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Shanghai (local government) is the largest and most developed city in China, the country's main center for finance and fashion, and one of the world's most populous and important cities. Shanghai has existed for centuries but grew enormously after it became a major center of the China trade in the 1840s. By the early 20th century, Shanghai was the largest and most prosperous city in the Far East, and one of the wildest. With the opening up of China in the past few decades, Shanghai has regained much of its former glory and has surpassed it in many ways; the pace of development in recent years has been absolutely furious. Today, Shanghai is back to being one of the largest and most prosperous cities in Asia, though not nearly as wild as it once was. It is now a very attractive city for travellers from all over the world, and a major destination for both tourism and business. A Forbes article ranks Shanghai as the world's 14th most visited city, with 6.5 million visitors in 2012. Shanghai is definitely a cosmopolitan city by Chinese standards, although it is less diverse than many western cities. The population was 23 million as of the 2010 census; 9 million (almost 40%) of those were migrants, people from elsewhere in China who have come to find work or to attend one of Shanghai's many educational institutions. There is also a substantial international contingent; 208,300 foreigners lived in Shanghai as of 2010, slightly over a third of the national total of 594,000. There are services that cater to these markets — restaurants with food from anywhere in China for the migrants (in particular, lots of good cheap Sichuan food and West-of-China noodles) and a good range of grocery stores, restaurants and bars that cater to the foreigners. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Shanghai
Where to go in Shanghai depends largely on your time period and interests. See Shanghai for the first-timer for a sample itinerary.
Many of Shanghai's main tourist sights are in Huangpu District:
- The Old City (南市; Nanshi) is the original Chinese city going back about 1000 years, now a major tourist area. The center of that area is Yuyuan Gardens.
- The International Settlement was built North and West of the Old City, starting in the 1840s. In colonial-period Western books, "Shanghai" means that settlement. There is a map in the history section.
- The Bund (外滩 Wàitān), the riverside avenue that was the center of 19th century Shanghai and is now a major tourist attraction. The banner photo at the top of this article shows the Bund, seen from across the river.
- People's Park (Renmin Gongyuan), once the race track on the edge of the British district, now a large and busy downtown park. Under it is a metro station that is one of the hubs of the Shanghai system and one of the busiest subway stations on Earth. Lines 1, 2 and 8 meet there.
Nanjing Road was the main street of the old British Concession; today it is a major upmarket shopping street. It extends across two districts.
- Nanjing Road East in Huangpu District extends from the Bund to People's Park, and most of it is a very busy pedestrians-only strip.
- Nanjing Road West is the continuation into Jing'an District. A landmark there is Jing'an Temple, a beautiful ancient building with a metro station named after it.
Other major sights are in the former French Concession. This has always been a fashionable area — even in the colonial period, many famous Chinese lived there — and it remains so today with much of Shanghai's best entertainment and shopping. We treat it as a single district and give it its own article. Within it are:
- Xujiahui, the center of Xuhui District, with a metro interchange (lines 1 and 9), major roads, huge malls and high-end residential and office buildings
- Huahai Road, an upmarket shopping street which many Shanghai people prefer over Nanjing Road
- Hengshan Road, which runs from Huahai Road to Xujiahui, has Shanghai's largest cluster of restaurants and bars.
- Xintiandi, an area of old shikumen ("stone gate", a unique Shanghai style) houses, redeveloped with shopping malls, trendy bars and restaurants, and much tourism
- Tianzifang, another area of shikumen housing that has been redeveloped. It is newer than Xintiandi and emphasizes arts, crafts and boutique shopping where Xintiandi stresses brand-name goods and entertainment.
For a taste of 1920s Shanghai, with much classic Western-style architecture, head for the stately old buildings of the Bund and nearby parts of Huangpu; this is still a major shopping area as well. For boutique shopping, small galleries and craft shops, and interesting restaurants, try the French Concession. If your taste runs more to very modern architecture, remarkably tall buildings and enormous shopping malls, the prime districts for skyscrapers are Pudong and Jing'an. See the linked articles for details.
There are water towns in the Western suburbs, popular with both Shanghai residents and visitors. They are quite scenic with canals as the main method of transport and many traditional-style bridges and buildings.
- Zhujiajiao is right out at the Western edge of the municipality in Qingpu district, and can be reached by bus. It is quite popular with Shanghai residents, both Chinese and expatriates. There are some bars run by expats.
- Qibao is closer to downtown in Minhang district, and can be reached by metro (line 9, Qibao station, then walk a block South). It is smaller than Zhujiajiao and gets a higher proportion of tourists.
- Fengjing in Jinshan district has many artists, even its own fairly well-known "Jinshan peasant" style of painting. Metro line 22 will get you to Jinshan.
This type of town is found all over the Yangtze Delta area. In particular, there are several in the Suzhou and Hangzhou regions as well as in Shanghai.
Museums and galleries
- Shanghai Museum (上海博物馆), S side of People's Square. 9AM-5PM. The Ancient Bronze exhibit is particularly impressive. Audio guides available. Also, there are often volunteer guides providing free service. Some of them speak English. Free.
- Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, People's Square, just across from the Shanghai Museum. Shanghai urban development is all about the 'five year plan'. The museum gives a fascinating look into Shanghai's colourful past and development strategies for the future. There is a heavy focus on eco-friendly satellite cities with spacious public centres and loads of greenery. The trip is worth it just for the scale model of Shanghai in ten years. All is on the fourth floor, including a virtual tour of up-and-coming large scale public projects, including the World Expo 2010 site.
- Shanghai Propaganda Poster and Art Centre (PPAC), RM. BOC 868 Huashan Rd, Shanghai 上海华山路868号BOC室 (Take a taxi to 868 Huashan Road. The museum is inside the apartment complex here. With any luck, the complex guard will point you in the right direction. The museum is found in the basement of building B.). 10 am to 5 pm daily. This private collection is one of the most relevant and uncensored exhibits available to visitors interested in a glimpse of the politics and art of Mao-era China. Posters, memorabilia, photos, and even "大字报" (dazibao: big character posters) can be found in rotating exhibition. Due to the controversial nature of the historical items stored here, the museum is quite difficult to find, and unlabeled from the outside. Well worth the hunt, the museum boasts a wide array of art and political relics from 20th century China. ¥20 admission.
- Aerospace Museum (South end of metro line 8, in Pudong).
- M50 art district. Shanghai's main center for contemporary Chinese art, with dozens of studios and galleries. It is in a former factory in Putuo District.
- Chinese Martial Arts Museum (on the campus of Shanghai Institute of Physical Education). See the Yangpu District article for details
- Jing'an Temple in Jing'an District
- Longhau Temple (Zen Buddhist) in the French Concession
- Temple of the Town God (Chenghung Miao) (Taoist) in the old town
- St. Ignatius Cathedral (Catholic) in the French Concession
- Large church on the East side of People's Square in the old British district
- Jade Buddha Temple (玉佛禅寺; Yùfó Chán Si), Jiangning Road. Jing'an District (Changshou Road, line 7, exit 5, East on Xinhui road, turn right on Jiangning.). A small temple built in the 1880s to hold statues brought from Burma. Note that Changshou Road is a different station than Changshu Road. ¥20, another 10 to see the main statue.
Of course there are many smaller religious buildings — Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, Moslem and Christian — scattered around the city.
Almost every district in Shanghai has some parks. See the district articles for details. Some of the major ones are:
- People's Park in Huangpu District, very central and with a major metro interchange below it
- Gongqing Forest Park in Yangpu District
- Daning-Lingshi, north of the railway station in Zhabei District
- Shanghai Expo Park, In two parts, the larger in Pudong and the smaller in Puxi (Metro line 8, Yaohua Road Station). Shanghai hosted the 2010 World Expo, recording the greatest number of visitors in the event's history. Since then, the Chinese Pavillion has remained in operation and there are various other sights.
- Jinjiang Amusement Park, No. 201 Hongmei Rd (in Xuhui District, Line 1 to Jinjiang Park).
While the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times and there has been a town at least since the Song Dynasty, a thousand years or so ago, Shanghai only rose to prominence after China lost the First Opium War in 1842. Shanghai was one of the five cities which China was forced to open to Western trade as treaty ports. Shanghai grew amazingly after that; until then nearby cities like Hangzhou, Suzhou and Nanjing had been far more important, but since the late 19th century Shanghai has been the center of the region.
Eight nations — Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Austria-Hungary, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom — were granted concessions in Shanghai, areas that they controlled and where Chinese law did not apply. Most of these were jointly administered as the "International Settlement", but the French ran theirs separately. In all of them, the population was mainly Chinese, but the legal system was foreign and the police included many Sikhs and French gendarmes. They were located north of the Chinese walled city. Today all these areas are considered parts of downtown Shanghai.
History has shaped Shanghai's cityscape significantly. British-style buildings can still be seen on The Bund, while French-style buildings are still to be found in the former French Concession. What was once a racetrack on the edge the British area is now People's Park, with a major metro interchange underneath. Other metro stops include the railway station at the edge of what was once the American area, and Lao Xi Men and Xiao Nan Men, Old West Gate and Small South Gate respectively, named for two of the gates of the old Chinese walled city. The wall is long gone but that area still has quite a few traditional Chinese-style buildings and Yuyuan Gardens.
Shanghai has sometimes had groups of refugees arrive from other parts of the world. One group were White Russians fleeing the 1917 revolution; in the 1920s the French Concession had more Russians than French (and of course more Chinese than both of those together). Another group were Jews getting out of Germany in the 1930s; they mainly settled in Hongkou, a district that already had many Jews.
