Shopping in Srinagar is a wonderful experience, as the city is situated in a region known for producing some of the finest handicrafts in India. The fabric that the fashion industry refers to as “spun gold”, for instance, originated here, and was even named after it. Beyond that, though, there is more wealth to be found in the region for those eager to bring back some souvenir of their time in one of the oldest cities in the country.
The first thing to do if you plan to go shopping in Srinagar is to prepare Indian rupees: this is the currency used in Srinagar, as in the rest of the country. Be sure that you prepare small banknotes too: haggling is commonplace in the city’s markets and it is significantly harder to bargain for a lower price and actually get it when you have no change and the sellers claim they have none either.
So what can you actually purchase in Srinagar? Well, first of all, you have to get some pashmina shawls. As mentioned earlier, this is where cashmere originated, and this is where you can find some of the best cashmere shawls and garments in the world. Traditionally, people bring someone who knows how to distinguish between fakes or subpar specimens and genuine pure cashmere, but if you know cashmere yourself, you can test the products without extra help. Some people actually employ the ring test (passing the shawl through a regular-sized wedding ring) and also inspect the stitches closely, depending on what type of cashmere they want. A few irregularities in stitching should be expected if you want something more durable and hand-stitched: these cost more too. A good place to go for pashmina shawls is the Kashmir Shawl Museum, which is a cooperative that is associated with the state government. There is no haggling here, so you can expect the prices to be fixed and generally reliable. A government emporium is actually a pretty good place to go here, since most of them have regulated prices.
You can also buy some chain-stitched rugs and floor covers. Chain stitching is a very old craft indeed, and you shall find some exquisite products of it in Srinagar, where it has been practised for literal ages. Woodcarvings are plentiful as well; look out for the special works made of cane and bamboo, for they are wonderful. Besides that, you shall find some rather astoundingly good papier-mâché trinkets and pots here: the Srinagar locals are known for this handicraft, which they take to the next level with their superb handiwork.
Keep in mind that Srinagar is also a place where the fruits of the earth grow handsomely. Produce here is fresh and quite wonderful. The apples in Srinagar are plentiful and fairly well-known throughout the region, and other delights such as saffron, almonds, and honey are found very often in the markets, fresh from the farms and apiaries. Just about any of the local shops and stores should do, but it is best to ask a local that you trust to accompany you so that you can find the best deals. The Lal Chowk and Badshah Chowk are common haunts for tourists, so try them out first of all.