Beijing is becoming increasingly famous for its shopping and offers merchandise from all over China, though at a higher price than the point of origin. International brands certainly aren’t cheap either, but this doesn’t discourage the legion of newly moneyed Beijingers who saunter through the city’s increasingly upmarket malls armed only with their credit cards.
If this is your thing, then there’s no shortage of glitzy malls and department stores, but you’ll find more atmosphere at the capital’s excellent markets. They sell everything from copy goods to second hand clothing, pearls, jade and antiques.
Many buyers are attracted to the markets because of their reasonable quality imitation brand-label clothing and pirated CDs or DVDs, although they also stock the usual tourist nicknacks. In spite of periodic raids and lawsuits from designers, the trade simply restarts elsewhere and the recently relocated Silk Market, a key Beijing attraction, is piled high with copied goods.
The Silk Market
(Silk Street), Jianguomen Wai Dajie (daily ; Yong’anli subway).
This market’s name is misleading. While there is silk sold here, it is famed as the place to buy fake goods in China and ranks high on many visitors hit-lists. The market was recently moved from its outdoor location to a six-story building a bit along the road, and has lost some of its character in the process – but not its bargains.
In spite of recent attempts to sue the market by Burberry, Chanel, Gucci, Luis Vuitton and Prada, the stalls continue to prosper and are now officially sanctioned to the extent that you can get a receipt (which costs an extra ¥5) and can return goods within a month.
Spread over the six levels, you’ll find sporting goods, electronics, jewelry and occasional silk items. If you’re happy with “stealing” from the likes of Calvin Klein and O’Neill then you’ll find plenty to fill your shopping bags. Bargaining is the order of the day.
Hongqiao Pearl Market
Tiantan Donglu, Chongwen (daily ; bus #41 from Chongwenmen)
Renowned as a pearl market, these days Hongqiao sells a wide range of goodies. The ground floor holds electronics and silk, while the next floor up is all about fake brand clothes and bags, with the main event, pearls, on the third floor. More upscale jewelry is sold on the floor above. If you need a break, head up to the roof where there are good views over to the Temple of Heaven.
For a drink, try Coffee Tuo, next to the market, although you’ll have to endure the potent smell of fish rising from the basement market! If you spend too much, there’s an ATMto restock your wallet on the fourth floor
Panjiayuan Antique Market
Panjiayuan Qiao, Chaoyang (Mon-Fri , Sat and Sun )
This fantastic covered “antiques” market is one of Beijing’s (and China’s) best and is well worth a visit, particularly on weekends, whether you buy or not. You’ll find traders from all over the country selling a feast of wares, including (but not restricted to) books, calligraphy, furniture, ink stones, jewelry, modern and Red Art.
Make sure you don’t miss the huge outdoor display of stone Buddhas, ill at ease with the skyscrapers that surround them – they are in the far right-hand corner from the main entrance. There’s also a coffee and sandwich shop in the market should you need a refuelling stop. The easiest way to get here is by taxi.
Wangfujing Dajie (Wangfujing subway)
One of Beijing’s original and best shopping streets, Wangfujing Dajie has every consumer item known to man. From electronics and fashion to sports and traditional Chinese medicine, you’ll find it all here, including a small night-market off Xiaogongfu Lu at the southern end of Wangfujing Dajie.
Jianguomen Wai Dajie (Jianguomen subway)
This busy thoroughfare is lined with hotels, shops and malls and you’ll find the Friendship Store, the Silk Market and the China World Shopping Mall here.
Dazhalan (Qianmen subway)
This is one of the city’s oldest commercial shopping streets and is the place to find Traditional Chinese Medicine shops, along with tea and herb specialists. The area has a vibrant atmosphere and is full of eager shoppers purchasing all kinds of healing remedies and ointments.
You’d better visit soon though, as there are plans to convert the street into a modern commercial area, in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games. If you do visit, don’t miss Tongrentang Traditional Medicine Shop (tel. 010-5869-1171), founded in 1669, which now has branches around the world. If you want a consultation, it’s best to call ahead.
Beijing offers plenty of opportunity to witness China’s latest commodity, the shopping mall, most of them built in the last 15 years. Many cater to Beijing’s newly-moneyed set who want the latestWestern designer gear and pay more for it than you would at home.
If you’ve got to get some Gucci, then try the following:
China World Shopping Mall, 1 Jianguomen Wai Dajie (daily ; Guomao subway). Shops include Prada, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Moschino and Esprit.
Oriental Plaza, 1 Dongchang’an Jie, Dongcheng; daily ; Wangfujing subway). Shops include Paul Smith, Nike, Givenchy, Sisley, Bally and Watson’s drugstore.
Getting to Beijing, Getting around Beijing
The Forbidden City
The Temple of Heaven
The Summer Palace
Tian’anmen Square and Hutong
Jingshan Park, Shichahai, & Tibetan Lama Temple
Other places of interest in Beijing
Around Beijing : The Ming Tombs
The Great Wall
The Western Hills
Zhoukoudian & Peking Man Site
The Qing Tombs
Chengde , Bishu Shanzhuang
Beijing Opera, Shows, and Nightlife
Beijing Travel Guide homepage
China Travel guide homepage