For travelers visiting Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang region, you’ll likely hear about a place known as the Urumqi International Grand Bazaar as well as the nearby Er Dao Qiao Market. Considering the fact that there aren’t many tourist attractions in Urumqi, it’s no wonder that you’ll find this place on every travel itinerary.
But is it worth your time to visit the Grand Bazaar? What’s inside and what can you buy? In this travel guide guide we cover all you need to know to plan your visit to the Grand Bazaar and surrounding attractions.
Before you read below, take a moment to watch this quick FarWestChina video that will walk you through the bazaar and even up to see the views from the tower!
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Keep in mind that all of this information and more is covered in the FarWestChina Xinjiang Travel Guide, the most comprehensive guide to the region with the most up-to-date information. If you’d like, you can also check out the Urumqi chapter by itself.
How Historic is the Grand Bazaar?
A stroll through the Urumqi Grand Bazaar gives you the impression that you’re walking through an historical landmark. A Silk Road theme is present and a sign next to the central tower introduces Xinjiang’s role along the ancient Silk Road, offering hints that the Grand Bazaar must be pretty old.
At least that is how you may feel…until a close look at the small pyramid at the western entrance reveals that the Grand Bazaar was first built in 2003! Additionally, any conversation with locals in the area will inform you that the Grand Bazaar has little to do with Uyghur culture and modern life in Xinjiang.
With that said, the Grand Bazaar is still a beautiful sight to see in Urumqi and walking around seeing the many souvenirs for sale as well as snapping pictures along the way is quite fun.
What is there to do at the Grand Bazaar?
During your visit to the Urumqi Grand Bazaar, there are a number of things that you can do including shopping for souvenirs, viewing the city from the tower and even watching a Uyghur song and dance show.
You can treat the Grand Bazaar as a one-stop shop for all your souvenir shopping in Xinjiang. Here you will find items representing the major ethnic groups in Xinjiang including Uyghur musical instruments, atlas fabric, local rugs, and Uyghur knives.
Important Note: Be advised that no matter what the vendors say, do not count on being able to purchase a knife and getting it out of the country. Best to enjoy the craftsmanship of these knives and spend your money on other souvenirs.
When haggling for souvenirs, understand that almost all the items for sale in the Grand Bazaar can also be purchased in other tourist destinations like Turpan or even at the beautiful Kashgar Sunday Bazaar. If you cannot agree on a fair price, you will likely get a better deal down the road.
Additionally it is best to avoid purchasing Xinjiang dates and raisins here since the sellers mark up prices far higher than the many street vendors you will see all over Xinjiang.
If you do not get enough shopping after strolling through the main segment of the Grand Bazaar, directly facing across from the main entrance as well as on the other side of the subway construction are separate buildings for additional souvenir shopping.
Central Tower at the Urumqi Grand Bazaar
Tourists can visit the top of the central tower at the Grand Bazaar for a steep price of 50 RMB. Unfortunately, the view from the top is nothing special (it’s hard to get a good picture with the dirty windows!) and you can see far better views of Urumqi’s skyline at Hongshan Park for free.
A dirty view of Urumqi from the bazaar tower
Unless going to the top of the tower sounds really compelling, this is probably something you can scratch off your itinerary.
The Mosque at the Urumqi Grand Bazaar
The Mosque at the Grand Bazaar is among my favorite sights to see at the Grand Bazaar. The architecture and minarets make for beautiful pictures both at sunset and at night. If you plan your timing right, you will also be able to see a gathering of Uyghurs at the Mosque for one of the five daily prayers.
You should also be able to take a look inside the Mosque if you so desire, but remember this is a place of worship. Put away your camera and remember to take off your shoes.
Concert and Dinner
Although the Uyghur culture is rich and multi-faceted, China tends to focus most of its tourism marketing on the Uyghur song and dance. The 12 muqams, or melodies, form a central pillar within traditional Uyghur culture and experiencing this cultural heritage can be worthwhile for tourists interested in Uyghur music.
Catering to this need, at the Grand Bazaar you can see live performances of Uyghur music and dance. Tickets run between 100 and 200RMB and the fee usually includes dinner. Dinner starts at 7:15 with the performance following at 8:00.
To inquire on exact pricing and booking tickets, you or your hotel / hostel can call the following numbers: 8555485, 8555486, and 8558000.
Explore the surrounding market and alleys
Before leaving the Grand Bazaar plan on also window shopping through the Er Dao Qiao Market. While the Grand Bazaar itself is primarily meant for tourists buying souvenirs, in the Er Dao Qiao market you may see locals purchasing wares and clothing.
If feeling more adventurous and want to get off the beaten path, the alleyways surrounding the area give you a more authentic picture into regular life of Uyghurs in Urumqi. There used to be a lovely back alley nearby, but this has since been torn down.
Good eats at the Grand Bazaar
There are a number of incredible restaurants at the Grand Bazaar, but keep in mind that none of them are actually in the bazaar. The only exception are a pair of upscale restaurants next to the entrance to the Mosque on the east side. In the Grand Bazaar itself is a fast food restaurant that sells overpriced Xinjiang food that pales in comparison to what you can eat at nearby restaurants.
I suggest checking out one of the many restaurants along the street on the north side of the Grand Bazaar. You can find all of the best Xinjiang Uyghur food from polo, langman, beef noodles, kabobs, samsa and other local delicacies. If the restaurants are a little crowded you can also keep walking west along the street on the opposite side of the construction for even more delicious options.
How much time should I spend at the Grand Bazaar?
You could see all the major highlights of the Grand Bazaar within 30 minutes. If you plan on eating in the area, budget a little over an hour. This allows you to have a relaxed walk through the primary show area and see all the main highlights of the bazaar.
If you for some reason want to walk the whole bazaar, including the separate complex on the opposite side of the subway construction, be aware that this can take several hours. As you are likely to see the same products at each shop, spending less time at the Grand Bazaar gives you more time to explore the less touristy and far more interesting alleyways surrounding the area.
Where is the Grand Bazaar and how do I to get there?
The Grand Bazaar is in southern Urumqi at the Er Dao Qiao market. In addition to taking a taxi, there are multiple ways to get there via public transport. Do note that due to the subway construction at Er Dao Qiao, there are currently no direct bus routes to the Grand Bazaar. Before traveling to Er Dao Qiao, confirm with your hotel or hostel how far the following routes have been rerouted due to subway construction.
- BRT 3 Express bus to Er Dao Qiao
- Local Buses to Er Dao Qiao: – 10, 16, 61, 63, 104, 301, 310, 911, 912, 920, or 923
- Local Buses to Tuanjie Road: 21, 60, or 106
Conclusion | Visiting Urumqi’s Grand Bazaar
In summary the Grand Bazaar is a worthwhile place to stop in Urumqi – even if it is a bit touristy – that can be done in less than an hour. Here you can take quality photos, shop for souvenirs. enjoy delicious Uyghur food, and head off to other interesting areas for sightseeing nearby.
As with all tourist areas that are heavily crowded around the world, be sure to keep an eye on your belongings here and leave anything really valuable at your hotel / hostel. Enjoy your trip to the Grand Bazaar!
DON’T FORGET: Grab a copy of the FarWestChina Xinjiang Travel Guide for your journey in and around Xinjiang. It’s an amazing resource that goes far beyond what you will find in Lonely Planet or other travel guides.
How was your trip to the Grand Bazaar? Please share your experience in the comments below!
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