Shanghai reached its zenith in 1920s and 30s and was at that time the most prosperous city in East Asia. On the other hand, the streets were largely ruled by the triads (Chinese gangs) during that period, with the triads sometimes battling for control over parts of Shanghai. That period has been greatly romanticised in many modern films and television serials, one of the most famous being The Bund, which was produced by Hong Kong's TVB in 1980. Shanghai also became the main center of Chinese entertainment during that period, with many films and songs produced in Shanghai.
Shanghai was occupied by the Japanese in 1937 after a bitter battle lasting several months. (See Burma Road for a discussion of its military significance.) They remained in control until 1945 and, as elsewhere in China, life in Shanghai at that time was very tough.
The foreign concessions were removed after the war, and trade resumed. After the Communist victory in the civil war in 1949, many of the people involved in the entertainment industry and many business people fled to Hong Kong and Taiwan. Shanghai's days of glory were — temporarily as it turned out — over.
Since China's "reform and opening up", starting under Deng Xiaoping around 1978, Shanghai has been moving back toward its former role as a great industrial city and trading port, and in many ways even surpassing the old glory days. In the 1990s, the Shanghai government launched a series of new strategies to attract foreign investment. The biggest move was to open up Pudong as a Special Economic Zone with a range of government measures to encourage investment. The strategies for growth have been extremely successful; in twenty years Pudong went from a predominantly rural area to having more skyscrapers than New York, including the World Financial Center, fourth-tallest in the world. Pudong is now home to many financial institutions which used to have their main offices across the Huangpu river on the Bund.
Today, Shanghai's goal is to develop into a world-class financial and economic center, and it is already well on its way. In achieving this goal, Shanghai faces competition from Hong Kong, which has the advantage of a stronger legal system and greater banking and service expertise. However, Shanghai has stronger links to the Chinese interior and to the central government in addition to a stronger manufacturing and technology base. Recently Shanghai has increased its role in finance and banking, and many international corporations have built their Chinese or even Asia/Pacific headquarters in the city, fueling demand for a highly educated and cosmopolitan workforce.
Shanghai has a humid subtropical climate. Cities at roughly comparable latitude (just over 30°) include New Orleans, Cairo and Perth.
Spring can feature lengthy periods of cloudy and rainy weather.
Summer temperatures often get over 35°C (95°F) with very high humidity, which means that you will perspire a lot and should take lots of changes of clothing or plan on shopping for clothing during the visit. Thunderstorms also occur relatively often during the summer. There is some risk of typhoons in their July–September season, however they are not common.
Autumn is generally mild with warm and sunny weather.
During winter, temperatures rarely rise above 10°C (50°F) during the day and often fall below 0°C (32°F) at night. Snowfall is rare, typically only occurring only once every few years, but transportation networks can sometimes be disrupted in the event of a sudden snowstorm. Despite the fact that winter temperatures in Shanghai are not particularly low, the wind chill factor combined with the high humidity can actually make it feel less comfortable than some much colder places that experience frequent snowfalls. Also, back in Mao's era the official rule was that north of the Yangtze buildings were heated in winter but south of it they were not; Shanghai is on the south bank so many older buildings do not have heating.
The municipal government runs a site Shanghai Cultural Information which has good listings of current events:
- special exhibits at museums and galleries
- shows such as acrobatics at the circus, touring musicians, and plays
- sporting events
If you like shopping or window shopping, a walk along either of Shanghai's major commercial streets takes an hour or two (or up to several days if you look in lots of stores and explore side streets) and can be quite interesting:
- Nanjing Road, starting from the Bund (Nanjing Road East metro station, line 2 or 10) and heading West toward People's Park, Jing'an Temple and perhaps beyond
- Huahai Road in the French Concession, starting at South Huangpi Road metro station on line 1 and heading West. At the cross street just past the Changshu Road station, turn left (past the Starbucks) to reach a whole district of bars and restaurants along Hengshan Road to end your journey in comfort.
See #Buy below for more on these streets and nearby areas.
- Drink at a tea house. Visit one of Shanghai's many tea houses. Be careful not to order amazingly expensive teas or too much food. Beware of friendly-seeming strangers wanting to take you to a tea house or bar; this may be a scam.
- Take a boat on the river. There are many companies that run river tours. Look for one of the cheaper ones. This is a great way to see the striking Shanghai skyline and river banks and shoot some good photos. A cheaper but less scenic alternative is to take one of the many ferries that cross the river for a couple yuan.
Shanghai's cuisine, like its people and culture, is primarily a fusion of the forms of the surrounding Jiangnan region, with influences sprinkled in more recently from the farther reaches of China and elsewhere. Characterized by some as sweet and oily, the method of preparation used in Shanghai, it emphasizes freshness and balance, with particular attention to the richness that sweet and sour characteristics can often bring to dishes that are otherwise generally savoury.
