Think of old Delhi bazaars you know. You have heard of Chandni Chowk for sure. The food there is awesome. You probably know the names of a few bazaars here and there. Do you know the Chandni Chowk area today is a huge marketplace? It is a shopping paradise of Delhi and a trading hub for a large part of India. Having said that, it is not easy to navigate the narrow crowded lanes of old Delhi bazaars to reach your desired market.
Shopping in Old Delhi Bazaars
Allow me to introduce you to some of the most interesting bazaars of Chandni Chowk – some of the best places for shopping in Delhi.
Khari Baoli – Largest Spices market in Delhi
Let me begin with the most aromatic of the old Delhi bazaars. Khari Baoli is probably the world’s largest spice market. Travel and culinary professionals have not done justice to this market that has spice all around. All you need to do is walk around and see the piles of spices neatly lined in shops. Full spices like red chilies can be seen in sacks outside the shops. The costly spices like saffron would be in small boxes matching their price tags.
Take a detour to the Gadodiya Haveli. This rooftop of this Haveli gives you a glimpse of all the heritage scattered in and around Shahjahanabad along with a lovely top view of Khari Baoli. You see the spices being dried – the yellow turmeric, red chilies, and many other spices in shades of brown.
Khari Baoli lies just behind Fatehpuri Masjid, not at all difficult to locate. If you feel lost, just ask anyone or try following your nose.
Dariba Kalan – The Silver lane
This is the lane for women who love silver jewelry. Big and small shops are full of silver shops selling mostly jewelry but also things like utensils and idols of gods and goddesses. The shops may look small but you ask anything and you would find it. Besides the silver shops, you can also look for shops selling precious and semi-precious stones. You can get strings of stones like lapis lazuli, malachite, corals, tiger’s eye, and rose quartz.
Take your pick from short and long strings. I found them dirt cheap compared to the prices you pay in shiny showrooms. They sell pearls as well, but having lived in Hyderabad would not really recommend Delhi for pearls. However, if you are not going to Deccan anytime soon, pick your pearls also here.
While in Dariba Kalan, also check out shops selling handmade perfumes at shops like ‘Gulab Singh Johri Mal Shop’
Dariba Kalan is a lane not too far from Red Fort. Take a small lane on the left between Gauri Shankar Temple and Gurdwara Sisganj. If you are coming from Jama Masjid, this is the road connecting the back of Jama Masjid to the main Chandni Chowk.
Meena Bazaar – Bazaar you have heard of but not seen
This Meena Bazaar is the famous Meena bazaar of the Mughal era. It is the name adopted by a famous upmarket textiles/garments brand in Delhi that you can find in most malls. It is the name that inspired songs like ‘Dilli Shehar ka Sara Meena Bazaar lekar’. I assume the name Meena came from the Meenakari work that was done on lacquer bangles. In fact, it is still done in parts of Rajasthan & in Hyderabad.
I remember a light & sound show at Red Fort used to re-create the sounds of Meena Bazaar with tinkling bells & bangles amidst the laughter of women.
Meena Bazaar still exists behind Jama Masjid, but it is the palest possible shadow of its glorious past. You can still buy colorful Saris and dresses here. A section of society still comes here for shopping. For travelers like me, it is more of a visit to the well-known bazaar that has definitely seen much better days.
Meena Bazaar is located right between Jama Masjid & Red Fort.
Nai Sarak – For the brand new Books
The Nai Sarak has nothing Naya or new about it. Once upon a time, this road was famous for nautch girls. If you can crane your neck and look at the balconies you may be able to visualize the ultra faded image of a lively past. Today – this is the place where wholesale books are sold – mostly textbooks. Traders here are least interested in retail customers as they are looking for bulk buyers.
Retail customers are a nuisance or an interruption in a busy business day. I remember picking books on my first visit here at a fraction of the price.
As a bibliophile, you would love to walk past so many books. This is a good place to look for offbeat books, especially Hindi Books. You have to work your way through the racks or know exactly what you need. I remember once exploring a bookshop that sells books on Ayurveda and related medical sciences. I was amazed by the amount of literature available on just one subject. My library now has quite a few books that were picked from nondescript shops in Nai Sarak.
