The Hongqiao Pearl Market is one of the largest markets in Beijing, with eight floors packed full of small stalls and boutiques. It is not only a place for buying pearls and jewellery however – the first four floors actually host seafood stalls, followed by a floor of digital products, another of silk and clothing items, and finally three floors of pearls and jewellery.
There are options for every budget – from knock-off clothing to traditional Chinese silk gowns, simple bracelets to giant seawater pearls. However, you will need to bargain hard and keep an eye out for fakes.
Opening hours: 9:30 – 19:00
Transport: take metro line 5 to Tiantan East Gate (天坛东门 – exit A2). Walk north for two minutes and the market will be located across the road on your right.
Pearls – scrape with a sharp knife, genuine pearls will release white pearly powder, fakes will reveal the underlying plastic bead.
Silk – burn a thread (not the whole thing!), if it’s genuine silk it should give off white smoke and leave behind a black, powdery ash.
Bargaining is something many tourists feel uncomfortable with – and stallholders definitely take advantage of this! Here are our top tips to nab the best bargains:
- Keep an eye out for where the locals are shopping and don’t just jump to the first stall you see – there are a hundred others selling the same stuff further in.
- Always keep in mind what price you would be actually willing to pay. Don’t get carried away in the excitement and end up paying over the odds for some small trinket you didn’t want in the first place.
- Start at around a quarter of the original asking price, and go up in SMALL increments from there.
- If you’re not getting anywhere, walk away – chances are the stallholder will call you back with a deal!
- Don’t act too enthusiastic – trying on clothes, big smiles, etc. all imply you’re willing to pay. Feel free to frown a bit, look doubtful about the quality, mention you can get it for much cheaper on Taobao (Chinese Ebay), etc.
- Remember that getting refunds is almost impossible – make sure you are 100% happy with your purchase before handing over any money. For large purchases, ask for an official receipt.