All of Shanghai is bursting with shopping opportunities, although there are a few areas commonly identified as the key shopping zones. These are destinations where shopping and commercial activity is not only incidental, but the primary focus. The main shopping areas are in Puxi. The two principal shopping boulevards are Huaihai Lu and Nanjing Lu, both of which are lined with the same high-end international brands found on Madison Avenue, as well as interesting local boutiques and fine dining establishments. Xujiahui, also in Puxi, and Lujiazui in Pudong are shopping mega-centres characterised by massive shopping malls and bustling markets. The popular expat areas of Hongqiao and Gubei are emerging shopping destinations.
Huaihai Lu and the French Concession
For the highest concentration of cool per metre, head to the tree-lined streets of the French Concession. Though fast becoming a tourist magnet, the warren of alleys around Taikang Lu is probably the best shopping experience in the area, particularly for those new to Shanghai.
Just north of Taikang Lu is the immensely popular shopping and dining area of Xintiandi (‘new heaven on earth’), several blocks of exclusive and expensive stores housed in reproduced traditional shikumen buildings. Many expats enjoy spending the afternoon spinning their credit cards, though escaping the Xintiandi crowds and attitudes and heading north to the other side of Huaihai Lu to Changle Lu, a smaller, less busy street that sells Eastern and Western styles, is a good option.
Visit nearby Shaanxi Lu and Maoming Lu for a pleasant afternoon of strolling, interesting window shopping and occasional great deals on international designer labels. In the area you’ll come across shops specializing in custom leather shoes and bags, tailors that make suits, jackets and dresses, local art galleries and much more. In the spring and fall the area is beautiful and it’s not too hot due to the tree-shaded streets.
If you can handle the concrete and the crowds, Xujiahui is worth visiting. Indeed, the towering asphalt structures connected by a maze of tunnels under an insanely busy intersection are a far cry from the pleasant tree-lined European streets of the French Concession. Nonetheless, Xujiahui still attracts swarms of Chinese and expat retail-hungry residents to its department stores, malls and electronic outlets. Besides Metro City and Pacific Digital Plaza, which house hundreds of electronics stores, the area boasts the grand-daddy of them all, Grand Gateway. This is home to more than 1.4 million square feet of shopping and entertainment. Overall, Xujiahui isn’t so much a shopping area where you will while away a hot or rainy afternoon, but it is utilitarian and there are good deals to be had particularly Pacific Digital Plaza.
Nanjing Lu and the Bund
Nanjing Lu is a long and vibrant shopping boulevard that cross-cuts Puxi and can be divided into two distinct areas, Nanjing Dong Lu (east) and Nanjing Xi Lu (west). Nanjing Dong Lu is the city’s main shopping drag and arguably the most famous shopping street in China, a reputation that dates back to its origins as the main thoroughfare running through the International Settlement. Primarily a lively pedestrian mall, Nanjing Dong Lu has long been celebrated for its large department stores, silk shops and trendy clothing stores. While we don’t recommend it as a shopping destination (it’s rather prosaic), it’s worth a visit on a good weather weekend if only to witness the vast crowds of locals out for a walk. Take your camera, as it truly is something to behold.
If you continue east until the end of the pedestrian mall, you will reach the Bund, where you can splurge on retailers such as Armani and Shiatzy Chen, dine at high-end restaurants and enjoy contemporary Chinese art while taking in the breathtaking Pudong skyline.
Nanjing Xi Lu (west) has a much more Western vibe. This end of Nanjing Lu offers much less of a street scene – the shopping is centered around smart and glossy malls. CITIC Square, Plaza 66 and Westgate malls glow with exclusivity, carrying most of the biggest designers.
Hongqiao and Gubei
Hongqiao and Gubei, both located in Changning District, have rapidly evolved from outlying industrial zones into Shanghai’s third major urban center after Puxi and Pudong. Hongqiao Lu and Yan’an Lu conveniently connect commuters from downtown through Hongqiao and Gubei to Hongqiao Airport. With an abundance of expat and middle-class Chinese shoppers moving in, good shopping has appeared to meet their needs. Unlike Nanjing Lu and Huaihai Lu, it’s preferable to travel by car or taxi to get around efficiently. Shanghai Hongqiao Friendship Shopping Center, in the Hongqiao Development Zone, is a large-scale Western shopping center that integrates shopping, restaurants and entertainment, promoting itself as what it calls a “white-collar shopping mall”. Gubei has the city’s largest Carrefour at 268 Shuicheng Nan Lu, serving as the focal point of Gubei’s busy shopping area. Home supplies and speciality foods can be easily found in these stores. The Hongqiao New World Pearl Market, a three-floor mall, is the prime expat hub for counterfeit goods, though the pearl vendors on the second and third floors are legit. Hongqiao is also a good district for furniture warehouses, most of which are located on the drive into the city from the airport.
