Bargaining for clothes, shoes, souvenirs and knockoffs in the capital of China makes for a fun afternoon or a whole day of Beijing shopping.
No trip to China would be complete without an afternoon spent haggling in a traditional market such as the Dirt Market in Panjiayuan or the Silk Market, the indoor reconstruction of the old Beijing Silk Alley. Beijing shopping options can satisfy bargain hunters and trend hunters alike and range from outdoor free-for-alls to modern indoor mall-like complexes.
The Major Markets of Beijing
The best-known and biggest markets in Beijing are typically the priciest, but they also have the most recognizable brands and styles. The Silk Market, located in the east of Beijing near the old embassy district, is the most well known and it’s where locals take moms and grandmas visiting from overseas. Yashow market, in the Sanlitun area near some of the newer embassies, has similar products and sellers more familiar with long-term expats as clientele instead of tourists. Yashow’s next door neighbor is the upscale Sanlitun Village, so people who want to be sure the bag they bought really is a Coach product or those Nikes are genuine can skip over to the Village to compare. Both Silk Market and Yashow contain many different levels, with separate floors or sections for clothing, jewelry, toys, knickknacks and shoes.
Panjiayuan – The Dirt Market
The Dirt Market doesn’t really have anything to do with dirt, but its outdoor location and piles of not-always-genuine antiques makes Panjiayuan a souvenir hunter’s paradise. Don’t be fooled by merchants purporting to sell genuine antiques at Panjiayuan, since most products in the back sections are designed to look old. Real antiques can’t be taken out of China without permission anyway, so bargain hunters are better served asking for a serious knockdown on the price for these reproductions. Thousands of other products are also sold here, from personalized Chinese seals to jade jewelry to kitchy Mao wristwatches.
Shopping and Bargaining in the Local Markets
For the true deals, head out to the markets where the locals shop. Often difficult to find without the help of a local, these local markets include the Dongwuyuan market across from the Beijing Zoo, the market at Dazhongsi subway stop on line 13 (follow the crowds that head down a small concrete stairway to the warehouses-turned-marketplace below the subway) and the Wudaokou market on Xueyuan Road. Bargain hunters should brush up on their Chinese or pantomime skills before trying to score a deal since very few proprietors at these markets speak English.
Random Street Markets
Sometimes the best finds come not from established markets, but from one of the many vendors who spread out their blankets on the sidewalk in hutongs or in front of apartment or retail buildings all around town. The Wudaokou subway stop is one of the best places to seek out these random markets, with sections of the sidewalk becoming near impassable in the early evenings when locals gather around to haggle for the best deals while digging through piles of overrun clothing and odd lots of toys and games while the occasional live animal merchant sells puppies, kittens or ducklings from a cardboard box.
Whether searching for a trendy handbags or a traditional paper-cut souvenir, shoppers in Beijing have a range of options to choose from as they bargain their way through the city’s markets. Beijing market shopping can truly bring a genuine local experience to a vacation in China.