Kolkata is famous for being one of the cheapest cities in India. Hence, it is only natural that shopping in Kolkata would be the most appropriate thing to do. Its strategic location as a significant trade corridor and metro in the east, coupled with its cosmopolitan status has made it a lucrative haven for traders, shop owners and international retail brands to ply their trade here.
The British were among the first to set up shopping arcades in the city. A novel case in point being New Market, that to the present day enjoys a widespread patronage among Kolkata's shopperholics. The authentic Indian markets of Burrabazar and Gariahat have also retained their patronage and bargaining culture. As an avid shopper, you are bound to be floored by the sheer variety of goods, consumer durables and commodities available in the markets and malls of the city. Here is a guide to the five shopping destinations in Kolkata.
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1. New Market
Shopping in the City of Joy has forever been synonymous with New Market that was earlier known as SS Hogg Market, a Victorian Gothic shopping arcade that came into existence during the colonial era and still enjoys widespread patronage today. A heritage site in its own right, New Market is comprised of a wide labyrinth of stalls, selling every conceivable item that you can imagine. Amid the bustling chaos of shoppers and vendors you will find an incredible array of goods ranging from fashionable apparel, electronic gadgets and confection to shoes, saris, exotic flower arrangements and rare cheeses.
The USP of New Market is its cheap and affordable prices. Shoppers can take their pick from over 2,000 stalls that are grouped in blocks according to the goods being sold. New Market was constructed in 1874 by the Calcutta Corporation and catered exclusively to Kolkata's British residents. Some of the notable shops that have continued to exist since the early 1900's include the iconic Jewish confectioners Nahoum & Sons, the Bombay Silk House, Dayaram & Co and Ghanashyam. New Market is located on Lindsay Street and remains open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm on weekdays and until 2:30 pm on Saturdays. It remains closed on Sundays although you might spot a few shops open if you are lucky.
Evening at New Market.
Photo Courtesy: Rajarshi MITRA
2. Gariahat Market
Gariahat Road is a major artery in south Kolkata and one of its major attractions is the massive Gariahat shopping area, that spans a long stretch of restaurants, shops and stores selling varieties of clothes, jewellery, electronics, saris, furniture and even pets. Walking down this long serpentine road, you cannot help but be mesmerized by the sheer variety on display in the shops and makeshift stalls that flank the area. Just like New Market, the goods and items in Gariahat are reasonably priced allowing shoppers plenty of scope for bargaining.
In the recent past, several mega-stores and malls have sprung up in the area including Mukti World mall, Gariahat AC market and Gariahat mall, which provide an American-style shopping mall experience with fixed prices. After some heavy duty shopping you can refuel your system with the choicest grub from a slew of restaurants and food stalls that line the area, serving up a repertoire of kathi rolls, cutlets, chowmein, phuchkas, pastries and samosas.
3. College Street
College Street is a dream haven for book lovers. Located between Ganesh Chandra Avenue Crossing and Mahatma Gandhi Road, the 1.5 km long street is dotted with a multitude of book-stores, giving it its endearing nickname ‘Boi Para'. The atmosphere of College Street is best summarized as a half mile of bookshops and bookstalls spilling onto the pavement. Here book lovers will find a treasure trove of first editions at discounted prices, paperbacks in Indian languages, pamphlets and obscure out of print books from Europe and Russia.
The USP of College Street is that you can find rare books at throwaway prices. It is also the world's largest second hand book market. Given its cerebral lineage, the street has been a rendezvous point for the city's intellectuals since its inception. One such landmark of nostalgic value is College Street's Indian Coffee House, where Kolkata's intellectuals come and engage in discussions over steaming cups of coffee and mouth-watering snacks.
The various book stalls at College Street.
Photo Courtesy: Biswarup Ganguly
4. Hatibagan Market
Hatibagan is a pulsating neighbourhood in north Kolkata and was the former hub of the city's pet business. The market was most famous for selling an eclectic variety of birds and animals, until a fire broke out in 2012, gutting a large segment of the market. Despite the catastrophe, Hatibagan's myriad shops, stalls and cinema halls still retain their popularity. The area houses one of the oldest traditional markets in the city's illustrious history, which is a little more than a century old. Some of the finest Bengali silk and cotton saris can be purchased here.
Aquarium fishes ready to be sold.
Photo Courtesy: Bappaditya Dasgupta
Burrabazar expanded from a yarn and textile market into the commercial nucleus of Kolkata and one of the largest wholesale markets in India. Burrabazar is divided into highly specialised sub-markets, according to the commodity it deals in - Dhotipatti, Fancypatti, Tulapatti, Chinipatti and more. Further subdivisions are katra, chowk or kothi. A popular saying goes, "Anything and everything is available at Burrabazar. Even the tiger's eye is available here if you pay the right price." Each 'katra' (market) is known for a particular item. There are approximately 25 katras in Burrabazar. You must take a trip down the crowded streets here to get a feel of the enthusiasm that pulsates in this particular market.
Shoppers at Burrabazar
Photo Courtesy: P.K.Niyogi