Hunting for secondhand gems in Shanghai is no easy feat: on one hand, you’ve got high-end pre-loved goods and used designer items that can easily burn a hole in your pocket while on the other, you have markets selling piles and piles of clutter that takes an age to rummage through. But as anyone with a passion for vintage will say, that’s all part of the fun. From old coins and precious stones to books, clothing and antique furniture, here’s the coolest markets in Shanghai for treasure hunting.
Yangpu Flea Market 杨浦花鸟古玩市场
You don’t need to shout ‘open sesame’ to enter this treasure trove on Longchang Lu that’s overflowing with memorabilia, old renminbi, comic strips, old coins, ceramics, musical instruments and more. It’s open every Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday from 6am to midday and most of the customers are senior (well-versed) locals, so be prepared to battle it out with the pros if you want to nab the best finds.
Fontaine Antique Shop 小芳庭古董店
You’ll get a whiff of past centuries when walking into this antique shop. The story goes that the owner (a friendly gentleman who’ll greet you when you walk in) opened Fontaine after inspiration from visits to antique shops in Canada with his daughter. Each item you’ll encounter in the store – from old toys to sculptures, furniture, a vintage piano, a jukebox, a slot machine and an old military jacket – tells a unique story and was said to have been found by the owner on his travels around the world. Got the whole afternoon to spare? Sip on some cold brew inside café Le Petite Fontaine next door run by the owner’s daughter.
Ghost Market (Wenmiao Old Book Market)
Possibly Shanghai’s last standing secondhand book market (and its longest running), Wenmiao aka Ghost Market got its name from the glory days when thousands came at dawn and you could only make out their ghostly silhouettes. Although not as crowded as it used to be, it is still a great stop for incredibly cheap novels, periodicals, catalogues, brochures, children’s books and foreign language books (though you’ll have to dig for those). Apart from that, things get nostalgic with old photos, diaries and comic strips. Haggle hard and make your mind up quickly.
Juqi Antique City 聚奇古玩城
Set inside a whopping three-storey building that’s filled with keen-eyed thrifters and enthusiastic sellers, this market has everything from antique dolls, vintage toys and books to movie posters, vinyl records and crockery. Early risers can visit the famous ‘ghost market’ on the third floor that’s open on Friday mornings from 5am where many sellers already pack up before midday. If that’s a little bit too early, make way to the second floor (with longstanding vendors and better-preserved goods) where your middle-school maths and persistence will help greatly in striking deals. Take note: here ‘yi kuai’ means 100RMB not 1RMB and ‘wu mao’ means 50RMB not 0.5RMB.This is how the antique dealing community can tell you’re an insider. Now you are.
Lingshi Lu Clothing Market 灵石路服饰市场
Also on Lingshi Lu, and a couple blocks away from Juqi Antique City, lies another massive secondhand clothing market with labyrinth-like passageways that zigzag inside. Put aside a chunk of your time and comb through racks after racks of pre-loved garments, shoes, scarves, bags and accessories, many of which cater to older customers with a few exceptions including shops like Qinniang Vintage (勤娘百货商店), Xiaofang Vintage (小芳精品古着店) and Cy.xd Vintage where fashion-savvy twentysomethings also flock for a nice dig.
Ever wonder what Alice felt like falling into the rabbit hole? This vintage furniture and accessories shop may give you an idea. The 1,000sqm underground wonderland is a hoarder’s paradise brimming with all sorts of interesting bits and bobs, big and small, from quirky mugs, fridge magnets and jewellery to copper cutlery sets, homewares and designer furniture. The location in downtown Jingan means prices are higher and rumour has it that more items may be brand new rather than truly secondhand, but in an era of online shopping,there’s still something irresistible about losing yourself in a treasure trove of physical things.
The most high-end spot on the list, Miles Market sells a modest collection of retro clothes and accessories from international designers and brands as well as an impressive curation of vintage furniture, homewares and memorabilia. Located on the fourth floor of TX Huaihai, prices may not be cheap, but have a bit of rummage anyway and be preprared to Instagram the eye-catching vintage Louis Vuitton travel luggage sets, Chanel tweed jackets and Dior saddle bags that the market has on display.