One of the best things about shopping in Beijing is the markets. In fact, everything from
embroidery, to Beijing Opera Masks and handmade earrings can be found somewhere
in Beijing if you know where to look. The key things to remember: bargain for everything
and carry cash.
Shopping Tips: Outside of the department stores, credit cards are rarely accepted. It’s
also highly unlikely you’ll be given a receipt. Nevertheless, if you are unhappy with
anything, the quicker you take it back, the more likely the shop assistant is to fix or
replace any damaged goods. Sales items are marked differently here, showing the
percentage of the price you pay, not the percentage of the discount. Bargaining is a
given and always assume you’ll be quoted around three times the real price to
Hongqiao Pearl Market (Hong Qiao Shi Chang) 红桥市场
Hong Qiao is just minutes’ walk from the Temple of Heaven – which explains the
busloads of tourists that flock here and the reason it is often hideously overpriced,
Bargain hard, however, and you may get the price down as low as the local Chinese
who also visit regularly. Contained inside a more impressive building than most
markets, Hongqiao houses several floors and stalls selling the usual clothes, bags,
shoes, binoculars, cameras, coral, electronics– and of course pearls. Most of the pearls
for sale on the third floor are low quality. So look out for the really high quality ones
(and good views of the Temple of Heaven) on the market’s fourth floors.
Panjiayuan Antique Market (Panjiayuan dirt market, Panjiayuan Jiuhuo
We can’t recommend strongly enough that you pay this market a visit while you’re in
Beijing. Though more famous for its (now mostly fake) antiques, Panjiayuan -sometimes
called the Dirt Market-is absolutely brimming with everything you could ever want in the
way of presents and souvenirs from Beijing. PLA caps and bags, lanterns, jewelry,
Buddhas (real ones as well as repro), books, ancient coins, Mao alarm clocks, old city
maps, cigarette cards, ethnic clothing and embroidery, rugs, Cultural Revolution
posters, exquisitely painted treasure boxes, vases and traditional leather puppets all
feature-and that’s just half of it. If it’s the antiques you’re after, get there at the crack of
dawn on Saturday or Sunday to pick up the best deals from the men and women whose
trinkets, pottery, statues and even ancient weapons have been collected from all over
the country. One tip: Many of the merchants can provide a shipping service for large
items to main ports around the world.
Silk Street Market (Xiushui)
This is the most infamous market in Beijing. It is reported the city’s third main tourist
attraction after the Forbidden City and the Great Wall. Housed in a four-story building
next to its original location, some 20,000 shoppers a day visit to snap up famous brand
goods for ridiculously low prices. Of course, they are all fakes, but who’s to know?
However, visitors may not have to struggle with the morality of it all for much longer, as
the trade in counterfeits is likely to be stamped out soon.
Yashow Market (Yaxiu)
At the center of the embassy district of Sanlitun (Beijing’s most famous bar area), Yaxiu
offers more of the same as the Silk Market with slightly better prices: four floors of
clothing, bags, shoes, and sportswear, plus some jewelry, nail salons, kites and silk
photo album are all for sale. The blue-shirted girls running the stalls are feisty but fun
and if you’re polite you should walk away with an armful of bargains.
Beijing Zoo Wholesale Market (Dongwuyuan)
If you ever wondered where the stallholders at the Silk and Pearl markets get their
stock, then ponder no more. The Zoo Market (Known to locals as Dongwuyuan, this
place is where the locals shop for their clothes) is a boxy, heaving little place, crammed
to the rafters with dirt-cheap clothes, bags, shoes and coats. If you’re looking for a new
coat or jacket, RMB50 should do it, a jumper or top? RMB20. The lack of foreigners
means it’s a tough job to get the prices as low as the locals, so it’s worth hovering
around a stall until a Chinese person comes along to get an idea of the real price-you’ll
be shocked at how low they are.
Nan Luo Gu Xiang (Nanluoguxiang)
Over eight centuries old, this one kilometer alley way is a hub of Beijing bohemian life.