Lujiazui, the business district of Pudong, has a large modern shopping area concentrated mostly east of the riverfront and south of the landmark Oriental Pearl Tower. As the area grows, more and more department stores and strip malls are opening along Pudong Nan Lu, Zhangyang Lu and Century Avenue. Lujiazui is not ideal for strolling and window-shopping, rather it’s best managed by car or Metro. While the area by no means contains the same volume or quality of options as the other side of the river, the malls and markets are handy for residents expats not wanting to make the hike to Puxi.
The centre of shopping in Lujiazui is Super Brand Mall. With ten floors of busy commercial activity, this is one of Asia’s largest malls and the most popular in the area. Nearby, the newer ifc Mall is the latest magnet for luxury goods. New Shanghai Shopping City, located in the middle of the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, offers the best facilities and amenities, according to many expats. It is surrounded by a variety of retail outlets. An interesting area highlight is the A.P. Xinyang Fashion & Gifts Market, located below the Science and Technology Museum. It contains Shanghai’s largest collection of shopping stalls and is worth a visit just to see the breadth of variety on offer. There is also a Carrefour and a shopping plaza near the Zendai Museum of Modern Art.
The surge in mall development during the past decade has transformed the retail environment and shopping culture of modern China. And, as with most things that represent Western consumer culture, malls have been enthusiastically embraced in Shanghai. The absence of authentic Chinese street bustle, exclusivity and raw artificial consumerism are all perceived to be attractive characteristics of Shanghai malls. For many expat families, malls offer a comfortable familiarity as well as a convenient and relaxed atmosphere for shopping. Most malls in Shanghai are relatively upscale and offer the most expensive brands and some of the most upscale restaurants. In fact, many wealthy Chinese people don’t go to malls to shop, but rather to hang out, see and be seen, and dine and entertain themselves.
Citic Square, Westgate Mall and Plaza 66
These three malls rub shoulders with one another, competing to be the biggest and the best, as well as the most expensive and exclusive. Each of these large malls is packed with international shops, many of which are in all three malls. They’re often less packed with consumers though.
CITIC Square: 1168 Nanjing Xi Lu
Westgate Mall: 1038 Nanjing Xi Lu
Plaza 66: 1266 Nanjing Xi Lu
An exclusive mall with high-end international products and prices out of range for most Chinese people. Recently refurbished with a grand new look.
99 Huaihai Zhong Lu
A prime location near People’s Square and ultramodern feel are highlights of this mall. It also has dozens of international shops, a fitness centre, an IMAX theatre and a very popular food court.
268 Xizang Zhong Lu
More of a massive department store and mall fusion, Next Age has loads of foreign brands, particularly in the beauty department.
501 Zhangyang Lu
Grand Gateway Plaza
The biggest and flashiest of the group of malls around Xujiahui has an excellent mix of popular retail (books, accessories, clothing, electronics), dining and entertainment. Prices are a bit lower here than in the Nanjing Xi Lu malls. From here look across the street to the large glass ball. Inside this mall is the best electronics market in the city. To say it’s busy is an understatement.
1 Hongqiao Lu, by Huashan Lu
High Street Loft
Designed by Filipo Gabbiani, this cluster of former factories in the heart of the French Concession is a stylish fashion, dining and entertainment complex. The building alone is worth a visit, and this mall also makes an effort to carry work from up-and-coming local designers besides stocking the usual international brands.
508 Jiashan Lu
Cloud Nine features shops, restau- rants, a Carrefour, bookstores, a spa and entertainment facilities.
1018 Changning Lu
ifc Mall is part of the Shanghai International Finance Center designed by Cesar Pelli. It’s a brand new, shiny six-storey complex full of luxury stores. Apple’s flagship store is here, as well as a multiplex cinema and some fine dining establishments.
8 Century Avenue
Super Brand Mall
Super Brand Mall is the biggest and most popular mall in Pudong. Besides hosting a mind-boggling selection of international clothing shops, it has a cinema complex, an ice-skating rink and a massive Lotus supermarket.
168 Lujiazui Xi Lu