Shopping in a strange city can be an intimidating, rewarding, and terrifying experience. Urumqi is no exception. But if you find yourself getting weary of green tea and stinky tofu, a shopping trip in Urumqi can be a welcome relief from the rest of China. From its modest origins as a Silk Road trading post, Urumqi has become a major trading centre for goods from India, Persia, Arabia and Europe. With its decidedly Middle Eastern atmosphere, a shopping spree in Urumqi is a unique experience for a traveller in China.
Finding the best deals can be a challenge, and it always helps to know where to go. Whether you're planning on a long-term residence or just a souvenir-hunting excursion, here are a few of the best spots to shop in Urumqi.
1) International Grand Bazaar 国际大巴扎 View In Map
Completed in 2003, Urumqi boasts the largest bazaar in the Muslim world. This is where locals come to buy such everyday necessities as tapestries, leather whips, feathered hats, and elaborately jewelled teapots. Other draws include Xinjiang specialties like silk carpets, musical instruments, and Hotan jade. Most of the articles for sale look like they have a genie living inside, with a price to match. The best prices on rugs and carpets seem to be in the basement stores, while furs, pelts and silk clothes are mostly found on the upper levels.
Knives are a fixture in Uygur culture and most men carry one. Whether you want straightforward utility knives or silver-handled Uygur daggers, high (and not-so-high) quality knives can be bought throughout the Bazaar and nearby shops. If you want something really exotic, try the ones with carved coral or antler handles.
Whatever you end up getting, expect to haggle hard or get fleeced. If you're the less adventurous sort of shopper, you might prefer to limit your visit to the Carrefour downstairs.
Add: 8 Jiefang Nanlu, Tianshan District, Urumqi
Opening hours: 11:00-19:30;10:30-20:30 in summer
Getting there: take bus no. 1,1区, 10,21,61,63,101,102,103,104,106,111,310,311,531,911,912 or 923 to Erdaqiao station.
Erdaoqiao Market. Photo: flickr.com
2) Erdaoqiao Market/Minority Folk Streets 二道桥市场
Erdaoqiao Market was Urumqi's Officially Designated Tourist Trap before the International Grand Bazaar opened across the street. Shops here have most of the same kinds of minority art, jewellery and handicrafts, with somewhat better prices.
If you've got a few hours to spare, try bargain hunting for carpets or antiques in the nearby Minority Folk Streets. In the long run you might find better deals on antiques and carpets, but it can take forever. This will be especially difficult if you don't speak at least some Chinese.
If you're feeling under the weather, visit one of the medicine shops in the adjacent alleys. For the right price you can recuperate with traditional cures like dead snakes, antler chips, lizards on a stick or dried scorpions.
3) Nanmen Pioneer City 南门先锋商城 View In Map
If you're the kind of shopper who prefers not to dress like Aladdin, head to the underground market. To enter look for any of the stairways leading underground near the big glass pyramid at South Gate. Most of the booths sell clothing, bags and shoes, with several also specializing in phones and gadgets.
Add: 2 Jiefang Nanlu, Tianshan District, Urumqi (close to Renmin Cinema)
Opening hours: 10:30-20:30
Getting there: Bus routes 61, 104, 911; BRT 2,3.
4) Computer City 红旗路电脑商城 View In Map
Computer city is where to go for all your electronic needs: pirated DVDs, pirated video games, fake iPods....you get the idea. For repairs and replacement parts, head to the top floor. Bargain hard, and check that your purchases work before you take them home.
Add: 66 Hongqi Lu, Tianshan District, Urumqi
Opening hours: 10:30-19:30
Getting there: Bus 3, 36, 44, 61, 308
5) Friendship Supermarket 友好商场 View In Map
Friendship Supermarket is heaven for homesick expats. Whenever you find yourself longing for laowai staples like cheese, doughnuts or cereal, Friendship is the place to go. There's even a sushi counter where you can try the furthest sashimi from the ocean. Keep your visits rare, though, because this place is pricey.
Add: 518 Youhao Beilu, Shayibake District, Urumqi (intersection of Youhao Lu and Kelamayi Lu)
Opening hours: Mon-Fri, 11:00-21:00; Sat-Sun, 09:30-21:00
Getting there: take bus no. 17, 903, 907, 908, 931 or take BRT 2, 3.
6) Outdoor Travel Gear
Xinjiang is pleasant enough in the summer, but winter is a different story. To survive those -20 degree winters, long-term residents will want to vest up in serious cold-weather clothes. There are several
shops in the South Gate/People's Road area. Here are just a few:
Outdoor Equipment ShopView In Map
Add: 121 Renmin Lu, Tianshan District, Urumqi
Opening hours: 10:30-20:00
Gonna Outdoor Equipment (South Gate branch) 高乐户外用品南门店 View In Map
Add: 260 Jiefang Beilu, Tianshan District, Urumqi
Opening hours: 10:00-20:00
7) Hualing Market 华凌市场 View In Map
If you're planning on a longer stay in Urumqi, a visit to Hualing Market is a must. This enormous store has literally anything you can imagine to furnish a new home, and plenty more that you can't. Need artwork or furniture to decorate your new apartment? Go to the sixth floor to sort through the wide array of paintings, sculptures and calligraphy. Bedding? On the fifth floor you can dig through acres of sheets and blankets. Want to work out? Get a treadmill or exercise bike from the 3rd floor. Electronics are on the second floor, from flat screen TV's to watches with hidden spy cameras.
Add: Xihong Donglu, Shuimogou District, Urumqi
Opening hours: 10:30-19:30
Getting there: take bus no. 29, 56, 105, 914, 536,537 or 529 to Hualing Market stop
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Keywords: shopping in Urumqi things to do in Urumqi International Grand Bazaar Urumqi best place to shop Urumqi bazaars and markets Urumqi
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