Wangfujing: Beijing’s Orchard Road

Wangfujing Road has hundreds of luxurious shops but nobody has any money! It is one of those anomalies where the locals don’t earn enough to do anything but window shop, yet tourists come to China with no intention of doing anything but shopping in the same global brand flagship stores that they can find anywhere on the planet!

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Looking back down the Street
Looking back down the Street

I have only visited Wangfujing on one occasion – on a cold February lunchtime – and boy was it cold! Coming to Beijing in the winter is probably not the best idea, but when you’re constantly travelling like I am then you don’t always have the choice! Compared to the tropics where everybody is clad in shorts and t-shirts, here in Beijing, at least during winter, the shoppers usually are dressed in long coats and scarves.

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Aside from the much cooler northern hemisphere weather, Wangfujing Road has much in common with Orchard Road in Singapore. While Orchard is not totally pedestrianized, it nevertheless has far more people than vehicles at all times of the day, and the tourists who flock to both Orchard and Wangfujing are seemingly serious about their shopping! There’s not much window-shopping that goes on around here (unless you’re a local, of course).

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The northern aspect of Wangfujing Road is open to cars and taxis, and the noise pollution that this causes ruins the enjoyment of shopping for me, but it is still a great experience to walk down this famous retail boulevard and check out the international and local brands on show beside each other. There’s a great range of outlets here, selling everything from luxury watches and jewellery to kids’ toys and, of course, food!

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Regarding food, Wangfujing is also known for its night market. Operating until the early hours of the morning, this night market is a prime tourist hotspot, and there are of course the usual items on sale here such as fabrics and souvenirs (all much cheaper than you can find in those luxury jewellery shops during the day) but it was certainly the food I was most interested in, and I bought a few lamb skewers, known locally as chaun. More infamously, this night market at Wangfujing contains creepy crawlies on sticks, such as scorpions and baby birds, and yet again, tourists are hooked…

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