Round the Clock Retail: Night Markets in Shanghai

By: Helen Elfer

October 31, 2013

Shanghai loves to shop. For some that means browsing rails at the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton on Nanjing Xi Lu. For others it’s haggling over, um… similar goods for a fraction of the price at one of the notorious fakes markets in Shanghai. Then there are the French Concession’s independent boutiques, or the noisy wet markets, or the antique warehouses, or the thousands of roadside vendors who sell everything from seasonal fruit to bicycle pumps – retail is big in this city.

But when most shop shutters go down for the evening, there’s no need to put your purse away, because this is when the most interesting markets take place – between dusk and dawn.

Wenmiao Ghost Market, a daybreak treasure hunt for bookworms, has been running for almost 40 years on Sundays, in the Confucius Temple at Wenmiao Lu. You might think the rather inconvenient hour would put punters off, but the market’s reputation for rare and out-of-print finds – plus serious bargains (you’ll find books for a little as RMB1 here) – keeps them coming back. Shop for everything from vintage comics to kung fu adventure novels. As for the spooky name, it’s less to do with the opening hours, and more because of the not-so-legit source of some of the more covetable books – rumoured to have been nicked from libraries and private collections.

Night Markets Shanghai | Wenmiao

The Wenmiao Confucius Temple hosts a Ghost Market © kafka4prez/Flickr

Hungry? Head to the far north of the Yangpu district to see the famous Tongchuan Lu seafood market. A stretch of road lit up by neon lights is home to more than 20 seafood restaurants and countless xiaolongxia (crayfish) and barbeque stalls on this street. Restaurants sell produce that’s brought fresh from the neighbouring wholesale seafood market, brought from nearby coastal towns. Look out for all sorts of weird and wonderful produce here – king rat-snake and paddlefish are among the delicacies on offer.

Night Markets in China | Tongchuan Lu

Plenty of fresh seafood is available at Tongchuan Lu © Davide Monti/iStock/Thinkstock

If you’re after a market that’s a little trendier, Dada bar occasionally holds DADA’s Night Market. It’s proven a huge hit among the city’s hipsters since it opened several years ago, with stalls selling an eclectic collection of crafts by independent designers and artists. It usually runs from 8pm: check the DADA Facebook page for details of upcoming events.

DADA Shanghai | Night Markets in Shanghai

DADA Bar © dykzei eleeot

Header photo: Shanghai at night © Panitchon, 2013. Used under license from

Written by Helen Elfer

Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Shanghai from London. Book your flight today.

Which are your favourite markets in Shanghai? Where do you go pick pick up one-of-a-kind local treasures when you’re in town?


Helen Elfer

Helen Elfer has been a travel journalist for seven years, living in Shanghai and Abu Dhabi before recently moving back to London. You can read about her experiences meeting Uighur rock stars, climbing coconut trees in Kerala, dabbling in the dark arts in England and more at Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller and Time Out among other publications. Follow her on twitter @helen_elfer

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