Beijing Shopping Tips by mke1963 Top 5 Page for this destination
Beijing Shopping: 288 reviews and 316 photos
After some time spent shuffling around from place to place, many of the traders who used to be in the old Lido market opposite the Lido Hotel, most of the traders have now settled on the Sunny Gold Street Market around the corner from the old market - 100 metres to the lights and turn right; it's in that block. You really can't miss it.
The advantage of this specific market is that it tends to be cheaper than the Silk Market. Lido is close to where there is a very large population of expats who buy things frequently, so there is not the automatic assumption that you are a tourist - prices start lower and (in my humble opinion) the quality feels that much better than down the Trash Market...errr sorry, the Silk Market.
What to buy: Chinese porcelain and handicrafts - if they make it it's here; if you describe it, it'll be here next week. Fake brand clothing of atrocious quality, fake brand shoes that will wear out before you next need to clean your teeth, fake sunglasses that will likely cause serious long-term eye damage, fake DVDs that will run OK until the last 15 minutes (if the end of the story isn't important, this may be acceptable to you). Some good Chinese clothing and games.
What to pay: Less than at the Silk Market, in general. It largely depends on you.
Directions: On what Xiao Yun Lu becomes before it reaches the Lido area (can't remember the name).
Just round the corner from the Holiday Inn Lido Hotel (the whole area is known as Lido...pronounced Lee-doo")
Crusty expats in Beijing spend whole evenings ridiculing each others' favourite antique dealer. Whether its at Hongqiao, Liulichang, or halfway up Jingshun Lu, everyone has "their" fave antique dealer. These dealers usually have quaint names like Lily, Grace or Stella, improbably 1950s names given youthful vigour by the relish of relieving 40-something big corporation laowai wives of their cash.
I will join the fray, to sounds of "Oh darling....that area is so 2003"
Go to Gaobeidian, on the east side of town. Fifteen minutes east of Guo Mao. Most taxi drivers know the area. This is where the cargo boats used to unload when they arrived in Beijing. It is now where there are a lot of wholesalers moving large voulmes of antiques. Much of it goes into containers bound for Hong Kong. These are magic containers because en-route, the contents increase in value by a huge amount. When the doors open in Kowloon, everything is suddenly worth 50 times as much. Buy at this end; skip the magic container!
One of those truly different souvenir shops, the Shard Box Store creates jewellery out of the shattered remains of porcelain broken during the Cultural Revolution.
By definition, each of these pieces are unique, hand-made souvenirs turning something nice - no matter how tiny - out of an episode of much suffering and upheaval.
They also create a lot of other nice jewellery, using traditional stones and symbols of Chinese culture, but it is the 'shard' jewellery and giftware that is so unique.
There are two Shard Box Stores, one on Xiao Yun Lu (despite its address as 2 Jiangtai Lu; phone 010 5135 7638) at the Lido, and the second on Ritan Bei Lu (phone 010 8561 3712), just north and east of the park.
What to buy: See above
What to pay: Upwards of RMB100 for small silver pieces; upwards of RMB800 for gold.
Address: See main text above
Other Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Phone: 010 5135 7638
The Orchard is separately reviewed as a restaurant, but it is also a place to buy very classy and very memorable souvenirs of China.
The owners have linked up with a number of small household producers in Beijing and Shanxi to offer a small collection of jewellery (A Taste of Jing), cashmere sweaters and scarves, traditiional and reporduction furniture and many other home accessories (candleholders, wooden boxes, etc).
This is all hand-made stuff, not mass-produced and would make superb gifts or souvenirs.
The Orchard is a long way from the centre of Beijing (say 30 minutes by taxi from the Kempinski area) but worth it if you really want tasteful gifts and a great meal.
I'm not going to try and explain the location (it's about 10 minutes off the Airport Expressway at Junction 4), so you should phone ahead and get them to fax you a map or speak to your taxi-driver. (The 944 bus goes past the gate but there are no signs outside to suggest that there is a top restaurant down the lane!)
What to buy: RMB900 for a cashmere jumper, 200 for a scarf and they look stunning. Or what about RMB3,500 for an original Beijing Municipal Government chair, believed to be from the 1950s, and reupholstered in cracked, creased burgundy leather?
Lots of jewellery...RMB50 and up.
Address: (see text)
Phone: 010 6433 6270
Yashou (or Yaxiu or Yashow or Jilin Plaza - it has many names!) has long been a mainstay of Beijing east-end residents' shopping. Like Landao for electronics and household goods, Yazhou is indoors, and you have a higher chance of getting your money back if problems arise with goods bought.
Many Silk Market vendors have moved in recently (and many have gone to Lai Tai), although the fake goods are less in evidence (often they are available on request!). The famous Cashmere lady has moved in (ground floor).
There are different areas with less and less people as you go upstairs (curiously the second floor is shown as the third floor).
Ground floor is coats, sweaters, shoes, a couple of army-surplus places. Next floor up a lot of thermal underwear, silks (a lot more than there ever was down at the Silk Market), kids clothes.
Next floor up are a lot of giftware shops, a couple of toyshops, an electronics area (at the back).
The parking area outside is always, but always, absolutely packed out.
This is (one of the many) real Beijing Silk Markets, and one where you get to bargain as much as you ever did out in the cold down at Chang'an.
What to buy: Cashmere from the Cashmere lady.
Great Li Feng and Mao T-shirts (back right area, near the DVD shop)
Silks (upper floors) including the place (top of the escalator) where all the embassy socialites get their ball-gowns made.
Some ethnic clothing and accessories seen (such as Yi handbags)
What to pay: Whatever you can bargain for. And about 25% less than that.
