Simply put, historic New Market is a Kolkata shopping institution. Its sprawling undercover maze of stalls offers almost everything imaginable. The market can be overwhelmingly crowded and chaotic (particularly before festivals) but if you're after a bargain, or even just an unforgettable experience, it's not to be missed.
- Incredible variety of goods.
- Cheap prices.
- Great for bargain shopping.
- Can get crowded and hot. It's only partially air-conditioned.
- Very dirty and smelly in parts. The meat section isn't cleaned properly.
- Parking space and toilets are lacking.
- Pickpockets and beggars operate in the area.
- Foreigners are sometimes harassed to pay two or three times more for items.
- Difficult to find your way around without a guide.
- There are many touts, which are a nuisance.
- Fake items are sold, and it can be hard to determine the quality. Always ask for a bill after purchasing a product.
- The main entrance is on Lindsay Street, Kolkata, 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.
All the Details
New Market has the honor of being Kolkata's oldest and most well known market. It was built in Victorian Gothic style by the British in 1874 (it's grand facade resembles Staint Pancras station in London), 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. The market's iconic red brick clock tower was installed later on, in the 1930s, after being shipped over from England.
In its early days, New Market had a distinctly upper class British air about it. However, it has well and truly evolved into something completely Indian. These days, the whole commercial area around it is referred to as New Market. Be prepared to deal with unruly crowds and use your best bargaining skills! 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 more than 2,000 stalls selling everything from clothing to cheese and fruit, feathers and flesh. 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 something 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. Alternatively, it's possible to go on a walking tour of New Market such as this one offered by Kolkata Magic.
If you aren't interested in getting assistance, be prepared for the touts and guides 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 10 Places to Go Shopping in Kolkata.