Wangfujing is the city’s enduring shopping street and a must-see for anybody who lives in the capital. Back in the 15th century, when Ming emperor Yongle (r. 1403-1424) moved his male relatives there so that he could keep an eye on them, purveyors of luxury goods began to flock to the area. Wangfujing soon gained a reputation as the capital’s shopping destination. Today, this pedestrianized avenue offers up a variety of stores, both expensive and moderately priced, but we recommend that you skip Gucci and Cartier in favor of the local cultural attractions. Sample bizarre foods on Snack Street, visit a toy emporium to see what your kids want for Christmas, get spun-out on a gyroscope, and step back in time by visiting the residence of a famous Beijing playwright.
Depending on your pace, four hours (including an hour meal break) is sufficient time to soak in the array of activities in Wangfujing. Start off around midday at Oriental Plaza (Exit B, Wangfujing station, Line 1) and head north along Wangfujing Dajie about 250m. On your right, find Shengxifu (1), a two-story hat
haven. This is the perfect place to pick up some stylish head-warmers. Children’s hats range from RMB 48-78, while adult styles run anywhere from RMB 80-3,000, depending on the material and make.
Across the street (next to Haoyu Emporium) lies Wangfujing Snack Street (2). This market can get a little crowded, but vendors offer anything and everything – from deep-fried scorpion (RMB 20) and seahorses (RMB 15) to meat kebabs (RMB 5-10) and candied fruits (RMB 3-6). Whether you fancy an
adventurous story to make your friends cringe or just want a simple bite. If street food doesn’t sound appealing, skip across the road to the nearby Quan Ju De branch, roasting Beijing duck since 1864. Snack Street is also a great place to pick up little souvenirs to send home for the holidays, but be prepared to bargain.
After nibbling on various skewered snacks, make your way back to Wangfujing Dajie and continue north. If the weather is a little nippy and the kids are feeling antsy, duck into New China Children’s Store (3) where a toy oasis awaits. The first floor is entirely dedicated to playthings, while the second and third levels offer an endless supply of clothes, shoes and accessories for children of any age.
Carrying on northward, pause for some quick family photos at the plaque on the left side of the street commemorating the jing (well) in Wangfujing that helped give the street its name, as well as the rickshaw statue on the right side of the avenue. After crossing the major intersection on the left, you’ll find a carnival area (4). Embrace virtual reality and experience space by taking a ride in the Challenger shuttle (RMB 20); fasten yourself into a human gyroscope and spin ‘til you drop (RMB 20); get strapped into a bungee seat and be hurled up into the air for all of Wangfujing Dajie to see (RMB 100). Just make sure all those scorpions from Snack Street are well-digested before you
venture on any of these rides. The less daring can shoot hoops nearby (four games for RMB 10).
Another 50m down the road on the right is a rare sight in China – a cathedral (Dong Tang). St. Joseph’s Cathedral (5) first built in 1655 by the Jesuits on land donated by the Qing Emperor Shunzhi (r. 1644-1661), has been destroyed and reconstructed numerous times. During its major renovation in 2000, its wide, tree-lined plaza was added.
Continue another 100m along Wangfujing Dajie and turn left at the next intersection on to Dengshikou Dajie. After another few minutes west, take a right on to Fengfu Hutong, where you will find the Former Residence of Lao She (6). One of China’s celebrated authors, Lao She (1899-1966) is famous for his darkly
humorous novel Rickshaw and his play Teahouse. Explore the rooms in his courtyard home, which chronicles his experiences in
London, the United States and Shandong province. His original sitting room and study has been reconstructed, while his personal library and desk have been left untouched.
Once you’ve had your fill of all that Wangfujing has to offer, jump in a cab and head to the nearby restaurants of Houhai for dinner. Some great family friendly places to try are Hutong Pizza and Ba Guo Bu Yi. We recommend Hutong Pizza’s cheesy margherita, and once the kids are done eating, they can check out the indoor fish pond.
1. Shengxifu 盛西福
Daily 9.30am-9pm. 196 Wangfujing Avenue, Dongcheng District (6513 0620) 东城区王府井大街196号
2. Snack Street 王府井小吃街
Next to Haoyou Emporium, Wangfujing Dajie Dongcheng District 东城区王府井大街
3. New China Children’s Store 新中国儿童用品商店
168 Wangfujing Street, Dongcheng District (6528 1774) 东城区王府井大街168号
4. Rides (in front of Li Sheng Sports Business Building 天元利生体育商厦)
201 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District (6525 0870) 东城区王府井大街201号
5. St. Joseph’s Cathedral 东堂
74 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District (6524 0634) 东城区王府井大街74号
6. Former Residence of Lao She 老舍故居
RMB 10/ticket. Daily 9am-6pm. 19 Fengfu Hutong, Xidengshikou Dajie, Dongcheng District (6514 2612) 东城区灯市口西街丰富胡同19号
Quan Ju De 全聚德
Daily 11am-2pm, 4.30-9pm. 9 Shuaifuyuan Hutong, Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District (6525 3310) 东城区王府井大街帅府园胡同9号
Hutong Pizza 胡同比萨
Daily 11am-11pm. 9 Yindingqiao Hutong, Houhai, Xicheng District (8322 8916) 西城区海地银锭桥胡同9号
Ba Guo Bu Yi 巴国布衣
Daily 11am-2pm, 5-9.30pm. 89-3 Di’anmen Dongdajie, Houhai, Dongcheng District (6400 8888) 东城区后海地安门东大街89-3号
Photos by Kara Chin