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Living in Beijing Guide

Shopping in Beijing

On a good day, shopping in Beijing is a delightful and engaging experience, where one can revel in all of the city’s sensations, discover hidden gems and feel fully immersed in the flow of China’s blossoming consumer culture. On a bad day, however, lines and crowds are spirit-crushing, bargains are fleetin and it takes far too long to find something simple. Either way, it’s an adventure. And as Beijing consumer infrastructure matures, the good days are becoming more frequent for expat shoppers. The burgeoning upper and middle class has led to a boom in shopping mall buildings. If you want Christian Dior or Jimmy Choo, you’ll have no problem finding them. On the other hand, the real bargains are to be found in Beijing’s markets, where savvy shoppers accessorise and stock their wardrobes for the upcoming season.

Where to shop

The city’s most famous shopping area is Wangfujing. This pedestrian street is always charmingly busy. Most of the goods are authentic (not knock-offs) but pricey. Completing the city centre (Dongcheng) trio are Dongsi Beidajie shopping street and Xidan. Dongsi Beidajie has a European boutique feel, while Xidan is a mishmash of trendy and dingy. The Xidan Shopping Centre, in the middle of the street, is worth a visit for the experience alone. If you can tolerate the crowds, there are serious bargains to be had on all types of nice clothing. One of the most popular shopping areas with expats is the Village in Sanlitun, which covers all of your needs. The main building contains shops such as Uniqlo, Mango, Nike and Adidas, to name a few. Behind the main area is a street where you can find an English book stand and many DVD stores. Tianze Lu, in Chaoyang, is a bit more inconspicuous. Behind the massive Flower Market and down a set of stairs, the Women’s Market is incredibly popular with Chinese shoppers (this means that larger sizes are hard to find). The basement is a treasure trove of Chinese furniture, home wares and decorations.

Western-style department stores have been popping up almost as fast as the shopping malls, and have been received just as enthusiastically. Landao Department Store (8 Chaoyangmenwai, Chaoyang District) is a fabulous place to get a bargain on high-quality items. Cosmetics, home wares, perfumes, jewellery and clothes for every season are spread out across the busy but not suffocating floors. The Lufthansa Center (50 Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District) is very popular with expats because it’s home to a wide selection of top quality products, including children’s clothing and a huge toy selection. Solana (6 Chaoyang Park Road, Chaoyang District) is a new shopping centre which is slowly filling up with shops. Here you can find a complete range of stores, from clothing shops such as Zara to home furnishings (Muji) and cosmetic shops (Sephora).

Recommended Markets Yashow Market 雅秀

58 Gongti Bei Lu, Chaoyang District
朝阳区工体北路58号
This market is a favourite with tourists. Located next to Sanlitun Village, it stocks everything you will need. Be wary, however, as it is known to have over-the-top prices, so bargain hard to get a good deal.

Beijing Zoo Clothing Market 北京动物园服装批发市场

Xizhimenwai Dajie, Xicheng District
西城区西直门外大街
After visiting this market, you’ll probably agree that ‘zoo’ is the appropriate term for it, with stampedes of shoppers looking for bargains on women’s clothing. Price tags are rare, so come prepared to bargain. Despite these annoyances, Zoo Market is where the best deals on all kinds of clothes are found. If you’re in an aggressive and adventurous shopping mood, you’ll come out smiling from the deals you score.

Pearl Market (Hongqiao Market) 珍珠市场(虹桥市场)

Tiantan Dong Lu (next to Temple of Heaven), Chongwen District
崇文区天坛东路(天坛公园旁)
As the name suggests, this is the best place in Beijing to buy precious stones and jewellery. Ogling the precious stones on the third and fourth floors pleasures the senses. However,you’re more likely to actually buy something on the second floor, which is home to a large selection of bags, suitcases, silk items and shoes. The basement houses an interesting collection of foods. Be sure to bargain for everything.

Silk Market (Xiushui) 秀水市场

8 Xuishui Dongjie (www.xuishui.com.cn/english)
秀水东街8号
This is the most popular market in Beijing for tourists, and is a good place to purchase gifts. The indoor market has six floors of cheap, fake goods of varying degrees of quality. There are tailoring services and children’s clothes on the second floor.

