Colorful animals make it easy to identify the Tianyi wholesale market.
Beijing is a great place to shop, and there are plenty of options, from high-end malls to the myriad of markets. I much prefer the latter, which always lead to an adventure of some kind. Below are 13 of my favorites from the time I lived there. The first five are recommended for tourists, the others are for dedicated shoppers or those who live in Beijing.
Here are some tips for making your shopping excursion successful:
- Many markets in Beijing feature counterfeit or pirated products. Please keep in mind that these items are illegal to import into many western countries, including the United States.
- Bargaining is critical – and expected – at markets in Beijing. While prices may seem low already, you should – at the very least – ask for the seller’s “best price.”
- Beware of pickpockets. Carry money in safe places and keep small bills on hand for paying for purchases.
- Ask before you take photos of a shop. The shopkeeper usually says yes, and it’s a nice courtesy. Of course, after making a purchase is the best time to inquire!
- Bring your own shopping bags; it’s better than keeping track of a bunch of small plastic ones that easily rip or get lost.
- If you are not an expert, assume all “antiques” are reproductions, no matter how passionately the seller tells you they are genuine.
- Most of the markets I mention are huge, usually 4 or 5 stories and covering one square block. Most have English by the escalators to help guide you to specific items or departments.
- If you are taking a taxi, be sure to ask your concierge to write out your destination and address in Chinese – and don’t forget to bring your hotel card so you can show it to the cab driver for your return.
1. Pearl Market (Also known as HongQiao Market)
This is a good one-stop shopping place for tourists in Beijing. While called the Pearl Market, it sells a wide array of electronics, knick-knacks, souvenirs, clothing, shawls, jewelry, counterfeit products, eye-glasses, T-shirts, shoes, fabrics, mahjong sets and much, much more. The market is on the way to and from the Temple of Heaven so it’s conveniently located if you’re only in Beijing for a few days.
Location: Tian Tan East Road, Near the Temple of Heaven
This is another market that provides one-stop shopping for tourists. The prices are higher than at other markets, but it has absolutely everything you would ever want to bring home. The souvenir area is one of the biggest – as is the selection of goods, and I like the cashmere sweater shop on the second floor. Most shopkeepers here will also speak a little bit of English, but they will also bargain hard.
Location: Xiushui Dongjie, North of Jiangguomenwai Dajie
3. Toy Market
I love this market, located directly behind the Pearl Market. The entire first floor is devoted to toys. At first glance, there are lots of plastic, noisy things that you may not want, but take your time and look closely. There are some real gems here: wooden cookery sets, magnetic building toys, circuit sets, and everything a child (and parent) would want in the playroom. Upstairs is an entire floor of stationery stores.
Location: 136 Fahuasi Jie, If you are facing the Pearl market, walk around it counter clockwise (to the right). The Toy Market is just behind it on the right with a green-colored entrance.
Though many guide books will tell you this is open daily, don’t bother to go unless it’s a weekend – and arrive early to beat the crowds. This is the closest thing you’ll find to a western-style flea market. If you see something you like, be sure to check other stalls for similar items and compare cost and quality, which vary widely here. The only outdoor market included on my list, this is the best place in town for Chinese arts, crafts, and antiques. You’ll also find a great selection of ceramics of all sizes and communist-themed souvenirs.
Location: Near Dongsanhuan Nanlu (SE corner)
5. Yashuo Market
Located across the street from Sanlitun shopping mall, this is a low key version of the Silk or Pearl Market. There’s no pressure and significantly fewer people. I found a bit more emphasis on clothing – including a great children’s section on the second floor – but you’ll also still see plenty of souvenirs to take home. The basement offers a huge array of shoes and hand bags.
Location: Adjacent to Sanlitun Village (shopping mall). Sanlitun Yaxiu Fuzhuang Shichang, 58 Gongrentiyuchang Beliu.
Note: The following markets are located 45 minutes to one hour from the center of Beijing and are only for the heartiest of shoppers (or those who live in Beijing)!
6. Tianyi Wholesale Market
Tianyi is a wholesale market that supplies many of the other markets around town. Negotiating is minimal here as the prices are already low; however, if you buy large quantities of something (20 +), you should expect a price break. You’ll recognize the market by its colorful animal and Santa statues out front. The market is located in several, large, five-story buildings that carry absolutely everything. Here I’ve purchases knitted mittens, inflatable swim rings, Barbie clothes, badminton rackets (and birdies), a dartboard, necklace holder, party favors, fairy wings, (western and Chinese) holiday decorations and more. It’s crowded and crazy but lots of fun. No English is spoken, but you can use calculators to agree on a price and quantity.
