Tianjin is well-known for its shopping. Malls are everywhere here, and that is no exaggeration. Sam and I marvel at how so many stores and so many mega-buildings — with new shopping malls going up every month — manage to stay in business. If I were sixteen with some cash to blow, I’d be in heaven. Sadly, I am all grown up with student loan debt instead, so I find it far more entertaining (and a lot more economical) to simply people-watch. But whatever catches your fancy, Binjiang Dao has it on offer.
Starting at the cross-roads of Nanjing Lu and Binjiang Dao, this pedestrian street stretches about 1.2 kilometers (about 7/10 of a mile) north to Heping Street (A/K/A “Heping Lu”). Turning left on Heping Lu, your shopping adventure continues for another half mile until ending (bizarrely enough) at … Walmart!
Along the way, you’ll pass the random street musician and almost every kind of clothing and accessories store imaginable, from bargain local goods to popular name brands like H&M. Chain fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s, Starbucks and KFC vie for real estate and take up the corners of every other block, it seems.
Liaoning Food Street: For a true Tianjin experience, skip the fast food chains and take a left off Binjiang Dao onto Liaoning Lu, just one block before Heping. This street, dubbed “Food Street” or “Snack Street” (which can be confusing to visitors as there is another mall-like structure elsewhere downtown also known as “Food Street”) provides a cornucopia of local, street food delights.
Other things to do from the Binjang Dao area:
Trolley Ride: If you’re pooped from a day of shopping, you can hop on one of the ubiquitous elongated, golf-cart-like trolleys that honk their way up and down Binjiang Dao and Heping Lu. There is a flat fee of 3 RMB (about 50 cents USD) regardless of the distance. Just get on and have your money ready for whenever the driver requests it.
Take the Bridge to Italian-Style Town: If you are at the end of Heping Lu — around the Walmart area — you can take the Beian Bridge across the Haihe River and wander into Italian-Style-Town!
Or, if you’re an American... you may find a cursory visit to Walmart somewhat amusing. It’s actually fascinating to see how this mega-chain morphs to fit local market demands.
Visit St. Joseph’s Cathedral: If you are at the south end of Binjiang Dao, cross Nanjing Lu to visit the beautiful St. Joseph’s Cathedral (also known as Xikai (西开) Catholic Church). And if you happen to be in the area at 11:30 on Sundays, you can stop in for English mass! Dress is tidy casual (probably short shorts and the like should be avoided, but neat jeans, etc., are fine).
When to go: Binjiang Dao is kicking at any time of day and mostly through the night. I’m not sure when shops close, but Sam and I were there during the week at close to 9 pm the other day, and it was just as crazy as ever.
How to get there:
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The easiest way to get to this shopping street is to simply start at the crossroads of Binjiang Dao and Nanjing Lu. At these crossroads, you will see Tianjin’s famous St. Joseph’s Cathedral at one end of Binjiang Dao and a pedestrian street lined with malls on the other. Take the pedestrian overpass and head down the side with the malls.
By Taxi: Unless you can speak Mandarin or are otherwise familiar with the area, simply tell the taxi “Binjiang Dao.” Chances are, you will be dropped off at the intersection of Binjiang Dao and Nanjin Lu, as described above.
By Bus: A major bus stop also brings buses to these crossroads, namely buses: