Visits to Pakistan are about so much more than just history and heritage. Visitors to Lahore and Islamabad will find much in common with the culture of Delhi and Punjab - specially when it comes to cuisine, art & culture and clothing (maybe also sense of humour). Since one of the most common questions we get asked by visitors is about shopping, I decided to put together this post. This blog will be updated from time to time based on the updated feedback we get from guests. Before anything else, I'd like to clarify we don't have any affiliation with any of these stores mentioned. Our purpose is just to educate folks about the options that are available, and hopefully help you better utilise your time spent shopping. Most of this shopping guide caters to Pakistani womens' clothing. We've done this because that's where I've observed the highest interest from visitors over the years. In the Islamabad section, you will see a few recommendations for men as well. You can save yourself time and money by doing some research on the internet before hitting Pakistan's bazaars and shopping malls. All the popular Pakistani brands have websites that feature their current designs, prices and locations. Here is a guide we've put together. I've included the links to their websites to save you the hassle:
Category I: $$$ (Formal and Semi Formal Womens' Clothes)
Saniya Maskatiya, Misha Lakhani, Mina Hasan, Nida Azwer, Farah Talib Aziz, Elan, Saira Rizwan, Maria B. You usually won't find these stores at the mall as they operate boutique outlets in different parts of the city. You should be able to locate the nearest on your map application.
Category II: $$ (Semi Formal and Everyday Wear Womens' Clothes) Image, Ethnic, Sana Safinaz, Khaadi, Kayseria, Cross Stitch, Chinyere, Sapphire, Batik, Zeen, Beachtree, Generation, Rang Ja, Zara Shah Jehan, Limelight, Agha Noor, Bonanza Satrangi. February 2024 update: The ladies loved shopping at Ethnic. I'll also mention Junaid Jamshed and Amir Adnan as a local brand that's popular for mens' traditional clothing.
This category is available at shopping malls and they also have their own retail outlets that you can easily locate on the map. It's ok if you don't have the time to study so many websites. Alternatively, you can visit the following parts of Lahore and Islamabad for shopping. Lahore: MM Alam Road: This is a high end neighbourhood that's a 20 minute drive from the Avari and PC Hotels. It features plenty of Category I and II women's clothing brands. MM Alam Road is also famous for its cafes and restaurants. Some of the popular brands located here are Khaadi, Sana Safinaz, Bareeze, Amir Adnan, Junaid Jamshed, Limelight, Bonanza Satrangi, Suffuse, Agha Noor and Motifz. If you're shopping at MM Alam Road around dinner time, consider Cafe Aylanto for western food, The Salt and Pepper Village if you want to enjoy a diverse Punjabi buffet in village like setting, or Spice Bazaar if you want South Asian food but in a higher end setting. Most shops here will accept your credit cards. Shopping Malls: The Packages Mall and Emporium Mall are Lahore's most popular shopping malls. They'll have most of the Category II Womens' Clothing brands. Keep in mind that if you're staying at the Avari or PC, they will be located further from you than MM Alam Road but you have the convenience of shopping without getting your time wasted by traffic. If you're shopping around dinner time you'll probably have to eat at the food court or when you're back at the hotel. The shops here will accept your cards.
February 2024 Update: Visitors said they preferred the Emporium Mall over Packages. Liberty Market: This place is preferred by the city's locals. Expect fewer brands but more family run businesses where you can bargain with friendly shopkeepers for a better deal, and also get expert recommendations. Prepare to take local currency with you in cash. Previous guests have found visits to Liberty Market to be incredibly rewarding as you'll find something there for everyone - and usually at a bargain. It's also a great place if you need to get clothes for extended family. Make sure to check out the Attock Khussa House if you're looking for Punjabi Juttis! Saleem Fabrics offers a large variety of unstitched clothes and a team of high quality tailors to stitch them for you as per your requirements. Advice: I've noticed a lot of folks carry prepartition nostalgia of Lahore's Anarkali Bazar. Don't waste your time, as today the market is known for its traffic congestion and the quality of shopping is just not worth it. Just my advice! Books: Check out Sang e Meel Books on the Mall Road if you're looking for lesser known but valuable English books on the history and culture of West Punjab. They will accept payment via cards and will also ship books overseas to your address.
Souvenirs: There are souvenir shops at the entrances to Delhi Gate and the Lahore Fort. You may also want to check out Polly and Other Stories.
The Centaurus Mall in Islamabad is popular with both locals and visitors. It offers a decent variety of Category II brands. If you missed any in Lahore, you should be able to find them here. For men, I'd recommend a pair of Pakistan's distinct Peshawari Chappals (sandals) - which should be available at multiple stores at the mall - and leather jackets from Hub Leather.
Islamabad's Lok Virsa is an excellent hub of artists specialising in local folk products from carpets to truck art inspired bags and sandals. If you happen to visit, do drop by Prof. Saeed Ahmad's small book shop. He is an expert on West Punjab's Sufi poets and has translated a number of important works to Gurmukhi and English. If you're looking for books to buy, you may also consider visiting Islamabad's Saeed Book Bank which is one of Asia's largest book stores.