As the center of China, Beijing certainly sees some of the best foods from all Chinese cuisines. But dining in restaurants often means that you can only try one kind of cuisine at a time, while eating at food markets is much more inclusive. Below are the eight fantastic food markets in Beijing for you to taste the best food in the easiest way.
Wangfujing Snack Street
Located south to the Haoyou Shijie Shopping Mall on the Wangfujing Shopping Street, the Wangfujing Snack Street is simple to recognize with its ancient Chinese style gateway. The street covers over 2,000 square meters and offers some 500 snacks from all over China. You can also find the time-honored brands of traditional Beijing snacks, like Baodu Feng (specializing in quick-fried rripe) and Doufunao Bai (specializing in jellied bean curd), on the street. This is a place that you can effortlessly spend your whole day and never home.
There’s an old saying that goes: “The best snacks in Beijing are in Xuanwu District; while the best snacks in Xuanwu District are in Niujie.” Beijing’s famous neighborhood of Hui, the largest concentration of Muslim people, the Niujie area has the best halal food in town. The Niujie Muslim Market is oozing with time-honored Beijing snacks; not far from the market you’ll find the city’s best traditional Beijing copper hotpot restaurants. While in Niujie, don’t leave without trying the mutton hotpot and the sesame seed buns in Jubaoyuan — it’s so popular that both of its branches on Niujie always have long lines during rush hour.
With Beijing’s first-ever 24-hour restaurant opening on the Ghost Street in the 1980s, the street is among the first to contribute to Beijing’s booming nightlife. Many restaurants have closed through the years, all chasing the same trendy dishes, which is why the Ghost Street is now more known as “the Street of Spicy Crayfish.” There are still a few restaurants that hold on to their traditional style, like the Yu Jia Xiao Yuan that specializes in Grilled Pig Trotters and the Lanxi Restaurant that focuses on cuisines from South of the Yangtze River.
If you are new to Beijing, desperate to try the local food but have no idea of where to go, then hesitate no more. Dashilar would be your place to go. Located in the center of the Qianmen area, Dashilar is a chessboard of hutong alleys dotted with the most prestigious, old Beijing restaurants like Quanjude Peking Roast Duck restaurant, Duyichu Steamed Dumplings restaurant and even Tianjin’s Goubuli Buns. After finishing your meal with a full stomach, you can then take a stroll in one of the most traditional neighborhoods of Beijing and buy some local snacks there as souvenir.
If you prefer cooking at home rather than dining out, then Sanyuanli Market, the market of all markets in Beijing, is the place you can buy all your ingredients, and all top quality. Due to its proximity to the Embassy region in Beijing, you may find fresh meat, vegetables and seasonings from all over the world. The market is the supplier to some family-run western restaurants and is the place where expats go to feed their fridges.
First opened to the public in 1902 and successively run by French and Japanese people, the Dongdan Market used to be “the Sanyuanli Market in the first half of 20th Century,” and had an English name “East Market.” It was regained by the Chinese government and renamed “Dongdan Market” in the early 1950s. The shops and breakfast stalls alternately line up in the market, so that people could take rest and have some food if they feel tired from the morning shopping. The original Dongdan Market was pulled down in 1997, and the new Dongdan Market has reopened on Hepingli West Street, where you can find ingredient shops and time-honored Beijing snack brands.
A whole building of over 3,000 kinds of tea leaves from 16 provinces in China, plus teapots, tea tables and everything related to tea ceremony — you can find it nowhere other than Maliandao. Here, you can try out the basic Chinese tea rituals under the instruction of tea masters or bring home some of the top-quality Da Hong Pao oolong tea leaves or old Beijing’s favorite jasmine tea. The Maliandao Tea City is heaven for tea lovers and tea experts, though it might be a bit unfriendly for newbies, who are more inclined to enjoy themselves at locales like Wuyutai or Zhangyiyuan.
Wait, isn’t it a list of food markets? Yes…but don’t you know that beers are brewed from cereal grains? The Sanlitun Bar Street is full of the “liquid bread” from around the world, along with performances by Chinese singers and pole dancers to go with your “meals.” If you feel like going somewhere with more private space, then Jing-A Taproom just a few hundred meters away in the 1949 Hidden City will make sure of you find it, all while providing the best beers brewed local.