Heres a pick of seven of the citys best markets, selling everything from vintage propaganda posters to cheap prescription glasses and Burberry-style kids coats.
A visiting photographer friend spotted a 16 GB, 30 MB/second SanDisk Ultra CompactFlash Card for RMB 320 — the same card going for RMB 915 in a shop on Shanghais pricey shopping thoroughre, Nanjing Lu.
The flowers are fresh, cheap and abundant, with clusters of purple and pink blooms that seem transported out of an Impressionist painting.
Xing Guang photography equipment center, 300 Luban Lu near Xietu Lu, 300, +86 21 6301 8248, open daily 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
A friend and I, both with basic nearsightedness, brought in our prescriptions and picked out cherry red frames. We each paid RMB 200, with lenses and a quick eye checkup included. Our glasses were ready in an hour.
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The few English-language books tend to be amusing, like a coffee table book called Timeless Tiaras. Other odd finds include a biography of Prince Philip and a guidebook to Oregon.
The prices get cheaper the higher up you go, says 23-year-old sales engineer and amateur photographer Sunny Xia ().
The market also stocks eye-catching pets, including enormous goldfish, floppy-eared rabbits and birds that squawk ni hao.
Hongqiao Bird and Flower Market, 718 Hongjing Lu, near Hongsong Lu 718,
, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
The markets are where locals spend their renminbi — and though the settings are sometimes dingy, the deals are glee-inducing.
And dont miss the kitschy lawn ornaments, such as a hulking white unicorn with an asking price of RMB 22,000.
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The local homemakers from the sedate Hongqiao neighborhood come for the tasteful housewares on offer, from quilts to wicker baskets to dainty ceramic dishes with pastel glazing.
Patient shoppers — those who come without kids — can unearth Kenzo and Burberry overstocks from the bins. For anyone crazy enough to shop with little ones in tow, theres a play area where kids can scamper and overwhelmed parents can stare into space.
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But anyone seeking flashier re will not be disappointed.
Enjoy the cheapness while it lasts — the kilometer-long shopping mecca will eventually be replaced by a ncy shion district. But no specific timeline has been released for the streets transformation.
The sign outside says bargaining is appropriate, but shopkeepers here seem more resistant to haggling than at other markets.
The shops also stock more subtle styles, like tortoiseshell and metal frames, as well as contacts lenses and sunglasses.
Stands sell 1930s-style posters featuring glamorous smiling Shanghai ladies, or statuettes of Chairman Mao playing ping pong (RMB 50 after bargaining). Charming tin cookie bins have enough rust on them to look plausibly vintage.
No matter — there are still deals to be had, including Western brands overstock, some with imperfections.
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Qipu Lu isnt for everyone — but if your idea of fun is digging through a cardboard box to find an RMB 15 T-shirt with Hello Kitty prints, then its worth a stop.
This is the place to stock up on kids party supplies, toys, stickers, swim gear, Halloween costumes and stocking stuffers.
Its a good place to find cheap but original gifts. Propaganda pamphlets have arresting bright covers and would look smart on a coffee table.
3 Yeh optical market, 4-5/F, 360 Meiyuan Lu, near the Shanghai Railway Station 360, , 9 a.m.-7 p.m., I say this list would feature only markets prized by locals for good deals? In this case, I lied.
Every Sunday, vendors set up rainbow-hued umbrellas in the courtyard, and the haze from chain-smoking booksellers blends with incense from the temple.
Who actually buys stuff at Shanghais pricey luxury malls? Even the nouveau riches seem mostly to go to see and be seen, Starbucks lattes in hand.
Qipu Lu clothing market, Qipu Lu, near Henan Bei Lu , , 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Hongqiao indoor flower market is the place to go to escape from the futuristic Shanghai landscape and pretend for an afternoon that youre in charming Paris instead of hectic Shanghai.
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Its also a must for ns of clothes that sport amusing or incomprehensible Chinglish slogans. I laughed out loud at a billboard advertising the DULL apparel line — DULL for Delicate, Unique, Lovely and Legendary, of course.
The Qipu Lu main drag encompasses outdoor shops as well as dingy malls with floors covered in bric fuzz, peanut shells and who knows what else.
Neon Kids Plaza, 10 Puan Lu, near Jinling Lu 10, , +86 21 5383 6218, 9:30 a.m.-8 p.m., contrast to what the market actually stocks, the name of the optical mall, 3 Yeh, means three leaves in Chinese.
Comic ns might like pocket-sized Tintin comics from the 1980s, with text in Chinese (two for RMB 100).
Its damp, its underground and it has all the charm of a subway station. But this childrens market in central Shanghai is known to make thrifty Shanghainese swoon and throw cash around. To make matters worse, the shops accept credit cards.
But even for non-Chinese speakers, and for people who might be put off by the RMB 10 entrance fee to the temple, the book market deserves a visit for the atmosphere.
Many of the antiques arent old, but theyre fun.
At this maze of stands near Shanghai Railway Station, glasses come in colors as mouth-watering as lollipops, and theyre nearly as cheap.
Located in the courtyard of a Confucian temple near Shanghai old town, this popular Sunday market mainly sells secondhand Chinese-language books, from contemporary novels and 1980s comic strips to ancient pamphlets to be read from back to front and right to left.
Stands stock Canon, Nikon, Olympus and vintage cameras.
I bought Stride Rite sneakers with no visible flaws for RMB 59 and a gauzy Disney princess costume for RMB 120.
Orchids go for RMB 20 or 30 a stem. Small glass vase centerpieces brimming with delicate buds are another bargain at RMB 20.
Dongtai Lu antiques market, Dongtai Lu, near Liukehou Lu , , 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
With several big repair shops inside, the market is also a good place to take broken cameras. And there are plenty of tempting gadgets and gear for sale, from stylish camera bags to those cool Indiana Jones-style photojournalist vests covered with pockets.
The problem with buying glasses in the United States or Europe is theyre so expensive you can only afford one pair — which usually means something staid. Shanghai is the place to unleash your inner Elton John.
Wenmiao book market, 215 Wenmiao Lu, near Zhonghua Lu 215, , 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (every Sunday), are six floors of camera and photo equipment to check out in this mall in the former French Concession, so dont buy until youve scoped out the whole building.
But bear with me. If youre visiting Shanghai and only have time for one market — a place combining local charm and souvenir shopping — this is a good bet. Its in an enclave of hanging laundry, locals washing their vegetables in the street and kids playing tag. Just dont forget to bargain hard.
A rsighted friend had less luck — the shop didnt thin out his hefty lenses enough, and he turned down the glasses they made for him. Anyone with an unusual prescription should proceed with caution.
You can buy all this stuff cheaper on the Internet, observed Hong Kong native K K Man (), taking pictures of the bric-a-brac.