Hands down the best place in Běijīng to shop for yìshù (arts), gōngyì (crafts) and gǔwán (antiques). Some stalls open every day, but the market is at its biggest and most lively on weekends, when you can find everything from calligraphy and cigarette-ad posters to Buddha heads, ceramics, Qing dynasty–style furniture and Tibetan carpets. It's also one of the best places to pick up authentic Cultural Revolution propaganda posters.
Pānjiāyuán hosts around 3000 dealers and up to 50,000 visitors a day, all scoping for antiques. The serious collectors are early birds, swooping here at dawn to snare precious relics. If you want to join them, an early start is essential. You probably aren't going to find that rare Qianlong dòucǎi stem cup or late Yuan dynasty qīnghuā vase, but what’s on view is still a compendium of post-1950 Chinese curios and an A to Z of Middle Kingdom knick-knacks. The market is chaotic and can be difficult if you find crowds or hard bargaining intimidating. Ignore the ‘don’t pay more than half’ rule here – some vendors might start at 10 times the real price. Make a few rounds to compare prices and weigh it up before forking out for something.
To get here, come out of exit B at Panjiayuan subway station, then walk west for 200m to find the main entrance to the market.