- Beijing’s Best Sights
- Beijing’s Best Restaurants
- Beijing’s Best Nightlife
- Beijing’s Best Arts and Leisure
- Beijing’s Best Shops
- Beijing’s Best Hotels
- Best of the Great Wall
- Shanghai’s Best Sights
- Shanghai’s Best Restaurants
- Shanghai’s Best Nightlife
- Shanghai’s Best Arts and Leisure
- Shanghai’s Best Shops
- Shanghai’s Best Hotels
- Shanghai’s Best Excursions
Beijing’s mix of history, culture, and modernity make it an interesting and varied city for shoppers. If you’re on the hunt for traditional Chinese souvenirs like calligraphy wall-hangings, tea sets, chopsticks, fans, or jade bangles, you’ll find them in abundance at places like the Silk Market (which, contrary to its name, is a sprawling, multi-story emporium and not a quaint bazaar).
Quirkier knickknacks can be found at the outdoor street markets on Dazhalan and Liulichang, but most of the “antiques” on offer are rather newer than the vendors would have you believe. If you want something a little more unusual than the regular glut of Chinese souvenirs, the antique markets are rife with kitsch Mao statues, propaganda-style artwork, and retro ornaments.
Thanks to its rapid modern development, Beijing has no shortage of sleek, contemporary shopping malls. The pedestrian stretch of Wangfujing Street, east of the Forbidden City, is flanked with shopping centers; Financial Street and the CBD have their fair share as well.
Somewhere in between the antique markets and the malls lie the more bohemian shops on and around East Gulou Avenue. The area is known for its artsy, well-worn feel, the street is lined with funky boutiques, vintage clothing shops, and stores selling one-off designs. Head down Nanluogu Hutong for the highest concentration of independent stores.
The Dos and Don'ts of Getting a Good Deal
The idea of haggling can seem anathema to people who aren't used to doing it, but it's a necessity in Beijing if you don't want to be ripped off.
Where can you bargain? Almost anywhere that isn't a mall, a chain, or a restaurant. Markets are fair game, as are independent stores (that don't display "No Bargaining" signs).
Here are some tips:
- • Do chop a third off the asking price. The vendor will act horrified, and you'll end up paying more than that in the end, but it's a good starting point.
- • Don't be afraid to walk away if you don't get the price you want. Have a set amount in mind that you're willing to spend and say goodbye if you can't bargain a vendor down. The chances are that you'll see the exact same item in the stall next door.
- • Do be nice. Market vendors can seem like sharks, but there's no need to be rude to them. They're just doing their job.
- • Don't be too nice. You don't have to be overly aggressive, but neither should you come across as a pushover.
- • Do learn a few phrases for asking prices and suggesting lower amounts.
- • Don't get emotional. No vendor will sell for a price that's too low to make a profit, so don't feel guilty about haggling.
- • Do carry the right money in smaller denominations. Waving wads of hundred notes around isn't a good look, and can be unsafe in a busy market.
- • Don't agree to a price and then refuse to buy. It's bad form and a waste of everyone's time.
- Most Old-School Atmosphere: Dazhalan
- Best All-Around Shopping Experience: Wangfujing Avenue
- Best Books: The Bookworm
- Best Local Designer: candy&caviar
- Most Vintage Clothes: Mega Mega Vintage
- Best T-Shirts: Plastered T-Shirts
- Best Souvenirs: Beijing Postcard
- Best Concept: Fengguo Box Store
- Best Retro Toys: Old-Toxin Tin Toys
© Susie Gordon from Moon Beijing & Shanghai, 2nd Edition