Beijing Shopping

Shopping is an integral part of any trip to Beijing. Between the hutongs, the markets, the malls, and the shopping streets, it sometimes seems like you can buy anything here.

Large markets and malls are the lifeblood of Beijing, and they're generally open from 9 am to 9 pm, though hours vary from shop to shop. If a stall looks closed (perhaps the lights are out or the owner is resting), don't

give up. Many merchants conserve electricity or take catnaps when business is slack. Just knock or offer the greeting "ni hao" and, more often than not, the lights will flip on and you'll be invited to come in. Shops in malls have more regular hours and will only be closed on a few occasions throughout the year, such as Chunjie (Chinese New Year) and October’s National Day Golden Week.

Major credit cards are accepted in pricier venues but cash is the driving force here. ATMs abound, however it’s worth noting that before accepting any Mao-faced Y100 notes, most vendors will hold them up to the light, tug at the corners, and rub their fingers along the surface. Counterfeiting is becoming increasingly sophisticated in China, and banks are reluctant to accept responsibility for ATMs that dispense fake notes.

The official currency unit of China is the yuan or renminbi (literally, "the people's currency"). Informally, though, the main unit of currency is called kuai (using "kuai" is the equivalent of saying a "buck" in the United States). On price tags, renminbi is usually written in its abbreviated form, RMB, and yuan is abbreviated as ¥. 1 RMB = 1 Renminbi = 1 Yuan = 1 Kuai = 10 Jiao = 10 Mao = 100 Fen

If you're looking to bargain, head to the markets; Western-style shops generally go by the price tags. Stalls frequented by foreigners often have at least one employee with some degree of fluency in English. In many situations—whether or not there’s a common tongue—the shop assistant will whip out a calculator, look at you to see what they think you'll cough up, then type in a starting price. You're then expected to punch in your offer (start at one third of their valuation). The clerk will usually come down a surprisingly large amount, and so on and so on. A good tip to note is that there's a common superstition in Chinese markets that if you don't make a sale with your first customer of the day, the rest of the day will go badly—so set out early, and if you know you're the first customer of the day, bargain relentlessly.

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Beijing Shopping

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The Bookworm

  • Books/Stationery

Thousands of English-language books fill the shelves at this pleasant café in the heart of Sanlitun. Read for free over a coffee or...

The Place

  • Department Stores

Shopping-wise you'll find all the usual suspects here—Zara, JNBY, et al—even if a lack of good dining spots ensures that you won't...

The Red Phoenix

  • Clothing

In this cramped-but-charming Sanlitun showroom, the fashion diva Gu Lin designs embroidered satin qipaos, cropped jackets, and men's...

Three Stones Kite Store

  • Toys

For something more traditional, go fly a kite. Here, for three generations, the same family has hand-painted butterflies and birds onto...


  • Local Specialties

A first-time consultation with a Chinese doctor can feel a bit like a reading with a fortune-teller. With one test of the pulse, many...

UCCA Store

  • Household Items/Furniture

The 798 Art District is home to a burgeoning collection of housewares, fashion, and design shops. The most innovative of these is an...


  • Clothing

The gorgeous scarves displayed in the windows here lure in passersby with their bright colors and luxurious fabrics. In contrast to those...

Yashow Market

  • Outdoor/Flea/Green Markets

Especially popular among younger Western shoppers, Yashow is yet another indoor arena stuffed to the gills with low-quality knockoff...

Zhongguancun Electronics City

  • Cameras/Electronics

There's little in the world of IT and electronics that can't be found in Hailong, Dinghao, and the other multistory malls around the...

Zi'an Print & Graphics

  • Antiques/Collectibles

Exquisite Chinese and European prints (from Y50) decorate the shelves of this adorable little store on Fangjia Hutong. Owner Zi'an is...


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