Hongqiao Pearl Market

Gifts & Souvenirs

in Temple of Heaven Park & Dongcheng South

Occupying a swish, purpose-built mall beside the Temple of Heaven's east gate, the Pearl Market is palpably less hectic than the more famous Silk Street, formerly the Silk Market, while selling much the same tourist swag (handbags, cashmere scarves, mahjong sets etc). Though it feels comparatively posh and polished these days, you'll still need your haggling hat on. The namesake pearls are found on floors three to five.

Originally an agricultural market in the 1980s, the trade shifted to pearls as a growing number of Zhejiang pearl farmers came north to sell their lucrative wares. By some accounts, China produces 95% of the world's cultured pearls, of which around a 10th are traded at Hongqiao Pearl Market. A string of the humblest Chinese freshwater pearls will set you back about ¥300. The largest, most lustrous South Sea varieties can cost a thousand times more.

Fanghua, on the 4th floor, is the market's most esteemed pearl boutique, where you can purchase pearls raw or crafted into fine jewellery. Note the wall adorned with photos of visiting VIPs – Barbara Bush and Margaret Thatcher were fans. The 3rd floor has cheaper pearls as well as other jewellery and jade.

A basement food court, with booths offering Shaanxi noodles, spicy Hunan and even authentic Indian fare, is a great place to fill up after touring the Temple of Heaven.