Shopping in Beijing: All You Need to Know About Where And What to Shop
Beijing – one of the world’s most populated cities in the world – is also fast becoming one of Asia’s best places for some great shopping. The city has emerged as one of China’s megacities, together with Shanghai. And because it is part of this country known for its ancient civilization, Beijing is also a curious mix of ancient and modern, of traditional and cutting-edge. Shopping in this city reflects this unique mix that can only be found here.
Because it is easy to get lost in this huge city, here is a quick guide to the best shopping places in this northern capital of China. You will also find our useful tips before you go on your shopping adventure in Beijing.
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Beijing: Getting There and Around
There are several direct flights from Singapore to Beijing every day. Direct flights take about 6 hours. There are also other flights to the capital with at least one stopover, which can stretch the flight to up to 29 hours depending on time spent during the layover. The Beijing Capital International Airport is the primary airport for passenger airlines. From the airport, you can ride the Airport Express Subway line to the city, which is the cheapest way to get to the capital.
At the capital, the Beijing Subway or MTR is also the most convenient way to get around. Foreigners may find it hard to navigate the local bus lines. Another option is to take taxis, but it is best to have the address of your destination written in Chinese to communicate with taxi drivers better.
Best Time to Travel to Beijing
The best times of the year to travel to Beijing are during the months of March to May (springtime) and the months of September and October (autumn). Temperate weather prevails during these times, so going around the city won’t be too inconvenient. However, these months are also the peak season for travelling to Beijing, so be prepared to see lots of local and foreign tourists alike. It is also best to book your flights and accommodations in advance to avail of good rates.
Summertime in Beijing, which falls on the months of June to August, is not the ideal time to go. Temperatures soar during this time, with high humidity and greater chances of rains.
Get Ready for Some Major Shopping in Beijing: Where to Shop
1. Wangfujing Street
Wangfujing Street has been a commercial district as far back as the Ming Dynasty. The name “Wangfujing” actually means “Prince’s Mansion well” because many royal residences were built here, around a well full of sweet water. Wangfujing is located in the Dongcheng District, in the eastern part of the city. The Beijing MTR has a subway stop here. Other popular landmarks are Beijing Hotel, Oriental Plaza, Wangfujing Xinhua Bookstore and St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
Because it is a pedestrianized area, you can freely walk along Wangfujing Street and explore the many shopping malls and small stores here. For a one-of-a-kind food experience, look for the Wangfujing Snack Street where you can sample exotic delicacies like scorpions, starfish, centipedes and cicadas.
2. Xidan Commercial District
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As famous as Wangfujing, Xidan Commercial District is located in the western part of the city, approximately 2 kilometres west of Tiananmen Square. Young people, especially professionals, troop to this area for some high-end shopping. Among the department stores and shopping centres found here are Hanguang Department Store and Joy City, the Xidan Pearl Market and one of Beijing’s biggest bookstore, Beijing Books Building. To reach this area, you can take the Beijing MTR and get off at Xidan Station.
Sanlitun was formerly known as the place to be if you are looking for a place to chill, hang out with friends and enjoy some drinks. Many small bars offering live entertainment catered to locals and foreigners alike. Recent developments, especially before the 2008 Olympics, added some modern shopping centres which offered high-end and luxury brands. The largest Adidas store in the world is found here. The newest complex Taikoo Li Sanlitun is quite popular. It has 19 buildings on two sites and houses art galleries, bars and restaurants as well.
4. Panjiayuan Market
Looking for antiques and Chinese handicrafts? Head on down to the Panjiayuan Flea Market, also known as the Panjiayuan Flea Market. It is found at 18 Huaweili, at the southeast corner of the 3rd Ring Road, Chaoyang District. Opening hours are from 830am – 6pm on weekdays, and 430am – 6pm on weekends.
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Take note that this market is huge, so you probably need some time to look around and peruse the merchandise. You can buy porcelain, Chinese art and calligraphy, Chinese handicrafts, jewels and jades and ethnic products from the different ethnic minorities of China. There are also collectables from the Propaganda period, such pictures and old copies of the Little Red Book.
5. Nan Lou Gu Xiang
Nanluoguxiang is a testament to Beijing’s ever-changing urban environment. This area is composed of narrow streets also known as “hutongs.” Surrounding these hutongs are traditional courtyard residences where local people resided. While many hutongs in the city have given way to new buildings, there are still some remaining ones in the city. Located in the Dongcheng District, it starts at Di’anmen East Street and ends at East Gulou Street. Here you can find small shops selling everything from curios to T-shirts, restaurants and cafes.
6. Silk Street
Chinese silk is said to be among the best in the world, and among the best places to buy silk products is at the Silk Street Market. Located at 8 Xiushui Dongjie, Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District, this complex has 7 floors full of clothing, accessories, and Chinese crafts as well. There are also custom tailor shops here that are open from 9 am to 9 pm.
When shopping for Chinese silk, make sure that the shop you are buying from allows you to return goods when you are not satisfied with them. Silk Street Market was previously notorious for fake or low-quality goods so it is best to be careful so that you do not get cheated.
7. Hong Qiao Pearl Market
The best place to buy pearls, from the affordable freshwater kind to the more expensive seawater kind, is at Hongqiao Pearl Market. Located at No. 9 Tiantan Road, Dongcheng District, the market is right across the famous Tiantan Park or Temple of Heaven Park.
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It features 8 floors of shops: the upper floors (3 to 5) is where you will find all kinds of accessories and ornaments made of pearls and corals. It is the largest pearl market of its kind in the city and it is open from 10 am to 7.30 pm daily. The first and second floors feature digital products and watches and silk products. Interestingly, the bottom 3 floors are where you will find different types of seafood.
8. Dongliang China
With China opening its doors to the outside world came exposure to Western or non-traditional design styles especially in the area of fashion. Coupled with a growing demand for more modern styles from young professionals, this brought about the birth of Dongliang China, a fashion boutique that showcased up-and-coming Chinese fashion designers. Beijing was the birthplace of this global brand, so there is no better place to check out what the current fashion trends are. You can find it at Shop 102, Bldg. 2, Central Park, 6 Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District.
TL;DR -What to buy while in Beijing:
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- Chinese curios
- Pearl necklaces
- Toys and cheap clothes
- Chinese Cloisonne
- Peking glass snuff bottle
Tips for Bargaining and Shopping
In a shopping haven like Beijing, bargaining is the name of the game. Unfortunately, even the sellers know how to play this game so you have to be ready for some serious to-and-fro if you really want an item. Here are some tips to help you along.
- Arm yourself with some helpful Chinese phrases. Learning to say hello is a good start. The usual greeting is “Ni Hao!” In shopping, you can learn to say the following: How much money? – “Duo shao qian?” and That’s too expensive. – “Tai gui le!” Please note that you have to pronounce these phrases properly. There are several online resources for these.
- Know what you want to buy. And how much you are willing to pay for it. This is important so that you do not get buyers remorse. Decide as early as possible what you want to shop for and set a budget for it. That way, you do not spend too much on an item that is an impulse buy.
- When bargaining, start at a low price. For example, for inexpensive goods, you can start with a price that 25 to 50 per cent of what the seller first said. For more expensive items, start even much lower and work yourself up.
- Try the “walk away” technique. Only use this when you and the seller have not agreed on a favourable price. In some cases, the seller will call you back and agree on the price that you want.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Shopping districts, especially the outdoor markets are also a haven for petty criminals, so please be careful with your belongings. Do not bring too much cash if you can. Refrain from wearing too much jewellery.
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