Where to Shop & What to Buy in India
India is undoubtedly the ultimate shoppers paradise. When thinking about India its hard for the imagination not to throw up those scenes of bustling, dusty yet vibrantly colourful markets with hundreds of people shopping, haggling, shouting their orders or surrounded by ream upon ream of silky, sparkling materials. India has it all and the markets are in many senses a centre point of life and livelihood for many of the locals. No trip to India is complete without wandering through its local flower, spice or paan markets to see the fascinating flow of life that beats through each one.
Here we will let you in on the secrets of where to shop in India for everything from traditional textiles and handicrafts to scarves and jewels. India is a complete treasure trove just waiting to be opened!
Delhi is India’s capital city and despite the bad reputation it often gets we beg you to stay a few days and acclimatise to its heady atmosphere. We found its chaos intriguing and in amongst the madness there are many fantastic shopping spots to be found. Delhi does cater for the tourist but in a very Indian way which makes shopping here still very authentic. From Chandni Chowk to Khan Market it also has everything you could have dreamed of on offer.
Here’s what to shop for in Delhi;
One of Delhi’s oldest and busiest markets streets and an absolute feast for the eyes! If you’re looking to buy traditional Indian textiles or fashion items like sari’s or kurta’s then you better allow yourself a long day of exploring the hundreds of shops that run the length of Chandni Chowk.
A walk through the Main Bazaar of Paharganj is, we think, a must for any visitor to Delhi. Its vibrancy, chaotic traffic of tuks tuks and cows, the tantalising smells of its street vendors and the hundreds of shops stuffed to the brim with colourful products is a fantastic taste of Indian life. The shops here cater to foreigners and locals so that the choice is overwhelming. The best buys here, however, are the handmade leather shoes. Another plus is that everything here is up for being haggled over so real bargains can definitely be found!
Khan Market is for those travellers with either a lot of savings or in possession of a credit card as it is by far the most up-market and costliest place to shop in Delhi. If you don’t have either of those things then window shopping is, of course, also an option. The clothes and garments made here are absolutely stunning and worth just a browse if nothing else.
Udaipur is the beautiful white city of Rajasthan. Set upon two sprawling lakes it is known as one of the most romantic places in India and is thus a popular tourist hot spot. Udaipur is also a fantastic place to shop because it is split into two halves; a centre dedicated to tourist shops selling local handicrafts and gifts and a local market with more traditional ware.
What to shop for in Udaipur;
The numerous streets which run outwards from the main square known as Jagdish Chowk are absolutely heaving with shops selling beautiful Indian made garments and gifts. Its hard to not want to buy absolutely everything in Udaipur but we think that there are certain things here which stand out from the crowd. The miniature artwork which Udaipur is famous for and can be seen adorning the walls of the city can be bought straight from the artists workshop or you can even create your own in an art class – we recommend Sakshi Art Studio. Leather bound books and scarves are also unique and sold at a fair price.
This is the market area where the locals still frequent and shop. Here you can find more day to day market items such as spices and chai masala, dried fruits, nuts and flowers. In addition, if you spend a little time and delve deep into Hati Pol’s winding alleyways there are some more treasures to be found. The market is home to a number of streets dedicated to selling gold and silver. The jewellery sold here is genuine and sold at a very good price although haggling is still advised!
Out of all the cities we visited in Rajasthan, Jaipur was by far our favourite to shop in. It is a huge city but don’t let this put you off. The main shopping streets are all within the Pink City walls and run near to the City Palace; Amer Road, Tripolia Bazaar, Gangauri Bazaar and Johari Bazaar. They are all vibrant and vivid and a wonderful place to experience the buzz, intoxicating smells and colourful chaos of daily life that flows here.
What to shop for in Udaipur;
Like many big cities in India you can pretty much shop for anything in Jaipur but its famous for its textiles industry and its here you can buy beautiful handmade Rajasthani handicrafts and block-printed fabrics. If souvenirs is more what you are looking for then the hand made leather shoes are also in abundance in Jaipur.
If the Pink City streets have exhausted you then Jaipur is also home to a more modern, boutique shopping experience – although this also means a lot more pricey too. If you have some cash to spare then don’t miss out on a visit to Anokhi (which also has a great cafe next door) as well as the upmarket shops found around Bar Palladio. All are beautifully laid out and wonderful even if just for a window shop.
Pushkar is the holy city of Rajasthan famous for its ghats surrounding a lake believed to have been created by Brahma – its also home to the only Brahma temple in India. Pushkar has become popular with tourists due to its small hippie feel, its relaxed vibes and its overflowing main bazaar. A visit to Pushkar is not complete without an afternoon of shopping – even those who dislike shopping will find it hard not to be tempted inside or even to have a look outside one of the shops that line the centre of this holy town.
