Shanghai is home to 20 million people, and the blend of old and new is slowly loosing its balance. In 2010 Shanghai will host the Shanghai Expo and already many sites and antiquated buildings are being demolished to make room.
Now I know there is the “traditional Shanghai Old Street” and the Old Town, but don’t miss out on the Dongjiadu community. From the “Shanghai Old Street” take a long walk south on Henan Road (or a taxi) until it intersects Zhonghua Zhong Rd, go east, left, along Zhonghua Zhong until Dongjiadu Rd which will bring you to the Dongjiadu Cathedral. Built by the Spanish Jesuits, the architecture seems out of place, and it is the oldest church in Shanghai.
While in the area check out the shops selling fabric along Dongjiadu. In 2006 most of the fabric traders were moved about 500 meters to the new modern location of the Shanghai South Bund Soft-Spinning Material Market (399 Lujiabang Road), but Dongjiadu Road stores still sell fabric and in a much more genuine atmosphere. These are the vendors who did not make the move to the 3 storey new indoor fabric market venue, perhaps because they couldn’t afford it. However this area is much less tourist ridden, and you can get better prices here, as well as a good old smelly, dirty, loud and traditional Shanghai experience. Don’t forget to bargain. Some of the stores can tailor make your clothes.
On your return north towards the more touristy area of the Old Street go on the east side, the side by the river, follow Zhonghua Rd until it becomes Renmin Lu. At the corner of Zhonghua and Fuxing East Rd there is an interesting junk market with electronic appliances, shoes sold by the pound and second hand items and novelties of all descriptions. Continue to Renmin Lu, to see open store fronts with interesting goods, displayed on the streets. This should bring you back to familiar ground.
Mid-week is always better crowd-wise, and between 08:30 -18:00.