The name "Shanghai" means "above the sea", but paradoxically, the local preference for fish often tends toward the freshwater variety due to the city's location at the mouth of China's longest river. Seafood, nonetheless, retains great popularity and is often braised (fish), steamed (fish and shellfish), or stir-fried (shellfish). Watch out for any seafood that is fried, as these dishes rely far less on freshness and are often the remains of weeks-old purchases.
Shanghai's preference for meat is unquestionably pork. Pork is ubiquitous in the style of Chinese cooking, and in general if a mention refers to something as "meat" (肉) without any modifiers, the safe assumption is that it is pork. Minced pork is used for dumpling and bun fillings, whereas strips and slices of pork are promulgated in a variety of soups and stir-fries. The old standby of Shanghainese cooking is "red-cooked [braised/stewed] pork" (红烧肉), a traditional dish throughout Southern China with the added flair of anise and sweetness provided by the chefs of Shanghai.
Chicken takes the honorable mention in the meat category, and the only way to savour chicken in the Chinese way is to eat it whole (as opposed to smaller pieces in a stir-fry). Shanghai's chickens were once organic and grass-fed, yielding smaller but tender and flavourful birds. Today most chickens are little different from what can be found elsewhere. Still, the unforgettable preparations (drunken, salt-water, plain-boiled with dipping sauce, etc.) of whole chickens chopped up and brought to the table will serve as a reminder that while the industrialization of agriculture has arrived from the West, the preservation of flavour is still an essential element of the local cooking.
Those looking for less cholesterol-laden options need not fret. Shanghai lies at the heart of a region of China that produces and consumes a disproportionately large amount of soy. Thinking tofu? There's the stinky version that when deep-fried, permeates entire blocks with its earthy, often offensive aroma. Of course there are also tofu skins, soy milk (both sweet and savory), firm tofu, soft tofu, tofu custard (generally sweet and served from a road-side cart), dried tofu, oiled tofu and every kind of tofu imaginable. There's also vegetarian duck, vegetarian chicken and vegetarian goose, each of which looks and tastes nothing like the fowl after which it is named but is rather just a soy-dish where the bean curd is expected to approximate the meat's texture. Look out also for gluten-based foods at vegetarian restaurants. If you are vegetarian, do be conscious that tofu in China is often regarded not as a substitute for meat (except by the vegetarian Buddhist monks) but rather as an accompaniment to it. As such, take extra care to ensure that your dish isn't served with peas and shrimp or stuffed with minced pork before you order it.
Shanghainese people have 4 special preferences for breakfast dishes (or rather to say dishes, just those simple and quick-to-eat) which are given the name sì dà jīn gāng (四大金刚, lit. four heavenly kings, a term in Buddhism). They are the followings:
- dà bĭng (大饼, lit. large pastry). A kind of large flat bread. Fried dough in oil-greased frying pan with water (which eventually evaporates). A variation of this is cōng yóu bĭng (葱油饼, lit. green onion oil pastry), which has green onion and salt and pepper on the surface of the dough before frying.
- yóu tiáo (油条, lit. oily strips). Stretchy while crispy fried hollow strips. Often served with some sugar to dip on.
- cí fàn (粢饭). Glutinous rice and Japonica rice mixed and steamed then used to wrap a yóu tiáo up.
- dòu jiāng (豆浆, soybean milk). Simply soybean milk, often sweetened with sugar. Best when served with yóu tiáo.
Some other Shanghainese dishes to look out for:
- xiǎolóngbāo (小笼包, lit. buns from the little steaming cage; fig. steamed dumpling). Probably the most famous Shanghai dish: small steamed buns — often confused for dumplings — come full of tasty (and boiling hot!) broth inside with a dab of meat to boot. The connoisseur bites a little hole into them first, sips the broth, then dips them in dark vinegar (醋 cù) to season the meat inside. Of special mention is Din Tai Feng, an ever-popular Taiwanese restaurant boasting its designation as one of The New York Times 10 best restaurants in the world, with a handful of locations in Puxi and one in Pudong.
- shēng jiān bāo (生煎包, lit. raw fried buns). Unlike steamed dumplings, these larger buns come with dough from raised flour, are pan-fried until the bottoms reach a deliciously crispy brown, and have not made their way to Chinese menus around the world (or even around China). Still popular with Shanghainese for breakfast and best accompanied by vinegar, eat these with particular care, as the broth inside will squirt out just as easily as their steamed cousins.
- Shànghǎi máo xiè (上海毛蟹; Shanghai hairy crab). Best eaten in the winter months (Oct-Dec) and paired with Shaoxing wine to balance out your yin and yang.
- xièfěn shīzitóu (蟹粉狮子头; lit. crab meat pork meatballs).
