Like many international cities, Beijing has blossomed into a shopping paradise for locals and tourists.
Shopping on weekends or major holidays can be a mixed blessing. On the plus side, business owners and vendors might give discounts to customers to drum up sales, but you will soon find yourself cheek-by-jowl in a flock of treasure-hunting shoppers.
International tourists may feel at home in this strange city when they see familiar international brands in sparkling Western-style shopping malls, such as those of Wangfujing Street, the Village at Sanlitun, and Qianmen and Jianguo-menwai streets.
For those on limited budgets, there are various private stores and markets in Beijing that offer everything from local folk arts and crafts to fashion knockoffs and other miscellaneous knickknacks. Visitors can better explore Beijing's culture in these areas, where prices will be much lower.
In addition, one of the perks of shopping in those private stores is that prices are not carved in stone: You can always bargain. It's advisable to do a little online research on the things you want to purchase before going, so you won't be taken for a ride.
The charm of shopping in Beijing all boils down to the sheer volume of available goods that can satisfy the most finicky sense of taste.
If you have something in mind, finding the right place will enable you to get what you want with great efficiency. Otherwise, you might get lost in the labyrinth of shopping venues.
Here are some of the most distinctive shopping sites for visitors in Beijing:
This market has a lot more to offer than just silk. It has become a folk trade centre for foreign tourists in Beijing after more than 30 years of development. You can find silk products, designer clothes, jewelry, pearls, Chinese crafts and cosmetics here. Famous politicians and their families, as well as sports and entertainment celebrities have shopped for silk products, imperial robes and other goodies here, including France's former president Jacques Chirac, and former US president George H.W. Bush and his daughter Dorothy. The place offers price-bargaining and a treasure-hunting experience. Most owners here can speak some English.
It's best to come on Thursdays and Fridays when owners replenish their stock. If you buy clothes, remember to try them on to get the right size. (Chinese sizes are smaller than their Western equivalents.)
Play hard-to-get, and don't show too much interest in the things you want to purchase, or you will lose your bargaining power. Some people manage to get things at one-fifth or onesixth of their original prices.
Location: No 8 Xiushui Street, Chao-yang district.
This area is famous for its Korean elements, partly because many students from the Republic of Korea study at the nearby Beijing Language and Culture University.
The garment market there features small and stylish boutiques frequented by many foreign students.
Tourists can spend hours here fishing out casual and trendy T-shirts, jeans, skirts and accessories with Korean style at prices generally lower than other Korean-style shopping malls, such as the one in Xi'dan. Manicure services, artworks, office supplies and local food are also available. There's also room for bargaining here.
Location: No 38, Xueqing Road, Haidian district.
This alley is filled with boutiques, cafes, bars and souvenir shops. It's one of the best-preserved historical sites in downtown Beijing.
Known for its hutong alleys and courtyards, Nanluoguxiang runs more than 700 meters from south to north and has 16 hutong branching off the central lane. Visitors can pick up silk products, handicrafts designed by local artists, and trendy T-shirts.
Location: Nanluoguxiang, Dongcheng district.
Long referred to as Beijing's "Russian town", Yabaolu features many Russian clothing shops.
Visitors may feel like they are walking on a commercial street in Moscow, with signs and advertisements in Russian everywhere. Russian publications and food are available, the language is widely spoken on the street, and most Chinese business owners can speak at least some Russian.
Every year, thousands of businessmen from Russia, Eastern Europe, Africa and Arab countries purchase furs here. It's a good place to buy clothing in larger sizes.
Location: Yabaolu, Chaoyang district.