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Sanlitun |© SPLCorp / WikiCommons
Sanlitun |© SPLCorp / WikiCommons

The Savvy Shoppers' Guide to China's Malls, Stalls and Stores

Picture of Yufan Lu
Updated: 21 September 2017

While shopping freely for anything you desire was still unimaginable some 40 years ago in China, Beijing has gone through tremendous changes that nowadays mean you can buy almost anything in the city, from the world’s top-notch luxury brands to its local specialties. While the range of merchandise offered by different malls and stores varies, this guide will hopefully save you some effort whether you are seriously shopping or just window-shopping in Beijing.

If you are looking for high street fashion brands like H&M and Zara, then blocks like Sanlitun, Chaoyangmen or The Place between Dongdaqiao and Yong’anli subway stations are your best choice. There, you may find clans of shopping malls where you can shop for clothes and daily necessities, as well as making your stomach happy with cuisine both from inside and outside China. For most people, it’s easy to spend a day there without getting bored.

If you are a person who likes novel and unique stuff, then you will love the Gulou area. With vintage clothing stores dotting the Gulou East Street, you may find one-of-a-kind items if you’re an expert or very lucky. Crossed with the Gulou East Street is the famous, always crowded Nanluoguxiang, where shoppers can buy some Chinese-style souvenirs such as hand-made fans and beautifully crafted ocarinas, while having the opportunity to try the food-of-the-alley, Wenyu Cheese.

The Parkview Green in Beijing | © Courtesy of the Parkview Green

It’s pretty rare for anyone to shop for luxury brands in Beijing though, because, well, who hasn’t heard of the stories of crazy Chinese shoppers throwing money at Chanel and Burberry in Europe? But if you are in need of this, the SKP above the Dawanglu subway station and the Parkview Green a few steps away from The Place will not let you down.

The Parkview Green is especially favored by art lovers – only by the sight of the sculptures of half-naked anthropomorphized pig ladies that squint at visitors in the middle of the revolving doors, you can get an idea of how the place is dedicated to avant-garde art.

Of course, if you are a saver and tend to weigh price over the hassle of shopping, you always have the last resort – Taobao. There you may easily find daigous who purchase stuff on your behalf from overseas – Japan, the United States, Australia, Thailand … you name it. But in this case you’ll need to be extra careful to not be conned by fraudsters who sell fake products.