Nai Sarak is the lane bang opposite the town hall in Chandni Chowk. Or take the Delhi Metro to Chawri Bazaar and walk to Nai Sarak.
Bhagirath Palace, Old Delhi Bazaars – To Light up your home
What used to be Begum Samru’s palace is now divided between a bank and a market for lamps & lampshades. This is a heritage building now crowded with innumerable shops and an equal number of customers. When you stand it is difficult to imagine that this was where Bahadur Shah Zafar was kept after 1857. The name of the place comes from Seth Bhagirath Mal who later bought the building.
Go here when you are in the mood to renovate your home. I am told this is particularly busy around Diwali and I shudder to think where people stand and buy.
This is located not too far from Chandni Chowk Metro Station.
Sitaram Bazaar – Fashion Jewelry, Old Delhi Bazaars
This is a bazaar closer to Turkman Gate – one of the few surviving gates of Shahjahanabad. Go here for artificial or fashion jewelry – carved out of beads of all sizes and colors. Some of them are even carved out of animal bones.
Jewelry that you get here is what you would see in places like Dilli Haat or boutique jewelry shops across the country. The difference is, here you see them in piles lying around on the floor or hanging on a string in bunches. You have to make an effort to find the pieces you like. Prices are more or less fixed. In fact, you would find them so cheap compared to the rest of the city that you would not feel like haggling.
Kinari Bazaar – the most colorful of Old Delhi Bazaars
I call it the Bling lane of Delhi, the most shining and shimmering lane you can ever visit. A lane that kind of runs parallel to Chandni Chowk and lands you at Paranthewali Gali at the end. This is where you get all the nick nash that you use to decorate your dresses or your homes. It is heaven for tailors, dress designers, costume designers & fashion designers. For a casual traveler, it is looking at the piles of laces, colorful borders that would sit on a Sari or dupatta, buttons, and patches. Women have a high risk of getting lost in this lane.
I go to Kinari Bazaar for the sheer colors that I get to see here and of course for the Khurchan that you get to eat here.
Chor Bazaar – Where thieves sell & you buy
Every big city has a chor bazaar or some version of chor bazaar – where supposedly the stolen goods are sold. In old Delhi, Chor Bazaar is located behind Jama Masjid and here you can see auto parts all around you. Old Diliwallahas will tell you that if your car or car parts were stolen, you can go to Chor Bazaar and buy it back the next day. Of course, you need to have a bit of your luck with you. With this story at the back of your mind, when you go shopping at Chor Bazaar in Old Delhi, you look at parts to see if any of them belong to your vehicles.
It is a curious market where auto lovers would go to seek not-so-easy-to-get spare parts. A few times I passed by this market, I stopped to chat with one of the boys there who always have some interesting stories to tell. If they are true or fiction is anybody’s guess.
Chawri Bazaar – Designer Invitations
This Bazaar is famous for the wedding cards – yes the wedding invitation cards. You can see the lane full of wedding card sellers. Again mostly wholesale buyers come to purchase them. Just before the wedding season, you can see the families sitting and debating on the designs and colors of cards. Every time I passed by Chawri Bazaar I wondered – are there so many wedding cards sold that they deserve a full bazaar to themselves?
Before you think, what am I going to do in a wedding card bazaar, there is something other than wedding cards that you can pick up. You get the best stationery items here at the most affordable prices. I moved out of Delhi in 2011 but I still have many items on my work table from Chawri Bazaar.
You can also check out some antique shops that sell brassware around the Chawri bazaar.
Best way to reach – Chawri Bazaar Metro Station
Ballimaran – Shopping Leather Goods in Delhi
Ballimaran is best known as the area where Mirza Ghalib lived, in a lane called Gali Qasim Jan. His Haveli, where he stayed on rent during his last days is a museum now. It is ironic that the bazaar outside is that of shoes – or leather goods. You can see shoe sellers lining both sides of the road. Other famous items sold here are spectacles.
Ballimaran is very close to Fatehpuri Masjid.
There are many more big and small bazaars in Chandni Chowk. I have not touched the ones that sell garments – as they rarely entertain retail buyers.
So which is one of these bazaars are you heading to next?
Recommend you to read the following Places to visit in Delhi. They are also Historical Places in Delhi.