What to shop for in Pushkar;
Pushkar is a fantastic place to add some beautifully unique pieces of clothing to your wardrobe; it has everything from ponchos and silk jackets to flowing trousers and cotton shirts. The nice thing about the clothes here are that they are more individual than a lot of the clothes seen in other parts of India. Don’t get us wrong, you can still find a pair of elephant trousers should you wish but there is also a lot more variety on offer.
In addition there are a number of big outlets just bursting at the seams with handmade, traditional Rajasthani handicrafts including bags, purses, cushion covers, wall hangings, clothing and drapes. A favourite outlet with extremely helpful staff of whom also deal in exports was situated in the main square just below a cafe – look up and you will see some of its garments hanging from the windows.
Goa is not only the centre of tourism in India but is also synonymous with sweeping palm lined beaches and its old hippie culture. These hippie vibes are also reflected in the shopping where tie dies, crystals, yoga wear and dream catchers are in abundance. Goa is also home to one of the best markets in India; Anjuna.
What to shop for in Goa;
The flea market on a Wednesday (8am-late) has now been running in Anjuna for three decades and whilst it began as more of a ‘hippie-exchange’ is now an extremely popular attraction selling beautiful crafts and souvenirs from all across India. There is also now a Saturday night market (6pm-late) which is equally as vast and offers not only a wealth of shopping but great food stalls and live music. Everything is a great buy in Anjuna but our top tip would be that the wall hangings sold here are particularly well made and opulent and were by far the nicest we saw in India.
Arambol in North Goa offers a beautiful sandy bay as well as a long winding road of shops. You can spend hours delving in and out of the shops here and its a wonderful pastime for when that sun is just too hot for the beach! Arambol has all your usual goods but we found it best for its handmade jewellery including crystals and gem stones which you can choose and order to your liking.
The ancient city of Hampi offers a completely magical experience as you amble amongst its dusty maze of streets lined with shops and temples. Merchants from foreign lands used to flock to Hampi in ancient times to sell and trade animals, jewellery and silk. Today Hampi Bazaar is a quaint mix of local life and shops offering up goods for the tourists.
What to shop for in Hampi;
Today, the best offerings to be found in Hampi are the handmade leather goods including bags and purses woven with splashes of colourful stitching. Hampi also has numerous Tibetan jewellery shops which are true treasure troves inside. As you stick your head inside you are welcomed with more vintage style jewellery adorning the walls, tables and in cases along the floors and counters than you can imagine. Spend an afternoon exploring inside and we’re sure you will come across something distinctive and utterly unique.
As well as this, Hampi has a few special stalls dotted around its outskirts which sell traditional Lambani tribe handicrafts. These are recognisable by their brightly coloured woven fabrics, patchwork, mirrors and bells. These are truly unique to the area and something you may not find anywhere else!
McLeod Ganj is a small suburb of Dharamshala in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh and is more famously known as being home to the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan government in exile resides here as do a large population of Tibetans. This wonderful infusion of Tibetan culture makes McLeod Ganj a fascinating place to explore with deliciously warming Tibetan momos and soups and brightly coloured woollen handicrafts being sold on every corner.
What to shop for in McLeod Ganj;
The best items to shop for here are undoubtedly the distinctive Tibetan made and hand woven clothes and scarves. You’ll not only need them to keep you warm but they’re a perfect souvenir to remember this charming little town. Buy from the Tibetan ladies who line the streets near to the Kalachakra Temple.
…And, where to avoid?
Kovalam & Varkala
Both these Keralan beachside towns are lined with shops offering up gifts and souvenirs, however, we found that these were often of a lesser quality than those found elsewhere and often a lot more expensive. In particular the jewellery sold here was a lot more pricey than can be found in the rest of India and we were told is, unfortunately, often not always of the carat or purity advertised. We would never advise against not shopping but just take more care here in checking the authenticity.
Altogether, India is an absolutely fantastic place to shop and is indeed the definition of a shoppers paradise. It has such beautifully individual, unique and opulent things to be found which when returned to your home country will certainly stand out. Like with much of Asia be sensible when buying; do not feel pushed into buying something you are not sure on, always haggle and be careful to check items authenticity. Other than that throw yourselves into every market you see for in our experience there is nothing quite as thrilling and all encompassing as the life, sights, smells and purchases to be found in the vibrant markets and shopping bazaars all over India.
C & J x