A Thrifty Shopper's Guide to Shanghai Markets

Insect Market
Insect Market | ©Max Talbot-Minkin/Flickr
Rachel Deason

Billed the “Paris of the East,” Shanghai is well known for its upscale shopping. That doesn’t mean the city is unwelcoming to thrifty shoppers though. In Shanghai, there is a market for everything, clothes, plants, hotel supplies, you name it you will find it. Want to go on a shopping spree in Shanghai without blowing your budget? Try one of these markets.

1. Hotel Supplies Market


Don’t automatically skip this section just because you’re not a hotelier. In fact, anyone who owns a kitchen should give this wholesale market a look. Spread over three well organized, well labeled floors is a host of bamboo dumpling steamers, pots and pans, potato peelers, cupcake tins, and more. If it belongs anywhere near a kitchen, the hotel supplies market has it.

2. Shanghai Office Supplies Market


Sure, you can go for the pens and the paper if you want, but the real reason to hit up the office supplies market is the wholesale art supplies. Find Mitsubishi pencils for RMB15 ($2.18) per box of 12, 30 x 40cm canvases for RMB13 ($1.89), and easels from RMB40 ($5.81). Everything here can be found other places, namely Fuzhou Rd, but the goods at the market are at least 30 percent cheaper across the board. Be prepared to spend more than just a few minutes here, as there is seemingly no strategy to the organization of stalls.

3. Caojiadu Flower and Bird Market


The first floor of the Caojiadu Flower and Bird Market is what you would expect from the name of it. Here you’ll find a wide range of indoor and outdoor plants, like perfectly potted succulents and fragrant herbs, as well as birds, turtles, fish, and other small animals. The second floor specializes in wholesale interior design and expensive interior design ware. So, while captivating to behold, the second floor is not meant for budget shoppers. Nor is the third floor, which is full of Chinese wedding supplies.

4. Shanghai Xingwang International Clothing Market


Qipu Lu ca. 2005
©The Pocket/Flickr
Most people don’t know the Shanghai Xingwang International Clothing Market by that name. Instead, everyone calls it by the street that it’s on, Qipu Lu. That “Qipu” sounds like the Mandarinized version of “cheap” is no accident. Welcome to all the misspelled English shirts and knock off cartoon character jackets you could ever need. This is the place where productive afternoons go to die.

5. International Glasses City


5. International Glasses City
International Glasses City is easily one of the most underrated markets in Shanghai. It’s not the most thrilling place to browse, but if you need a pair of prescription glasses, fast, you can’t get much better than here. Vendors sell everything from knock off Ray Bans to wooden framed hipster glasses. Once you have found a style you like (an overwhelming process if you don’t come in with a solid idea), the owners of the stall will give you a complimentary eye exam on the spot. (don’t expect a full check up like you would get at a licensed optometrist’s). After the exam, wait no more than 15 minutes for the finished product.

6. Xing Guang Photography Equipment Center


The camera market is divided into three zones, all in separate buildings. Zone A is where you’ll find all the new camera gear, including the cameras themselves, lights, backdrops, and lenses. Zone B is filled with printing shops and framing stalls. Zone C is all second hand items. Here you can even find a quality vintage camera if you know what to look for. This is where the travel photographers congregate.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,395 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article