Surrounding the tranquil oasis of Yu Garden is a carnival of color and activity otherwise known as the Yuyuan Bazaar. The epicenter of Shanghai’s tourist market, this area is thronged with stalls and vendors hawking chintzy Chinese memorabilia amidst the classical Chinese architecture and hordes of holidaymakers and sightseers teem through the streets.
A weekday visit is recommended for the faint of heart or mildly claustrophobic—although the crowds are all part of the fun and make for excellent people watching, weekends and National holidays can be insanely busy. Making your way through the sea of people can be hard work particularly in the main square by the gardens themselves and the Mid-Lake Pavilion Tea House. The surrounding streets still offer plenty of shopping and are marginally quieter with nearby Fangbang Lu Food Street is a great pitstop for a snack to keep your energy levels up.
Though kitsch and crowded, this is actually a lot of fun to wander around and a great place to pick up souvenirs and gifts with chopsticks, qipaos and Chinese lanterns galore. Watch as street vendors create incredibly delicate paper-cuttings, carve your name into your own personal stone chop or write it in colorful calligraphy. This is tourist central so be sure to hold onto your bags and bargain twice as hard.