For a more upscale and cleaner market go to Cityshop or Ole.
- UnTour Shanghai, ☎ 186.1650.4269. UnTour Shanghai helps tourists and new residents of the Shanghai get comfortable with the city's dynamic food scene fast. They offer culinary tours of the city, including street food breakfast and night market tours and noodle- or dumpling-specific tours, as well as Chinese cooking classes.
See the district articles for restaurant listings by area.
Prices of drinks in cafés and bars vary like they would any major metropolis. They can be cheap or be real budget-busters, with a basic coffee or beer costing ¥10-40. In a high-end hotel bar, one basic beer may cost as much as ¥80. There are internationally-known chains, like Starbucks and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, as well as popular domestic and local java joints to satisfy those looking to relax.
Tsingtao, Snow and Pearl River beer are widely available. Major foreign brands are produced domestically and smaller brands are typically imported. There is also a local brew known as REEB (beer spelled backwards). A large bottle (640 ml) of any of these costs anywhere from ¥2-6.
Shanghai is filled with amazing nightlife, complete with both affordable bars and nightclubs that pulsate with a city energy.
There are many magazines for expats that can be found at hotels and other expat eateries that list and review events, bars, clubs and restaurants in Shanghai. The most popular ones are That's Shanghai, City Weekend, and Time Out. Shanghai also has an English newspaper, Shanghai Daily Shanghai Daily, and an English-medium TV channel, International Channel Shanghai or ICS; most expats find these better than the corresponding national media outlets, People's Daily and CCTV channel 9.
- Pub Crawl Shanghai, Various locations, ☎ +86 187-2100-4614. 5PM-3AM. In addition to a plethora of watering holes ranging from bars, lounges, dives and world-class clubs, there is a pub crawl that arranges transportation to various popular venues. For non-Mandarin speakers or those in town for just a few days, this service takes the guesswork out of finding the hippest, most interesting spots that bustle with expatriates and locals. ¥150.
- Brewery Tour Shanghai, Various locations. 2:30-6:30pm. An offshoot of Pub Crawl, this one's suitable not only for the backpacking type but also professionals and even families, if your kids don't mind riding in a mini bus. The tour visits three breweries where you'll be supplied with ample beer, pub grub, and plenty of time to chat with the brewmaster. Beer-related trivia on the bus lets you show off your Wikipedia-reading skills. ¥380.
See the district articles for nightlife listings by area.
Shop until you drop on China's premier shopping street Nanjing Road (南京东路), or head for the Yuyuan Bazaar for Chinese crafts and jewellery in the old town. Nanjing Road is a long street; the more famous part is a 1-km long pedestrian boulevard near the Bund lined with busy shops. The wide boulevard is often packed with people on weekends and holidays. The shops are often targeted to domestic tourists, so the prices are surprisingly reasonable. The Nanjing Road East station on metro line 2 is near the center of that pedestrian area. The People's Park station (lines 1, 2 and 8) is at the inland end, furthest from the Bund, and may be the best place to start exploring Nanjing Road.
For the high end boutiques, go to Nanjing Road West (南京西路) near Jing'an Temple (line 2). Several large shopping malls (Plaza 66 aka Henglong Plaza, Citic Plaza, Meilongzhen Plaza, and others being built) house boutiques bearing the most famous names in fashion. No. 3 on the Bund is another high-end shopping center featuring Giorgio Armani's flagship store in China. Huaihai Road in the French Concession is another busy shopping boulevard with upscale stores; well-off locals tend to shop there in preference to the more touristy Nanjing Road.
For boutique shopping, head to the French Concession Streets Xinle Lu (新乐路), Changle Lu (长乐路) and Anfu Lu (安福路) starting from east of Shaanxi Lu (陕西路) (nearest Metro station is South Shanxi Rd on line 1). This section of low rise building and tree-lined streets bustles with small boutiques of clothing and accessories, where young Shanghainese looking for the latest fashions shop. The overhauled, cozy alleyways of Tian Zi Fang is also extremely popular and is a bit more elbow-to-elbow than Xintiandi.
Books, CDs and DVDs
Shanghai Foreign Languages Bookstore (Shanghai Book Traders) at 390 Fuzhou Rd (near People's Square) offers a lot of books in English and other major languages, especially for learning Chinese. Just around the corner at 36 South Shanxi Rd you will also find a small but well-stocked second-hand foreign-language bookshop. If you're searching for computer or business related books, head to the biggest store in Fuzhou Rd: Shanghai Book Town (上海书城). You'll find special editions targeted at the Chinese market. The only difference to the original version is the Chinese cover and the heavily reduced price. Fuzhou Road is also a good street to wander around and find stationery and Chinese calligraphy related shops.
Those interested in music CDs or DVDs of movies and television shows have a wide variety of options. The bookstores all carry some, people sell DVDs out of boxes on street corners, and there are local DVD shops in most neighborhoods. Costs go from about ¥6 per disk to about ¥40; you pay a bit more for DVD-9 format disks. See also discussion in the China article.
