Ah, markets. The fakes, the bargains, the crowds, the yelling, the visual overload, and general sense of chaos; they’re a fast-vanishing part of the authentic Beijing cultural experience. Some are prized for their low-key, near-fair, first-offer prices while others are distinguished by their capacity to bring out your haggling A-game. Beijing’s markets are a dying breed: rapidly falling victim to closures, refits, or relocation to neighboring Hubei Province over last couple of years. We round up some the last markets standing in the city and provide a guide on where to go for funky gifts, house plants, and everything in-between.
Alien Street Market 老番街市场
Also known as the Russian market, this collection of markets around Yaobao Lu is one of the better options in particular for formal wear, winter coats, and leather goods in terms of fair prices, polite vendors, and a wider range of sizes. You can also find electronics and sports gear. Bear in mind that Chaoyang District had planned to close or move the Russian market by the end of 2015 according to state media, however, the last time we checked parts of the market are still operating. If the dying days of Yashow are anything to go by, there will be bargains galore as vendors move on. Be sure to head over before it goes the way of the dodo.
Laofanjie Shichang, Yabao Lu (south of Fulllink Plaza), Chaoyang District日坛公园雅宝路, 朝阳区雅宝路
Dazhong Sijin Wuxing Market 大钟寺金五星市场
Another market with a little bit of everything, Dazhong supplies inexpensive camping gear, household supplies such as pots and cutlery, hardware, a limited selection of clothing for kids and adults, electronics, stationary, and home renovation materials. It’s a little bit of a trek for most expats; you’ll find it on the south side of the Northwest Third Ring Road, behind the furniture stores.
Daily 8.30am-6pm. 118 Zhongguancun Donglu, Haidian District 海淀区中关村东路118号(近联想桥)
Guanyuan Bird and Fish Market 官园花鸟鱼虫市场
Find a selection of aquarium fish, birds, and even those walnuts Chinese people hold in their palms for good circulation, at this small market west off of Zizhu Yuan (Purple Mountain Park).
Mon-Thu 9am-6pm, Fri-Sun 9am-6.30pm. 5 Zizhuyuanlu, Guangyuan Dasha, Guangyuan Zha (northeast corner of Purple Bamboo Park) 海淀区紫竹院路广源闸5号广源大厦 (紫竹桥东北角)
Also known as Pearl Market, for many expats this is the spiritual successor for now unrecognizable Yashow Market. You’ll find an entire floor dedicated to selling and designing jewelry of your own choosing; just pick your clasp. There’s also the usual array of knock-offs, electronics, cheap toys, souvenirs, and much more. Starting prices can be outrageously inflated; expect to bargain hard – down to as little as 20 percent of what’s quoted initially.
Daily 9.30am-7pm. Temple of Heaven, 46 Hongqiao Lu, Chongwen District (6713 3354) 天坛, 崇文区红桥路46号
Huaxiang Wholesale Plants Market 花乡花卉批发市场
This is the one stop shop if you’re in the market for natural, air filtering houseplants, yard decorations, or cheap pots at a good bargain. Negotiate with drivers for home delivery.
9am-5pm. Hua Xiang Yuquanying Lijiaoqiao (southwestern corner), Fengtai District 丰台区花乡玉泉营立交桥西南角
Lady Street 女人街服装市场
Lady Street features slightly dressier clothing as well as smaller boutiques; browse for purses, shoes, jewelry, clothes and home accessories.
Mon-Sun 9am-7pm. Nuren Jie, Tianze Lu, Chaoyang District朝阳区天泽路女人街
Laitai Flower Market 莱太花卉市场
Laitai Flower Market, located in the same area as Ladies’ Street Market, has plants, garden gear, a selection of specialty furniture and home wares, and even small pets like fish, hamsters, and turtles.
Mon-Thu 9am-6pm, Fri-Sun 9am-6.30 pm. 9 Maizidian Xilu, Chaoyang District (6463 6145) 朝阳区麦子店西路9号
Liangma Flower Market 亮马花卉市场
Selling every variety of cut flower and potted plant at very reasonable prices, there are dozens of individual vendors, so variety is good and bargaining is the norm. Delivery by flatbed bicycle costs between RMB 50-100, depending on the quantity of plants ordered, distance, and your haggling skills. Upstairs the home wares vendors have cushions, lamps, scented candles, teapots, glassware, and more.
