Kolkata is a veritable paradise when it comes to shopping or picking up souvenirs. From scarves made of local silk to saris and petticoats, to the coolest totes, it can truly be the "City of Joy". And if you know where to look, it can be a bargain hunter's paradise. Here's where to look (and for what).
The Perfect Bengal Sari
If you are looking for classic Bengal saris such as Tangail or Dhaniakhali (cotton weaves) or local silks like Bishnupur and Murshidabad, head to the stores along the Rashbehari Avenue-Gariahat stretch. Every savvy Bengali has their favourite sari store (which have been around for years) on this stretch. The best bargains can be found at RMCG Basak, Traders Assembly, and Saree Kutir, and several smaller stores in Gariahat.
Elegant Silk Scarves
Though tussar is much in demand, Bengal is also known for producing a light variety of silks like the ones from Bishnupur and Murshidabad. You can find these silk saris in several shops, but if you are looking for something to amp up your western wear, pick up the scarves and stoles. You will find several stores near Gariahat crossing selling them. For instance Kala Niketan and Shibani stock a good variety.
A Treasure of Antiques
Kolkata is probably the only metro city in India where many colonial-era homes are still around. Such houses often have interesting memorablia that the owners have collected over decades, and want to sell off. This stash often lands up in the auction houses around the Park Street area, for instance at The Russell Exchange. This iconic antique store rubs shoulders with decades-old Chinese dry cleaning joints, and pubs and eateries from the 1960s. You can just dive in or attend the weekend auctions where they sell off anything from record players, cameras and typewriters to colonial-era gas lamps, marble statues, rare lithographs, and glass decanters. Read more about it here.
Classic Cameras For Collectors
Esplanade in Central Kolkata is the hub of several well-known things, like The Grand Hotel, for instance. And New Market. But what is not so well known is the lane near erstwhile Metro cinema which is home to stores selling secondhand cameras. From old classic field cameras with bellows to the more contemporary DSLRs, this is a heaven for those who love cameras as they used to be. You will also find repair shops where you can give the camera for servicing.
Trendy Totes From Tate and MoMa
When you browse the online shops of museums like the Tate Modern (London) and MoMa (New York), you will often come across cool totes with well-known, iconic artworks on it. These are made in Bengal, and the surplus lands up on the pavements in Gariahat and New Market areas. They even stock totes from iconic brands (like Waitrose) or media companies like The New Yorker. And they go for anything between Rs50 and Rs200.