Empress Market: History, Location & More 

Empress Market

Karachi, a bustling and vibrant city in Pakistan, is a melting pot of diverse cultures and histories, attracting both locals and tourists alike. With a population of over 20 million, the city is known for its liveliness and energy.

Frere Hall, Mohatta Palace, Mazar-e-Quaid, Denso Hall, and Empress Market are just some of the many places that contribute to the city’s charm and character.

Although it would be unfair to single out just one location in Karachi, Empress Market in Saddar holds a special place in the hearts of both locals and visitors. The historic market has immense significance in the area, housing decades-old shopping areas and stores.

Graana.com features an in-depth guide to Empress Market Karachi, including its history, location, and more.




A exterior of Empress Market


Empress Market is a notable landmark in Karachi that holds significance for both locals and tourists alike. The market has a fascinating history, with one of the most plausible stories being that it was built on the site where culprits were brutally executed in 1857 and buried in the same spot. Despite this eerie story, the history of the market is rich with interesting facts.

After almost 80 years of existence, the market became a hub for vendors and traders to set up shops and sell items. It was also one of the oldest and busiest markets in Karachi, overshadowing neighbouring commercial areas like Bolton Market.

Empress market was originally 130 ft long, and 100 ft wide, with 4 galleries that could accommodate up to 280 shops. The market was also designed with upright gates, which made it very secure.  It was named after Queen Victoria, symbolizing her overarching reign over the Empire and its colonies.


Location of Empress Market

Empress Market is located in the Saddar area of Karachi, which is the city’s central business district. The market is located on Saddar Road, which is a busy thoroughfare that connects the city’s east and west routes.

The market is easily accessible by car, taxi, or bus. It is also near several of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, including the National Museum of Pakistan, Frere Hall, and the Karachi Zoological Gardens.

Significance of Empress Market

Empress Market is not only a place of historical significance but also serves as a source of income for tens of thousands of people. Despite almost a century passing by, some things remain unchanged in the market, such as vendors using pushcarts and its welcoming hospitality.

The iconic colonial-era building at the market’s centre gives it vitality. In the past, dozens of markets were located around the building, each selling various products such as meat, dry fruits, spices, betel nut, and domestic animals. Unfortunately, due to recent encroachments, a dozen of these markets have been destroyed.


Architecture and Design of the Market


Architecture and Design of the Empress Market


The construction of Empress Market was initiated by James Fergusson, the governor of Bombay at that time. The design of the building was created by James Strachan, while the foundation was laid by A.J. Attfield, an English firm. The building was constructed by a local company named ‘Mahoomad Niwan and Dulloo Khejoo’. The market was built using red stones transported from Jodhpur to Karachi, costing 0.12 million at that time.

The building was built around a courtyard measuring 130 ft by 100 ft, with four galleries that were 46 ft wide. It was designed in the Indo-Gothic style, a fusion of Indian and Roman architecture. The design features vaulted roofs, cusped arches, and a 140-foot-high clock tower, which is decorated with leopard heads.

The four galleries have entrances from all directions, but the south side is the main entrance, as it is located near the Gothic spire. The clocktower, which used to chime, has clocks facing all directions, but they are not functional anymore. The clocks are designed to resemble a jewel, an homage to the jewels studded on Queen Victoria’s crown.


Architecture of Empress Market

The architect, James Strachan, used a unique approach that combined beauty and function to decorate the market with ornamentation. The clocktower features a shield and motif design that extends across the tower. Below that, there are recessed merlons that give the effect of denticulation.

The exterior of the south wing has ornamental columns that are adorned with acanthus leaves, symbolising rebirth. This can be seen as the beginning of a new era of architecture after the Mughal era, utilising an Indo-Gothic approach.

Above the leaves, a row of sturdy mock brackets has been installed to give the false effect of supporting the parapet. However, they provide no structural support to the parapet and are there solely for embellishment purposes.

Encroachment of Empress Market

Empress Market is a one-of-a-kind place that serves as a monument to honour the great British Queen. Despite the various fascinating stories associated with it, the location itself holds immense importance.

The architecture is an exceptional blend of Indian and Roman styles, making the design quite distinct. The designer of this building was well aware of its significance and how long it would endure, making it an essential monument for the city.

Goods and Services

Empress Market is home to hundreds of shops that offer a variety of goods and services. The market is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike, and it offers a unique shopping experience that is hard to find anywhere else in the city.

The market is best known for its fresh produce and meat. The central hall of the market is home to dozens of vendors who sell everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and poultry. The market is also home to several spice shops that offer a variety of spices and herbs.

In addition to food and produce, the market also offers a variety of goods and services, including textiles, shoes, jewellery, and more. The market is a popular destination for those looking to buy traditional Pakistani clothing and accessories, such as shalwar kameez and khussas.

Pet Shop in Empress Market


Parrots in a cage at Empress Market


One of the liveliest attractions in Empress Market is the pet shop, which is one of the largest animal markets in the city. Unfortunately, like many other parts of the market, it has also been affected by encroachments. One major issue was the mistreatment of animals and rare animals being traded in the area.

Cultural Significance

Empress Market is more than just a shopping destination; it is a cultural landmark that holds a special place in the hearts of Karachi’s residents. The market is a symbol of the city’s history and heritage. It has been featured in several Pakistani movies and TV shows.

The market is also a popular destination for tourists. These tourists come to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a traditional Pakistani market. The market’s vendors are known for their friendly and hospitable nature. Visitors can expect to be welcomed with open arms.

Rainbow Centre

The Rainbow Center, situated within Empress Market in Karachi. It is a well-known shopping centre in Pakistan that specializes in various types of video entertainment. This centre is notorious for being the country’s largest hub of video piracy. It offers a vast selection of CDs and DVDs. It is located in Saddar Karachi and is considered to be the biggest market for these products.

In addition to being a hub for video piracy, the Rainbow Center offers a wide range of products and services. Visitors can find everything from music albums and computer software to video games and mobile phone applications. The centre also has several shops that sell electronics, mobile phones, and accessories.

Despite its reputation for piracy, the Rainbow Center is a popular destination for many people in Karachi. It offers a convenient and affordable way to access the latest movies, music, and software. However, it is worth noting that the sale of pirated material is illegal. It can lead to severe consequences, including fines and imprisonment.

In recent years, the Pakistani government has made efforts to crack down on piracy and enforce copyright laws. This has led to a decline in the sale of pirated material at the Rainbow Center. Nevertheless, the centre remains an important part of Karachi’s commercial landscape and a significant player in the country’s entertainment industry.


In conclusion, Empress Market is a cultural and historic landmark that has stood the test of time in Karachi. Its unique architecture and rich history make it a must-visit destination for tourists and locals alike.

Whether you’re in search of fresh produce, or traditional handicrafts, or simply want to explore the vibrant atmosphere of the market, Empress Market offers an experience like no other.

For those interested in video entertainment and electronics, They can visit Rainbow Center. However, it is important to note that the sale and distribution of pirated material is illegal. The visitors to the Rainbow Center should be mindful of this. So, Empress Market and the Rainbow Center are important cultural and commercial hubs that are well worth a visit in Karachi.

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