Beijing's best markets

Six shops for finding everything from glasses to flowers

Beijing Farmers’  Market

Beijing Farmers’ Market

The Farmers’ Market has local, organic produce and warm community vibes. Started in 2010 by an expat couple, the market has since grown exponentially, with up to 40 vendors selling everything from everyday garden greens to organic honey, jams, juices and lip-smacking rice wine. 

Getting the Government-approved organic seal is often too pricey for smaller farmers – one product can cost 900RMB to be certified, says Gary Zhang, a market employee, so this floating bazaar brings together small-time farmers from the outskirts of Beijing who are dedicated to growing nutritious, pesticide-free produce and hormone-free meat. 

You can rest assured that the food here is genuinely organic: vendors undergo a vigorous inspection process by organisers over a one year period before being given the green light to showcase their goods.

Don’t fear the ugly tomatoes with wormholes, it’s a sure sign that they weren’t sprayed with toxic chemicals but instead given the utmost TLC by your farmer (and little farm critters). Look out for cheeses from Le Fromager de Pekin, bread from Boulangerie Nanda and fruity rice wine from Mijiu Xiansheng.

ATM The markets are often located in central areas such as Nali Patio in Sanlitun, so there’s always an ATM nearby. Vendors accept cash only. 

Get there The location changes all the time. Starting in November, the market will move indoors. Follow the Facebook page ‘Beijing Farmers Market’ for updates.

The market recently opened a stall in Sanyuanqiao called Jishi (‘community market’). Jishi N33 Fenghuangshangjie Sanyuanqiao, Chaoyang district. Open 10am-9pm daily (5742 8210). 朝阳区三元桥凤凰商街

Furniture Market

Furniture Market

Located in the industrial heartland of Chaoyang, a dusty enclave called Gaobeidian Folk Culture Street is Beijing’s premier furniture market and a treasure trove of Chinese antiques, mixed with art deco housewares. 

Specialising in Qing and Ming dynasty-era wood furniture, the best feature of this market – which spans more than 90,000 square metres – is getting something custom-made. Always dreamed of having a 20-seat elm dining table carved to your design? This is the place to get it done. Prices vary between shops so bargain and bargain hard. From our research, you can get yourself a six-seater dining table for 4,000-7,000RMB depending on the materials you choose. Qing-style cabinets cost anywhere from 2,500-5,000RMB, priced according to the quality of the wood. 

Custom builds generally take around a month. The market also offers an array of gorgeous pillows, lamps, vases, dining sets and sofas from China and across Southeast Asia. 

Show me something nice Lily’s Antiques (69 Gaobeidian Dong Dajie) is a stalwart in the neighbourhood, offering three floors of beautiful household goodies – both old and new. Bliss, a brand offered by Spanish designer Carlos Baladia, brings Qing dynasty-inspired furnishings to life with a European minimalist touch. And the pretty pillows by local brand Tu Textiles will spice up any living room. A stone’s throw from Lily’s is Huajinfang (store number 58), a cute shop selling colourful, Asian-inspired pillows and poufs. Further down is Yuansheng (store number 89), which does imitation Ming and Qing dynasty cabinets for a relatively affordable 2,500RMB. 

ATM 100 metres from Lily’s store is an ATM, but many shops take Union Pay and major credit cards.

Get there Take subway Batong Line 1 to Gaobeidian Station (Exit B). The market is a 15-minute walk from there. 

Gaobeidian Folk Culture Street Gaobeidian Dajie, Chaoyang district (8576 1701). Open 8.30am-6pm daily. 高碑店古典家具市场, 朝阳区高碑店村551号

Lai Tai Flower Market

Lai Tai Flower Market

Lai Tai is a botanist’s dream. Walk past the stonking elephant statues and get ready to be showered with orchids, roses and magnolias. In fact, you can find just about any type of flora and fauna imaginable. Flowers are relatively cheap and you can get a small bouquet of roses, including a chic vase, for 30RMB. On the sidelines of the warehouse-like set-up are pet stalls selling goldfish, rabbits and parrots, but you’ll also find unrelated goods such as kitchen accessories and jewellery shops. 

Show me something nice Orchids (starting at 10RMB per stem). Almost all the stalls sell them in a variety of colours ranging from silken white to fuchsia. They look absolutely stunning when you bundle them together and have them arranged in a low, oval-shaped vase. 

ATM Right by the entrance. 

Get there Take subway Line 10 to Liangmaqiao, walk south for ten minutes. 

Lai Tai Flower Market 9 Maizidian Xi Lu, Chaoyang district (6463 5588; Open 9am-5.30pm Mon-Thu; 9am- 6pm Fri-Sun. 朝阳区麦子店西路9号

Zoo Market

Zoo Market

This market may be so called because of its proximity to Beijing Zoo, but it could just as easily be named after the manic atmosphere. The place is constantly buzzing with sales girls chirping about their wears and modelling them on little stools for buyers to visualise. Not to mention the brutish buyers elbowing each other as they prowl for bargains. 

