One of Delhi's oldest and busiest markets, Chandni Chowk is an assault on the senses – teeming with people and chockfull of bazaar stalls, jumbled wares, colourful crafts and mounds of aromatic food, delicacies and sweets. Make sure you bring cash to experience the sheer variety of these wholesale markets.
Meaning ‘moonlit square', Chandni Chowk was built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, and was originally divided by canals which reflected the moonlight, hence the name. While the canals are no longer in use, the markets run 1.5km through the middle of the city from the Lahori Darwaza (Lahore Gate) of the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid. A frenetic hive of activity, shoppers jostle for space with cyclists, shuttle buses, rickshaws and even cows in these massive markets. A variety of famous religious shrines also line this street adding to the mishmash of cultural significance.
The outstanding feature of Chandni Chowk is its variety showcasing the rich diversity of Indian culture from over 1,000 different types of sweets to traditional saris with chikan (embroidery) and zari (brocade weaving) work. Reflecting a modern India, there are also lanes with shops purveying books and electronic and consumer goods too. Kinari Bazaar and Dariba Kalan are the places to go for gold and silver jewellery and gemstones. For foodstuffs, head to Channa Market where you'll find everything from paneer (cheese) to bakery goods or try Khari Baoli for spices and dried fruits. Sweet tooths are spoilt for choice with sweets makers (halwais) on almost every lane.
But it's not just about products and consumables. Curiously, you'll also find doctors and dentists attending to patients, chemists and herbal skincare shops, interior decorators and designers, stationers, drycleaners and astrologists all plying their trade. There's even a marriage bureau – should you feel so inclined – located within the markets. To visit, take the Metro Yellow Line to Chandni Chowk to be in the thick of the action.