The Great Wall, piping-hot dumplings and the infamous blanket of smog probably comes to mind when you think of Beijing, China. However, shopping is an unmissable part of the Beijing experience, from the unending array of glossy shopping plazas to the grittier flea markets that offer trinkets, jade jewellery and even marble Mao statues. Here is our guide to Beijing shopping!
PANJIAYUAN FLEA MARKET
Panjiayuan Flea Market is by far the largest and most complete market in China that sells arts, crafts and secondhand antiques. There’s over 4,000 stalls and each alley specialises in selling a particular type of item, from bronzed Buddha heads and porcelain ceramics to Qing dynasty- style furniture and Tibetan carpets in others. This place is a collector’s haven, especially if you’re on the hunt for Cultural Revolution propaganda relics to take home as a cool souvenir. Learn some firepower words to bargain as some dealers have been said to give a starting offer of 10 times the real price. Haggling is expected so don’t shy away!
WEEKEND HUSTLE: The flea market is open everyday but is at its best on the weekend. With up to 50,000 visitors in a day, beat the crowds and go early in the morning to scope out the treasure trove and get a real feel for local Beijing shopping.
Dashilar Street literally means ‘big fence’ and was the commercial epicentre of Beijing more than 500 years ago. Today, it’s a newly refurbished hutong and while some say it’s lost its charm, you can still find traces of authenticity – think Chinese silk, herbal medicines and teas, and a variety of specialty stores. Most of the items you’ll find for sale are cheap knockoffs (pay a visit to Panjiayuan Market for the real deal).
If token souvenirs aren’t your thing, then some of the dining options might whet your appetite – Quanjude is a household name in Beijing and is famous for being one of the best restaurants serving traditional roast duck.
PARK IT: Bicycles aren’t allowed on this newly-renovated pedestrian street, so best to plot this on your itinerary when you want to take a break and take a walk to stretch out your legs.
Wangfujing Square is one of the most famous shopping streets, not only in Beijing but in all of China. The square is lined with a suite of familiar foreign brands (think Zara, H&M, Apple), each acting as an enticement to get people to enter large-scale department stores and shopping malls that stand above street-level.
FEELING PECKISH: Wangfujing street is a Chinese snack food heaven and located just west of the main pedestrian street. Stalls stack lamb skewers doused in cumin (chuanr), stinky tofu (a local favourite but it smells like ass), candied fruit sticks (tanghulu) and of course crazy food for tourists – scorpions, seahorses, crickets – you name it.
Writer: Louise Yoo
Photographer: Louise Yoo