5 Reasons to visit Chandni Chowk in Old Delhi
The legendary Chandni Chowk needs no introduction. The historical hub has been attracting visitors and locals over the centuries. Chandni Chowk was established in the 17th century by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan when he shifted his capital from Agra to present-day Delhi. During the Mughal era, Chandni Chowk was a royal promenade where people gathered to meet and shop for expensive jewels, clothes, and perfumes. The grandeur of the Mughal commercial hub has diminished over the years but Chandni Chowk continues to be one of the busiest and most affordable shopping markets in India.
Chandni Chowk is not for the faint-hearted. The narrow alleys are crammed with shops, hawkers, rickshaws, vehicles, tourists, shoppers, and stories of an era gone by. The boisterous crowd and vendors jostling for space with each other can give a major culture shock to first-timers. It is not easy finding your way around the winding narrow gullies, teeming crowds, and never-ending shops. A perfect example of “organized chaos”.
Despite being chaotic, frustrating, and intimidating, a visit to Chandni Chowk is a must for visitors to Delhi. You have to experience the vibrance and old-fashioned charm of the congested by-lanes at least once. It is an experience you are not going to forget in a hurry. Why should one visit Chandni Chowk?
1. For the lip-smacking street food
The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Chandni Chowk is the Paranthe Wali Gali – the narrow street with shops serving deep-fried Indian stuffed bread called ‘paratha’. You cannot leave Chandni Chowk without stopping at this renowned street and tasting the delicious spicy parathas. But wait, this is just the beginning of your gastronomical adventure. The list of delicacies that are a must-try is a long one – tangy Dahi Bhallas by Natraj, delectable Kebabs by Karim, succulent Jalebis by Old Famous Jalebi Wala, delish kachoris by Jang Bahadur Kachori Wala, Daulat ki chaat by Khemchand Adesh Kumar, assorted nankeens by Kanwarji and lots more. The street food is not only yummy but super affordable too. I can guarantee you won’t be able to stop eating the mouth-watering delicacies. Be warned, the food is filling and you have lots to taste, so eat sparingly
2. For a glimpse of the glorious past
Red Fort, Fatehpuri Masjid, Jama Masjid, and Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib are some of the renowned historical and cultural landmarks which can be visited in Chandni Chowk. But if you scout deeper, you will come across many Havelis scattered throughout the area which have their origins back in the Mughal era. Begum Samru Haveli, Chuuna Mal Haveli, Mirza Ghalib Haveli, and Khajanchi Haveli are a few of the hidden gems which should be visited to get a glimpse of the history and culture in the bygone era. Many of these Havelis are in a dilapidated state and hidden behind the facade of commercial shops, but still make for an enlightening tour. Haveli Dharampura, a neglected, crumbling haveli, has been recreated into a heritage hotel retaining the old-world charm. Book a stay here if you want a taste of the royal life and Puarani Dilli.
3. To marvel at the Cultural Harmony
A visit to Chandni Chowk will be a revelation of the real India. How Indians live, worship, eat and work in complete harmony irrespective of their religious inclination. It makes you realize that all the communal riots and upheavals are created and ignited by the political parties for their own agendas. A Jain temple, Church, Sikh Gurudwara, Hindu temple, and a Masjid can be found in close proximity to each other. People of all communities have co-existed and thrived for three centuries. It is outsiders that come and disturb the equilibrium.
4. For the stunning Wedding Collection
Your wedding trousseau cannot be complete without a visit to the iconic Chandni Chowk. To-be brides from all over India come here to complete their wedding shopping. Everything from fabrics, bangles, and jewelry to breathtaking lehengas can be bought at the bustling market at pocket-friendly prices. However, don’t be under the misconception that Chandni Chowk is only for budget shopping. Shops like Asiana Couture and Om Prakash Jawahar Lal sell bridal wear with prices running in lakhs. Offering incredible replicas of top Indian designers like Sabyasachi, and Manish Malhotra, the high-end shops sell drool-worthy bridal lehengas adorned with intricate, hand-crafted zardozi, sequins, and threadwork. There are many bridal wear stores in Chandni Chowk, however, Neel Katra specializes in wedding shopping.
5. For the myriad shopping options
The well-spread-out market is quite big and you can find anything and everything here. The good news is that the market is divided into several smaller markets that specialize in specific products. This adds to the charm of the place and makes it easier for the customers to shop. A few of the more popular ‘Katras’ or the sub-markets are –
- Chawri Bazar – For an unbelievable range of traditional and affordable wedding and greeting cards.
- Kinari Bazar – You can choose from a vast collection of gorgeous borders, laces, frills, motifs, fabrics, packing materials, etc
- Dariba Kalan – One of the best places to buy exquisitely crafted silver, gold, costume, Kundan, and Meenakari jewelry.
- Bhagirath Palace – Asia’s largest market for light fixtures, lamps, and electric and electronic goods.
- Nai Sarak – Huge collection of pre-owned books, notebooks, textbooks, guides, and other stationery items.
- Katra Neel – For buying wedding finery for men and women, irrespective of the budget.
- Kucha Choudhary market – Popularly known as Photo Market, here you can find countless shops selling every conceivable camera and photographic equipment.
- Khari Baoli – The best place to buy all kinds of quality dry fruits, spices, pulses, and grains at the most competitive rates.
- Ballimaran Market – Shoes, Sunglasses, spectacles, and other frames at dirt-cheap prices
- Moti Bazar – Shawl at throwaway prices in a mind-boggling range of colors and styles.
The whole experience of visiting the vibrant Chandni Chowk can overwhelm you, but you are in for a generous dose of ethnicity and culture with surprises waiting for you in every nook and corner. So if you are up to it, take a metro towards Chandni Chowk to soak in the madness. Recently, the 1.4 km between the Red Fort and Fatehpuri Masjid has been a pedestrian-only zone between 9 am-9 pm. Major redevelopment work has been done to make things more organized and accessible. The area is being developed for night tourism. Still undecided and confused? You can book a Heritage Walk which will guide you for an ultimate Chandni Chowk Experience.
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