Shopping in Beijing

Since ancient times, Beijing has been known as a metropolis with a prosperous economy. Many skillful craftsmen passed down their trade crafts and secrets from generation to generation. These traditional handcrafts can still be found in the many business streets and markets. Cloisonné, (ancient technique for decorating metal objects, using  enamel or even gemstones, glass, and other materials ) Ivory Carving, Jade and Lacquer are known as the four best traditional handiworks of Beijing. If you’ve never been shopped in Beijing, the initial experience can be rather daunting for many. Today, there is an enormous commercial shopping industry in Beijing, from branded clothing, antiques, to electronic, souvenirs and luxury goods. From gigantic shopping malls to crowded street markets, there’s plenty for the avid shopper to explore.

That being said, the Chinese consumer market is infamous for being flooded by fake pirated versions of the real thing so be careful of what you buy. If the deal seems too good to be true…it probably is. In the majority of stores, there is no return policy on goods that have been sold so make sure you check your purchases carefully (make sure it’s not defective or damaged) before leaving the store. Finally in nearly all the markets in Beijing, bargaining is rather essential. This is especially true in large shopping areas that’s known to attract tourists. How much should you start the bargain at then? There is no set rule  but it is normally recommended  to bring down 20%-40% of the original asking price. The steep offer is hardly excessive as vendors usually raise the prices by as much as five times the original price for tourists. If after an invested effort in price haggling and the vendor refuses to budge, never hesitate to walk away, as this is often the quickest and surest method to get a vendor to lower his or her prices to a reasonable level. Some of the famous markets in Beijing include Wangfujing street, Xidan Commercial Street, Hongqiao Market, Beijing Silk Street among others.

Photos of Wangfujing Street, Beijing
This photo of Wangfujing Street is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Wangfujing Street – One of the most popular streets in the city, Wangfujing street is seen as the symbol of Beijing’s commerce. Arguably the most well-known shopping streets in the city, this half a mile long street starts with East Chang’an Avenue in the south and ends with China Art Gallery in the north. It is the busiest street in Beijing, with over 600,000 people walking this street and on holidays, the number of foot traffic doubles. Featuring shopping, entertainment and dining options, Wangfujing street is lined with boutiques, dessert shops, crafts shops, antique dealers. Located on Wanfujing street is an underground street (Old Beijing Street) and visitors can find well known stores selling anything and everything from shoes to caps, silk cloth, scissors, Chinese brushes and ink-stick, jade, tea, desserts, pickled vegetables and roast duck. In fact some of these stores have been around for a pretty long time and have a loyal base of customers.

Xidan Commercial Street – West of Tiananmen Square lies a shopping street that has been affectionately referred to as the second Wangfujing. The history of Xidan commerical street goes as far back as the Ming Dynasty(1368-1644). At that time, it was an essential crossing leading to the downtownarea from southwest of the city. Today it has turned into a popular commercial center. Known as one of the three most famous commercial centers in Beijing, visitors can find food markets, clothing stores and various entertainment options in Xidan. There is also a cinema, bowling alley, swimming pool and even an indoor rock climbing wall. For luxury and designer brand shopping head to Xidan Department Store, Xidan Shopping Center and the Chung You Department Store where you can find brands like Dior, LV, Chanel, Gucci, etc.

Photos of Pearl Market (Hongqiao Market), Beijing
This photo of Pearl Market (Hongqiao Market) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Hongqiao Market – Located at Tiantan Donglu, Chongwen District, Hongqiao Market is  a market in Beijing that is well known for it’s collection of pearls from all around the world. This market gets more than a million visitors every year and such is its popularity that even the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Hongqiao, three times. In addition to pearls and semi precious beads, visitors can also shop for seafood, digital goods and silk.

Photos of New Silk Alley Market (Xiu Shui), Beijing
This photo of New Silk Alley Market (Xiu Shui) is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Beijing Silk Street – Located at East Xiushui Street, near the US embassy, is Beijing’s very own silk street. Over 300 stores can be found on this 500 metres long street, and this is a favorite place for the expat population in Beijing. Visitors can find bags, shoes, handicrafts or sweaters, in this crowded market. Bargaining and haggling over prices are common practice in this market so don’t feel bad about trying to get a good deal! Although most shopkeepers can’t speak any decent English at all, it is rather interesting to see them counter your bargaining attempts with sign language and a nifty calculator. A silk museum has been recently built on the third floor of Xiushui Market so if you want to learn more about the traditional procedure of making silk, do check out the museum.

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