Chennai is gradually emerging as one of India's top shopping destinations. The city offers immense variety, ranging from glitzy malls to busy bazaars.
A crop of modern shopping malls recently sprouted on the Chennai cityscape; however, these developments haven't affected the traditional shopping arenas. Locals take great pride in their handicrafts, textiles and arts, and the emergence of modern shopping facilities hasn't dampened their enthusiasm.
The city's best buys include stunning Tanjore paintings carved out of paper-thin sheets of gold, intriguing stone carvings originating from Mammallpuram and beautiful jewelry pieces from Kumbakonam. Chennai is also a great place to shop for brass, ivory and hand woven silk.
Anna Salai is the main shopping thoroughfare and offers a good selection of large stores selling handicrafts from all over the country. Egmore Street is geared at bargain hunters, while George Town serves wholesale customers with entire streets dedicated to selling one type of product.
This area is dominated by government-run handicraft shops interspersed with swanky malls stocking brand name goods. Souvenirs sold in this area are sometimes expensive, but it is worth bearing in mind they have been sourced from all over India. Cottage Emporium and Victoria Technical Institute stock a wide range of traditional arts and crafts.
This stretch of street stalls and pavement shops is a great bargain hunting ground. Terracotta, cane and bamboo products are widely available here and are usually excellent value for money.
There are plenty of gems to be unearthed in this warren of streets. Traditional crafts, jewelry and silks are the best buys. Weekends are particularly busy so shoppers should be prepared to elbow their way through.
Each street in this wholesale shopping district is dedicated to selling a particular type of product. Anderson Street offers paper products, Elephant Gate Street focuses on handloom goods, while Devraj Mudlai Street houses cosmetic shops.
This is the cheapest place for handicraft shopping, and it is possible to find good quality textiles and paper-mâché products at a cheaper rate than other areas. A wide variety of goods are for sale, and many are suitable as gifts and souvenirs.
Shoppers should always barter when buying from a market or street stall, to avoid being overcharged. Government-run emporiums provide a less stressful shopping terrain as they sell goods at fixed rates. It is possible to find unique pieces from all over the country in these emporiums.
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