The liveliest street of Beijing is also the most commercial one. That means that, instead of one hour we would need… one week (or several...).
In its beginning there are looooots of shops.
Well… maybe not lots of them, but biiiiig shops anyway.
All right, they were no so big, but they were veeeeeery interesting.
OK, OK! They may not be so interesting, but they were there, you know!
Please, Fernanda, let me have at least a glance of the street.
Wait! I still miss 5 blouses, two pants, 3 pairs of shoes, 2 bracelets… I think I’m missing something, I'd better start over again!
Don’t worry. In Portugal I will see the details in Banu’s photos.
I love street vendors. I did not know about this area until I took a taxi to my hotel one night and drove past this line of vendors. To focus on the exotic or should I say the nightmarish, these vendors had plenty of little critters to sample. Both from land and sea. An amazing assortment of scorpions, tarantula's, snake, worms, centipedes, starfish, octopus and on and on.
So if insects and the like are your food of choice or if you just want to eat something really different, this is the place to go. I couldn't bring myself to try any of these. I am sure if I was with friends I would have gone for it. I spoke to several of the vendors to get an idea of what the scorpions and tarantulas taste like. All I can get from one is that it taste like chicken and he laughed. There were definitely more tourist here than locals.
Wangfujing Street is the famous shopping street for the locals and tourists. Not only they have big department stores (Chinese Styles), but also have a food street that sell Beijing snacks including bugs and insects with four feets. A lot of the Chinese tourists like to eat to bugs and insects, I could not understand why? I found it strange, and I did not dear to try them. Other than that, this would be a great place to get inexpensive souvenirs.
If you are looking for branded goods, shop at nearby " Oriental's Square".
This is Beijing's version of Orchard Road in Singapore or Nanjing Road in Shanghai.
In Chinese: 王府井 (Wong Fu Jing)
Wangfujing Street is very close to Tiananmen Square and it is closed to traffic in evening hours. You can find shopping malls, shops and restaurants on the street. There is also a snack street and night market close to this street. It is busy during day and night. You can take the metro to reach Wangfujing easily.
One of the markets we wanted to visit was the night market located on Wangfujing street. We were looking for souvenirs and we didn't really find anything of our liking, but we had fun "window shopping" and getting a vibe of this part of the town. I particularly liked the retro feeling I got from the gates, considering that the market is on an alley surrounded by very modern buildings with other shops.
We found the market right away after exiting the metro station. We liked seeing the people and some of the street foods and I wanted to try some of the steam buns but we couldn't communicate well enough to find out what the buns were filled of (because of food allergies). With that said, I wasn't very keen to try scorpions, larvae, seahorses and other to me unidentified things. Picture #3 reminded me of one of The Amazing Race seasons where the roadblock of that episode was to eat what I photographed.
We got there at 9'ish on the PM and the stalls were preparing to close for the day.
Lindy, I saw your picture.
The market you have been to is at DongHuaMen, it opens both at daytime & night. Another market is called LongFuSi - it opens only at night, and sells almost only food.
I am not sure which one is "indeed the Famous Beijing Market", because I don't know which one is more well-known around the world.
In my opinion they are much the same. as long as you visited one, it is not very likely to have more fun at the other's. Although next time you come to look for it, LongFuSi is 4 or 5 paralell lanes to the north of DongHuamen. next to the National Art Museum of China.
Clearly, food tastes is a highly personal, subjective thing. But if you are truly clueless about what to try and what to stay away from along this street of exotic Chinese snacks, here's a list of snacks and descriptions to get you started.
- Bing Tang Hu Lu --> VERY sweet, so not for those who can't take another visit from the tooth fairy
- Japanese octopus balls --> I swear it tastes better than it sounds! Really just made up of putting bits of octopus/prawn meat into a flour mixture and then cooked on a skillet. Add more the soya sauce-like black sauce and it'll be extra yummy!
