Local markets in Beijing are a great place to fully supply your home and kitchen (not to mention toys and activities for the kids). The best part is you’ll pay a fraction of the cost of a real store if you bargain.
I normally go to the Tianzuo market across from the Friendship Hotel where we live. But we recently visited the Jin Wu Xing (Golden Five Stars) market, a huge sprawling one-floor market that’s been described as having “everything including the kitchen sink” … It’s near the light rail at Sidaokou and slightly off the main road below the highway. You could spend a whole day here, and that’s not to even mention the huge outdoor food market.
Markets can be a great place for buying gifts and souvenir. We spent a good hour at Jin Wu Xing looking for silk Chinese-style tablecloths for my mom to take back to the US at wedding presents, only finding tissue box covers and small purses and such. Finally explaining to a vendor of embroidered tablecloths that we were also looking for placemat sets, he pulled some out, thus saving a trip somewhere else for my exhausted mom.
Nevertheless in our happiness to get some and get out of there we paid way too much. My mom thought 80 yuan ($12) for a set of four with chopsticks was a good deal when in fact we found out later that a set of six could be purchased online at taobao.com for about 20 yuan.
Another popular local market I have yet to visit is the Tianyi at Fuchengmen. This reportedly has an even larger variety. Also on my list is the popular Zoo Market across and behind a ways from the Zoo.
Now, when looking for Chinese-style gifts to take back home, such as silk tablecloths, your best bet is still the tourist traps, like the Silk Street Market (Xiushui Jie) at Jianguomen or Yashow Market near the bar area of Sanlitun, or the Pearl Market (Hongqiao). Just make sure you bargain heavily and be prepared to walk away.