The walled city of old Delhi was built in the 1670s by Shahjahan and is still going strong. The Delhi Metro has breathed new life into Old Delhi by making it easier to access than ever before.
Search for what to do in Old Delhi or Chandni Chowk and you will find a ton of similar looking articles that mention the top sights in the area. They list the dates of construction and other dry facts about what you’ll see. Trust me, you will not remember any of this a year after your trip is over. Make your trip memorable by indulging in the following six old Delhi experiences.
- Notice the bright colors in the Wedding market
- Jewelry market
- Smell the spice market
- Sample safe street food
- Observe the chaos in the street
- Spot the doors and the architecture in the area.
One market merges into another on this tour of Old Delhi.
You can take Old Delhi Tours with me, Ketaki. DelhiShoppingTour runs private tours of Delhi for discerning travellers. Join the select group of travelers to Delhi that have had a great time on our hassle free tours of Delhi that include shopping sightseeing and eating all rolled into one amazing day in Delhi.
Here is how to do it yourself.
Colors in Chandni Chowk’s Kinari Bazaar
Kinari Bazaar is the market for all things wedding related in Old Delhi. It is full of colors since weddings in Delhi are colorful. Kinari bazaar is also the wholesale market for decorative items for all festivals as well as the wholesale crafts market for Delhi which includes laces, tassles, borders, etc.
This market is easy to access from the paranthe waali gali on the main chandni chowk thoroughfare. Colors change in this market every month as the markets stock up for the upcoming festivals like Holi, Independence Day, Rakhi, Diwali, etc.
August: Kites being sold every where to celebrate Independence day
September: Festivals of Rakhi and Janmashtami.
October: Dussehra festival. Masks and other paraphanelia for Ram Lila.
November: Diwali season. Lots of gift bying, packing, Dried fruits
December to February: Wedding season in North India
March: Holi the festival of colors. Colors are sold everywhere in the market
April: Deviya and Baisakhi
May – June: Ramadan, Month of Islamic fasting and feasting at night
July: Gur Purnima or paying respect to your gurus.
Kinari bazaar ends at Dariba, which is the Jewelry market.
Jewelry market of Dariba
The Jewelry market is in the neighborhood of Dariba Kalan in Old Delhi. Some of the oldest silver shops and the largest silver brick auction market is held in Kucha Mahajani every day. Enter the market and slow down to notice artisans making Jewelry by hand.
This market now sells all kinds of Jewelry made of Gold, Silver and precious stones. Don’t buy unless you are with someone you know. There is a lot of adulteration in gold and silver so be careful if you buy stuff.
Smell the Spices in the Spice Market
Many travellers are shephered to the Khari Baoli spice market where they are taking to expensive spice shops that sell premade grounded spice mixes. You can do so much better than this average experience in Old Delhi.
Most spice vendors in the largest spice market in Asia do not have time to entertain retail shoppers. They sell spices by kilos not grams. However, some vendors do indulge the informed shopper.
A standard curry powder is an alien concept to most Indians. Most household cooks make their own curry powder depending on what meats or vegetables they want to use. There is no one curry powder to rule them all. Heck, even chili powder did not exist in India before the Portuguese got here.
So, take the time and ask the merchants the names of each of the whole spices they are selling. Pick the spices up, smell them. Chances are good that you have never seen such whole spices or smelled them so fresh.
Sample safe street food
All of Delhi comes to Old Delhi to eat. Street food here is delicious. Vendors supply to nearby shopkeepers and local residents. This need for repeat customers incentivises them to keep their quality high and consistent.
Here are some of my favourites:
- Shiv Mishthan Bhandar – There food is much better than the nearby Chaina Ram. Their Lassi, Jalebi, Chhole Bature and Nagori Aloo are yummy. The Nagori Aloo sell out by 8:30AM in the morning every day so come early if you want to try them.
- Haldiram – Now a franchise store that sells standardised healthy savoury snacks called Chat and full meals. Go here if you don’t want to take any risks.
- Tiwari at the entrance of Parathe waali Gali sells yummy chhole bhature
- Kake di hatti in Fatehpuri sells amazing stuffed tandoori paratha’s. They are extremely heavy so share or order the smallest size
- Giani di hatti in Fatehpuri, close to the spice market sells an amazing Kulfi – frozen milk desert flavoured with pistachios and saffron and rose water. So nice.
There are many many more.
Sit and watch the chaos in the street
Its easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in Old Delhi. So stop. Don’t walk. Watch people. Sit on a rickshaw, pay the driver 100 Rupees and ask them to take you for a ride around old Delhi and bring you back.
Sit back and watch what’s happening around you. How are cars moving in this sea of people? What are people buying, selling and eating? Who are the people? How many men, women and children are running around? Make up your own stories for individuals that catch your attention.
Bullock carts and hand carts are still used in this market to transport heavy goods to and from shops in the market.
Spot the doors and the architecture in the area
Chandni Chowk has some stunning architecture. Various Kuchas, Katras and streets have amazing hand carved doors and capitals on pillars . Some great street food is also available in the area including the famous Kuremal Kulfi in Sitaram Bazaar and tasty Matra Kulche close to chawri bazaar metro station.
Have you been to Old Delhi? What did you remember from that trip?