Filled with cafes, bars and shops carved out of classic hutongs, it’s Beijing answer to
the French Quarter. Hipsters, musicians, artists and tourists rub shoulders tipping
cheap beers on outdoor patios or shopping for cool, locally-designed trinkets. Pottery
Shop, Grifted and Plastered T-shirts are three must-visit shops.
China’s biggest botanical warehouse is a delight to walk through and could be the most
greenery you’ll see while you’re here. Row after row of colorful orchids, peonies, bonsai
trees, cacti, Chinese roses, lotus flowers and burgeoning green plants are
complemented by the tropical fish shops on the market’s periphery. Stalls near the
entrance sell dire twisted bark creations and tasteless mystical water features, To keep
discovering, head down to the basement from the rear of the market for lamps,
ceramics and candle stores galore.
Gaobeidian Antique Furniture Market
For reproduction Ming and the odd genuine piece of Qing Dynasty furniture,
Gaobeidian is the place. A handful of dusty, broad streets are lined with showrooms
stuffed with tables, chests, opium beds, cabinets, chairs and even drums, Prices can be
bargained down a decent amount.
Ritan Office Building (Ritan Shangwu Lou)
Don’t let the gray-brick and red-trim exterior fool you: Ritan Office Building is a newly
discovered shopping paradise and very popular among Beijing locals looking for latest
fashions. More than 70 shops stocking high-quality womens’ clothing, footwear, and
accessories. Name brands include Ann Taylor, BCBG, DKNY, and Eileen Fisher.
3.3 Clothing Mall 3.3
This five story building contains more than 500 boutiques selling clothing and
accessories, most items are picked up from Hong Kong and overseas. The price is not
low, bargain with peddlery. They also offer a huge parking area of 5,000sq.m.
Wudaokou Clothing Market
Small and stylish boutiques line this market, selling casual and trendy T-shirts, jeans,
skirts and accessories at prices cheaper than Xidan. Wudaokou, Beijing’s student
enclave, is in the heart of Haidian district. College students, especially from overseas,
make up of the base of its clientele. To get there, take subway line 13 to Wudaokou,
then take an eastbound bus.
Liulichang Cultural Street
Literally meaning “colored-glaze factory,” this street, which has been an artisan hub
since the Ming Dynasty, is famous for specializing in antiques and artifacts. Stroll
around and find old coins, dusty scrolls, Tibetan antiques, calligraphy materials and
collectible stamps. Check out the many famous “brand name” shops such as
Rongbaozhai (known for its paintings, calligraphyand brilliant wood-block prints),
Qingmige, China Bookshop and Haiwangcun.
Yandai Xiejie (Tobacco Alley, Old Pipe Street)
At this world famous landmark in the Gulou area you’ll find Chinese antiques, traditional
arts and crafts, fashionable clothes, Tibetan accessories as well as traditional Beijing
traditional snacks. All this packed into just 300 meters of street.
Beijing Curio City
As the Asia’s largest curio distribution center, the curio city covers an area of 23,400
square meters with four stories of more than 600 kitsch and curio shops and a few
furniture vendors, selling Jingdezhen porcelains, Tang San Cai (Tri-colored glazed
pottery of the Tang Dynasty,, Cloisonne, Inner Mongolian crystal and agate,
Burmese emerald, other pottery and porcelain, jewelry and jade articles, calligraphic
works and paintings, antique clocks and watches, carpets and ancient furniture.
Jiayi Market (Jiayi Vogue Square)
After a major spruce up, Jiayi market, across from the Kunlun hotel, offers a more
upmarket and relaxing shopping experience than Yaxiu and Hongqiao but with the same
possibility of bagging bargains and it doesn’t get as many foreign tourists. Instead of
stalls, there are boutiques, and the men’s and women’s clothes are not just the same
name brands you get everywhere. Dig deep and you’ll find everthing from Victoria’s
Secret lingerie to Max Mara dresses. This is also a good place for “designer”
handbags, though there is the occasional crackdown when all the bags are cleared
from the shelves.