Willow Alley, or Liuxiang (柳巷) is the name of the bustling business and commercial district in the heart of Taiyuan, Shanxi Povince, that’s good for shopping, eating, and going out – hence its nickname “the Wangfujing of Taiyuan”. It’s been the commercial hub of Taiyuan for over 300 years and houses one of China’s four biggest night markets, allegedly the largest in North China. Tourists come from all over China to see what the fuss is all about. Here are the major highlights packed into a nutshell.
Many people believe that the commercial spirit of Willow Alley extends beyond the physical borders of Yingze Jie and Fudong Jie, all the way to Bell Tower Street and Kaihua Temple Street. You can get all your shiny sports tracksuits, trendy threads and neon shell-suits (if only!) here, including brands such as Jordan, Nike, Daphne, Semir, and Jeanswest, and the giants of high-street retail are also here to ease the pressure on your wallets: Wal-Mart, Chow Tai Fook, Rieter, and the monolithic ‘Causeway Bay’ (铜锣湾) shopping mall amongst others. Who said capitalism is dead!
Working up an appetite
All that shopping is bound to get you hungry; lucky for you the Willow Alley food street is right around the corner! You’d have to be blind or a complete fool to pass by this without noticing: it’s in front of the Shanxi Provincial Government Building and is adorned with a huge ancient wooden gateway, enticing hungry shoppers inside. The street is 552m long, so there are ample choices, but the best advice is to follow your senses and let your eyes and nostrils lead you to what you desire!
On offer are Sichuan ‘dan dan’ noodles; Xinjiang kebabs (‘chuanr’); Xi’an specialty lamb ‘pao mo’ (a kind of lamb broth with flatbread broken inside); Lanzhou ramen; wontons; dumplings; Shanxi cold noodles; and ‘roujiamo’, a kind of Chinese hamburger (sort of). As if that wasn’t enough, the food street is a great place to browse for snacks that represent specialties from all over China, so if you’re not quite hungry enough for a sit-down meal, you can pick something a bit smaller to go. If you’re skeptical of all the weird Chinese food, or are just sick of it, then there’s also the ‘evil’ Western chains like KFC, McDonalds and Subway.
If after all that food and shopping you are still not satiated, then a) you have far too much stamina, and b) Willow Alley once again comes to the rescue! Aside from spending and scoffing, there are a bunch of things you can do to fritter away the free hours. There’s countless coffee shops and tea houses (independent names, alongside the big Western brands); cinemas; karaoke if you’re into that sort of thing (known as KTV in China); and roadside vendors selling cheap (read: fake!) goods, the sort that make great presents for the folks back home who automatically assume it’s genuine and you spent a lot more than you actually did on them!
In all honesty the whole of Willow Alley is a kind of entertainment—there is a buzz about the whole place that seldom dies out—and it’s the reason why people have been flocking here in their droves for so many years. Peaceful, tranquil, and relaxing it may not be. But if you come here you’re sure to pick up a bargain, and have fun while doing so.
Add: Located on the junction of Fudong Jie and Yingze Avenue, Taiyuan
Getting there: You can hop on bus 10 or 25 which will take you straight to Willow Alley (柳巷)
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Keywords: shopping in Taiyuan Willow Alley shopping plaza Taiyuan Liuxiang shopping
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