Daily 8.30am-6.30pm. South bank of Liangma River, 758 Dongsanhuan Beilu, Chaoyang District (6504 2446) 朝阳区东三环北路758号, 燕莎商城南, 亮马河南岸
Muxiyuan Fabric Market 大红门纺织品批发市场
We recommend heading to Jingdu Shiji Qingfangcheng as it is very easy to get lost in this extensive collection of fabric markets. Find everything from natural fabric and neutrals to an impressive collection of silks and brightly colored patterns.
Daily 6am-5pm. 33 Dahongmen Lu (south of Muxiyuan long-distance bus station), south of Muxiyuanqiao on South Third Ring Road, Fengtai District丰台区南三环木樨园桥往南大红门路木樨园长途汽车站南侧
Panjiayuan Market 潘家园旧货市场
Perhaps best known for its glasses and antiques sections, many consider Panjiayuan an essential visit. Get your eyes checked out while you’re visiting and choose from a huge selection of frames and shades. Across the way find tin toys, calligraphy tools and chops, puppets, kites, furniture, beads, statues, and various other valuables (purportedly made by Chinese ethnic minority artisans).
Mon-Fri 8.30am-6pm, Sat-Sun 4.30am-6pm. Off of Southeast Third Ring Road, West of Panjiayuan Qiao, Chaoyang District (6775 2405) 朝阳区潘家园桥西边
Tianyi Market 天意市场 (阜外店)
This enormous market located off West Second Ring Road has everything under the sun: Christmas decorations, bags, toys, silk flowers, clothing, electronics, and office and art supplies. This is a wholesale market, so buying in larger quantities may result in a cheaper price.
Mon-Sun 7am-6pm. 259 Fuchengmen Waidajie, Xicheng District (6831 7199) 阜成门外大街259号
Silk Street Market 秀水街
Rows upon rows of clothes for all ages, shoes, electronics, suitcases, and typical Chinese gifts such as teapots, chopsticks, and of course, Chinese “silk” can be found in this six-story market behemoth. Be prepared for loud vendors quoting high prices in multiple languages as they are accustomed to dealing with tourists inexperienced at bargaining. Prices quoted are often.
Daily 9am-9pm. 8 Xiushui Dongjie, Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District (5169 8800) 朝阳区建国门外大街秀水东街8号
Yashow Market 雅秀市场
The recently made-over Yashow bears no resemblance to its predecessor. The only remnant of what was is the tailor’s floor. You can stop off for a Burger King, and still indulge in some TLC with a mani or pedi, but we hear vendors are no longer amenable to haggling; don’t let that stop you from trying!
Daily 9.30am-9pm. Sanlitun, 58 Gongti Beilu, Chaoyang District (6415 1726) 三里屯, 朝阳区工体北路58号
- Look up goods online to get a guideline price before shopping. It’s sometimes more convenient to buy at the market, and it can be reassuring to handle goods and assess their quality in person. However, most of what you want to buy is also available, and possibly at a cheaper price, on Taobao.
- Don’t get frazzled; remember it’s all a game. If it feels like hard work, take a friend who actually enjoys the process (yes, they exist!) and let them take over. Pay no mind to frowns, shouting, or other signs of anger. These are meaningless and just part of the process.
- Never reveal how much you like an item. No matter what, keep up your façade of indifference. If you’re shopping with a friend it can be fun to invent codewords in advance to secretly indicate how interested you really are.
- The fake walk away. Nothing shows your willingness to reject the deal like physically removing yourself from their space. Employ this judiciously – obviously it gives diminishing returns if you try it more than once.
- Pretend to buy in bulk. You can try negotiating a deal for several of an item, and then buying just one. Bear in mind if this backfires you will be leaving with nothing.
- Genuinely buy in bulk. Negotiate every item’s price as low as you can, then negotiate an even lower overall price for a bulk order.
- Trade vendors off against each other. Tell the seller that their best price will be your opening bid with the next vendor.
- Check everything you buy for flaws and stains, before you leave the stall. Market shopping is the ultimate in caveat emptor – once the deal is done you will find it near impossible to refund, repair, or exchange.
• I’m looking for_____: 我想找_____ wo xiang zhao_____
• Do you have _____? 你们有_____ 吗? ni men you _____ ma?
• How much does it cost? 多少钱? duo shao qian?
• Too expensive. 太贵了! tai gui le!
• Give me a cheaper price: 给我便宜点吧 gei wo pianyi dian ba
This article originally appeared on page 32-33 of the beijingkids February 2016 issue. Click here to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos: Gill Penney (Flickr), Aisling O’Brien, and Sui