Address: Gongrentiyuchang Bei Lu
Directions: West of Sanlitun, East of Worker's Stadium
On Thursday 6th January at 6.30pm, the Silk Market closed for good.
A new building has opened alongside the old site, but few vendors will be moving in because of the high rental rates. The local authority promises "no fakes" on sale at the new indoor market: they clearly understand exactly why people came to the Silk Market, eh? So now you know exactly where you can buy your world-famous Chinese brand sneakers, jeans and jackets.
Rather amusingly, many of the vendors are complaining that the new indoor market has stolen the brand they spent years building up. The irony seems lost on them and the local media.
Some vendors have moved to Hongqiao Market (see review)
Address: North of Jiangguomenwai Dajie
Directions: about 1km east of Friendship Store
Lai Tai is best known for being on the absurdly named 'Lady Street' and next to an alleyway called 'Lady Dressing Plaza'. It's common for areas or streets in China to have these kinds of functionally accurate, yet bizarre names!
Lai Tai is a big hanger full of plants, flowers, xiaoshan and aquarium shops: it's the horticultural Silk Market.
Yet below the roots of all these plants is two full floors of small shops. The first mezzanine floor has a lot of good jewellery shops, a number of shops selling porcelain and bags, and a good number of nail salons. At the back is an avenue of shoe and luggage shops.
Go down one floor further and there is a huge area of clothing shops, including some that sell ethnic clothing and even one with US army surplus.
What to buy: Lai Tai manages to avoid attracting tourists altogether, and is nowhere near as crowded as Hongqiao or Jilin Plaza.
Most of the shoppers are locals, and most of the foreigners work nearby.
Address: Lai Tai - lower two floors
Jenny Lou's has become a bit of an institution in Beijing. While big international brand name giants, including Carrefour, spend years planning and plotting there mega-stores in unhelpful places with abysmal parking, Jenny Lou's opens new stores regularly right where people want them. Whether at the Chaoyang west gate, Sanlitun Bei, near WAB or at Pinnacle Plaza, Jenny Lou's stocks exactly what the expats crave (at a price).
What to buy: Huge range of bread, breakfast cereals, cookies/biscuits, and the 'hard to find' food and drink can usually be found here.
However, always check the sell-by-date: they have a habit of keeping stuff way beyond the date when it should be consigned to the bin. We all complain about this, but Jeny Lou's know that there is nowhere else to go, so they apologise profusley, replace the dodgy item, and put it straight back on the shelf.
What to pay: High prices, but if you need your Instant Oatmeal or [your favourite brand], then Jenny Lou's is the most likely place to find it.
Also, they will deliver within a reasonable distance.
Directions: Sanlitun Beilu (along from the Riverside Cafe), Chaoyang West Gate (next to Annies), Pinnacle Plaza (this is actually a copy-cat store I believe, but it is still good), 100m north of WAB.
Theme: Food and Drink
The Friendship Store is one of those classics that just goes on and on, defyint the critics who suggest it must be due to close soon.
It is worth visiting one of the Friendship Store as much for its historical significance as for buying anything there, but it also has prices that are not unreasonable. Also it remains one of the few places to have a true Western-style deli (Jenny Lou's shops are another).
In the bad old days, there was only the Friendship Store. Period. If it wasn't in the Friendship Store (and usually it wasn't) you basically waited until you left China. The Friendship Store accepted FECs and foreign cash only, not Chinese money, so local people hung around the entrance looking in longingly at the goodies inside, reserved for the oppressed foreigners and the poor unfortunate cadres and government officials who were forced to buy stuff here.
Now, the Friendship Store is an anachronism: the vast numbers of bored, largely useless staff remain sullenly unhelpful and underemployed. A transaction like buying a magazine takes four of these talented individuals to complete the job: one to write down the price laboriously on a sales slip, one to take your money at a distant till, one to check the sales slip, and one to put the magazine in a plastic bag.
What to buy: The small touristy antiques are frequently 'only' found in the Friendship Store, and it is worth searching for handicrafts here. This may seem surprising, but there is rationale here. The Friendship Store is part of the 'tourist merchandise distribution channel' which means that they always get some of the stuff that goes into the wider market-place. As the Friendship Store gets much less shoppers than most places, the stock doesn't move as fast.
The downside is that the prices are almost fixed: not one worker here cares whether you buy or not - they are paid at the end of the week either way. Haggling over the price is utterly pointless.
In a bizarre way, visiting the Friendship Store is like a flashback to the 1970s, if you missed life under old-style Communism.
What to pay: More than average for everything, but not a whole lot more (maybe 10% more). Worth itif you can't find something elsewhere that you really want.
Address: Jianguomen wai dajie
Directions: One block west of the Silk Market. Also on Sanlitun Bei Lu (But this one doesn't have antiques. It's just a local store for diplomats)
Lamps are a particularly good bargain in Beijing, and there are plenty of lamp shops around. The best one is way out in the suburbs (near Pinnacle Plaza at the Wenyu river, if you really are a lamp fanatic) but there is a good shop in the Lai Tai area, in the long row of shops. It's just a couple of shops to the left of the entrance to the Bar Street. The gas patio lamps and heaters in the photographs are actually from the shop next door.
Most of the lamps are made on the premises, and there is a huge variety of shapes, styles and sizes. Many of them have a good solid feel, but are mainly modern. These are not the chintzy cloisonne lamps in the tourist shops, but classy lamps, many with shades made from home-made paper. Prices from RMB200 upwards.
Address: Lady Street
Directions: Opposite the new Lai Tai flower market.
Theme: Home Furnishing
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