Cheap shopping is easy to find in Beijing, but let’s face it: Silk Street and Yashow can feel like tourist traps, with grabby stall-keepers and repetitive, low-quality products. Beyond Silk Street, however, clothing options seem to be limited to shopping malls and boutiques, where price ranges can be exhausting. Nonsense! Good quality clothing and ridiculously low prices are best friends at the Beijing Zoo. Zoo Market, that is.
Zoo Market (known as dong wu yuan fu zhuang shi chang 动物园服装市场) is actually a collection of expansive wholesale markets along the Xizhimen area, along the street where the actual Beijing Zoo is. The easiest way to get there is by Subway Line 4 at the Beijing Zoo（动物园）station. Every large building between the Ito Yokado and the Beijing Planetarium on both sides of the street is basically its own wholesale market. It is definitely a place to explore if you’re feeling adventurous.
My personal favorite is Julong market (聚龙外贸市场), an underground expanse that is dizzying, sprawling, and simply stuffed with wholesale items from H&M, Zara, Mango, Forever21, and Cotton On – just to name a few! The stall-keepers here are also the most relaxed I have ever encountered, making the cramped space feel slightly less pressured. If you are claustrophobic, beware. It really takes a couple visits to get a true feel of the place without getting overwhelmed. Entrances into Julong are plentiful, right next to the Ito Yokado and along the plaza-like structure built between intersections, and they look like underground crossings.
A few things to generally note about Zoo Market:
· Zoo Market is not geared toward foreigners. A basic knowledge of Chinese numbers is all you need to get going, though.
· Don’t expect to engage in full-scale bargaining wars as you would in Silk Street. Stall-keepers are no-nonsense about their wholesale items; some will dismiss you if you attempt to lower prices. At my last visit I bought tops for 10 to 30 RMB, jeans at 55 RMB, and scarves for 20 RMB without a single bargaining effort. Don’t be afraid to try for a little wiggle room, though, I did knock 15 RMB off a 60 RMB dress. If you’re unsure about what a fair deal is, try hanging around stalls with other people to gauge what kind of prices they’re getting.
· Unfortunately, you can’t try the clothing on, so be ready to utilize the trusty ‘hold clothing against body’ method. Don’t trust the sizing labels, different brands have different sorts of measurements.
· Shopping is a workout! Julong is literally aisle after aisle of stalls. Exits should be located around the end of the aisles, but don’t expect to exit the same way you entered. I rarely do, so be prepared to orient yourself once you reach level ground again.
· Keep an eye out for good finds! Don’t pay attention to name brands only: much of the clothing at Zoo Market stands alone as good fashion, without a label. Be ready to dig around, and do peek into stalls and look through the racks.
· The market is cramped, does not have convenient restrooms, and food requires a decent amount of walking outside. In addition to the small aisles and large crowds, navigating Zoo Market would be difficult with a young child.
· The best time to visit is on weekday mornings when shoppers resemble less of an inescapable, surging wave. Stalls begin to pack up around 4:30 daily.