The best thing in Delhi: Chandni Chowk
By Rachel Jones
21st October 2015
If you only have a few days in Delhi, you might struggle to fit in everything you want to do. You’ll want to try local food, see temples, forts and ancient architecture, as well as shop and mingle with locals. But there’s one place in Delhi that has all of this and more: Chandni Chowk, the famous ‘moonlit market’.
Chandni Chowk is in Old Delhi, near the Red Fort. This place has been rocking since the 17th century and is packed to the brim even now. On its lively streets, you’ll find almost everything: fruit and vegetable stalls, boys selling knock-off sunglasses, umbrella repair men, spectacular fabrics, delicious food and more. It’s fascinating just to wander the lanes, but if you focus you’ll see so much more. Take a look at my guide to finding the highlights of Chandni Chowk.
History and culture
The famous Red Fort, built in 1648 was the home of Mughal emperors for almost two centuries. The stunning red sandstone walls and striking architecture make it a must-see. If you’re planning a visit to the night market, go to the Red Fort first because it closes at 5 PM then head to the market and stay through the evening.
There are a few other famous monuments to see in the market too. Gauri Shankar is one of the most important temples for Shiva worshippers. It holds an 800 year-old lingam, which represents the center or beginning of the universe. The Jama Masjid is one of the largest mosques in India. Built in 1644 from sandstone and white marble, it has three spectacular gates, four towers and two minarets. Finally, Fatehpuri Masjid is another stunning 17th century mosque. In 1857, the British auctioned this off for 19,000 Rs. which is the equivalent of just £200 today.
Chandni Chowk is a shopper’s paradise. The more you explore, the more you’ll find…custom-made leather sandals, copper drinking water sets, essential oils, spices. Take your time to look inside the shops and you’ll find all sorts of wonders.
There are distinct areas within the market that specialise in different things, so it pays to do some research so you know which part of the market to head to. If you’re after fabric, you’ll want to head to Kinaari, Dariba is the place to go for gold and silver, while Nai Sarak specialises in books and stationery.
Getting clothing tailored
One of my favourite things about living here in Delhi is getting clothes made. I take pictures of things I like, find the right fabric and take it to my tailor who can measure me and create something that fits me perfectly. You can’t beat that!
There are a couple things I recommend doing before going into Chandni Chowk if you want to get clothing tailored. First off, when you come to Delhi bring with you some pieces of clothes that are out of style but you’ve kept because you love the print. You can find a tailor and ask him to alter these to something completely different. The second thing to bring is a few of your absolute favorite pieces of clothing. Once you find fabric you can get these copied. If they have the item to copy, they can make a print or trace of it onto the fabric you choose.
Food and drink
After all that shopping and sightseeing, you’re bound to be hungry. Luckily, Chandni Chowk has plenty of places to eat. You can eat biryani and kebabs until you’re stuffed and wash it down with a lassi or sweet lime soda. The rates are local which means you can try it all. Outside Jama Masjid is the famous Karim’s where you must try a mutton seekh kebab! If you have room, get a bit of tandoori chicken, and a mutton korma. I’m not one for sweets, but they say Chandni Chowk has over 1000 kinds. Check out Jalebiwala, which is famous for jalebis (syrup goodness fried in ghee).
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