The role of food in Beijing’s social scene cannot be overstated. Kitchens continue to fire up dishes until the wee hours of the morning, with many restaurants serving food 24/7. For those prone to late-night munchies, Beijing is the most accommodating city, with everything from street food to high-end cuisine available at all hours of the day. This culinary culture is also reflected in Beijing’s night markets—lively outdoor spaces packed with vendors who fry up everything from tasty old Beijing snacks to insects and scorpions.
Donghuamen Night Market
Although some would consider the Wangfujing Snack Street as a night market, the real star of the show is the Donghuamen Night Market, situated only a few streets away. The market originally came about in 1984, starting from east of Donghuamen Street to the north of Chenguang Street, and in the process collecting over 600 specialty snacks. In 2000, the People’s Government of Dongcheng District rebuilt the market, in hopes of maintaining good foreign relations and spreading the night market culture. The updated market integrates traditional snacks from all over China, with modern booths, that look cleaner than the usual night market stalls.
Famous for its variety, history and shock value, Donghuamen Night Market is frequented by many tourists, and thus is often so packed that people moves in herds. However, it’s still worth checking out, for it offers an expansive menu of Beijing traditional cuisine as well as more shocking snacks for the adventurous. For those more into traditional snacks, the rich familiar fare include tripe, dumplings, squid, fish etc. on sticks, as well as sweets like fried cakes with sugar and all sorts of sugar-coated fruits. For the daredevils and adventurers, unfamiliar and exotic fare includes sea urchins, tarantulas, snake, liver, starfish galore.
Expect the prices to be higher, ranging anywhere from 10-40 RMB per snack, as the place caters more to foreigners and tourists than your normal run-of-the-mill night market. A nice surprise is that the price is always negotiable, especially since many booths sell the same “something” on a stick, and so you can usually get 2 for 1 deals or bargain down to lower prices. The best time to visit is during the winter months when the crowds are more sparse, especially during the weekday.
Add: Donganmen Dajie, Wangfujing, Beijing (east of Nanheyan Dajie)
Opening hours: 16:00-21:30
Getting there: take line 5 to Dengshikou station
Puhuangyu Night Market
If you find yourself hungry at night and in the south of Beijing, consider traveling to Puhuangyu along Anlelin Lu and Jintai Lu to find a small night market hidden amongst restaurants, shops and fruit & veg stalls. You’ll usually find a throng of people sitting on small stools and dwarf tables outside restaurants and chuanr places, enjoying a few rounds of local beer and gossip, old and young alike. They crowd together to keep warm in the cold weather, while sharing a few tales among friends and savoring the likes of various kebabs ranging from 0.5-2 RMB. Especially during the non-winter months, locals can be spotted until 03:00 in the morning. The night market offers a wealth of fresh seafood including clams, oysters, shrimp, mussels, and more, all grilled to perfection. I especially love the clams and oysters filled with cellophane noodles and exotic garlic sauce that hits just the right spot (6-10 RMB/item). Savor two or three of those and you’ll be going back for more.
Add: near Puhuangyu Wumei Market, Fengtai District, Beijing
Opening hours: 19:00-late
Getting there: get off at Puhuangyu (Line 5) in the South, Exit C or D; night markets are on Anlelin Lu and Jintai Lu, near the Temple of Heaven Holiday Inn
Baodao Taiwanese Night Market
A bit off the beaten track, Baodao Night Market is a fairly new attraction located all the way over in Shijingshan District. Also known as Taiwan Street, the 500-meter long street opened in 2009 and is lined with restaurants and booths selling Taiwanese specialties. Choose from hundreds of snacks, such as stinky tofu, congee, egg rolls, steamed dumplings and much more. Built to mimic traditional Taiwanese buildings, the street is just as much a tourist attraction as it is a dining destination.
Add: C1, Taiwan Street, Lugu Dajie, Shijingshan District, Beijing
Opening hours: 11:00-22:00
Getting there: take Subway Line 1 to Babao Station