Before you set out, a few rules:
1) Never go to the market hungover, for this is worse than 9,000 demons ripping apart your flesh.
2) It is not uncommon for hawkers to ask for prices 32x higher than the actual price, so bargain hard. That said, don't ask for an unreasonably low price -- this is 2015. For some of the more specialized places like the tea market, bring a friend who knows the game.
3) Don't trust electronics like USB drives, unless you're at an electronics market (and even then, be careful).
4) When you first move here, there is a temptation to buy everything, just because it's cheap. Think twice -- you'll probably end up throwing most of that away in a few months.
5) Returns are usually impossible.
Metro Stop: 1 min walk from Tiantong Lu Station, Line 10
Good For: Clothes, Korean Clothes, Shoes, Accessories, Wigs, Watches, Thieves.
In the '90s, this was the biggest clothing market in town. Aunties and sisters would fight viciously over the clothes, spend 10 hours digging for the best items, then walk away at sunset with suitcases and shopping bags stuffed with their finds.
Flash forward to 2015, and the place is still nuts -- dirt cheap, sweaty, raw, and absolutely packed on the weekends. You will really need to bargain hard here. It's a war. In general, you'll find higher quality goods on the 3rd floor and above, but overall the quality is low, and the fashion styles are mostly like "Countryside Sister". The basement is mostly shoes. The English level here is not real high.
Touts will start hounding you as soon as you step off the subway. Ignore them. Also, watch out for thieves in this area. That said, the area around the market is pretty hood, but safe, and worth a wander. Lots of cutty alleys and cheap restaurants (though a lot of the food is dodgy).
Metro Stop: 7 min walk from Exit 2, Nanjing Xi Lu station, Line 2
Good For: Cheap Gifts, Fake Clothes and Shoes, Accessories, Silk, Custom made items.
This is probably the most popular market for foreign tourists. A lot of locals really can't understand why so many foreigners pay for the fake / low quality shit here, but if you are patient enough, you probably can find some decent gifts to bring home. Most of the salespeople speak conversational English.
Not recommended for anyone who's been in Shanghai more than a few months. This is more for the "I'm in Shanghai for seven days" set. Little known fact about this place -- there's a really hood arcade and a sketchy massage parlor on the top floor. Both seem like places you could lose your wallet or a few organs. Stay clear.
Metro Stop: 6 min walk from Exit 2, Huangpi Nan Lu station, Line 1
Good For: Children's Clothes and Shoes, Children's Photography Stalls, Toys, a Fun Playground.
This one is like a smaller, cleaner version of Qipu Lu, but only for children. Been there since 2001. Toys are definitely cheaper here than at Carrefour.
Playground for the youth 'dem.
Metro Stop: 5 min walk from Exit 3, Nanpu Daqiao station, Line 4
Good For: Custom Shirts, Suits, Dresses, and Coats. Also, accessories like gloves and scarves.
This one is actually pretty good. The fabric market has been around since 2005, serving a mostly foreign crowd. Let's preface this by saying that it's not the place to get a really high quality suit -- this ain't no Savile Row. But if you're on a budget and your friend is getting married and you need an OK suit, you can get something passable here for 500-700rmb. Shirts and coats are good though (shout out to Jennifer), and they can copy just about anything (Gucci!) and make custom uniforms, jerseys, etc. For men's shirts, expect to pay 70-150rmb, depending on the fabric. If you don't know about fabrics and stitching, bring someone who does.
For more details on this place, check out our guides on Dresses And Womenswear and Suits And Menswear.
Metro Stop: 8 min walk from Exit 3, Longde Lu station, Line 11
Good For: Flowers and Plants, Potting, Chinese Antiques, Wedding Supplies
This is the largest spot in the city for plants, flowers, trees, and herbs. They've got like 400 stalls with all kinds and sizes of flowers and plants, including some rare imports. And if you buy some large trees, they can arrange the delivery for a small fee.
For those who stay in the kitchen / behind the bar, they've got fresh mint, rosemary, and other herbs for like 8rmb a pot.
Metro Stop: Inside the Science & Technology Museum station
Good For: Clothes, Toys, Shoes, Accessories, Silk, Pearls, Chinese Antiques
Massive market with 488 stalls running daily beneath the earth. Super touristy, so naturally the staff speak the Incessantly Hounding dialect of English. If you need to pick up some gifts for people back home on the way to Pudong Airport, this is the place. Touts can be annoying, but not to the degree of Qipu Lu. Lots of fake USB drives here, which will claim to be like 128gb but are actually only 4gb.
Remember: those chops are legally binding, yo.
Metro Stop: 7 min walk from Exit 1, Yan'an Xi Lu, Line 4
Good For: Tea Leaves, Tea Sets, Chinese Antiques
Do you know about tea? If not, better bring someone who does, lest you get fleeced. The tea market has around 150 stalls slangin' thousands of varieties of leaves, a lot of which ain't cheap. But if your tea game is strong, there's lots to find here, like rare Pu'ers and that Da Hong Pao.
Some stalls will offer lessons and tea ceremonies. Again, use your best judgment -- there's lots of tea scams in China.
Metro Stop: 10 min walk from Exit 4, Shanghai Railway Station, Line 1 / 4
Good For: Cheap Glasses, Thieves [outside]
When you get a decent pair of glasses for 120rmb in China, that's when you realize just how much the American medical system and the insurance companies have been fucking you for your entire life.