There are also some shops popular with the expatriate community; these tend to have English-speaking staff and a better selection of things that appeal to Westerners, though sometimes at slightly higher prices. One is the Ka De Club with two shops: one at 483 Zhenning Rd and the other one at 505 Da Gu Rd (a small street between Weihai and Yan'an Rds). Another popular DVD shop is on Hengshan Road about halfway between two expat bars, Oscar's and the Brewery.
Perhaps the best way to score a deal with a shop is to be a regular. If you provide them repeat business they are usually quite happy to give you discounts for your loyal patronage. It is also worth asking for a cheaper-by-the-dozen discount if you are making a large purchase.
There are a number of markets in the city selling antiques, jade and communist China memorabilia:
- The largest and cheapest (provided you bargain hard) is Dongtai Road Antique Market. Metro line 8 or 10 to Laoximen station, then walk a long block North looking for the market on side streets to your left.
- Yuyuan Gardens is another good option for antiques as well as all manner of cheaply made and priced souvenirs (teapots, paintings, "silk" bags, etc.). Walk a few hundred meters East from Dongtai Road.
- There are more upmarket antique markets between Fuzhou Road and the pedestrian part of Nanjing Road.
As with any market in China, don't be afraid to haggle; it is usually the only way to get a fair price.
Note that exporting anything made before 1911 is now illegal. See the China article for discussion.
Xujiahui is the place to go if you're after game consoles (the Wii is available here in relative abundance), computers, computer accessories and many other electronics, but the mobile phone selection is a bit lacking. Try to go during the week; it gets awfully hectic on weekends.
- Bu Ye Cheng Communications Market (不夜城) (Shanghai Railway Station, exit 4 from line 1 side, turn left and it's the large gold building). 10AM-6PM. This is the one of the best-known open-style markets for mobile phones in Shanghai. 1F/2F for new phones (two-way radios too), 3F for second hand including various collectibles. Any reputable vendor that sets up shop here will allow you to try before you buy — if they don't then leave. Best way to get a good or unusual phone at low cost. The selection is a mixed bag; you'll find Chinese off-brands mixed with reliable big-name brands as well as cutting-edge Japanese phones. If you live in North or South America be careful about buying the off-brand phones as most do not support the necessary frequencies for use there. Also, in the secondhand section of the market some of the phones are of dubious origin; CDMA phones may have their ESNs blacklisted in their home countries, but for GSM/3G phones the only issue is an ethical one.
There is a giant electronics mart at the Baoshan Road line 3/4 station, which offers a huge range of miscellaneous electronics and mobile phones, however some are fake. Be sure to bargain hard. If you want to buy a mobile phone here, make sure you have a SIM card before you purchase, and test the SIM card in the phone by making a call, perhaps to the vendor, since some of the phones are non-functional but still turn on. It's best to negotiate as low as possible first, and then try out your SIM card.
Shanghai is rather an odd market for photo equipment. As in any major city, more-or-less everything is available somewhere, including high-end items of interest mainly to professionals and unusual things that only a collector might want. Some of the older stuff is rare here because China was relatively isolated when it was being made, but Shanghai was a very prosperous and cosmopolitan city in the 1930s so some collector's items are now in good supply.
As a general rule, prices on photo equipment in Shanghai are roughly comparable to US prices and a bit higher than Hong Kong, but there are various exceptions including some real bargains and some seriously overpriced items. Check prices abroad before making any major purchases.
For consumer products such as point-and-shoot cameras or low-end interchangeable lens devices, Xujiahui is a shopper's paradise. Any of the large consumer electronics stores scattered around the city, and many of the general department stores, will have these as well, but selection and price are usually better at Xujiahui.
For more specialised needs, there are two large buildings full of camera stores in Shanghai. Both have plenty of consumer products, usually at good prices. However they also have lots of products for the enthusiast and professional markets, services such as printing or camera repair, and a large selection of used equipment from cheap-and-usable to collector's items.
One is Huanlong Photographic Equipment City (环龙照相器材) on the 2nd through 5th floor of a building near the Shanghai train station in Zhabei District. Come out of the station into the South Square, and the building is diagonally left. Burger King on ground floor, KFC, ... Second floor and above is mostly camera shops. The higher you go, the more used equipment you see.
An even larger clump of shops is Xing Guang Photographic Equipment City (星光摄影器材城) 300 Luban Lu, corner of Xietu Lu. Metro line 4 to Luban Road South, go out exit 1, turn left onto Luban Lu, and you are walking North. Xietu Lu is the first cross street. The camera center is on the NW corner. It has 7 floors. The top one is offices, bottom two mostly new cameras. One floor (4th?) is mostly studio equipment — lights, reflectors and so on — and includes some unusual cameras such as 4 by 5 inch view cameras and 6 by 17 cm Chinese-made panoramic cameras. Another (5th?) is mostly wedding studios, wedding clothes rental, etc. Used equipment anywhere from 2nd to 6th, and dominating a couple of floors. One camera repair shop, a few accessories shops — memory, bags, tripods, etc.
