Shanghai is undoubtedly a shopping and food paradise, with good bargains to be found in every store, and all the food you could possibly indulge in. So in this post, I’ll be covering all the best shopping spots in Shanghai for travellers on any budget, as well as highlights of food we found in the city.
Nearest metro station: Nanjing Road (West)
This area is shopaholic heaven for those of you who love fashion chains like Uniqlo, H&M, Marks & Spencer’s and Zara, and you could easily spend the whole day there. The first thing you’ll encounter when exiting the metro station is an entire lane selling street food and assorted desserts, so you’ll be spoilt for choice!
If you walk down West Nanjing Street (in the direction of the 2 storey Sephora), you’ll find a huge Zara store and a few posh departmental stores, which were all rather empty when we visited on a Saturday. If overpriced handbags and clothes aren’t for you, I would recommend skipping that part of West Nanjing altogether.
While walking down the street, we stumbled upon a small doorway between 2 buildings and decided to explore. A lady pushing a stroller was in front of us, so we were wondering where the doorway led to; turns out that the Shanghai Children’s Library was tucked away behind that little alleyway. The architecture was beautiful and so rustic, and the lush greenery was such a far cry from the concrete jungles of Shanghai – it was as if we had been transported to a different country entirely.
We continued shopping, and stopped for dinner at a nice ramen place. Since it was still bright outside, we decided to walk all the way from West Nanjing back to our hotel at People’s Square, a distance of over 2km. We shopped and inhaled the city’s
polluted air along the way.
Nearest metro station: People’s Square
People’s Square is between East & West Nanjing stations, so you could start at either side of Nanjing and walk the whole stretch of road in a day.
There’s an M&M’s world, perfect for both photo-taking and getting a sugar rush. I mean, just look at that rainbow of chocolate-filled goodness!! As with all M&M stores, the merchandise is overpriced, but it’s a cute gimmick nevertheless.
Opposite M&M’s world is a 4-storey building called ‘Shanghai First Foodhall’, which is the place to buy Shanghainese tidbits and food for souvenirs. On the upper floors, there are restaurants and markets selling anything from Chinese herbs to organ meats of every animal imaginable.
And this seems to be Shanghai’s most popular dessert, a monstrosity of cut mango, whipped cream and mango juice. A multitude of stores selling this dessert line the shopping streets, so there’s no harm in trying it once!
Nearest metro station: Science & Technology Museum
If you’re looking for good quality fakes or authentic factory rejects, this is the your one-stop shopping destination. From genuine Adidas Stan Smith’s (that failed QC) to fake Samsonite luggage to fake MAC makeup palettes, you can find anything from any brand here. AP Plaza is an underground market connected directly to the Metro station, so you won’t have any difficulty navigating to the sprawling premises of the mall.
Prepare to be hounded by touts wherever you walk, and don’t enter a store unless you really want something in there, because they will literally grab onto you (or your children) to prevent you from leaving; it happened to my family. I walked into a shoe shop where they were selling supposedly-authentic Stan Smiths for around ¥400 (SGD$80), which is way too high for fakes, even if they’re of decent quality. I wasn’t keen on buying them after trying them on, but the storeowner grabbed onto me really tightly – there were fingernail marks on my arm after she let go O.o – and tried to convince me that I should buy her shoes. She cut the price by 60% without me even saying anything, but honestly I was just disturbed because she was still grabbing me, so we just left the store as quickly as we could, without buying the shoes.
The moral of the story is that if you want to get good prices, visit this place when it opens at 10 am, and be their first customer. The stall owners are generally very superstitious about the first customer bringing them good luck for the rest of the day, so they’ll be willing to sell at any (reasonable) low price you name.
If you’re looking for high quality fake bags (sounds like an oxymoron but it’s true), just keep an eye out for the touts who linger in the corridors and ask you if you want to follow them to see bags. If you decide to follow them, they’ll take you to – I kid you not – a secret room, filled with replicas of branded bags that look and feel as good as the real thing. As long as you don’t scrutinise the details, no one will be able to tell if you’re carrying the real thing or a good knockoff.
As with all markets, bargaining is a must! The rule of thumb is to name a price anywhere from 70-90% off the original price, nothing too cutthroat, and bargain until you’re happy with the price. If they’re not willing to sell, just walk away and find another store that sells exactly the same fake items.
This place has over 1000 stalls (including a few hundred tailor shops), but most of them sell identical items, so it’ll take around 3 hours to cover the whole place. If you want to visit the Science & Tech Museum, it’s just located outside AP Plaza!
Qipu Road Clothing Market
Nearest metro station: Tiantong Road
The Qipu Road Clothing Market isn’t just a single building; it’s an amalgamation of a around 4 or 5 shopping malls that you could easily spend half a day shopping in. It’s just rows and rows of stores selling a crazily wide range of clothes, and each of the malls has around 300 cubicle-sized stores.
