Markets Abuzz, Shopping Time.
- Best time to go around shopping as all the shops are now open and all the sellers are ready.
- Plenty of eateries are open now for hearty lunches and/or snacking in between shops
- Take plenty of time in your hands as there’s many options offered at each shop. In Old Delhi, it’s essential to dig out the best.
- Delhi summer is hot(32-42 degrees Celsius), hence you must keep yourself hydrated for the longer periods spent outside in the sun.
Dos and Don’ts
- Carry small denominations of money handy. Keep large cash inside your bag.
- Don’t buy before inspecting the garment/good properly.
Food and Hygiene
- Carry a hand sanitiser and wet tissues.
- Eat balance of hot and cold foods to maintain body temperature.
- Carry your own bottle of water at all times.
The thumb rule for shopping in Chandni Chowk is to not buy from the first shop you go to, unless you have very less time. The further you go into the lanes of a market, the more wholesale it gets. It means the rates get cheaper if the quantity of purchase is large.
Ready? Let’s go..
Old Delhi is one of the biggest wholesale and retail markets of India. It is made of small Pockets/lanes that sell the same kind of things. From Garments to Bronze Utensils, Old Delhi Trades in Everything.
- Kucha Chowdhary (Camera Market)
- Bhagirath Place(Lighting Market)
- Dariba(Jewelry Market)
- Kinari Bazaar(Laces, borders, trinkets market)
- Naughara(Lane of 9 Homes)
- JB Kachori Wala/Paranthe Wali Gali
- Chandni Chowk(Clothing)
- Nai Sarak(Readymade garments/textbooks)
- Chawri Bazar(Bronze/Brass utensils)
How to get to the start point?
- Metro: Nearest Metro Station is Chandni Chowk on the Yellow Line. Take Exit No. 5 and haul a rickshaw(4 minutes) or make a brisk walk(8 minutes)to SBI Building.
- Cab or car: Drop off at the main entry of Digambar Jain Mandir(on Netaji Subhash Marg) and walk to SBI Building
Expert tip: Parking available at the Red Fort(closed on Mondays) or near the Chandni Chowk Metro Station.
And now you’re there..
Take in the sounds and sights. You’re standing near the main gate of Red Fort, the residence of the Mughal Royalty for nearly 200 years. And this tour is along the main avenue of Shahjahanabad, now called Chandni Chowk(Moonlit Square.)
Pull your bags in front of you, bring your digger cap on and begin.
The history of this road..
Right behind Red Fort, Yamuna used to flow. And a canal was pulled out of Yamuna that ran like a divider on this road. Water used to flow through the canal, which collected in a pool at the center of the road. The pool was surrounded by a beautiful sarai or guesthouse and a shopping arcade. The purpose of the canal? To reflect moonlight at night. And thus the area with the pool came to be called Chandni Chowk (now the name is used to refer to the whole avenue).
A painting by Seeta Ram depicting the old Chandni Chowk and Jama Masjid (wrongly) depicted alongside.
Now, Shahjahan was a tolerant and inviting ruler, and the greatest example of it is the markets in Old Delhi. A lot of traders from Jain and Aggarwal communities settled in Old Delhi during this reign, despite them being non-muslims. These markets started the tradition of the trading hubs that now stand in their place.
Here’s a bit of terminology and signage:
- Show your hand and walk away when you don’t want to heed to the salesmen.
- “Nahin chahiye”- “I don’t want this” to say to unnecessary offers.
- Kucha means a square at the crossing of road.
- Katra means a neighborhood where similar people live. Neighbourhoods were often named after the occupation of people living in them. For example- Maliwara (mali=gardener), Ballimaran (balli=oar, hence, the place for oarsmen).
I’ve reached the SBI Building, now what?
Right opposite the building, you’ll see a tiny arched lane. Trust us, and head over there.
Kucha Chowdhary/ Camera Market
Right in front of the SBI Building(Victorian Yellow Building) is a tiny lane that is one of the most extensive photography and film making equipment market. It’s a professional market with over 50 shops selling everything that can be used by camera holders, from vintage SLR cameras, their repairs to GoPro gear at competitive rates. Always bargain.
We have always loved the contrasting quiet of this lane, as opposed to outside.
“If you’re looking for something particular, it’s best to ask
around in some shops and then choose the best deal.” Sherpa Shikhar
Estimated Time Spent: 20 Minutes
Bhagirath Place(Lighting market)
There used to be a Begum Samru whose beauty was renowned. And in her honor, a palace was built, which is now the SBI Building (the yellow colored British building.)
