Want to increase your specs appeal? Head to the glasses market

New shades and frames at bargain prices at Panjiayuan Glasses City

There’s a lot to see in Beijing, and if you’re not viewing it all in 20/20 you’re just not doing it right. Thankfully, Panjiayuan Glasses City is overflowing with all the sight-related gear a myopic could need, and all at bargain prices.


Located just north of the Panjiayuan Line 10 station, Glasses City is not a misnomer. The surrounding area has multiple eyeglass warehouses and independent shops, however you’ll know you’ve arrived at the mothership when you see a storey-tall pair of frames emblazoned on the front of the building. Inside, four floors sell everyday frames, contact lenses and sunnies.

Quality ranges from stall to stall with many stocking the same goods, but there truly is something for everyone: trendy wire frames, bookish tortoiseshell sets, acrylic of all colours, snowsports goggles, frames for kids and the over-thetop sets you didn’t even know you needed. For a brandless acrylic pair, we are first offered 300RMB. Bargaining is par for the course and, after shopping around, we’re able to get the cost down to 260RMB, which includes a very lax but cheerful eye exam. If you have a pair of glasses already, bringing those along on the day is helpful for measuring prescriptions.


The market is quiet on a weekday afternoon and the entire process, from a basic eye exam to having lenses cut, takes a speedy 30 minutes. At a second-floor sunglasses stall, we pick out a kooky knockoff ‘House of Holland’ polka-dot set and a pink and green marble pair of ‘Gentle Monster’ frames.

With a bit of bargaining, we settle on 200RMB for each pair. Buying more than one can help bring the cost per pair down, so bring a friend along (or just buy two for yourself because chances are you’ll lose a pair a couple of days after buying them anyway). These frames are likely not authentic but feel high quality overall and we’re told have UV protection.

Shop number 323 stocks contact lenses and solution, and offers imported brands like Acuvue (198RMB for 30) and CooperVision (218RMB for 30); this is cheaper than most optometrists around town but still more expensive than Taobao. The top floor also stocks the most expensive and over-the-top styles. Shop 411 is worth a visit for a pair of costumey frames or just for a laugh. Gather your four-eyed friends and make for the market soon – Glasses City staff tell us that, like many markets around town, there are whispers of a shutdown in 2018.

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  • 4 out of 5 stars