Spring is finally here and despite the occasional high pollution levels, Beijing is quite beautiful during this time of year. With leaves turning green and flowers blossoming, the sky is filled with white cotton fuzz. Beijing is known for its “Spring Snow.” Shortly after World War II, the government planted hundreds of poplar and willow trees because of their fast growth, heartiness, and ability to help reduce air pollution. These trees also grow well in Beijing’s dry climate. For those with bad allergies, the spring snow makes a second come back in May, releasing what are known as “willow catkins.” So beware! Although this year’s winter was more bearable, many of the old and the young stayed indoors. With temperatures rising up to the high 70s already, the streets are filled with people, especially on the weekends.
If you’re planning to do something for the upcoming weekends, this post will give you some ideas for places to shop until you drop. In the bustling capital of China, Beijing is known for its abundance of delightful shopping areas. However, they are known for their narrow aisles and lack of good air ventilation. Please be aware of these factors before you enter a market!
A search on Google will bring you to the more touristy places including Yaxiu [or Yashow] Market, Silk Street, Market, and Hong Qiao (Pearl Market) among various others. However, the vendors at these places expect foreigners and will make bargaining more difficult. On the other hand, I have an expat friend that swears by the Silk Market due to her long-term relationship with specific vendors. That said, below are markets that are frequently visited by locals and are lesser known to foreigners.
The Zoo Wholesale Market (动物园服装批发市场) – Conveniently located across The Beijing Zoo, the Zoo Market is very popular among locals. Since it is a wholesale market comprised of 7 separate markets, many of the vendors from the more touristy markets get their products from here! The most popular ones are Julong, Tuanlegong, and Shiji Tianle. It is highly advisable to go on a weekday or very early in the morning on a weekend. This market sells everything from clothes, bags, shoes, to accessories for men and women. It is rumored that the Zoo Market will be relocated soon due to the overcrowding and traffic jams in the area. So it’s best to check it out soon!
Directions: Take subway line 4 to Beijing Zoo Station. Take Exit C and walk east about 100m towards KFC and McDonald’s.
Wudaokou Market (五道口服装市场) – Wudaokou is the heart of the university area, which means a cheap shopping place must be close-by. The market has four floors and is packed with a variety of trendy clothing. Many of the funky and flashier styles have been adapted from Korean and/or Japanese designs. They offer clothing, undergarments, shoes, bags, accessories, cosmetics, and household trinkets. They’re expecting foreign students so make sure to bargain!
Hours: 9:00AM – 7:30PM
Directions: Take subway line 13 to Wudaokou Station. Take any exit and head northeast. It is on a the corner of Xueyuan Lu and Beisihuan Lu.(学院路和北四环路十字路口的东北角)
Xidan Commercial Street (西单商业街) – Xidan is one of Beijing’s most popular places for shopping because it’s a commercial and business center. It is an area jam-packed with malls, markets, restaurants, and of course, tons of people! This area alone can take you days to cover all of its grounds. So don’t be disappointed if you haven’t seen it all! After reading a few reviews, it seems the Minority World Market (西单明珠商场) is one of the more popular destinations. Don’t be fooled by the name; there are actually no ethnic goods sold here. It is actually a five-story market packed with clothes, shoes, bags, accessories, and of course, trinkets.
Directions: Take subway line 1 or 4 to the Xidan Station. Take Exit A and walk approximately 5 minutes towards the Xidan Square, between 77th Street Plaza and Xidan Shopping Center (西单民族大世界商场, 西城区西单广场绿地北侧(77街和西单购物中心之间.
Panjiayuan Antiques Market a.k.a. the Dirt Market (潘家园旧货市场 ) -This massive, open air market sells everything from porcelain china, vintage photographs to life-sized statues. At 48,500 square meters, it is no surprise that it houses over 3,000 stalls and is one of the biggest markets in China and most likely, Asia.
It is very difficult to tell the difference between a fake product and a real one. Again, be sure to bargain hard! I found this website particularly helpful and informative in regards to bargaining and avoiding fakes.
Hours: Monday – Friday (8:30AM-6:00PM); Saturday & Sunday (4:30AM-6:00PM)
Directions: Take subway Line 10 to Panjiayuan Station. Walk east of the Panjiayuan Bridge on the Third Ring Road for approximately 100 meters. It is just east of Longtan Park.
For your convenience, I have also provided some tips that you may want to be mindful of in order to make your experience more enjoyable!
- Bring cash because most places do not take credits cards. Make sure you have some change so you do not need to pay vendors with 100 RMB bills.
- Bargain for everything. - Try not to mentally convert prices into USD or CND! Prices will always be lower than prices back home. Always bargain for the “best” or “lowest” price.
- Bring your own shopping bags; the bags that vendors often provide are cheap and prone to fall apart.
- Beware of pickpockets; markets are infamous for inexperienced shoppers. For women, make sure your bag is closed at all times. For men, make sure to put your wallet in a safe pocket.
- Keep in mind that the items at the markets are often reproductions, counterfeit, or pirated. If you are paying 60 RMB (around 10 USD) for a cardigan, it is highly unlikely that it is Zara.
- Most “antiques” or “vintage” items are reproductions of the real thing.
- You may want to learn simple Chinese phrases like “How much money?”, “What is your lowest/best price?” and numbers beforehand because most vendors will not speak English. The other option is to take someone who speaks Chinese.
- Go with an open-mind and low expectations. Going to a shopping market in Beijing is truly a cultural experience. You may be stared at for your foreign features and inability to speak Chinese. Don’t see it as an offense; people are merely intrigued and curious. They just express it differently.
- Most importantly, have fun!