It’s something European right in the middle of something that is essentially Indian. The begum, who commissioned the construction of the palace, initially came as a dancer to the royal court. She later married a British official. The building’s European architecture is an influence from the husband’s side.
In between the SBI building and the McDonald’s, you can see a lane lined with lighting and chandelier shops. This is an extensive market for household lighting solutions. You can find intricate ornamental lamps to heavy chandeliers sold inside these shops. Homemakers come here to get the prettiest loots. Strike a bargain here!
Estimated Time Spent: 25 Minutes
Sherpa Tip- Check out the red capped men standing near Mc Donald’s. They are ear cleaners, relieving people of wax for 20 Rupees.
Once you’re out of Bhagirath Palace, you can walk ahead for two minutes. On the other side, you’ll see a road with signage “Kucha Lattushah/ Dariba Kalan”.
‘Dariba’ means the most precious pearl. And that’s what this lane used to sell centuries ago. Right now it has a jewelry market with over a hundred shops, majorly selling silver. Funky bracelets, jhumkis, earrings, toe-rings, utensils and idols in silver-work, all of this can be found here.
Estimated Time: 25 minutes
Once you keep walking inside Dariba, after a large shop named Shri Ram Hari Ram, take the first right. That’s Kinari Bazar, the most colorful lane in Old Delhi.
This is a narrow colorful lane that sells all kinds of borders, laces, patches, etc required to make indian garments on one side and trinkets needed for the various ceremonies in indian marriages on the other side. The crowd puller factor to this lane are the cheap rates and the variety of goods all in one locality
Estimated Time: 25 minutes
When you keep walking into Kinari Bazaar, to your left you’ll notice a lane of mansions with colorful doors. This is Naughara or ‘Nine homes’. These are lavish bungalows privately owned by people which have preserved parts. The last one is three mansions combined into one. It is also the office of a man who loves collecting antiques(and you can see those. At the end of the road is a Mughal era Swetambar Jain Temple made of white marble. Visit it for glass paintings and intricate murals.
Estimated Time: 10 minutes
JB Kachori Wala
This shop lies towards the end of Kinari Bazaar. It’s a tiny place with the capacity to only seat the cook that serves Kachori(spicy lentil filled dough balls) and Sabzi(curry of potatoes). If you do not like spices, ask the server to not add the green chillies at the top. The Kachori is usually very hard and crisp, you can ask him to crush it for you, before placing the order.
Estimated Time: 15 minutes
Paranthe Wali Gali
Before you reach JB Kachoriwala, you’ll see a lane on your right that has a couple of eateries in sight. This lane is called Paranthe wali Gali or the lane serving paranthas(stuffed flatbreads). The shops serve paranthas of over 20 varieties and you can accompany those with fresh lassi(buttermilk).
Estimated Time: 20 minutes
Keep walking into Paranthe wali gali and after a couple of turns, you’ll open into Chandni Chowk, the main boulevard of Old Delhi, the same road that you began at. From where you’re standing, a lot of shops for clothing will be lined towards your left. Sari, lehengas, lachas, anarkalis (women’s formal traditional wear) and shervanis, kurta pyajamas (men’s traditional wear) are all found in these shops. There would be plenty of sellers on the road selling handkerchiefs, artificial jewelry and the likes.
Estimated Time: 30 minutes
Towards the other end of Chandni Chowk, this lane has been selling footwear made in Agra for quite some time. It is named after oarsmen (balli=oar) because they used to live here. It also houses Ghalib’s last residence which is a Haveli converted to museum in Gali Qasim Jan that will fall to your right after two minutes of walking into Ballimaran. Besides footwear, you can also find optical and bangle shops.
“Ballimaran is legendary, romantic, and very cultural. It has found references in Bollywood, was home to Ghalib, and at a stone’s throw away was Zauq’s residence as well. In Ballimaran, you get Biryani by the kilograms. ” Sherpa Kanika
Estimated Time: 10 minutes
After Ballimaran, we have to head back to Nai Sarak, the lane right in front of Town Hall. This half of the lane deals with women’s clothing. And the other half deals with text books and publishing. If you’re not looking for either of these, the best thing to do is to take a rickshaw for Barshabullah Chowk.
Matar kachori At Shyam Sweets
This spot is at Barshabulla Chowk, right in front of Nai Sarak. Their Matar Kachori (pea stuffed Kachori) are filling and Cardamom Milk Bottles are refreshing.
These were the popular markets of Old Delhi, which took A Century (or more) to establish.
You can exit the market by taking Chawri Bazaar metro station(which is walking distance from Shyam Sweets).
Or you could call a cab to Jama Masjid Exit 3.
Or you can scroll down to know how to spend the next few hours in Old Delhi.