One of the most famous markets in China is the Panjiayuan Flea Market. Boasting over 3,000 dealers and upwards of 50,000 visitors a day, it is certainly worthy of its reputation as the shopping destination in Bejing, for locals and tourists alike. It is open year round, with open and covered areas, so can be enjoyed in all weathers every day. Not all stalls are open through the week though, so the best and most vibrant experience is had on weekends.
Panjiayuan Flea Market is definitely not for the faint-hearted, or for those who do not enjoy crowds or driving a hard bargain when shopping. With so many shoppers and vendors around, it has a certain aura of chaos to it! Panjiayuan Flea Market used to be called ‘the dirt market’ as historically peasants would lay down items for sale that they had literally dug up the day before and attempt to make a meager living. These days the dirt has mostly gone, but the crowds remain and the popularity of the location keeps increasing!
It is challenging (to say the least) to find genuine, high quality antiques at the Panjiayuan Flea Market. If the right person is known, it is always possible, but the vast majority of things for sale here are Chinese oddities, knock-off and replica goods and a good deal of general tat. There is literally everything from cigarette advertisement posters to Buddhas, beads to miniature tea-pots, Qing dynasty style (knock-off) furniture to calligraphy. Every seller is definitely expecting to be bargained with, so be ready to engage to the point of walking away if necessary – perhaps GPS mark the location of the vendor though for a returning negotiation.
Panjiayuan Flea Market is a little off the well-known tourist paths but from the subway station it is easy to find. A few hours should be set aside to walk around this astounding market and it is certainly impossible to leave empty handed.