New Market Review: Historic Bargain Shopper's Paradise in Kolkata

New Market, Kolkata.
••• New Market, Kolkata. Dennis K. Johnson/Getty Images.

Simply put, nostalgic New Market is a Kolkata shopping institution. Its sprawling maze of stalls offer almost everything imaginable. It can be crowded and chaotic but if you're after a bargain, or even just an unforgettable experience, it's not to be missed.

Pros

  • Incredible variety of goods.
  • Cheap prices.
  • Great for bargain shopping.

Cons

  • Can get crowded and hot.
  • Very dirty and smelly in parts.
  • Pickpockets and beggars operate in the area.
  • Difficult to find your way around without a guide.
  • There are many touts, which are a nuisance.
  • Fake items are sold, and can be hard to determine the quality.

Details

  • Situated on Lindsay Street, Kolkata (Calcutta), just off Chowringhee Road.
  • Open 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday to Friday, and until 2.30 p.m. on Saturday. It's closed on Sunday.
  • Over 2,000 stalls.
  • Guides are available for hire for a nominal fee.

New Market Review: Historic Bargain Shopper's Paradise in Kolkata

New Market has the honor of being Kolkata's oldest and most well known market. It was built by the British in 1874 and started off as the Sir Stuart Hogg Market, named in honor of the then Commissioner. It's still often fondly referred to as Hogg's Market.

In its early days, New Market had a distinctly upper class British air about it, but it's well and truly evolved into something completely Indian. It can be crowded and chaotic, and your best bargaining skills are a must.

Shopkeepers are rather ruthless and adept at convincing shoppers to pay much more than the market value of items.

New Market is renowned for the variety of goods it has on offer. Shoppers are treated to over 2,000 stalls selling everything from clothing to cheese.

Unfortunately a terrible fire burned down part of the building in 1985. However, it's been reconstructed and this new part of the market houses mostly garment sellers, including many beautiful sari shops. The building is sadly prone to catching fire. A number of subsequent fires have happened, including major fires in 2011, 2013, and 2015.

Due to New Market's size, it's a good thing that its stalls are grouped according to the type of goods they sell. However, finding your way around can still be a navigational nightmare. Those who are after anything special, shouldn't pass up the services of one of the many guides (known as coolies) that congregate around the market entrances. They live and breathe the market, and can effortlessly lead you to the best goods for the best price.

If you aren't interested in getting assistance, be prepared for the guides and touts to be relentlessly annoying and persistent, to the point of ruining your shopping experience.

Vegetarians, or those who have a weak stomach, are well advised to avoid the squeamish slaughterhouse that is the meat section, in the division between New Market's east and west wings. It's likely to change the way you view meat forever.

Although New Market is only open until 8 p.m., after the stalls have closed the surrounding area comes alive under the glow of lights with people eating, drinking chai (tea), and chatting. It's well worth hanging around to soak up the atmosphere. In addition, there are plenty of tasty restaurants in the vicinity in case you're hungry!

Want to shop some more? Check out these Top 5 Places to Go Shopping in Kolkata.