Chennai is famous for a lot of things. It is a multi-faceted metropolitan city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, India. Known for its exquisitely carved temples, ancient culture, scrumptious food and amazing shopping options, the city is on the list of must-visit places in India. You will also find many luxury villas and other types accommodation here if you’re thinking about where to stay within this beautiful city. And located in northern Chennai, in the British-era George Town area, is the eclectic Sowcarpet market. It is said to be one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city and is dotted with architectural delights like vintage buildings, beautiful Jain temples, narrow lanes jam-packed with shopping delights. Rubbing shoulders with each other in this maze of streets are shops selling everything from latest fashionable clothing to traditional silk sarees, costume to authentic temple jewellery, yummy chaat to local cuisine and more! In its bustling streets, you will find traders from the north of India settled here since generations harmoniously selling their wares alongside local Tamilian shopkeepers. The shopping and eating temptations of Mint Street, Kasi Chetty street, etc., are many and to make the most of your visit, take a look at our guide to Sowcarpet Market, Chennai.
Things to do / highlights
Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing
Shop till you drop
Sowcarpet Market is a shopper’s paradise and one of the best things to do alone or with the gang in Chennai! Just like the crowded marketplaces of other cities in India, Sowcarpet Market’s charm lies in its narrow lanes crammed choc-a-bloc with shops selling everything imaginable. The mish-mash of traders from northern and western parts of India gives an additional flair to the goods on offer here. Shoppers can delight in the wide variety of traditional silk sarees (Indian women’s clothing item) and amazing north Indian clothing items like lehengas (embroidered special occasion skirts), dupattas (traditional shawls), the latest Bollywood fashion, etc. You can also check out accessories like backpacks, shoes, embroidered bags from Kutch (in western India), funky handcrafted or traditional temple jewellery, etc. Trinkets, gift items, home decor pieces, cosmetics are some more unique items that can be bought here.
Go on a food walk
Though the local food of Chennai is tasty in itself, a dash of flavour from northern and western India takes it to another level. Settled in Chennai generations ago, traders from Gujarati and Marwadi communities brought with them their unique food traditions. This mash-up of cultures is evident in Sowcarpet Market’s street food. Visitors to this market can embark on a food walk or food tour to experience the best of Chennai’s street food scene at pocket-friendly prices. Mint Street is the best place to go on a food walk while checking out shops like Mehta Brothers, Kakada Ramprasad, Murugan Sandwich, Ajab’s Ajnabi Mithai Ghar, Anmol Lassiwala, Maharaja Kulfi, Maya Chaat, etc. Everything from hot jalebis (deep-fried Indian funnel cakes) through aloo chaat (spiced potato snack) and vada pav (spiced potato ball served in a bun) to badam milk (almond flavoured milk) is available here.
What to eat
Among the many street favourites of Sowcarpet Market is Murugan Sandwich that is renowned for a unique type of offering - muruku sandwich. Muruku is a typical South Indian deep-fried crunchy snack that is twisted in shape. And sandwiching slices of cucumbers, tomatoes and onion between two pieces of muruku slathered with butter and coriander chutney makes it a muruku sandwich. This creation is then topped with grated cheese, salt and spices. This mouth-watering creation is a perfect example of north-meets-south and is a must-try at the market.
Kakada Ramprasad Sweets and Chaats
A North Indian shop famous for its scrumptious offerings in Sowcarpet Market is Kakada Ramprasad Sweets and Chaats. Their famous badam milk (almond flavoured sweetened milk) attracts visitors from all over the city. Other items that you must try here are hot jalebis (Indian funnel cakes), aloo tikki chaat (spiced potato cutlets doused in curry sauce), pani puri (deep-fried hollow balls filled with spiced water and other fillings), etc. This shop is a hot favourite for all those seeking out North Indian specialities in the bustling city of Chennai.
Things to buy
Renowned as the ultimate place to buy the latest and most fashionable outfits in Chennai, Sowcarpet Market attracts shoppers to its narrow lanes bursting to seams with shops selling everything from north, west and south India. For saree-lovers (traditional Indian women’s clothing item), check out the various shops selling Kanchipuram silk sarees. North Indian fashion lovers can buy the latest style of dupattas (traditional shawls), lehengas (embroidered special occasion skirts), juttis (North Indian embroidered slippers), bags, bindis (traditional decorative forehead sticker), etc.
All kinds of jewellery can be found in Sowcarpet Market - from traditional South Indian to funky costume jewellery. Shoppers can delight in browsing through pair after pair of exquisite earrings, bracelets, rings, necklaces, anklets, bangles, etc. Gorgeous traditional temple jewellery sets are also a must-buy here. Other amazing jewellery options here are vintage chokers, colourful glass bangles, tribal jewellery, ornaments with traditional motifs like lotus, leaf, petals, peacocks, Hindu deities, etc.
Bargain, bargain, bargain
To get the best prices for your favourite items, don’t forget to bargain. Put your bargaining skills to good use and negotiate hard for a good deal. Start low and expect the shopkeeper to initially refuse but eventually agree to a more reasonable price.
Time your visit
Though you can visit the market any time during the day, it is best to visit the market in the morning to avoid the afternoon or late evening shoppers’ rush. Also, note that most shops in the market are closed on Sundays, so try to go on a weekday or even on a Saturday. You might as well enjoy some retail therapy before embarking on a weekend trip from Chennai, right?
How to get there
You can either take a train or bus to Sowcarpet Market. For train, board the local train heading towards beach and get down at the Chennai Fort stop. From there, Mint Street is a short walk away. From Chennai Central station, the market is just 10 minutes away. Any bus going towards Parry’s or Broadway will take you to Sowcarpet Market since it is located just opposite Broadway MTC Bus Terminus.
Taxi, auto-rickshaw or ride-hailing apps
Taking a taxi or auto-rickshaw is also a convenient way of reaching the market. These can be hailed from anywhere in the city. Alternatively, you can also book a ride through Uber or Ola ride-hailing apps.
Due to its popularity, driving directions to Sowcarpet market are easily available if you are driving your own car or two-wheeler or a rental vehicle. But the roads are extremely narrow in the market area and often very crowded, so it’s best to avoid taking a vehicle to the market.
Due to the congestion in the Sowcarpet market streets, finding parking space for cars or even two-wheelers may be difficult. Some public and paid parking spaces are available near the market lanes, but they may be reserved for local shop owners and you may face difficulty in finding a free and safe spot for your vehicle.
Sowcarpet Market Information
Address: Peddanaickenpet, George Town, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600001, India
Department of tourism: Visit Tamil Nadu
Small-Group Guided Food Trail in the Sowcarpet Market
Duration: 3 hours
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