- Grilled corn cob
- Roasted chestnuts
Snacks to try with precaution:
- Grilled scorpion --> some are still alive and squirming when they are put on display! A friend who tried one (after they were properly cooked) claimed that he could feel a bit of sting down his throat because of the scorpion's sting (?!) Definitely not for the faint hearted
- Grilled lizard
- Grilled caterpillars and all other unidentified insects
- Smelly tofu --> I'm personally a big fan of this but because it does have a rather strong, fermented smell, not everyone would like it
Just to the side of Oriental Plaza, tucked away in a little corner down the famous Wangfujing main street, is a food street that is packed with local and regional snacks. The most infamous of the lot are the scorpion and lizard snacks (made all the more disturbing by the fact that the samples put out are actually alive and writhing on the skews). But if you want to eat something more palatable, there's always the traditional fruit sticks (see second photo in this tip) or the ubiquitous "bing tang hu lu".
These are, as you can see from the picture, simply fruits that are dipped into caramelized sugar.
A more detailed description on Wangfujing Food Street snacks is in the next tip.
Other things of note along this street
- souvenir shopping: if you want something more unusual, take a look at the 12 zodiacs that are hand made/blown into adorable forms (see photo)
- traditional handicrafts: artisans can make a little sculpture of you
- marketing-savvy shop keepers who dress up in dynasty clothes (complete with a fan!) to attract hungry tourists into his stall
The Wangfujing Night Market has a selection of exotic Street food on the Snack Street. Deep fried insects, scorpions, and sea creatures can be found, along with other animals and animal parts not ordinarily consumed as food in the west. Because of this, the stalls are a bit of a novelty for both us westerners and, also, for Chinese. You'll find a great number of people pulling horrible faces at what’s on offer plus those daring to try one of the sticks that contains an insect (which can be still moving!). All of this means that it's also a big draw for having your photo taken with people handing insect sticks near their mouths!
Wangfujing is now considered the central heart of the city. Certainly from Wangfujing all areas of Beijing are easily accessible. Wangfujing is a fairly long street. A walk from end to end would take you about 30 minutes, and that's without looking at any shops. The street has two major shopping malls, one of which, Oriental Plaza, sprawls a further 2 blocks to the east (and another 15 minute walk). Wangfujing street is also home to a number of large department stores, souvenir stores, and whole side streets full of food stalls, Chinese painting stores and other goodies.
Little boothes covered by red and white striped canopies one right next to the other line as far as the eye can see. There is a wide variety of food here, much of which originates from Xinjiang province, such as squid, fish, crab, chicken and lamb kebabs. For the more adventurous diners there are scorpions and other bug kebabs. Besides the many varieties of meat kebabs you can get sugar coated fruit kebabs, soups, fried dumplings, sweets, noodles, drinks, and much much more. Even if you are not planning on eating here, this place is worth a visit just to explore all of the interesting critters on display.
At night there is a fascinating food market close to Wanfujing Street. All sorts of delicacies are available from scorpion on a stick to strangely bubbling drinks.
Even if you don't have the courage to try anything, its very interesting to wander around and see what's for sale.
The main wangfujing street is the modern one with the Oriental plaza, book stores, international brands shops and restaurants.
Check out the "snack street" on the north side of Donghuamen Dajie, east of Wangfujing street... it is more interesting to find traditional chinese foods, snacks, or souvenirs. This small street start from the wangfujing (chinese) gate.
There are several large book stores at Wangfujing and Xitan.
These bookstores are large and multi-storey. Great place to get maps and learning Chnese books. And of course for buying postcards. Nowadays, there are smaller bookstores sprouting all over Beijing.
Usually, there is an English section but most books are in Chinese. Plastic bags are not offered but books are tied up together with string for easy carrying.
In Shanghai, we have Nanjing Lu. In Guangzhou, we have Beijign Lu. In Beijing, we have Wangfujing Lu.
Wangfujing, which has a subway of the same name, is the most popular tourist pedestrian mall in Beijing. It is busy dayand night with many shops, book stores, restaurants and shopping mall.
There is an adjoing Wangfujing Food Street that has is also world famous for the different types of Beijing street food.
Definitely a must-visit place even just to stroll along.