Merchandise in fancy malls and shops glow under artificial lights with a “brand new” smell, but antique lovers know how boring that is. If you are obsessed with goods passed down from hand to hand, either because of their exquisite designs, their smell of history; or you simply like to own things that are unique, this list of antique shops and markets in Beijing is for you.
Gulou Dongdajie (Gulou East Street)
Now you know where to buy antique furniture and Chinese cultural artefacts, but if you are aiming at vintage clothes (and even antique clothes), Gulou Dongdajie makes sure that you go in with a bulging wallet and leave with an empty one. On the street there is Beijing’s most time-honored vintage brands Mega Vintage and Underground Kidz, as well as the new generation brands like Vintage Caravan. If you feel tired from shopping and need a rest, there are also tons of good restaurants and cafés nearby.
Panjiayuan Antique Market
There’s no one in Beijing who doesn’t know the Panjiayuan Antique Market. The old saying goes: “Three must-dos for travellers to Beijing: climb the Great Wall; eat Peking Duck; and visit the Panjiayuan Antique Market.” Indeed, the market spanning 48,500 square metres is the biggest and most famous antique market in China. Shop for cultural artefacts, calligraphic and painting treasures, china, wooden furniture, and even katydids. With its first batch of antique dealers setting up shop in 1992, where it wasn’t much at all. Panjiayuan used to be known as “Ghost Market” because the transactions were mostly carried out at night in order to hide from city inspectors. Though the market is legal nowadays, it still keeps this “Ghost Market” ritual by opening at 4am over the weekend. While in the past there used to be a comparatively high possibility to find genuine antiques in the market, it is now very rare and requires the eyes of a true expert.
Named after the coloured glaze factory that produced tiles for palaces and residences of Ming Dynasty officials in the area, Liulichang has been the cultural centre of downtown Beijing for centuries. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was the gathering place for China’s scholars, calligraphers and painters to produce works and purchase books and tools. The literary master Lu Xun had visited Liulichang for over four hundred times during his two-year stay in Beijing in the 1920s. Nowadays, Liulichang is a street where you can buy Chinese calligraphy and paintings while appreciating the architecture of traditional Chinese stone houses.
Baoguosi Culture Market
What makes Baoguosi Culture Market different from other antique markets? Baoguosi is situated in a Buddhist temple. Constructed in the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125 C.E.), it was adapted into a book bazaar around the end of the Ming Dynasty. It was once the most famous book market in town, and now has become the trading centre of old books, coins, stamps, and small Buddhist statues.
Jinzhan Antique Furniture Market
If you are into antique Chinese furniture, then the Jinzhan Antique Furniture Market in the northeast suburb of Beijing should be your go-to. The market is in a large warehouse, and due to its far-off location there are not as many visitors, which is good for those who are tired of fending off the crowds.
Gaobeidian Classical Furniture Street
Gaobeidian Classical Furniture Street is the Holy Grail of all antique furniture stores. The antique furniture sold here has all undergone renovation and are amazing quality. There’s a particularly fancy showroom on the second floor where you can find plenty of stylish furniture from Old Shanghai, and you should feel lucky if you can buy them with a few thousand RMB yuan.
Shuangqiao Antique Market
Though it is widely known as Shuangqiao Antique Market, its official name is actually Antique Furniture Another Street. The market is brimming with antiques and furniture purchased from the countryside, which is why the whole place has a paired-back character. The market is popular with interior design professionals and is perfect for those who fancy a tint of nature in their home.