Focusing on trendy styles from South Korea, you’re bound to find fashionable apparel on the cheap, including girly dresses and Chanel-esque blazers (from 20-300RMB). 

The Government is trying to banish markets from Beijing by 2016, so go while you can and keep your spatial wits about you: the Zoo Market is made up of giant multi-storey buildings. Originally there were seven but the majority have now been demolished. Thankfully two buildings – Shiji Tianle (世纪天乐) and the 20-storey Korea City (韩国城) – remain. The latter is full of accessories and futuristic apparel designed to fit ‘Western sizes’. 

Show me something nice The vendor at 1-29 in Korea City sells punky studded black wool shirts that we love. In Shiji Tianle, shop Xie Hou Xi (fourth floor, Tower B, 012-016) has lovely floral dresses and coats.

ATM There are several by the entrance. 

Get there Take subway Line 4 to Beijing Zoo Station (Exit D) and cross the street.

Zoo Market Xizhimenwai Dajie, Xicheng district (8837-8056) Open 9am-4.30pm daily. 西城区西直门外大街动物园服装批发市场

Muxiyuan Fabric Market

Muxiyuan Fabric Market

Unlike most other markets, Muxiyuan is a quiet, sleepy, wholesale operation where vendors allow you to peruse in silence, but at the same time are happy to help you with your queries. There’s no haranguing or persuasion. Seriously – we’re not kidding!

It’s a bit of a maze so be sure to block out several hours as it takes time to get there and walk around the stalls. You can find all kinds of fabrics: readymade cotton for shirts and beddings, real and faux fur, raw silks, buttons, zips, ribbons, lace and eye-catching materials for crafts. The market is a great place to grab material to take to the tailors. Remember, you need about two metres for shirts and dresses and three metres for longer pieces such as a coat or qipao. It’s best to bring your measurements with you – the shop owners will advise you accordingly. 

Show me something nice Guangzhou Rifusheng Shiye (20-21 of Line 6, south side) is a fabulous find that sells jazzy jewels, bags of sequins (25RMB), rolls of lace (3RMB per metre) and all the trimmings you can imagine. The market also has a strip that only sells fur. The morally questionable material just hangs there at the storefronts. But at prices this cheap – fox fur shrugs for 350RMB and trims from 15RMB – can you afford morals? 

ATM If there were any, they were hidden well. Bring cash to be safe. 

Get there Take subway Line 10 to Dahongmen Station (Exit C2). From there, you’ll need to take a short cab ride (20RMB).

Zhongrenzhong Market 1 Haihuisi Lu, Fengtai district (6721 7462). Open 8am-5pm daily. 丰台区大红门海辉寺路1号众人众市场

Glasses Market

Glasses Market

Thirty minutes. That’s how long it takes to get a new pair of specs made at the Glasses Market, your one-stop shop for eyewear. The market is actually made up of two major complexes (Ming Jing Yuan and International Glasses City), which are connected by a pedestrian bridge near Panjiayuan Antique Market (aka ‘Dirt Market’). This optical paradise even offers eye exams on the spot (10RMB), conveniently centralising the consumer experience. 

We prefer the newer looking Glasses City as it’s less gloomy and offers funkier selections. It’s difficult to leave with just one pair; the multi-level malls offer a ridiculous range of glasses, from everyday reading specs to polarised shades, contact lenses (regular and coloured) and swimming and ski goggles. We found ‘Ray Ban’ glasses for 250RMB and Chinese brand Helen Keller (we’re not joking) for around the same price. There’s always a discount, so never pay the asking price. We overheard someone bargain down her frames from 600 to 200RMB, so haggle away! The cheapest pair of no-name frames we found were listed at 80RMB. 

Show me something nice On the third floor of Glasses City, a Korean optic shop (CC-51) sells funky, futuristic specs. They also sell coloured contacts for 150RMB. On the top floor is a contact shop that sells imported lenses from Johnson & Johnson (40RMB for a pair of 30-day sets) and Bausch and Lomb (90RMB for a six-month supply). ATM There are plenty on the ground floor. 

Get there Take subway Line 10 and get off at Panjiayuan Station (Exit A). 

International Glasses City Dongsanhuan Nan Lu, Chaoyang district (no tel). Open 8.30am-5pm daily. 朝阳区东三环南路国际眼镜大厦

Ming Jing Yuan Glasses Market 43 Huawei Beili, Chaoyang district (no tel). Open 8.30am-5pm daily. 朝阳区华威北里43号名镜苑眼镜城

  • 4 out of 5 stars