Location: Tianyi Market is called Tianyi Pifa Shichang in Chinese, Address is #259 Fuchengmen Waidajie, Xicheng District. Phone numbers: 010 6832 0732 or 010 6832 0761.
7. Gao Bei Dian:
This is a former village that now hosts a hundred or more furniture stores selling both modern and traditional pieces. You can even custom order. While tourists generally can’t take home a chest of drawers, there are lots of smaller treasures such as woodcarvings, jewelry boxes, porcelain, mahjong sets, and more. A good place to start is Lily’s Antiques, which is very foreigner-friendly with English-speaking attendants (and heat and air conditioning). Here you’ll find everything Gao Bei Dian has to offer, but at higher prices. If you want a bargain, and there are many to be had here, you’ll have to walk the street and look in a variety of shops. It’s a great place to stroll.
Location: Lily’s Antiques: No. 69 Gaobeidian Furniture Street, Chaoyang District, Beijing, 100025, www.lilysantiques.com, 010-85792458.
8. Hotel Market
This is where hoteliers come to purchase, and you’ll see it all – including waste paper baskets, toothbrushes, desk blotters, towels, tablecloths (made to order), hair dryers (and holders) bath mats, wine glasses, espresso machines, pastry supplies, and everything else you need to run a hotel. It will all seem vaguely familiar, as if you’ve seen it somewhere – and of course you have!
Location: Hotel Market is called Jingkai Wanjia Guoji Jiudian Yongpin Shichang in Chinese. Address is #1 Shangye St., Lv Jia Ying, Shi Ba Li Dian, Chaoyang District. Phone numbers: 010 8769 7773 or 010 8766 8883
9. Liangma Flower Market
This smaller market is across from the Lufthansa Center Shopping Mall. The ground floor is mostly a flower market, though off to the right-hand side there are shops selling porcelain, lanterns, and Chinese-style bags. Upstairs, you will find a wide array of porcelain, great deals on glassware, housewares and even one shop that sells American Girl clothes if you walk all the way to the end of the corridor and look on the right-hand side (seconds from the factory).
Location: South bank of Liangma River, 758 Dongsanhuan Beilu, Chaoyang District
10. Muxiyuan Fabric Market
This is one of the most amazing places I have ever been. The word, “market,” doesn’t quite capture the size of this place. It’s really more like a village or neighborhood, where you may find any kind of fabric, button, ribbon or sewing accessory you could ever want. There are aisles and aisles with bolts of fabrics and baubles for those who have the time and are patient enough to search. You might as well plan on spending the day, and if you do, try some of the hawker stands you’ll come across. I’ve had great noodle bowls here as a break from the fabric madness.
Location: Dahongmen Lu (south of Muxiyuan bus station), south of Muxiyuan Qiao on South Third Ring Road, Fengtai District
11. Ceramic Factory
Most of the ceramics you see around town come from this factory. It’s a good hour out of town, but it’s also – more or less – on the way to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. There’s a show room with porcelain (bowls, sinks, lamps, boxes, candlesticks, plates, pitchers, etc) for about a third the price of what you see in the city.
Location: The ceramic factory is called Gao Liang He Factory in Chinse and is located in Gao Lin Rong, Miao Cheng Township. It is roughly on the way to see the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Have your driver call for directions to (mobile) 13910621850 or 8960 9489. Email: [email protected]
12. Lantern Factory
You know all those lovely wire and cloth lanterns you see around town? They come from this workshop, which is not too farfrom the ceramic factory (Note: Your driver will get lost going here and need to call the factory several times for directions. The first time I went, the workshop sent someone on a motorcycle to show us the way). Again, prices are about a third what you’ll find in the city, and there’s a wide array of colors and sizes, wired – or not.
Location: This is near the ceramic factory, about an hour out of town. Your driver absolutely must call to find this place, located at Beixiaoying Shunti District, Beijing, tel: 6048-4583, mobile: 1360 106 5427.
13. San Yuan Li (produce, meat and fish)
This is my favorite produce and meat market in Beijing. The fruit and vegetables were the freshest I found, and with the help of my driver, a former chef, I purchased meat and fish here often. Prices were the same as in the popular western-style grocery, Jenny Lou’s, but I had better luck with quality at San Yuan Li, where I also was able to locate difficult-to-find items from SE Asia, such as galangal and lime leaves.