Books

Quality English-language bookstores are few and far between, but there are a few that have a decent selection. The Foreign Language Bookstore on Wangfujing has six floors and probably the best travel section in Beijing. International magazines and newspapers are available at most five-star hotels, as well as at Beijing Bookworm and Chaterhouse Booktrader.

The Bookworm 老书虫

Building 4, Sanlitun Nan Lu, Chaoyang District
朝阳区三里屯南路4号楼
This is a great bookstore with lots of English books. It regularly gets the latest books from top authors. It also has its own library, which lends books, although membership is needed.

Wangfujing Foreign Languages bookstore

235 Wangfujing Dajie, Dongcheng District
东城区王府井大街235号
This is a huge store, over 5 floors. It has a range of books, from the latest novels and language books to textbooks and just about any other book you can think of.

Chaterhouse Booktrader 外文书店

B107 The Place, 9A Guanghua Lu, Chaoyang District
朝阳区光华路9号世贸天阶中心地库B107
(www.chaterhouse.com.cn)
Home to the largest selection of English-language books and imported magazines in Beijing, this is your best bet for novels or non-fiction, business guides or children’s books. Chaterhouse also sells cards and other stationery.

Xidan Books Building 西单图书大厦

C17 Xichangan Jie, Xicheng
西城区西长安街丙17号
This is a gigantic Chinese bookstore, although it has an English-language section in the basement that sells classics, travel guides, maps, cookbooks and new releases. If you’re learning Chinese, there are CDs and instructional books, as well as interactive learning software.

Electronics and home appliances

Beijingers are enthusiastic consumers of all kinds of electronic goods, and therefore quality products are available all over the city. Carrefour sells a good range of electronics and home appliances. The largest retailers are Dazhong, Gome (www.gome.com.cn) and Suning (www.suningshop.com). Prices at these large retailers are marked, but this is still Beijing, and you should bargain larger items down or try to get accessories thrown into the mix for free. For computers and related gadgets, try the electronic markets in the north of town around Zhongguancun, or just south of the Worker’s Stadium in Dongdaqiao. Both of these areas are home to dozens of specialty stores and shops. Bring your negotiating skills with you to these stores as well: the sticker price will always be too high. The Hailong Digital Market is the busiest in town, with several floors of computers, cameras, mp3 players and related software.

DVDs and music

Don’t even try to find a Virgin or HMV in Beijing: they don’t exist. Why? There are pirate DVD shops all over Beijing. If you have no moral qualms about it (and few do), you can pick up almost any popular Chinese or foreign film, TV series or music CD for about RMB8 per disc. Most established vendors also sell box sets of popular series and music CDs. Quality varies, and there are usually no returns. It’s best to try a few shops and stick with one that consistently sells quality discs. To find a decent outlet, just stroll around your neighbourhood – these places are nearly as common as dry cleaners.

Sporting goods

There are sporting stores in every mall. Adidas, Nike, Puma and Reebok are usually represented, as are the Chinese chains Anta (www.anta. com.cn) and Sports 100 (www.sports100.com.cn). However, since locals are more into dressing sporty than actually being sporty, you may be disappointed with the selection. For golf clubs, go to Beijing Honma Golf Service Store. For ice hockey gear, go to The Ice Zone (2nd Floor, River Garden Club, 7 Yujing Lu, Shunyi (www.icezonechina.com)). For most other sports equipment, go to the Sports Equipment Street in Tiyuguan Xi Lu in Chongwen District. It’s packed with small shops selling everything from basketballs to swords.

Toys and baby items

The one-child policy has led to a culture of child indulgence, so there’s a plethora of toy stores and stores specialising in children’s accessories. In Pinnacle Plaza, you can find Kids Plus and Jack Toys, which both sell creative gifts and costumes. T.O.T.S (The Original Toy Store), located along with many other toy stores in the China World Mall, sells Plan Toys (www.plantoys.com) that are supposed to help development. Playism (The Place Mall, Chaoyang) sells items for toddlers, as well as drivable little cars. The Warner Brothers Studio Store (Zhongguancun Mall, Haidian) is crammed with Bugs Bunnys, children’s clothing, videos and baby accessories.

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