WINE & DINE
Darjeeling Shopping & The Top Stores
So where do you go for shopping in Darjeeling and what should you buy? Well, having come all the way to this vibrant hill town, I am sure you won't like to get into a typical city type mall. By the way that too is available here including a Big Bazaar and a Rink Mall at Laden La Road. You are probably looking for some original and authentic items of Darjeeling. There are actually plenty on offer from this small part of the world that has many skilled craftsmen and artisans making exquisite handmade articles.
What to buy in Darjeeling?
So what do you shop in Darjeeling? Some popular handmade items include the Tibetan masks, paintings of Bhutia facial expressions on cloth pieces, local jewelry items including brooches and pendants with carved-in gems, many types of curios, traditional boots, Khukri (curved Gorkha knives with decorative handles), woolen items including shawls & pashminas, jumpers, scarves, caps, leather items, and lot more.
Another unique artwork is the scroll paintings locally known as Thankas that are typically created by local Bhutia artists depicting Buddhist religious stories.
Darjeeling is where the Toy Train was first introduced in the country by Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (DHR) in 1881 which later went on to get the UNESCO World Heritage status. One of my favorite souvenirs from Darjeeling hills is a small memento that reflects this rich heritage. There are several outlets at Darjeeling station area that sells miniature toy train models, T-shirts with DHR logo, or even beer mugs and wine glasses with DHR tags, caps, pens and more ... great buys.
Where are the best stores located?
For tourists, the main stores are mostly lined up on both sides of Nehru road that leads up to the Mall (Chowrasta) and also around the mall itself. As you walk along, you will see many stores selling fashion wears, Darjeeling tea, curios, all kinds of woolens, books, handicraft items, studios offering original pictures of Himalayas and lot more.
The Chowk Bazaar area located at the lower level also has all kinds of stores including clothing & dress materials, household products, food & bakery products etc. Items are cheaper and this is where the locals mostly come for marketing.
If you take keen interest in Art and Handicraft, then there are some places including craft centers, emporiums and stores that are special and stand out from the rest in terms of craftsmanship and authenticity. Check out Darjeeling Art & Craft to know about them and what kind of stuff can you get there.
Typically the stores in Darjeeling would start opening around 10am and stay open until 7:30pm and virtually all stores will close by 8pm when the Clock Tower bell dings for 8 times. However in high season, some stores stay open until about 9pm.
Shops along Nehru Road, Darjeeling
Let's now take a walk along Nehru Road that leads up to the Mall and see what kind of stores you get there. The road essentially starts from where Keventer's restaurant is located which has an address of 1 Nehru Road and goes uphill towards the Mall.
Nehru Road Darjeeling
Update 2013: Earlier there used to be a long line of temporary stalls on both sides of Nehru Road and set up by the local Bhutias. They sold all types of woolens including shawls & sweaters, gloves, caps, bags etc at low prices. Some also sold small souvenir and curio items. The Bhutia Market has been shifted to a narrow lane that originates from chowrasta mall and next to Hotel Sunflower. You will find its pictures and descriptions under Shops in & around Chowrasta Mall.
On the left and after Keventers is a store called Photo Services & Sales that offers books and photos including children's books and novels. This is a good place to pick up picture postcards of Darjeeling including that of Toy Train and Himalayan Ranges. It also sells gift items, cameras & films, toys and music as well.
The next one is the Bata Shop having well stocked shoes and slippers for both men & women. Next to that is House of Tea which is an exclusive outlet of Goodricke Tea Estate. This is a great place if you want to buy Darjeeling Tea of various qualities that are sold in packets and plucked and processed at the Goodricke gardens. You can also have a cup of hot tea here.
Next is Radhaswamy Store selling usual clothing items. But upstairs is the interesting Khukri House, a nice compact store selling different kinds of Khukris or curved Gorkha knives. If you are looking for one, then this is the place to come. They also keep other curio items and models of Buddha. The next store is Rajesh Enterprise selling shawls, jackets and other clothing items. Then you will find the Tirupati Handloom Emporium selling all kinds of shawls, jackets and sweaters.
Next is Darjeeling Pharmacy. Other than medicines, it also sells many types of toiletries, hair colors, conditioners etc.
