When people mention Shanghai's Nanjing Road (Nánjīng Lù, 南京路), they're probably talking about East Nanjing Road (Nánjīng Dōng Lù, 南京东路), a pedestrian shopping street running for blocks between the northeast corner of People's Square and the Bund. If you spend more than a couple days in Shanghai, you'll likely end up pushing your way through the crowds beneath the neon signs and signature Shanghai mix of brand-new high rises and late colonial-period architecture. The shopping is varied and good, though lacking the upscale brand-name cachet of Huaihai Road or Xintiandi on one hand or the bargain-basement prices of "fake" markets like Yatai Market under the subway station for Shanghai Science and Technology Museum on the other, more central fake market on Nanjing Lu.
Though it's a shopping street first and foremost, the real attraction here is the parade of people: hustlers looking for easy tourist marks, Chinese families on holiday, foreign tour groups wandering past in matching outfits, kids playing, Shanghainese office workers, migrant kebab vendors, Chinese pixies pushing cosmetics—you'll see them all on Nanjing Dong Lu if you have a little patience. If you're not in a shopping mood, just grab a snack and a drink (the smaller streets to the north of the main drag offer the best—and cheapest—street foods) and watch the world go by.
This stretch of Nanjing Lu was the first modern commercial street in Shanghai, home to the city's first big department stores, including the No. 1 Department Store, which still sells a little bit of everything at the western end of the pedestrian zone. On weekends, holidays and in the evenings, the crowds spill east onto the Bund's Huangpu River promenade and east onto Xizang Road (Xīzàng Lù, 西藏路) and into the Metro Lines 1,2 & 8 People's Square Metro Station, which is home to its own underground commercial strip. It's a great area to spend part of a day getting a feel for the city's energy.
After a few hours, however, many will be ready for a relaxing meal or drink in People's Square (try Barbarossa or Kathleen's 5 if the weather's nice) or a Bund spot such as the Glamour Bar (expensive) or the Captain's Bar (a cheap spot with a great view above the Captain Hostel) when you've had enough of the Shanghai shopping scrum. A number of historic buildings, including the beautifully renovated and restored Peace Hotel (now housing the Fairmont Peace Hotel and Swatch Art Peace Hotel), are scattered about the area.
Note that the above reference to hustlers should be taken seriously, but not as a reason to avoid Nanjing Dong Lu. You should, of course, watch your valuables and refrain from accepting the first friendly invitation to buy a charming group of young Chinese "students" a round of tea, but the chances of any aggressive or even violent behavior is exceedingly low.
West of Xizang Lu, West Nanjing Road (Nánjīng Xi Lù, 南京西路) picks up, heading into the heart of the old international concession and offering more shops, restaurants and fascinating side alleys full of life, commerce and sights.
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