May 21, 2018
Local market and bazaars in India – tips for the best ones to see and the best shopping
India is a shoppers’ paradise – with local markets and vibrant bazaars, modern shopping malls and middle class shopping enclaves.
The possible treasures and mementos you might find when shopping in India are numerous – from paper kites bought in Jaipur for your children to sparkly bangles filled with faux gems and those bursting with dazzling jewels, to temple bells, chai glasses, brightly coloured saris, carpets, leather shoes and everything in between.
Over our more than 20 years of travel in India, we have collected souvenirs, trinkets and treasures that we have purchased all over the country. Things that remind of us of our travels and adventures – some are very precious and others are more fun and frivolous.
When you think about what are the things you might want to buy when travelling in India – you have to think about where you will visit and where you will have the opportunity to go shopping in India.
For us, we love to focus on the markets or bazaars of India. In every city, town and village you will find a market of some sorts – it will be the centre of the smaller villages and the pulsing hive of activity in bigger places.
Half the pleasure is just strolling, exploring and taking in all the things for sale, and observing daily local life. And if you are travelling in India with children – they can be a great place for small treasure hunts or buying things for family travel journals. (See our tips for travelling in India and Sri Lanka with children for more on keeping journals and looking for things in local markets).
We recommend including at least one visit to these bazaars and local markets during a private tour of India. Being frequent visitor to India, keen shoppers, and passionate explorers of local markets – here are some of the best markets in India for shopping and exploring.
# 1 Mysore Market, Mysore
Located not too far from Mysore Palace, the city market is a small, but lively, typical south Indian market. It’s here you can see the flower sellers with stalls bursting with red roses and yellow and orange marigolds, and merchants with sacks overflowing with chilli. A stroll through the stalls will reveal incense sellers with their Mysore-sandalwood scented sticks, fruits, cloth bags, bindis and other simple treasures. Mysore is a relatively small city and not as frequented by tourists as the busy cities of North India like Jaipur. Therefore, the market is not overwhelmingly huge, and a manageable place to visit. In the streets surrounding the main market you will see a variety of small shops from chemist to shoes stores and clothing outlets where locals come to shop. (Though smaller than other markets, it’s still India busy.) A real, South Indian market and one of our favourites. Some of the goods we have bought at the market include sewing scissors, printed cloth bags, bindis and bangles, plus fruit for snacks, saffron, nuts and tin containers adorned with Indian gods. If you are interested in travelling to Mysore or including the city in a private tour of India – see our Backroads of Kerala and Karnataka suggested India travel itinerary for some travel inspiration.
#2 Jaipur central market, Jaipur
A standout market – Jaipur’s bustling and big main market is a wonderful place to visit. In the heart of the old, walled (pink) city is the main market – where merchants sell just about everything you can imagine from their cramped shops. Often we introduce our travellers to the market through a guided walking tour in Jaipur’s central market – where we reveal the streets selling handmade paper, silver and jewellery, and wedding invitations to name a few. It’s here in the main market you can also sample one of the best kulfis (Indian ice cream), stop for chai and taste street snacks like samosa – and that’s part of our Jaipur market walking tour. Often when we visit the Jaipur market we start at Hawa Mahal (or the Palace of Winds), a Jaipur city landmark, to take some pictures and marvel at this beautiful, impressive pink historical city monument. From here, a market adventure can begin – past the merchants selling the typical Jaipur leather slippers and leather bags, past the wonderful bangle sellers with their small shops bursting with bangles of every size, colour and detail (we buy bangles on every trip to India!) to our favourite copper merchant where we continue to buy Indian serving dishes, copper kettles, copper jugs and cops and copper spoons, and then over into the labyrinth of merchants in the lanes and backstreets of the market. Again, the list of what you will find here is incredible – indigo dyed dresses and block print clothing, wedding decorations, costume jewellery, home wares, bags, temple bells and much, much more. Jaipur city market is big, bustling and busy – but it’s an adventure and a fun place to explore. You’d be surprised what you might buy and those that like to walk, look, browse and buy will have a great time at the Jaipur market. You can find out more about the great things we have bought at Jaipur’s city market during a recent private tour of Rajasthan here. For other tips on things to see and do in Jaipur – read our Jaipur city guide.