Followed by this is the popular vegetarian restaurant Hasty Tasty. After this you will see a small shop R N Agarwal Tea selling Darjeeling Tea both loose and in packets. It proudly displays "Fresh Pure Darjeeling Tea" and "Flavory Darjeeling Tea". An young Sardarji was once at the counter. Being quite impressed with his selling style, on one occasion I had bought a packet of tea from here. I was quite disappointed though and found hardly any flavor.
Then you will find Darjeeling Photo Stores that has diversified over time to sell several items other than photos and pictures of various Darjeeling scenes. Other than large laminated pictures of Tea Gardens, Kanchenjunga and other attractive landscapes of Darjeeling, there are sections on books and leather bags as well. You will also get camera films here.
Update September 2014: Darjeeling Photo Store has closed down and a new outlet of the very popular store Black & White has come up here. Owned by Dawa Bhutia, Black & White is a well known brand in Darjeeling selling women's fashion wears, jeans, tops, leather bags, shoes etc. They have several outlets in Darjeeling. This new outlet is quite large and has two floors. It was opened on 8th September, 2014.
Stores Black & White and Weekender
Next is Weekender, a fashion clothing store selling modern clothing items mostly for young boys and girls. Then there is Lilliput Bazar, a store for the kids. They have plenty of collections including dolls, soft toys, kids dresses, shoes etc. Then you will see Frank Ross Chemist Shop which is a large pharmacy and adjacent to it is the Frank Ross Cafe run by the same family.
The next store P. C. Banerjee established in 1900 offers a range of spectacles, sunglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids etc. Next store Montecarlo Canterbury sells different kinds of shawls, sweaters and other woolen products. This is followed by the well known bakery Glenary's and it's multi-cuisine restaurant owned by the Edwards.
Opposite to Glenary's is Chandulal's, a typical clothing shop selling mostly woolens like shawls, jumpers, scarfs, mufflers etc. They are also trader of Pashmina shawls.
Next to Glenary's is Das Studio, a well known family run business since 1927 that has grown far beyond just a photo studio. They have wonderful and some rare collections of pictures of Darjeeling scenes and surrounding areas. Many pictures come in poster size prints. Once framed or laminated, they can serve as a great personal asset.
Next is the Elite Studio which is also quite large and sells diversified products. You can get picture post cards, soft dolls, posters, cameras, films and many other souvenir and gift items. You will then come across the Manjusha Emporium showcasing West Bengal handcraft and handloom products including wood craft, needle work and silk products.
Inside Manjusha Emporium, Darjeeling
Next is the Nepal Curio House selling all kinds of Nepalese curio items and souvenirs. You will then see Asian Art Palace, a store packed with curio items. They have different kinds of necklaces, earrings, chains, gems & other semi precious stones, brooches and many other items. Then there are couple of small shops selling dolls, cloth bags etc and one selling pure organic honey, followed by Kalimpong Art Gallery that has all kinds of artwork including paintings on cloths that can be rolled, brass models of Buddha. Then there is a tailoring shop.
If you look at the right side, the line of temporary Bhutia stalls that started right from the beginning of the Nehru Road, finally ends here. Here you will see the Hotel Shangri-La & Restaurant, a boutique hotel cum restaurant located close to the Mall.
After that on the right side of the road are a bunch of clothing stores including Manipur Handloom, Himalayan Hosiery and Handloom, Dayal Handloom and few others. All of these sell items like jackets, sarees, shawls and other woolen items, and some like Manipur Handloom almost always offer items on sale (up to 30 - 40% discounts).
Manipur Handloom, Nehru Rd., Darjeeling
You will soon see the huge Pine Ridge Hotel on the left. There is a shopping arcade below the hotel and facing the road. Players Sports store sells all kinds of sports items, Kodak Photo Shop which is a studio selling cameras and accessories, Pine Ridge Travels which is a travel agent offering flight, train and tour bookings and Eastern Art which sells Tibetan arts, carpets, cloth paintings and other curios.
Shops in Chowrasta Mall
As you walk past the Pine Ridge hotel, you will be on the Chowrasta Mall. There are many stores located along the boundary of the Mall selling all kinds of items including curios, books, jewelry and other items. Here you will find some of the oldest and famous shops of Darjeeling. Check out Shops in Darjeeling Mall to know about them.
Another popular area with the locals is the Chowk Bazaar, a hyper busy market in a flat area located a lower level and selling all kinds of household items.
By Raj Bhattacharya
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