The best places in Beijing to pick up trinkets, stroll through glistening white malls or find fine dining

Beijing's malls offer a firm contradiction to the country's communist leaning. Name brand stores from around the globe like Prada, Versace, Lamborghini and MiuMiu line the exterior of the malls, with advertising soaking up much of the structure's exterior. The irony is entirely lost on the locals, who dress to impress from head to toe in either real or fake Armani, Gucci and Dior. Still, if your in the market for fancy garb and accessories you've come to the right place.

Sanlitun Village is, perhaps, the most common meeting point in Beijing for expats and foreigners. You'll find a white wave at the mall, attracted by the dazzle of western cinema, restaurants that cater to the western palate and of course an active and vibrant nightlife scene. Nearby you'll find clubs, bars and entertainment of all sorts, making this one of the best places to hang out on a weekend evening.

But other malls cater to the locals, like the fancy Shin Kong Place, which boats designer gear and is the place to see and be seen for locals. You'll find men draped in cell phone cases escorting beautiful women as they spend their money. You'll find wealthy teens, trying on the latest fashions from Italy and France. And you'll find overpriced tea, furniture and clothing of all varieties.

There are also exciting fakes markets out there to browse, including the most famous called the Silk Market. You'll find knock-offs from every major brand and any popular designer and all at reasonable prices. Although you're expected to bargain hard if you want to get anywhere less than what you'd pay for the real deal.


Silk Market
Photo courtesy of Silk Market

One of the city's largest fakes markets, you'll find everything from fake Nike to Dior to a few authentic local items. Be prepared to bargain hard or get ripped off. Essentially, cut the asking price by half before you begin to consider an item. Be prepared for a loud, crazy environment but a fun shopping experience.

Local Expert tip: Bargain hard, this is no place for wimps!

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Jinmao Shopping Center
Photo courtesy of Xizhimen

The largest shopping mall in the west of the city, this mega center offers office buildings, school, clinics, restaurants, bars and nightclubs in addition to one of the larger collection of shops in the city. You'll find everything from lingerie to teddy bears, kindergartens to dental offices.

Local Expert tip: Located on one of the city's major subway hubs for line 2,4 and 13.

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The Gate City Mall
Photo courtesy of Malls

The three domed peaks of this mega shopping center is a landmark for the north-west corner of the city, and home to one of the western area's largest malls and office buildings. It's locate smack at the hub of three major subway lines, and is easily accessible from anywhere in the city. It boasts restaurants, schools, cafes, bars, nightlife and of course loads of shopping!

Local Expert tip: Take the subway, there are no places to park or hail a cab.

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Chao Yang District
Solana Mall
Photo courtesy of Solana Mall

Solana Mall boasts impressive dining, nightlife and strolling opportunities in addition to the wide swath of amazing shopping options like Zara, MotherCare and Nike. Dining options abound, but the real outdoor attractions are the bars, ColdStone and cafes.

Local Expert tip: For maternity and mother gear, this is the spot to go.

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Situated just east of the Forbidden City at the corner of Wangfujing Street is Asia's second largest shopping mall. Oriental Plaza is bright and spacious and offers fashion stores, jewelers, health and beauty outlets, a launderette, supermarket, coffee shops, restaurants, a Paleolithic museum, banks with exchange facilities and a 24-hour ATM. There's usually some kind of fashion show and IT/ electronics promotion going on, too.

Local Expert tip: Located in the heart of the city, the perfect stop off after the Forbidden City.

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Beijing Yintai Center
Photo courtesy of Yintai Center

The Yintai Center is located in the CBD (central business district) which makes it a prime place for the city's businessmen to congregate for drinks, dinner or a place to stroll. For shoppers, the place features designer gear, name-brand shops and a wide array of international options. One of the city's best clubs, XIU, is located in the building.

Local Expert tip: Try XIU club, in the Yintai Center, for a fun place to spend a weekend night.

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A Beijing landmark, the China World Trade Center, locally known simply as "Guomao," is an impressive modern shopping center where you can buy almost anything. Designer stores include Louis Vuitton, Celine, Prada, Gucci and Hermes. Banks with foreign exchange facilities and 24-hour ATMs, beauty salons, pharmacies, clinics, food courts and even an ice rink are all in here.

Local Expert tip: Take the subway, cabs in the area are a nightmare!

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The Great Flea Market of China � this is the place to get in among the crowds and haggle. Panjiayuan Market has over 3000 stalls, selling everything from Tibetan carpets to porcelain tea sets to medicinal herbs to pirated DVDs. It's especially busy at weekends, but certain zones, such as the Arts and Crafts Warehouse Zone are open only on Saturday and Sunday.

Local Expert tip: Best on weekends.

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Sanlitun Village
Photo courtesy of Sanlitun Village

Beijing's go-to shopping area for expats, westerners and tourists. The facility boasts international brands, a theaters, restaurants, bars and much more.

Local Expert tip: Beware the cab situation at night.

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The Place
Photo courtesy of The Place

The Place is one of Beijing's most fancy malls. You'll find all the high-end, designer brands here plus a tasty selection of restaurants, bars, cafes and clubs.

Local Expert tip: It's hard to get a cab away from here at night, so plan accordingly.

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Meet Lauren Johnson

Lauren has been living in Asia for the past five years. She holds a master's degree in Asian history. Lauren spends her free time reading, writing and traveling and visiting zoos in every city possible.