# 3 Crawford and Mangaldas market, Mumbai
In central Mumbai, these two markets are where locals flock to shop. At Crawford market you’ll find fruit and vegetables, groceries and imported foods, and a variety of pets. Mangaldas is the cloth or fabric market. These crowded indoor laneways are where locals come to buy fabrics and get measured up for new clothes. The streets and laneways around the two markets are also where the action is. Come at the end of the day and the streets are crowded with locals and the roads lined with hawkers selling various wares from carts laden with chai cups to towels, children’s shoes and clothes – you name it, it’s there. In the early evening you can also find street food vendors selling dosa, chai and other small eats. In the huge megatroplois that is Mumbai, this is a true local market and shopping bazaar where locals come to buy everyday items. In the early evenings it is particularly crowded, so make sure you are ready for that and up for the experience if you do decided to go.
Top things to buy when travelling in India
#4 Laad Bazaar, Hyderabad
If you are wondering what the things every traveller must buy in India, then bangles tops that list. Especially if you have children, grandchildren, neighbours or a passion for beautiful, sparkling trinkets! We certainly do. During your private tour of India you will notice that all women – regardless of wealth, region and occupation – wear bangles. Some wear many (especially during weddings) and some wear just a few each day. They’ll vary in material – from the typical glass bangles found just about everywhere in India, to gold and metal.
Laad Bazaar in Hyderabad is a bangle paradise and a destination known for its bangle shops. Bangles are usually bought in a dozen or half dozen and depending on the type you are buying, you can buy an inexpensive box of 12 for as little as a few dollars. Laad bazaar is a very old market and is located on one of the roads just off the historic Charminar in Hyderabad. You can visit and explore both Charminar and Laad Bazaar during our Hyderabad guided city walk.
Our last visit to Laad Bazaar and Hyderabad (a city whose main claim to fame is the mouth watering Hyderabad biryani you can eat here) we stayed at the incredible Taj Falaknuma. Falaknuma Palace is an icon of Hyderabad and an integral part of the city. Read more here about why Taj Falaknuma is one of the best luxury hotels in India and why you should include a stay at Taj Falaknuma Palace in Hyderabad during a customised tour of South India.
#5 Khan Market, Delhi
Khan Market is a modern, urban bazaar and we’ve included it in our lists because its quite simply a great place to shop in India. This modern shopping enclave is where middle class Indians and expats alike go to shop, browse, and linger over meals or coffee. Khan Market is centred on a few lanes of shops, all next to each other. It’s an easy place to stroll and explore and the modern boutiques and lifestyle stores often appeal to western travellers visiting India. There’s also many modern bars, cafes and restaurants where you can stop and dine, people watch or linger over a drink. On any given day Khan Market is busy with locals and expats, especially so in the evenings and weekends. At Khan Market you can find some of the more popular Indian outlets like Fab India and Anokhi, as well as hand made card and paper sellers, bookstores, clothing boutiques and souvenir shops. An great place to head to if you are at the end of you travel in India – as you can pick up some souvenirs and mementos to take home.
These are just a few of our recommendations for the best markets in India for shopping. Other markets of note are also the Law Garden market in Ahmedabad – where you can buy the detailed and intricate fabrics and clothes of Gujarat, and particularly the textiles from the Kutch region. In Ahmedabad, there’s also a local market in the old city – an authentic, local, unvarnished true Indian market that comes alive at the end of the day. If you are visiting Ahmedabad, we also suggest visiting the market in the old city as one of the things to see and do in Ahmedabad during a tour in Gujarat.
Other great places to shop in India include the arts precinct of Haus Khas in Delhi – these car free laneways are known for it small boutiques, art shops and cafes. If you have time, Hauz Khas is also worth visiting for a stroll and some shopping when you are visiting Delhi. And in Mumbai, of course there is the popular Colaba Causeway in South Mumbai with its congested narrow footpaths of street side stalls. Just a few of the best places to visit in India, particularly if you want to shop!