Forget about shopping in huge air-conditioned malls, generic supermarket chains and snobby department stores, the best markets in Delhi are where the action is at. A history, art, architecture, culinary, culture, fashion, language and etiquette lesson all rolled into one experience, a day spent traversing Delhi’s markets requires endurance, patience, open-mindedness and supreme negotiation skills. In return, you’ll leave with new friends, a full belly (but if you've worked up an appetite, here are the best restaurants in town) and a huge stash of tea, spices, jewellery and soft furnishings. Exploring the market scene might actually be the very best thing to do in Delhi.
Best markets in Delhi
Unbelievably busy and comically chaotic, Chandni Chowk may not be an easy place to navigate but is easily one of the most fascinating corners of the capital. A giant of Delhi’s retail scene, this huge, historic area in Old Delhi is home to a number of bazaars and retail precincts, each with a unique identity and history. Dariba Kalan is a hotspot for silver jewellery vendors while Nai Sarak is where bookworms will find books and stationary. Flatbread fans won’t want to miss Gali Paranthe Wali, a small lane filled with stores selling different types of paratha.
Spice up your life with a visit to Asia’s largest wholesale spice market. This area can be a bit of an assault on the senses so pack a few tissues if you’re sensitive to strong smells (walking past the chilli vendors brings tears to the eyes of even the most hardened chilli eater). Keen photographers will love the huge and colourful bags of chilli, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and nuts that are found in this ancient part of the city.
One of India’s largest flea markets, Chor Bazaar is the perfect place to fossick for vintage wares and second-hand finds. Open on Sunday mornings, you’ll find everything but the kitchen sink here. Antique clocks, analogue cameras, old books, wristwatches, leather shoes, woven rugs, garden tools – you name it, this market will have it.
Put your bargaining boots on and head to this market where retail prices are for amateurs. Filled with small shops selling everything from Tibetan handicrafts to handmade handbags and street fashion knockoffs, this market is filled with budget buys so don’t be afraid to haggle for a good price.
One of the more upscale markets in New Delhi, the Khan Market is the type of place local a-listers tend to frequent. Possessing a distinctly cosmopolitan feel, Khan Market features modern high street stores stocking international brands as well as quaint, family-owned book stores filled with character. Hip bars, cool cafés and high-end restaurants are scattered throughout this area.
This large, open-air market established in the 1990s has a few spin-offs, but the original location is still viewed as the best. A space for artisans to showcase their wares, this is a top place for time-poor travellers to buy quality gifts and souvenirs in one hit. Choose from handmade leather shoes, colourful masks, embroidered shawls, chunky necklaces and silks scarves in this relaxed market run by a government department. Food stalls showcase the regional delicacies of India and its neighbours so you can indulge in a power lunch before round two of your shopping jaunt.
A hub for fabric and textile vendors, Shankar Market is the place to stock up on locally made fabric. You can also get a special suit tailor made, find a statement sari to call your own or acquire a fancy new coat for your pooch. Located in the Connaught Place area, there are plenty of street food vendors at the market so you can grab some sweet jalebi treats to keep your blood sugar levels high while shopping.
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Experience delicious street food, markets, fascinating museums, beautiful historical sites and friendly locals. If learning to go with the flow is a life lesson you’re seeking, then the streets, temples and bazaars of Delhi will rewards seekers with ample lessons delivered with a side serve of masala tea.