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Specialist streets in the shadow of city skyscrapers
By Tan Weiyun

Musical Instrument Street

Jinling Road E., a busy road linking the Bund and the People's Square, features numerous music stores that sell a wide variety of instruments, both Chinese and Western, everything from pianos and guitars to erhu (fiddle).

Taking a stroll down the street, in one shop, the owner can be seen tuning a violin, while a girl is playing the piano and an elderly man is trying out an exquisite erhu, enquiring if the price can be brought down a little.

Rock star wannabes also flock here as they can find a wide choice of guitars, basses and drums.

Helpful shop assistants will give advice to beginners on how to choose their first musical instrument.

Several shops offer music lessons in everything from the guitar to the guqin, a seven-stringed Chinese ancient instrument.

Along Jinling Road E. to the west, you can spot the Shanghai Concert Hall, a silent encouragement for the musicians nearby who might have just bought an instrument.

Fabric Street

Fashion fans will find a mecca near the Bund, starting from Jinling Road E. to Xinyong'an Road. A myriad of dazzling fabrics, including cotton, linen, leather and lace can be found to bring any design to life. Moreover, small stores sell every manner of fittings, including buttons, metal chains and zip fasteners.

Lace on comes in a huge array of patterns - from the exquisitely embroidered to the mundane, silk to cotton thread. Customers can choose either the lace border or a whole cloth, though all are sold by the meter.

Not every seller boasts the skills required to make your own garments, so some shops stock the end products. You will find feminine chiffon scarves, cotton vests and dresses bedecked with lace. Prices varies according to quality, from 3 yuan to 50 yuan if the embroidery is excellent or embedded with pearls and sequins. Remember some fabric shops don't do business with individuals, so call ahead.

Antique Street

Founded in 1988, Dongtai Road Antique Market in downtown Huangpu District is home to more than 200 dealers selling fashion, art, accessories, books, posters and vintage furniture and more, from one narrow street.

Once you arrive at the market, which attracts visitors from all over the world, you will likely feel overwhelmed by the cornucopia of ceramics, gold and silver objects, sculptures, paintings, ancient currencies, arts and crafts and chiming vintage clocks.

But you'll soon see that it's not a museum but a treasure trove offering an intoxicating blend of the sublime and the ridiculous, where antiques jostle for space with kitsch and bric-a-brac.

Everyday items capturing the bustle of old Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s, such as calendars, fans, mahjong sets, gramophones and lamps, are popular with customers.

The market is also a haunt of professional antique collectors, seeking out a hidden gem among the wares on offer.

Painters Street

Wending Road in Xuhui District is known as Painters Street and sold only pictures in the early days. As business expanded, the road attracted pigment traders, art equipment manufacturers and young artists looking to sell their work direct to the public.

Compared with its neighboring snack street and furniture market, Wending Road seems to lack bustle. But take a stroll and you will be impressed by its numerous art pieces, many painted in gouache, oils and traditional Chinese ink.

The narrow street is filled with galleries and art shops, with all kinds of works - sketches, abstracts, retro, futuristic, realist and replicas of classics on display.

Many gallery and shop owners are young, unknown artists, or fresh graduates from art schools, so you can buy their work at a low price, normally between 500 yuan and 800 yuan (US$79–126).

Many offer tailor-made services, producing paintings based on photographs of wedding photos or family reunions. It usually takes about two weeks to complete a painting. 

Art supply stores have everything for both professionals and budding artists.

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