It’s that season again. We’ve all been there. No matter how many years you’ve lived in Beijing, inevitably there will come a day when someone will be visiting you and will want to shop for souvenirs to take home. Or, you’re going on a trip to visit family and friends and need to prepare “authentic China gifts”. Whichever the case, you should know where to go for your touristy needs.
Unfortunately for us, the Beijing government has been cracking down on markets because of all the wonderful fake stuff they used to sell. In a few years, we might only be able to buy touristy things from museum boutiques and Page One—the horror! For now, we still have these trusty markets:
Silk (Street) Market 秀水街 xiù shuǐ jiē
You might have heard that the Silk Market used to be an actual “street” (outdoors), but now it’s just a big department store. At the moment, it is the best place to go for touristy things—a fact you should keep in mind when planning your trip, as it’ll be crowded with tourist groups.
The Silk Market should have everything you need, from leather Diesel jackets to “authentic” Chinese silk. There are plenty of vendors who sell the traditional touristy things, but also suitcases, shoes, purses, and even electronics. Keep in mind that it’s unlikely that anything sold at the Silk Market is “real” (in terms of brand merchandise), so bargaining is recommended.
The Silk Market is also a good place to go if you need to shop for “Western sizes” and prefer trying things on in person.
Daily 9am-9pm. 8 Xiushui Dongjie, Jianguomenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District 朝阳区建国门外大街秀水东街8号 (nearest subway station: Line 1, YongAnLi)
Pearl Market 红桥市场 hóng qiáo shì chǎng
The Pearl Market is significantly smaller than the Silk Market, and is more comparable to the old Yashow market (though not nearly as good). True to its name, it does showcase more pearls than other markets, but also features a variety of other touristy items. It does not have as many “knock-off” products as the Silk Market does, but it has its share of fake purses, electronics, and some shoes/clothes. Do remember to bargain.
Daily 9.30am-7pm. Temple of Heaven, 46 Hongqiao Lu, Chongwen District 天坛, 崇文区红桥路46号 (nearest subway station: Line 5, TianTangDongMen)
Alien Street Market 老番街市场 lǎo fān jiē shìchǎng
Also known as the Russian market (if asking in Chinese, you’ll find it better if you ask for yǎ bǎo lù de eluósī shìchǎng). The address below is for just one mall, the pleasingly-named “Alien Market”, but the entire area is a Russian town and serves as a collection of markets for Russian merchants, so the mall next to “Alien Market” as well as the one by McDonalds are also very popular shopping spots. The three markets sell electronics, a variety of teas, cosmetics, clothes, shoes, bags, suitcases, etc. Quality (all knock offs) and prices vary, and clearance items are clearly marked outside each booth. If you keep walking down Yabao Lu, you’ll find entire buildings filled with fashion wholesale boutiques, and there’s even one with only children’s clothes (walk towards Jianguomen)!
Bargaining at Russian markets might not go as smoothly if you’re not a Russian speaker, but it can be a more pleasant experience if you’re not a fan of bargaining in general. Store owners are more relaxed, there are curtains where you can bargain in private, and the experience overall is very hushed and peaceful (compared to Chinese markets). If you haven’t been yet, it’s a good idea to visit before the Beijing government succeeds in shutting down yet another wholesale market.
Laofanjie Shichang, Yabao Lu (south of Fulllink Plaza), Chaoyang District日坛公园雅宝路, 朝阳区雅宝路 (nearest subway station: Line 2/6, Chaoyangmen)
Panjiayuan Antique Market 潘家园旧货市场 pān jiāyuán jiù huò shìchǎng
Panjiayuan is an interesting market even for locals because it has many sections to it, and as a result, the selection can change from week to week. The best time to visit Panjiayuan is on the weekend, early in the morning on a nice day out when all the vendors are out and the streets leading to Panjiayuan are lined with peddlers selling everything from coconuts to touristy wares. The actual market has store vendors that sell antiques and minority handicrafts, such as furniture, Buddhist statues, etc. There are booth vendors who sell art: e.g. oil and ink paintings, pottery, beaded jewelry, etc. There’s a second-hand book sale section with old communist propaganda posters, art books, and even comic books (yes, they sell English books too). Finally, there’s a flea market section where anyone (non-vendors) can go and sell anything they want.
A few blocks from Panjiayuan Antique Market is the infamous Glasses Market, where one can get a set of glasses (with lenses) for as little as RMB 200 (maybe even less). There are also legit art markets (genuine and thus expensive) nearby for serious art collectors.
Mon-Fri 8.30am-6pm, Sat-Sun 4.30am-6pm. Off of Southeast Third Ring Road, West of Panjiayuan Qiao, Chaoyang District 朝阳区潘家园桥西边 (nearest subway station: Line 10 Panjiayuan)