Shopping in Kolkata can be fun as the city has some interesting markets and boutiques. Popular purchases include textiles, handicrafts, books and tea. Here's where to look.
Wondering what else to see and do in Kolkata? Check out these 18 Top Kolkata Attractions.
Sprawling New Market, also known as Hogg Market, is Kolkata's oldest and most famous market. It dates all the way back to 1874, and has about 4,000 stalls and 27 entrances. It's massive! There's a saying that it's possible to buy everything from a needle to an elephant in New Market. Even though the market is laid out in distinct sections, it can be difficult to find your way around without a guide. They are available for hire for a nominal fee and will most probably approach you. Or, alternatively, join this guided walking tour. In the evenings, street vendors come to sell cheap jewelry and eye-catching bags outside the front of the market. Just be prepared for the crowds! It's open from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
Around the corner, vendors also line Chowringhee Road from Park Street to New Market. If you look through all the cheap junk, you may find some wonderful terracotta wares, which are a Kolkata specialty.
Pan-India Handicrafts: Dakshinapan Shopping Center
This open-air shopping center is a little out of the way, but it's an excellent place to buy Indian handicrafts and artifacts. You'll find many Indian state government emporiums there, stocked with fixed price goods from all over the country. Most rates are reasonable. Silence, a stand-alone store selling beautiful handicrafts made by differently-abled people, is worth visiting there too. Dakshinapan Shopping Center is also the place to buy inexpensive Indian clothing. End your shopping trip with a refreshing beverage at Dolly's Tea Shop.
Unique Local Handicrafts and Art: Various Boutiques
Kolkata has some chic boutiques with local handicrafts and textiles that aren't run-of-the-mill. Many of them are made by Bengali artisans from poor and underprivileged backgrounds that stores support. The Deshaj Store and Cafe is housed in a quaint bungalow at 32 Old Ballygunge First Lane. The items at Biswa Bangla, established by the Government of West Bengal, are pricey but gorgeous. It has branches in Dakshinapan Shopping Center and on Park Street. Weavers Studio sells top quality handcrafted wearable textiles of all kinds, including kantha stitch. It's tucked away in a residential area on Anil Moitra Road in Ballygunge Place. Byloom in Hindustan Park, Gariahat, is recommended for exclusive textiles too. In the same location, visit Sienna Store and Cafe for handicrafts including pottery and folk art, and Art Rickshaw for groovy paintings.
Tea: Karma Kettle and Mahabodhi Tea Company
Tea has always been popular in Kolkata. However, the recent trend in tea culture has created a resurgence and resulted in some groovy new tea shops opening up in the city (and, indeed all over India). One of the best is Karma Kettle in Ballygunge Place, owned by a certified tea sommelier. Go there for gourmet wellness tea blends, in particular. Do note, it's closed on Sundays.
If you're a tea connoisseur, you'll appreciate the offerings at old-world Mahabodhi Tea House. It sells the pick of teas from 87 tea gardens in Darjeeling and 400 in Assam. Its in-house master tea blenders impress customers from all over the world. This store is definitely serious about its teas! There are two retail branches: 156, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Road and 60/1B Sadananda Road in Kalighat.
Anyone who loves books shouldn't miss visiting legendary Oxford Bookstore, which was founded in 1920. Without a doubt, it's the best place to shop for books in Kolkata (apart from College Street), and you can relax and unwind there as well. It has a number of specialist book sections, including a separate space especially for children. In addition to books, you'll also find a tea bar, gift shop, reading room and exhibition space. It's open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Old Books: College Street
Books, books, and more books is what you'll find at College Street. The book market there is the largest second-hand book market in the world, and largest book market in India. It's renowned for stocking rare books at cheap prices. Do haggle! In addition, some of Kolkata's oldest bookstores and publishing houses are in the College Street area. For an added touch of nostalgia, drop into the Indian Coffee House opposite Presidency Collage. It's one of India's historic restaurants, dating back to 1942. College Road stretches from Ganesh Chandra Avenue in Bowbazer to Mahatma Gandhi Road.
Local Goods: Bara Bazar
To experience a chaotic Indian-style market area that's often likened to Delhi's Chandni Chowk, head to Bara Bazar (also known as Burrabazar). This wholesale market, which started out as a yarn and textile market, offers everything at cheap prices. It's not easy to navigate, though. Similar to New Market, it's divided into separate sections specializing in various items such as spices, electronic goods, textiles, home decor, toys, cosmetics, and artificial jewelry. The market is particularly colorful during festivals such as Diwali, when special stalls selling diyas and lanterns are set up. You may wish to book a guided tour so you don't feel overwhelmed, as the neighborhood is congested. Let's Meet Up Tours offers bespoke walking tours with private guides. Open Monday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Hanging out on Sudder Street, Kolkata's somewhat seedy backpacker strip, and want to buy some ubiquitous boho items that travelers are wearing? Sunshine is a cozy store that has a good reputation among foreigners. It's run by two brothers and stocks a plethora of the usual fare including Alibaba pants, shawls, embroidered bags, notebooks and silver jewelry. You won't be hassled to buy anything and the prices are quite reasonable. The brothers also help out with travel arrangements and SIM cards for cell phones. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Quest Mall is the spot to go for branded products and high-end shopping in a convenient central location. Launched in September 2013, this huge international-standard shopping mall is Kolkata's first premium retail destination. The mall is spread over five levels and has a diverse mix of stores including fashion, entertainment, cafes, food court, and fine-dining restaurants. There's an INOX six screen multiplex cinema as well. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
The tabla is one of India's finest traditional percussion instruments and Kolkata has a long association with the instrument. Many acclaimed tabla players come from Kolkata, and the best tablas are made there as well. Mukta Das, at Rhythm Tabla Shop, belongs to a family of many generations of tabla makers. Needless to say, he's supplied tablas to icons including Pandit Kishan Maharaj, Pandit Shankar Ghosh, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri, Ustad Zakir Hussain, and Pandit Bickram Ghosh.