Nanjing Lu (Nanjing Road) is Shanghai’s most famous street and its reputation extends well beyond the city. Many Chinese dreamed of shopping on Nanjing Lu, where the first ever department stores opened in the 1920s—it was a door wide open on a bright modern future, a glamourous lifestyle.
Today, the glowing forest of neon lights is an ode to the West. Most stores are not-so-glamorous Western franchises, such as KFC or McDonald’s. The megamalls’ floors are shining (and the bathrooms are always clean!) and are full of high-end brands like Cartier, Chanel or Gucci.
Shanghainese take food seriously, and the huge No 1 Food Store is always packed. People can fight for egg tarts, dried seafood, dried meat, mushroom and ginseng, and hundreds of different sweet goods that often don’t taste as good as they look.
Unless you are serious about shopping (even local fashion isn’t cheap), Nanjing Lu is mostly a place to stroll, night or day. It is worth the experience, though, as it is a window on a unique lifestyle in China.