your own designing. Freshwater pearls are a real value in China.
Hong Mei Road on the corner of Hongqiao Road
What happened to Xiang Yang market? After that famous "fake" market closed its gates in 2006, many vendors relocated to Yatai Xinyang. This is a great place to buy inexpensive souvenirs: Shanghai t-shirts, chopsticks, toys, jewelry, cushion covers, and pashminas. Let the buyer beware: when it comes to fakes, you get what you pay for (and you probably paid too much).
Science and Technology Museum Metro Stop (Metro Line 2), Pudong
Here you can make your couture dreams come true with three more floors of fabric and tailors. Great values are qipaos, cashmere coats, and men's shirts. Almost every stall has its own tailor who can whip up whatever you want in about a week. Your best bet is to have something you like copied over in your new fabric. Clothing made from photos or descriptions yield mixed (mostly bad) results. If you can, bring a Chinese speaker with you. Some tailors do speak English.
399 Lujiabang Road (near the Bund)
If it's cheap kids' clothing or toys you're looking for, hit this market. Sometimes you have to dig around for sizes and quality but there are some good finds, especially for babies and girls. Some vendors sell brand-name clothing such as Ralph Lauren, Jacadi, Gant, Janie & Jack, etc. Toys are a good bargain here, especially if you need to stock up on little surprises for the airplane.
Northwest corner of Pu'an Road at Jinlin Road
Upholstery and Bedding Market
This market is a great place to order custom-made bedding like those silk duvet blankets at a fraction of what you pay in the Suzhou silk markets. Custom-made sheets and bedding and upholstery fabric are all good value here.