The site of China's first Apple Store, Sanlitun Village is an ultra-cool outdoor shopping mall full of mostly international brands and large chain stores. It'll feel very familiar to visitors from overseas and maybe a little disappointing as you see globalization illustrated in full force. That said, when you're looking for a good burger, cup of coffee in a nice casual cafe, look no further. You can take a break from your full-on China experience with a stop at Sanlitun.
The Village is made up of two blocks - the north and the south (you might see this as "Village North" or "Village South" in addresses if you're looking up a specific shop or restaurant. It is supposed to echo the old hutong-type courtyard homes of Beijing but this fails to register on me when I'm there.
- Courtyard 19, Sanlitun Road, Sanlitun Area
- Chinese address: 三里屯路19号院, 城市宾馆北面
- Say it in Mandarin: Sanlitun is pronounced “sahn lee toon”. The Village is located just north of the huge Yashow Clothing Market (“Yah shao sheh chahng”) on Sanlitun Road
No, there will be no bargaining at this international complex. Yep, those prices are correct. Gulp. (Unless you really need it, you're better off buying it at home). Just to give you an idea of the price difference on international goods in China - even though they may be made in China - the price of an iPhone in Hong Kong is about US$200 less expensive than the same model in China.
What to Buy
Sorry to put you off of shopping here but there might be a need. If you do, indeed, need any proper Apple supplies, then at least you can trust the Apple store. While Apple retailers abound in China, you never know if you're getting the real deal or not. At least here you can be sure you’re getting the real thing.
Many sporting goods stores such as Adidas, Puma and Nike have large outlets at Sanlitun Village and they had some really cool Olympics-related items in August 2008. If you like these brands then it’s worth checking out what they have as they do create specialty items specifically for the Chinese market. But try it one first! Asian sizing is smaller than US.
What I call Japanese “Gap” has a large retail outlet here as well. Check out Uniqlo for basics like t-shirts and jeans. And of course, when you need a caffeine break, Starbucks is on the ground floor to fill your needs.
Where to Eat
There are all kinds of cafes and restaurants to choose from in Sanlitun Village. You'll be able to find a full range of international cuisine from Thai to Japanese Ramen and plenty of western Cafes. If it's soup and salad you're after, try Wagas, a Chinese chain that specializes in western comfort food.
What Else to Do
There are quite a few galleries in the Village as well and one year we caught a great budget art fair that was being held at Sanlitun Village.
You might also catch some performing artists or other goings on. It's a great place to people-watch on the weekends too. Grab a coffee and just sit.
You'll see everyone from pampered expat families to hipster Chinese locals.