Surely, you’ve heard of the booming commercial center in China. Shanghai is now one of the world’s prime shopping destination. With the sheer volume of people going to Shanghai for the goods and the equally massive number of merchants trying to pry your shopping money away from you, it’s easy to get lost.
Some people pay as much as $100 for a guided tour, which limits what shopping experience you could have had if you went ahead and explored Shanghai on your own. There’s another option: get a map. Know the prime spots you can get to on your own, and put on your most comfortable shoes. Below are the easiest and the best shopping spots to conquer solo.
There’s no better way to get to know Shanghai than to get to the thick of things, and there’s no better spot to do this than to go to Nanjing Road. If only for the sight of about a million people and a long line of boutiques to choose from, this shopping area succeeds at giving you a “slice of life” in Shanghai.
While prices tend to be high in this part of the city, there are a lot of designer clothing, jewelry, athletic gears, electronics, and even China’s good old-fashioned silk which will certainly catch your attention. The public areas in this spot are also constantly busy with cultural and artistic events. Just to set an example, a saxophonist once serenaded the crowd from the second floor window of a hotel.
It’s accessible, too. This vicinity is only 0.5 miles away from Bund.
Did you know how Shanghai looked like in the 16th century? If you’re a history buff, and you’re mourning the changes which happened to the city, just frequent the Old Quarter and you’ll be transported back to that era. This is just right next to the Yu Yuan Garden, and is a labyrinthine mix of emporiums which sell antiques, indigenous handicrafts, silk embroidery, and if you’re lucky, even a little something from the Cultural Revolution.
You might lose your way in the streets of the Old Quarter but it’s well worth it. You’ll get a glimpse of its street art, and even watch traditional picture shows. If you’re bringing the kids, the sugar artists will also fascinate them. They create edible fish and dragon art, so you’ll be eating your dessert in style.
The best part is that you can haggle your way when you’re shopping in this part of Shanghai. From Bund, prepare yourself from a half mile’s walk to the south, and then turn right when you see the Jingling Dong Lu street sign.
The French Concession is also a good place to go to if you’re looking for historical remnants of Old China. This area was built in 1849, and as former a French Settlement, it’s an eye candy for aficionados of architecture with its Art Deco buildings and its streets lined cozily with trees.
You’ll find fashionable clothes, art galleries featuring Tibetan art, stylish additions to your home, jade, carpets, jewelry, and porcelain are all sold here. You can also have your dress sown. Custom tailors can be found on Maoming Street, while down Qi Pao street, you can have your own Chinese silk dress made for you.
Down Huaihai Zhong Lu street, you can find a line of stores run by the government. The bad news: you can’t haggle because of the fixed prices. The good news: you won’t have to haggle, because the goods are priced lower than anywhere else in Shanghai.
You will have to take the train to get to the French Concession, though. It’s a long three miles away from Bund. Just go to Nanjing Road on foot and ride the Nanjing Road East Stop Subway Line 1 which should take you to South Shanxi Nan Lu.
If you want a fusion of contemporary Shanghai and how it was in the 1920s, this is the place to go. Xintiandi is upscale, to say the least, but it’s a popular dining and entertainment complex you shouldn’t miss out on. Sink your teeth into the complex’s tiled walls. They say this former housing building’s architecture was retained.
Meanwhile, shop to your heart’s content as line after line of art galleries, artisan jewelry shops, book stores, and trendy clothing welcome you. When you’re feet are tired from all that shopping, you can also have a cup of coffee and chill at the TMSK café. This is quite an interesting joint, with all of the furnishings and fixtures crafted with colored glass.
The goods will be expensive, though, so don’t expect to buy much if you’re on a tight budget. At its best, you’ll get to see the emerging culture of China from this vantage point.
To get to Xintiandi, you have to ride the subway. It’s too far to walk on foot as it is two-and-a-half miles away from Bund. Just ride the Nanjing Road East Stop Subway Line 1 and get off the train at the Huang Pi Road South.
Experiencing the Street Hawkers
You can find street hawkers almost anywhere when you go to Shanghai. They sell almost everything under the sun—from electronics to designer handbags to watches. You name it, and they’ve probably got it. You must be careful about being cheated on, though. These hawkers know their jobs, and in the confusion of exchange rates, you might just pay for more than the item’s real worth.
If you want an objective take on these goods, do away with the sales talk. Just walk along the alley and privately examine the goods minus the sales talk.
Negotiate for the lowest price, check your change before you close the deal, and just so you’re not keeping your hopes up: these are bootleg products. That watch you’re holding is not really a Rolex. If it’s a good imitation and you really want it, make sure that you get it for a very low price.
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