Western-style consumerism is alive and well in Beijing and, depending on the size of their wallets, locals shop at fancy boutiques or market stalls. Wanfujing is where Chinese shopaholics go for upmarket retail fixes including Shanghai Tang, the country's most famous designer clothing label. At the other end of the scale of Beijing shopping, Panjiayuan is a weekend flea market where you'll find everything from silk slippers to paper dragons. Bargaining is part of the experience.
Located east of the Temple of Heaven is the Panjiayuan Market, where locals and tourists alike come to bargain over items rich in Chinese history. You’ll find a variety of teapot sets made of Chinese porcelain, paintings, Chinese calligraphy, Cultural Revolution memorabilia, Buddha statues, village handicrafts and terracotta warriors. A lot of dealers at the Panjiayuan Market are known to search the countryside for antiques and other family heirlooms, so visit early in the morning for a chance to glimpse these treasures before they’re sold.
If you’re on the lookout for some bargains, visit the famous Silk Market located in the Chaoyang District. Don’t let the name of the trade centre fool you; while the Silk Market specialises in genuine and knock-off silk garments, it also sells a diverse blend of fashion brands, leather products, batik fabrics, pearls, pottery, accessories and Chinese tea. This is the perfect place to have some fun and hunt for some affordable goods and souvenirs.
Commonly referred to as Tea Street, the Maliandao Tea Market houses a collection of impressive tea stores in one multi-storey centre. Located in the south-western parts of Beijing, these markets emulate a deep reverence for China’s tea history. As you go through the market, you can sample the many variations of teas on offer, like black tea, ginseng, Oolong, jasmine and green tea. You’ll also find a variety of Chinese-style tea sets and accessories to purchase as well. It’s extremely helpful if you know some Mandarin before visiting these markets, as not many shop owners speak English.
Wangfujing is known as one of China’s most famous shopping streets. Along this pedestrian street, there are three large markets: Sun Dong An Plaza, Beijing Department Store and Oriental Plaza. Here you can purchase jewellery, designer clothing, makeup and wine, and you can dine at the many Chinese and Western restaurants staggered throughout. Most of the products at Wangfujing Shopping Street boast good quality, so their prices are generally higher compared to other shops and markets in Beijing.
Found in the Chongwen District, Hongqiao Market is well known for dealing with pearls from around the world. As it’s the largest pearl distribution centre in China, you can find an enormous range of pearls in different colours and varying levels of smoothness and size. You can examine and purchase seawater and freshwater pearls, as well as coral, emerald and other precious stones. HongQiao Market also offers seafood, silk, Chinese art, ornaments and big brand clothing.