There are two newer buildings next to the main one. As of early 2010, only two floors of one of those had opened; everything else was under construction. Everything that was open was print shops or wedding-related services.
In the main building, the bottom two floors are nearly all shops selling new cameras, with much specialisation by brand. At least one shop with nothing but Canon, some only Sony, one only Nikon & Manfrotto. Two mainly Pentax. Olympus & Panasonic fairly common, but no shops selling only those. Voigtlander visible here and there.
These two groups of shops are both on line 4 so it is easy to visit both in a day. However, line 4 is roughly circular and they are on opposite edges (Railway Station on North, Luban Lu on South) so it is a fairly long ride between them.
The horrendously crowded Qipu Lu clothing market (Tiantong Road metro station on line 10, one stop North of Nanjing Road East) is the main place where Shanghai people look for cheap clothing. It is a mass of shops — including a huge number of small ones, many about 18 m2 (200 ft2) — jammed into several multi-storey warehouse-sized buildings; exploring even one would take the casual stroller most of a day. You can walk into the basement of one building from inside the subway stop. You'll find the cheapest clothes in the city here, but even the trendiest styles are clearly Chinese. Bargain hard, in Chinese if you can, and make friends with the shop owners. Many of them have secret stashes of knock-offs in hidden rooms behind the stall "walls." Avoid this place on weekends at all costs.
While Qipu Lu is best known for cheap clothing, and that is indeed the market most shops target, it also has some rather fine upmarket shops. For example, the top floor of the building by the subway has a women's clothing place specialising in silk dresses and tops, including many with good embroidery. Prices start around ¥300, high but not outrageous by Chinese standards. Compared to prices in Western countries they are a real bargain.
There are a number of other markets which combine cheap clothing (including lots of knock-offs of famous brands) with tourist stuff like souvenir T-shirts and higher-grade Chinese stuff like silk (?) scarves and robes. In any of these there are quite a few touts; just walking in to the buildings can bring a horde of people upon you trying to sell you bags, watches, DVDs and all sorts of goods. You also need to haggle to get good prices in any of them. Dodging touts and haggling can be fun, but those sensitive to the pressure might want to steer clear.
The largest of those is next to the Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (上海科技馆) metro station on Line 2 in Pudong; there are actually two markets, one on each side of the station. The place is much more overrun by foreigners than Qipu Lu, and the asking prices for clothes are higher. However, there is a wider selection here of other products: software, games, electronics, etc. This market also has a number of tailor shops for made-to-order clothing.
It is fairly common for travellers to stop at that market to pick up gifts just before flying out of Shanghai; it is on the metro route to Pudong airport, prices may not be the best in town but they are generally much better than airport shops, selection is good, and it is all on one level so it is moderately convenient to wander about with luggage in tow.
A smaller but more accessible market with similar stuff (but no tailors) is attached to the largest and most central metro station in town, People's Park on lines 1, 2 and 8. This is less hectic than either Qipu Lu or the Science & Tech Museum, and probably has enough variety for most travellers. If not, you can find another such market by walking West on Nanjing Road and looking for it on the right a few blocks along near the corner of Chongqing Lu (building has wide steps out front and escalators visible inside). The first floor is aggressively tourist-oriented, but higher floors are more relaxed and the top floor has quite a good food court that includes a moderately priced Indian place.
The area around Yuyuan Gardens in the old town has similar stuff, with more emphasis on souvenirs and handicrafts rather than clothing, and often with somewhat higher asking prices.
Another option is the Pearl Plaza located on Yan'an Xi Lu and Hongmei Lu (line 10, get off at Longxi Rd stop, go south on Hongmei Lu out of the station past Yan'an elevated road). See Minhang for more on that area. Another, more for day-to-day clothing than anything fancy or touristy, is near Shanghai Ikea; take line 3 to Cao Xi Road, walk toward Ikea and it will be on your left.
But rather than pursuing knock-offs of Western brands, one of the more interesting things to do in Shanghai is to check out the small boutiques in the French Concession area. Some of these are run by individual designers of clothing, jewellery, etc. and so the items on sale can truly be said to be unique. Visitors from overseas should expect the usual problem of finding larger sizes.
