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.
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. It's open daily from 7pm until 5am.
If you're after a market that's a little trendier, DADA's Night Market, held in the nightclub of the same name, has been a huge hit among the city's hipsters since it opened a couple of years ago. Held regularly in the French Concession Xingfu Lu venue, you'll find stalls run by independent and up-and-coming designers selling clothes, hats, jewellery, shoes, cocktails and the odd cupcake. It runs from 8pm to midnight: check the DADA Facebook page for details of upcoming events.
Written by Helen Elfer
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?
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About the author: HelenElferHelen 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 www.helenelfer.com. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller and Time Out among other publications. Follow her on twitter @helen_elfer