Free School Street (now known as Mirza Ghalib Street) is full of rare finds. Just walk along the stretch and you will come across everything, from old embroidery stores, secondhand books and music stores, old fire stations, and the best Bangladeshi food.
Books, LPs, Great Food & More: Here's Our Guide To Free School Street
A Premier Music Store
One of Kolkata’s prestigious music stores, Braganzas is every music lover’s instrument haven. This pre-Independence music store, located just a few yards down from Tung Fong, was once frequented by the likes of SD Burman, RD Burman and Satyajit Ray. Known to be the first store to have introduce imported musical instruments in Kolkata, Braganzas stocks everything from drum kits to pianos and guitars.
A Secondhand Book Shop
One of the oldest dealers of both secondhand and new books, the Piccadilly Book Shop on Free School Street is a paradise for bookworms. From the comics of Tintin and Asterix that are sold at half the price, to rare finds — this book shop is treasure trove that you must visit to believe.
When in Free School Street you can’t give the Bangladeshi restros lining the hood a miss. A hood frequented by Bangladeshi tourists, these eateries serve some amazing fare at reasonable rates. From Kasturi to Prince and Radhuni (and also the Bengali joint The Bhoj Company), you’ve got to head in one of these if you want to try delicious Bangali dishes like kochu saak chingri (shrimp cooked with kochu leaves) and chitol macher jhal (spicy chitol fish curry.
Vintage Vinyls And Gramophones
This hood is brimming with vintage things and nostalgia because where else will you find vintage vinyls and old gramophones? From Danish Ashraf’s Record Prince to the nameless stall of Md Shoaib, these stalls have such priceless treasures like the LPs and EPs of Bing Cosby, Jose Feliciano, David Bowie, Cliff Richards and even Kishore Kumar! And best of all, you can also lay your hands on some fine old gramophones.
A Fair Trade Store
Keeping up with the street’s unique character, fair trade store Sasha is the best place to hit if you are looking for some beautiful handwoven apparels or handmade gifts, kitschy stationery and organic body products. A store known to support fair trade ethics and assist indigenous and small traders and artisans, Sasha boasts of an enviable collection that are reasonably priced at.
An Old Embroidery Store
Towards the end of the street, close to Park Street is the 80 year old Bengal Embroidery store with the most elegant home furnishings with French embroidery. The shop is full of old wooden and glass cabinets stacked with beautifully-embroidered home furnishings (bedcovers and sheets, table cloths, mats and napkins) in different colours and shapes. They also stock embroidered saris, salwar-suits and dress materials, and delicate smocked frocks for children. A somewhat recent addition are the leather jackets and bags. Read more here.
A Fire Station With Art Deco
This street has the fire brigade headquarters, which is also one of the oldest fire brigade stations in Kolkata. Watch out for the lovely art deco font used in the signage though it looks a bit worse for wear (they should really do a better job of looking after it!).
A Hungarian Cold Storage
Kalman’s is one of the oldest cold cuts stores in the city. Set up in the 1940s by a Hungarian named Kalman Kohary, it sells hams, cured meats, cold cuts and more. It is packed during Christmas. You can pre-order your meatloaf or honey-glazed ham for Christmas but the wait is fairly long.
This is the place to come to if you are throwing a birthday party (or even a Halloween one!). Towards the beginning stretch are several small shops selling everything from fun masks, hats, confetti and decorations to quirky stuff like glow in the dark face paints, quirky hair bands and sun glasses for parties, stuff for costume parties and much more.
A Shopaholic's Dream
You can pack in a lot of shopping on this street. Apart from Sasha, it is teeming with shops selling everything you could need from leather goods at amazing prices to clothes and accessories, and Kashmiri shawls.