Some of the malls are really old and cramped, but the newer ones are really pleasant to shop in, with clean toilets and no touts trying to sell fake handbags. Between the old and new malls, I preferred the old ones cos the starting prices are half of what the newer malls were trying to charge. Nevertheless, be ready to bargain, and make sure you compare the prices across the stalls and buy as many pieces as you can from a single stall, cos they’ll tend to give very attractive discounts if you spend more!
There’s a lot of cheap Korean-inspired clothing to be found in the malls – I managed to get a few blouses & dresses for ¥20 (SGD$4) each – so be sure to budget extra for this shopping stop! Oh, and be sure to bring along an empty shopping bag/backpack, so you can shop hands-free and jostle with the crowds more efficiently.
Just outside one of the malls was a food alley, so we stopped there for a nice Yong Tau Foo lunch, which cost around ¥30 (SGD$6) per pax.
Oriental Pearl Tower
Nearest metro station: Lujiazui
The Oriental Pearl Tower is not only a tourist attraction, but is also a radio & TV broadcasting tower. It’s like the Eiffel Tower of Shanghai…kinda.
If you want a bird’s eye view of the city, be prepared to shell out ¥200 for a ticket to the highest observation deck and endure a wait of over 2-hours just to enter the lift that will take you all the way up. We didn’t bother with visiting the tower, especially after hearing bad reviews about the insane wait times.
Super Brand Mall, IFC Mall
Nearest metro station: Lujiazui
Located just one overpass away from the Pearl Tower are 2 mega malls. The IFC Mall isn’t worth shopping in unless you’re looking to splurge on luxury brands; Super Brand Mall is more wallet-friendly, with some high street brands, chain stores and local brands. It offered us a respite from the heat – the day we visited this area was our hottest day in Shanghai – and there was no shortage of cafes or restaurants to enjoy lunch at.
Nearest metro station: Lujiazui
You won’t get lost trying to find this massive Disney store, it’s across the road from the Oriental Pearl Tower, and everything about it screams Disney. It’s a great place to spend all your money at, with products that we didn’t find in Disneyland itself. I was naturally hysterical when we entered the shop; it was basically Disneyland Pt.2 and I knew I would overspend the moment I set foot in the store.
If you found the merchandise in Disneyland too childish or garish, then this shop is perfect for you. The items on sale here included the generic Disney merchandise like Tsum Tsum plushies, but there were also many collections exclusive to this flagship store, like classy princess-inspired handbags/wallets, Star Wars schoolbags and an extremely wide range of Disney-themed jewellery. The items on sale here were a lot more subtle and suitable for older Disney fans to use in their everyday life, so be sure not to skip the Disney store when you visit this area!
Nearest metro station:Nanjing Road (East)
It’s a 10-minute walk from East Nanjing Road Station to the Bund, and there’re plenty of signs (and noisy tour groups) to point you in the right direction. You’ll pass by countless souvenir shops selling kitschy keychains and silk fans, as well as shops selling traditional street food and snacks; it’s all part of soaking up Shanghai’s culture.
The Bund tops my list of favourite city skylines – sorry Singapore – and the picture does it no justice. Perfect photo spots can be found anywhere along the Bund, and there are even professional photographers who ‘reserve’ the best spots (they use cardboard boxes to cordon areas off) for paying customers, and they’ll help you take & print nice pictures for around ¥25-¥40. It’s a tourist gimmick, but the price is reasonable if you’re looking to take a perfect family picture!
Among some of the food I tried on the way to the Bund, my favourite would have to be their milk ice cream; it’s a creamy popsicle that tastes as sweet as Hokkaido ice cream, and it was really cheap! Another product you’ll see being sold along the streets is a yoghurt drink, which is really just normal sour/original-flavoured yoghurt, but the ceramic bottle is definitely a novelty souvenir.
Nearest metro station: Nanjing Road (East)
East Nanjing is the best place to visit if you want to admire the Shanghai skyline while also getting your fix of retail therapy, with the Bund just being a 10-minute walk away, and many major brands having retail stores around the area.
We spent a while in this massive department store (which had curved escalators!!), but it wasn’t worth our time and we came out empty-handed.
Shopaholics rejoice, for there is a 4-storey Forever 21 outlet right across at road from East Nanjing Metro station! It’s nothing short of retail heaven, with all the clothes, shoes and jewellery you could possibly dream of. And the best part – the entire top floor is filled with discount racks, from which I bought a tonne of clothes for a steal!
The architecture of the area was a perfect fusion of historical and modern buildings, and they seemed even grander when illuminated at night.
Because we didn’t manage to finish shopping in East Nanjing the previous evening, we spent half a day there again. We also took a ¥15 tram ride from there to People’s Square, which I would recommend for those with tired kids or who want to save energy by not walking.
And so we’ve come to the end of the Shanghai leg of my trip, the next post will feature my time in Hong Kong, so watch this space! Be sure to follow this blog and like my Facebook page for the latest updates!
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If you’re interested in exploring my blog, click here for an index of all the posts I’ve ever written (travel, musings, doctoring), or check out my most read series below:
- the Chasing Dreams series: a multi-part series chronicling my thoughts, dreams & changing ideals over the years (since 2018), including burnout, quitting the rat race, migration and trying to find my path in life
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