A Guide to Beijing Morning Markets


Beijing may be racing towards the future, a fact evident in its ever-expanding skyline and growing power on the world financial stage, but its magnificent heritage and colourful traditions still remain. Outside appearances show us a place of gleaming skyscrapers and endless hustle and bustle, but local life is so much richer – and the city’s markets offer perhaps the best glimpse into the real Beijing

Markets are intrinsically linked to traditional life in the Chinese capital. Here, people rise early to visit their local street market, filling string shopping bags with everything from fresh seafood to the finest silks. But it isn’t just about shopping – visiting a market is a chance for people to gather and socialise, meeting friends old and new as they potter among the vendors. Beijing’s markets are very much at the heart of local life, and it’s an aspect of the city we’d urge you to explore.

As an introduction to Beijing’s charming morning markets, we’ve put together this guide exploring their cultural heritage and traditional wares, as well as a map showing where to find the best markets in the city.

The Heart of Local Life in Beijing

There’s something about Beijing that makes it easy to see why its morning markets are so popular. There’s a sense of chaotic bustle here you won’t find in other cities across Asia, but it serves to make Beijing all the more charming. Visiting any of the city’s heaving morning markets at the crack of dawn is a linchpin of traditional local daily life, and you’ll learn far more about the city’s unique culture here than you would at any of its museums or visitor attractions.

But what are local people desperate to buy so early in the morning? For the most part, food is the order of the day, with people stocking up on everything from seafood to freshly-made noodles. But there are other wares on offer, too, including silk, shoes, clothing, wooden handicrafts, as well as skilled tailors who design and make garments, often right on the street.

Many who visit Beijing are unaware of its collective love for morning markets, but it’s an aspect of life that has come to define the city. We think that exploring Beijing’s markets, any time of the day, is an essential must-see on your visit here, which is why our escorted tours in China devote time to uncovering them as part of a Scenic Freechoice experience.   

What to Look for at the Morning Markets

Visiting Beijing’s morning markets isn’t just about immersing yourself in authentic local life; it’s a great opportunity to pick up a few unique mementoes and souvenirs, or at the very least, to try some of the city’s incredible street food.

Here, we take a look at some of the options to look for at the Beijing morning markets.

Tea

Green tea sold in Beijing

You’ve heard the saying, ‘all the tea in China’, and there’s some truth in it. Tea remains central to local life here, and wherever you go across the country, you’ll see locals taking time to relax with a cup of char. This is no different in Beijing, where you’ll find several markets dedicated to the nation’s favourite brew. Quite remarkably, it is reputed there are well over 1,000 teas to try here, but the experts recommend Iron Goddess, Dragon Well and Da Hong Pao. If you love tea as much as the locals, be sure to invest in a couple of boxes to take home.

Sesame Oil

Sesame Oil seeds and oil bottle

Have you ever wondered why Chinese food always tastes better in restaurants than when you make it yourself at home? It could be down to the oil you’re using. Traditionally, Chinese dishes use sesame oil as opposed to the usual olive or vegetable variants prevalent in Western kitchens, so it’s worth buying a bottle to elevate your dishes. Happily, Beijing’s morning markets are the perfect place to buy sesame oil, which is, of course, made using freshly-squeezed sesame seeds. The sesame oil here is guaranteed to be much tastier than any available on the supermarket shelves back home, so we’d recommend slipping a bottle in your suitcase.

Silk

Silk markets

China’s association with silk goes back thousands of years, to Lady His-Ling Shih, wife of the Yellow Emperor who ruled China in around 3,000 BC. Only very recently has silk been made available in other parts of the world, with the secret of its manufacture been closely guarded for millennia. The silk trade had a huge influence on Beijing, and there are several places across the city still specialising in this luxury material – including a handful of markets. Whether you choose a scarf, a Shengxifu cap or a Tangzhuang suit, be wary of traders selling fake silk products; we’d recommend this guide for silk shopping advice in Beijing.

Street Food

Street food in Beijing Night Market

One of the best reasons we can think of to visit Beijing’s morning markets is the wonderful array of street food options available to you. Whichever market you choose, you’ll find vendors rustling up traditional local dishes and delicacies, from jianbing (Chinese pancakes) to chuàn’r (meat and vegetable skewers). Even produce stalls, like fishmongers, often give you the option to have your purchases cooked into a dish, and it’s wonderful to see fresh ingredients being transformed before your eyes. Exotic tastes and flavours are guaranteed at Beijing’s morning markets, so embrace the unusual and take your palate on a journey.

Experience the Beijing Morning Markets with Scenic

Charmed by Beijing’s wonderful market culture? We feel the same, which is why many of our escorted tours through China feature a Scenic Freechoice excursion focused on uncovering Beijing’s finest markets and retail experiences. To discover more about the wonderful experiences that await in the Chinese capital, download our latest Asia and The Far East touring brochure or call our team today on 0808 274 5893.