The largest group of tailor shops is at Shanghai South Bund Material Market: 399 Lujiabang Rd (陆家浜路), open 10AM-6PM. Three floors of tailors and their materials including silk, cashmere, and merino wool. Have items measured, fitted and finished within two days or bring examples, samples or pictures. You can take bus #802 or #64 from the Shanghai Railroad Station and stop at the final stop: Nanpu Bridge Terminal or you can take the Metro Line 4 to the Nanpu Bridge (南浦大桥) Station (exit from gate #1, make a left from the exit and then left again on the light. You will see it to your right after walking about 200 to 250 m. Prices here or in the smaller cluster of such shops at Science & Tech are often better than at standalone shops in town because the competition for customers is fairly intense, but you should bargain for the best price.
For high-end clothing that is (mostly) not Chinese knock-offs, generally at somewhat higher prices than outside China, the main areas to look are Nanjing Road right downtown and and Huahai Road in the French Concession. Both have many stores with trendy styles and major international brands.
Major supermarket chains such as Carrefour, Auchan, Tesco and Walmart are scattered around the city and have cheap groceries and household products, and are generally crowded at weekends. The most centrally located 'big chain' supermarket is Carrefour located in floors B1 and B2 of Cloud 9 shopping mall (metro: Zhongshan Park Lines 2, 3 and 4). Tesco has a store in Zhabei district close to the main railway station and there is a huge Lotus supermarket in Top Brands mall in Liujiazui (Metro: Liujiazui, Line 2). There is also a large supermarket with much imported food at Xujiahui (lines 1 and 9); leave the station via at exit 12, which puts you in the basement of a major mall, then walk all the way across the open space at that level.
Whilst there are many stores around the city selling imported products at fairly high prices, Metro Cash'n'Carry is by far the cheapest place to buy imported goods. There are two stores:
- The Pudong store is at Longyang Lu, Lines 2, 7 and Maglev.
- The Puxi store is at the intersection of Zhenbei Rd and Meichuan Rd, reachable by bus #827 from Line 2 Beixinjing station, Line 10 Shuicheng Rd station, and Line 10 Jiaotong University station or bus #947 from Line 2 Zhongshan Park station and Line 3/4 Jinshajiang Rd station. Alternately, it is a five-minute walk from Jinjiang Park station on line 1.
As Metro caters primarily to businesses, you will either need a Metro membership card or take a temporary guest pass from reception when entering the store (Puxi store offers no guest passes but most members are willing to lend their membership card at the check-out line). Some items are available only in large packages or are much cheaper bought that way; for example, kilogram (2.2 pound) packs of New Zealand cream cheese or five-kg (11 pound) blocks of Irish cheddar are about half the cost per gram of small quantities.
City Shop has a number of locations around Shanghai, plus an online store. Prices are mostly noticeably higher than Metro, but their selection is good and locations are often convenient.
Ubiquitous FamilyMart 24-hour convenience stores can be found around the main central districts and inside major metro stations — these stores sell magazines, snacks, drinks and Japanese-style hot bento-boxes although prices are high by Chinese standards. Chinese chains such as KeDi and C-Store can be found in residential districts and are marginally cheaper and also stock cigarettes. 7-Eleven and Lawson convenience stores are less common but can be found around the Nanjing Road area.
For small discounts at various restaurants and hotels as well as 50% off tickets to certain attractions (Shanghai World Financial Center observation deck, Happy Valley, Science and Technology Museum, among others) try to find a branch of Woori Bank to sign up for the Shanghai Tourist Card. All Chinese banks issue this as a credit card, preventing non-Chinese visitors from signing up by virtue of requiring proof of income in China, but Woori is a Korean bank and caters to Koreans (including Korean tourists), and thus offers it as a debit card, allowing anyone to sign up for it with just a passport. Sign-up (including account creation) takes approximately half an hour and the card is immediately issued upon account creation. Branches are located near Metro Line 2 Century Ave. station (address is 1600 Century Ave. Pos-Plaza 1-2F) and Metro Line 9 Hechuan Rd. station (address is 188 South Huijin Rd: ask for directions to Bank of China; once you get there, turn right and keep walking until you see it). However, a hotel address may not be acceptable and there may be a handling fee for accounts canceled within a month of opening. An incidental advantage of the Woori Bank Shanghai Tourist Card is that the account allows unlimited free withdrawals at any ATM in China. Thus it will be more convenient to put all your money in the card and withdraw from ATMs only as necessary. If planning to visit two or more of the attractions that half-price tickets are offered for, the time spent is well worth the discount (maximum two discounted tickets purchased per card, offer lasts until end of World Expo).
In addition, Travelex offers a Shanghai Tourist Card Cash Passport IN JAPAN ONLY. If transiting through there, getting the Cash Passport version is easier and quicker, and offers all the benefits of the Woori Bank version except for free ATM withdrawals.
In Hong Kong, AEON Credit offers the Shanghai Travel Prepaid card instead. Same as the Travelex card except initial currency is Hong Kong dollars and a 1.1% fee is charged during the Hong Kong dollar->yuan conversion process.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Shanghai on Wikivoyage.