Shanghai's biggest and only glasses market is just a 10 minute walk from Shanghai Railway station. There's three floors and hundreds of stalls, all selling cheap, custom made glasses, which they can finish within an hour. They also sell contacts, but...in our experience, better get those from a bit more legitimate place. Again, bargain hard and expect to pay 120-150rmb per pair. They can also do eye exams on site, usually for free.
And watch out for thieves around the train station. And skip the 100rmb Lasek surgery! It's not worth it!
Metro Stop: 7 min walk from Exit 2, Longxi Lu station, Line 10
Good For: Pearls, Shoes, Accessories, Clothes.
Running hours: 10am-9pm
Hongqiao -- home to Laowai Jie 101, Koreatown, all kinds of imported grocery stores, DVD shops, and lots of posh shopping malls. And about three minutes away from Laowai Jie 101 by foot, you've got the pearl market. Guess what they sell here.
Guess they're real? Maybe bring your aunt to test? Think you're supposed to bite down on them, and if you break your tooth, they're real.
Anyway, there's more than just pearls. The first floor is covered with clothes, accessories, and silk. Not amazing, but you can probably find something.
Metro Stop: 5 min walk from Exit 1, Luban Lu Station, Line 4 (also close to Tianzifang)
Good For: Digital and Analog Cameras, Accessories, Video Equipment, Mics, Camera Repair
Definitely the best camera market in town. It's been around since 1997, and while it's probably fallen off a bit now because of online shopping and big box stores, they still have the largest selection of photography equipment in town.
The market has three sections. Zone A has accessories for cameras and video cameras, with tons of lights, backdrops, and whatever else you might need for your shoot. Zone B is mostly covered with photo-printing stalls and other new gear.
Zone C is all second-hand gear, with lots of used lenses, DSLRs, and vintage film cameras. Just do your research first. Also, you can find stalls to do camera repair, though that might void your warranty.
Metro Stop: 4 min walk from Exit 4, Sichuan Bei Lu station, Line 10
Good For: Electronics, Home Security, KTV Gear, Bizarre Finds
This is the finest, most colorful electronics market in Shanghai. We've got a whole article dedicated to this place. With the Xiangyang Lu / Fuxing Lu market gone (R.I.P.), this is the spot to buy blank CDs, AV cables, personal massage devices, fake cigs, boomboxes, pipes, medicinal liquor, roach traps, and bike locks all in one noisy, dirty, beautiful place. There's way more than just electronics here -- we've found Vietnamese Lizard Wine, pepper spray, and pilates balls.
Lots of old-school, high-end Hi-Fi equipment here, too.
Metro Stop: 2 min walk from Exit 10, Xujiahui station, Line 1
Good For: Electronics, Laptops, Video Games, Phones, Headphones
Running hours: 10am–8pm
Honestly, this place sucks. The prices aren't much cheaper than chains like Suning and GOMZ or websites like JD.com, and you've gotta deal with the worst kind of salespeople. Lots of fake products here, too. This place used to be a lot better when they had a dedicated Hi-Fi center.
But there are a few reasons to go. One is a really nice headphones shop you'll have to seek out. They've got a bunch of high-end models by brands like Sennheiser and AKG, and some really good cheap earbuds. The other reason is video games. Lots of those up in here, including modded / chipped consoles, and you can test the games on their big-screen TVs.
Returns here are beyond impossible.
Metro Stop: 5 min walk from Exit 1, Changshu Lu station, Line 7
Good For: Halal Foods, Snacks, Cakes, Full Lambs
Hours: Fridays, Morning till Afternoon
We've got a full article dedicated to the Muslim Market, which has been running for years. Tons of good food, furs, and photo opportunities here. Definitely worth a visit on a Friday.
Note: The market has been on and off over the past few years -- we cannot guarantee it will be there on any given Friday.
Metro Stop: 5 min walk from Exit 7, Laoximen station, Line 10
Good For: Manga, Action Figures, Otaku Gear, Making Wishes To Confucius
Running hours: 10am-6pm
Just down the road from Laoximen is a wild street that specializes in bootleg comic books, Korean boy-band fan gear, toys and model robots, video games, and erotic Japanese action figures. It's chaotic, but the harmony stays in balance thanks to one of Shanghai's most low-key altars of worship -- the city's only Confucian Temple. It's a fine place to spend a Sunday, especially if you get up early enough to hit the ghost [book] market, which starts before dawn on Sunday mornings.
And they do speak the universal language of Magic The Gathering in this quadrant. Lots of cheap food around here, too. Recommended for an offbeat date. For more info, here's a full article.
Metro Stop: 1 min walk from Zhenru Lu station, Line 11
Good For: Crates of imported fruits
Running hours: 9am-6pm
This is one of Shanghai's biggest wholesale markets, focused solely on fruits. Everything is incredibly cheap and fresh, but unfortunately, they're moving to Qingpu Qu by the end of October, so get there sooner than later.
As this is a wholesale market, the smallest amount they sell here is a crate.
After October, their new location will be:
1500 Xinfu Zhong Lu, Near Hualong Lu | 新府中路1500号(近华隆路)
See you in hell!