If you're heading to Shanghai, no doubt you're going to want to check out some of Shanghai's markets. The secret to shopping for bargains in China is that it all comes down to patience. Though the days of old Xiangyang market's crowded stalls and grasping hands are long gone and a megalithic glass and concrete tower now rises up from the ashes of thousands upon thousands of watch-bag-DVD-stalls, if you are tired and intolerant of crowds, haggling and harassment, you may not enjoy any of the following. Stick to the air-conditioned malls of Xujiahui and Jing'an Temple area instead. However, with a little preparation and nerves of steel, there are deals to be had that'll have your pals back home swooning over the results of your beady bargain hunter's eye!
China is notorious for its designer fakes. Even if you're not into buying them, seeing them can be an interesting experience. Counterfeit products in China come in varying degrees of quality and authenticity. Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Chloe, Dior, Chanel—some are direct copies of the originals and others are just cheap knock-offs that will fall apart in a couple of months, weeks or even days. You might be able to determine while haggling just what level of fakes you're dealing, and of course, sometimes you'll pay more than you should. It's all part of the game. Be sure to read our top 10 China bargaining tips to ensure you are well prepared and then get out there and bag yourself some faux-designer style!
Check out the fake market on Nanjing Lu where the stall-holders are pushy, the turnover high and the crowds are, well, crowded. For a slightly more relaxed experience, try the Yatai fake market in Pudong located under the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum or the fake market near Hongmei Lu (in the same building as the Hongqiao Pearl Market), both of which are marginally less busy.
Shanghai's fabric markets are great for picking up a bargain, but they too require time and the patience of a saint. Pick out your fabric from the massive, multistall selection spread over several floors, where everyone wants to give you a special "friend price." Don't believe them. Bargain hard.
As with many markets and shops in China, go early—the first customer of the day gets the best prices. It's wise to have your own clothes copied but you can bring in a photo or design for an outfit you want to make (expect to go a couple of rounds of fittings and alterations with this options according to the complexity of the design). With more and more stallholders speaking at least a few words of English, getting stuff made at the fabric market is easy even for a newcomer, and can be a fun and inexpensive way to have tailored clothes of your own design.
You'll want to head to the South Bund to get your fabric market fix. Here you'll find two spots in fairly close proximity: the South Bund Fabric Market and Shiliupu Fabric Market, with the former just a little more foreigner friendly. Once a far-flung corner of Shanghai, these days there's more to this area than just tailor made couture with massive regeneration going on along the riverfront. Hop in a cab and you'll be at the Cool Docks in minutes, an F&B zone of old Shikumen architecture shoulder to shoulder with warehouse chic that even features its very own fake beach!
If you are into Communist kitsch or antique Chinese furniture, jewelry, posters and so on, then the antique market on Dongtai Lu near Xintiandi is a good place to buy presents for yourself, friends and family. With two intersecting streets filled with knick-knacks and souvenirs of the old and not-so-old variety, a wander through is well worth it, even if you don't intend to buy. From disintegrating qipao and vintage specs to modern-day Mao memorabilia, cigarette poster reprints and Art Deco-style jewelry boxes, it is full of curios and conversation pieces aplenty and you'll doubtless find a trinket or two to liven up your mantelpiece.
Many stands have similar items so when you spot something you like, don't dive in straightaway, browse around and see what price range you are offered before going in for negotiations that start low, low, low. Final prices should be quite inexpensive and don't believe the dubious claims of authenticity for a second!
Want to know where to head for the best bargains on kids clothes, eye-glasses, electronics, fast fashion, pearls, tea and more? Check out our guide to Shanghai's best markets and find them on our map of Shanghai markets. For more on Shanghai, browse our Shanghai travel guide.