The best thing about travel is that you never know what you’re gonna find. In the case of Wuhan, I never expected the city to be a shopper’s paradise.
The capital of Hubei province, Wuhan is the most populous city in Central China, having a population of 10.6 million. But, thanks to the city’s sprawling character, it never feels cramped or claustrophobic, not even within its shopping districts, where shoppers queue up in orderly fashion for freshly baked walnut cookies still warm from the oven.
Sure, like any city, Wuhan has its fair share of shopping malls that house the typical mix of boutiques, shops, children’s educational centres, eateries and of course, Hai Di Lao. However, the city also harbours three distinctive shopping streets that offer shoppers plenty of unique options.
1. High-end Dining and Shopping at Chu River Han Street (楚河汉街)
Photo by 7iblahblah via Instagram.
Ask the locals where to go for shopping and you’re sure to get han jie as the answer. Stretched along the Chu River, Han Street is designated as one of Wuhan’s Cultural Centres – which is really just bureaucratic speak for “tourist attraction.”
Photo by varsareechow via Instagram.
But don’t let that turn you off. The pedestrianised street is a great first stop for newcomers to Wuhan, who will more than likely be surprised by the array of labels on offer here. You’ll find no lack of international brands, restaurants and cafes – some nestled within tastefully preserved pre-war buildings which will see you popping off Insta-stories in a hurry.
Stay till after sundown to witness the entire street lit up under a canopy of twinkling fairy lights. If your idea of a good time is good shopping and fine dining, don’t miss Han Street.
Photo by totoeve via Instagram.
2. High-street Shopping and European Architecture at Jianghan Road (江汉路)
Newsflash: Shanghai isn’t the only place to recreate that 1940s vibe. The shopping and business district of Jianghan Road will stand in nicely.
An intriguing mix of European style commercial buildings and modern-day shopping centres, all housing some of China’s biggest brands, Jianghan Road is a refreshing experience.
The area tends to be busy with foot traffic, but if you can, find a quiet corner in the lee of one of the towering colonial-style buildings and really soak in the history.
The shopping here spotlights Chinese mass market brands and is aimed at the younger crowd, so if you’ve always wanted to catch up on Chinese trends, here’s your chance.
And do make time to visit the the food court at Food Vientiane. Don’t let the kitschy decorations scare you off; there’s plenty of decent options for a tasty local meal.
3. Hipster Curios and Local Produce at Tan Hua Lin Old Street (昙华林古街）
Now, if you’re looking for something with more local flavour, then head over to Tan Hua Lin Old Street.
Far as I can tell, the area is an honest-to-goodness residential village that was preserved and converted to a mixed-use district. Nestled in with the indie coffee shops, quaint curio stands, cat cafes and souvenir stalls are artifacts of local life.
You’ll spot gateways that open up onto homes and parking spaces, winding alleys that lead to washing lines, a martial arts movie-worthy facade that hides a primary school….
The combination is intoxicating, especially if you’ve always been curious about how other people live their lives.
As for the shopping, you’ll find souvenir-standard fare like postcard sets, handmade snacks and small-piece pottery. But hunt around and you’ll find more unique offerings like hand-blended English-style tea, wishing charms and wind chimes, and locally brewed flower-infused rice wines.
There are also plenty of options for food and snacks – both traditional and trendy – to keep you going, so we recommend catering a full day to thoroughly explore this charming old street at your leisure.