You will find that China is a great place for shopping. Prices are normally cheaper than in western countries, and the selection of all kinds of basic things is huge. Of course, to get the best price, you always need to go through a certain amount of bargaining, sometimes a lot, but that is also part of the fun!
You are not likely to have luck bargaining at Wángfŭjĭng.
Be advised that you (especially guys) are more than likely to be approached by young girls who claim to be university students studying arts and painting, and will be very eager to show you their exhibition, which is just a very short walk away. Reportedly, they really do have a gallery, where they sell paintings at ridiculously high prices, and the staff will do everything to make you feel very uncomfortable and not leave without purchasing a couple of items. It’s best if you tell them you have already been there and not engage in further discussion with these “poor university students”.
Xīdān: Xīdān (西单) is three subway stations further west from Wángfŭjĭng, and is another big shopping area with big shopping centres on both sides of the street running north from Cháng’ān road. The big difference between Wángfŭjĭng and Xīdān is that you can and have to bargain here, even in the bigger stores, and even on items like electronic appliances and such, however, they probably have less margin on those than on clothing.
Yăxiù: Yăxiù (雅秀), or Yashow is in the Sānlĭtún (三里屯) diplomatic area, and is a favorite expat place for buying clothes and other things. Due to its location, the asking price is much higher than elsewhere, but the final sum you have to pay is the same, which means this place is for people with at least intermediate bargaining skills. The first three storeys sell clothes, the fourth one souvenirs and the fifth has a collection of fast food restaurants. There’s a shoes and bags section on the underground level.
Xìushuĭjiē: Xiùshuĭjiē (秀水街) is often referred to as “the silk market” by foreigners. It falls in the same ballpark as Yăxìu, but with even more foreigners. It is located at the northwest corner of the intersection at Yŏngānlĭ (永安里) subway station (Line 1), very close to the American Embassy. The market used to be a mass of street vendors, which was probably one of the last remaining big markets of that kind in Beijing. Now they have moved into a shiny new building.
Yăbăolù: Best known among foreigners as “Alien Street”, or “Yăbăolù” (雅宝路), this place has also moved into a new building recently, from a huge construction reminiscent of hangars. It is between Cháoyángmén (朝阳门) and Dōngdàqiáo (东大桥), and sells clothing. This is also one of those “expat places”, but it is refreshing that vendors will most likely scream at you in Russian instead of English if you are Caucasian. This is also considered the “Russian district” in Beijing. To get there take the loop line to Chaóyángmén (朝阳门) and walk from there.
Fùchéngmén: Fùchéngmén (阜成门) can also be reached by subway (loop line), one stop north of the interchange station of Fùxīngmén (复兴门). There are many shopping centres outside the Second Ring road running in east-west direction. At both the southwest and northwest exits there are markets in big buildings where you can find all kinds of things from sports equipment through stationery and clothing to musical instruments. On the north side is Huálián Dàshà (华联大厦), a plaza with slightly higher prices, while on the south side is Wàntōng (万通), a cheap indoor market with a huge variety of commodities. Walking almost a kilometre west, on the northern side of the road is Tiānyì (天意), a very huge shopping centre where almost anything can be found at a cheap price. If you need any household items, this is also the place to go. Remember that bargaining is the name of the game. Note that there are more shopping centres in Beijing which are called Tiānyì, so if you take a taxi, make clear to the driver that you want to go to the one at Fùchéngmén.
New World: Xīn Shìjiè (新世界), or New World Plaza is located not far north of Chóngwénmén subway station (Loop Line). It is a big western style shopping centre, and has an ice skating rink open all year. You can visit their website at www.championrink.com. Their English is quite funky, but you can get the main idea.
Computer hardware/software: Computer equipment can be bought at a number of places in Beijing, one of the better ones is on the road between Cháoyángmén and Dōngdàqiáo (not far from “Alien Street”), but closer to the latter one. You can walk there from Cháoyángmén subway station (10 minutes) or ride there in 20-30 minutes from the Hutong School office. The market is in a multistorey building, and both hardware and software can be found here. The building is close to Lándăo (蓝岛), one of the first plazas in Beijing, opened in the early nineties.
Zhōngguāncūn (中关村) is often referred to as the “Silicon Valley” of Beijing, but its far off location makes it inconvenient. It is next to Beijing University not far from the Wŭdàokŏu
area, which can be reached by subway Line 13. From there, hop on bus number 731 or 307 towards the west.