Nanjing Road is one of the busiest shopping streets on the globe. It also happens to be the central hub of Shanghai. Made up of both ‘new’ and ‘old’ sections, Nanjing road is more than just shopping. Its history runs deep and a mix of both opulent and lower class life can be seen here. Visitors will stumble upon kitschy outdoor markets and food vendors just as easily as Jimmy Choo, Prada, Gucci, and Armani.
If you love to shop, Nanjing is your place. And, even if you don’t like the idea of swiping that credit card, it’s still likely that you’ll enjoy the people watching here. It’s the center of the city and it’s brimming with life so make sure to give it a visit.
Nanjing Road Facts
-The road is named after the capital city of Jiangsu province, Nanjing.
-The name Nanjing Road is often referring to the street that existed before 1945.
-Before the 1950s, this street was called Nanking Road.
-The road runs east to west. It’s eastern area is located in the Huangpu District and goes to People’s Square and The Bund.
-It is 5.5km long.
-It’s projected that one million visitors come here every day.
-The road is open all day to visitors, although stores do close.
The History of Nanjing Road
To detail the history of Nanjing Road, it’s important to understand the background of Shanghai. Following the Opium War, which lasted from 1839 to 1842, the city became an important port.
Nanjing road got its start as the British concession and then transformed into an International area. Receiving bulk shipments of foreign goods, the road got an early start as the city’s first shopping district.
In 1845, it was referred to as ‘Park Lane,’ and stretched from He’nan Road to the Bund. It was in 1854 that it was extended to Zhejiang Road. The early 1930s was when the area started to take on another form, hosting casinos and seeing an influx of locals and tourists. It was called Nanking Road during this time, but after World War II, the road was renamed Nanjing East and Nanjing West by the government.
In 1937 a Chinese plane dropped a bomb on Nanjing Road as a safety measure while being tailed by a Japanese plane. This caused significant damage to two department stores while killing more than 600 people.
A comprehensive development plan called for the renovation of Nanjing Road, which took place in 2000. During this change, a pedestrian area was built, running around 1,200 meters in length. And throughout the 20th century, large department and franchised stores started popping up.
The Culture of Nanjing Road
The culture here very much represents a more modern side to China. Some may say it is sophisticated while others think it exudes excess.
Progression is another theme that runs along this road. It went from being nothing, to a huge international hub that eventually turned into one of the biggest tourist attractions in the world.
If you want to experience the modern culture, here are some top things to do when visiting Nanjing Road:
- Visit the historic shops:
-Cai Tong De Pharmacy: Traditional Chinese medicine sold in a four-story building.
-Shanghai Laojiefu Department: Famous for selling cloths, fabrics, and silk.
-Heng Da Li Clocks and Watches Co. : A clock shop that does repairs and sells high-end models.
-Duo Yun Xuan: A store dedicated to traditional Calligraphy and Chinese paintings.
- Visit the modern shopping malls:
-Hualian Commercial Building: Filled with accessories and fashion items.
-Shanghai #1 Store: This was the first department store in China and consists for eight floors. It is one of the most famous shopping buildings on Nanjing Road.
-Landmark Department Store: Shoppers can find nearly anything in this ten-floor department store.
- Explore Shanghai New World Co.:
-Guests can shop, visit Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, dine, and find entertainment in this 12-floor complex.
- Plaza 66:
-This mall has all of the luxury brands under one roof. It’s here that you can find, Escada, Versace, Fendi, Hugo Boss, and more.
- The Shanghai Museum:
-It holds the world’s largest collection of Chinese bronze works. It also is one of the top museums in China for viewing artifacts and art.
- Shanghai Theater:
-Catch an acrobatic show where you can see the famed performers walk tightrope, build human towers and spin plates.
- Jing’an Temple:
-This Buddhist temple is more than 800 years old and worth a visit for the architecture alone.
- Urban Planning Exhibition Hall:
-This museum documents the past and future plans for Shanghai. There is also a giant model of what Shanghai may look like in the year 2020!
- The Pedestrian Area:
-Enjoy some car-free strolling while you shop for stationary and books (the items most popularly sold in this area.)
- People’s Square:
-Take a moment to enjoy some greenery when you want a break from shopping. The area is filled with history too.
Tips For Visiting Nanjing Road
-While bargaining is the norm in most places in China, it’s not acceptable in the stores and boutiques here.
-Wear sturdy walking shoes because you’ll be on your feet all day long.
-Wear a money belt so that you can keep your belongings safe from pick pockets. There are quite a few lurking in this area.
-Check out the area both at night and during the day if you want to see it at its best.
-There are small trams that will take you up and down the road if you have small children or are traveling with an elderly family member.
-If someone offers you a massage or propositions you sexually, just ignore them. This is usually a scam to try to get money out of tourists.
-Consider a tour guide if you want to avoid being hassled and so you can get an insider point of view.