Exclusive Rickshaw Ride in Chandni Chowk
Rickshaw rides are common in Chandni Chowk, the vast and crowded market in the Old Delhi quarter, but book a comprehensive rickshaw tour for an immersive experience that lasts longer than 15 minutes. Witness the architectural marvels, multicolored facades, beautifully decorated shops, and the fragrances emanating from the potpourri of eateries that line the historic alleys. The tour covers 20 main sites—palaces, mansions, elegant shrines, and colorful bazaars—and finishes at an 1860 haveli (mansion) where you'll visit a gallery of photos depicting the lifestyle of Mughals, as well as a small lounge where you can relax and try some typical snacks.
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Old Delhi Charm
Take in the the charm and multi-faceted cultural heritage of Old Delhi by exploring Chandani Chowk street. Before heading out on foot, take a rickshaw ride through the inner routes and lanes perhaps by Kinaari Bazaar, Silver lane, Jama Masjid (India’s largest Mosque), and Khari Baoli (Asia’s largest spice market). Mughal Emperor, Shah Jahan, established the walled city Old Delhi in 1650 AD so there is a vast amount of historic detail and modern culture here. Chandni Chowk runs through the middle of the walled city, from the Lahori Darwaza (Lahore Gate) of the Red Fort to Fatehpuri Masjid.
By Allison Murray, AFAR Contributor
Delhi Heritage Walks
Within New Delhi lies Old Delhi, a walled city that was the capital of the Mughal empire. Alongside a rich and complex history lives a bustling neighborhood with shops at every turn and another story in every nook and cranny. Delhi Heritage Walks offer weekend tours (led in English) to explore different areas of the city. While you can customize a tour, I was very happy to join in on a Sunday tour of Old Delhi. Our guide was a curious young woman who shared her infectious wonder about the history of the area. She pointed out the historic and the current as we navigated the winding streets - from a centuries old candy shop to the many religious centers in the area. One of the things I loved about the tour was how many Indians living in Delhi were on the tour. It was a wonderful reminder to continue to explore my own city at every opportunity.
Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest markets in Old Delhi. Like so many other old city bazaars, it is filled alleyways lined with hundreds of little shops that are clustered into areas according to the items they sell. There is the fabric section, which is great to wander through just to see the sari silks, the spice section, the leather section, the brass section and in the land where weddings are major affairs, the wedding section. Every time I am in Delhi, Chandni Chowk is the first place I go; I love wandering the labyrinth of narrow alleyways and checking out all the stores. It is a shopper’s paradise! Next to travelling, my favorite thing to do is to cook. The last time I was in Delhi, I went with Jyoti Argawal (owner of the Gourmet Desire Cooking School) on a shopping spree through Chandni Chowk. That’s her in the picture. I had a list of things to get and Jyoti took me to her favorite kitchen supply place. I gasped in awe as I entered the small shop. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, every inch was crammed with items for sale! I looked at Jyoti with doubt that I could walk around the place let alone find what I needed but she assured me that we would. While I stood among the tiffin carriers piled, sky high, on the floor, Jyoti and the shopkeeper went around got everything on my list. As she negotiated the buy, she flashed me this smile and leaned over and said, “I told you we would get everything on your list”. Successful shopping trip!
By Julee K., AFAR Local Expert
When Chandni Chowk Really Comes Alive
Tourists have flocked to Chandni Chowk since the 1700s. But the time to go to this market part of town is not when the stores are open, but rather when they are closed. In spite of all logic, it's true. When the shops are closed, that's when you see what it's really like to live here, The street dogs curl up here and there for a nap, the men wait in line for a bus to arrive, twenty deep, sometimes more, the devout Muslims and Sikhs go to their places of worship or sit outside waiting for something to begin that only they understand. A few women, not too many, but a few, wander into one of the few open shops, usually the ones selling flour or fruit, not the tourist items that will sell like hotcakes in a few hours. Chandni Chowk is a hectic, wild place when the shops open for the daily trade, but before they open and after, that's when you see what life here is really like.
Shop in Chandni Chowk
Welcome to "The Most Crowded Street in Asia," and one of my favorite markets in India. Established by Mughal Emporor Shah Jahan in 1650 AD, Chandni Chowk is considered one of the oldest and busiest street markets in Old Delhi (Shajahanabad). The street is positioned between two important historical sites: the Red Fort (Lal Qila) and Fatehpur Masjid, a 17th century mosque. Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India, is also located within walking distance. The side streets of Chandni Chowk host an impressive mix of shops that specialize in silk, silver, crafts, spices, and leather goods. There are renowned restaurants, food stands, and sweet shops, including the original Haldiram’s, Meghraj and Sons, Bikaner Sweet Shop and Ghantewala Halwai. Stop by Haldiram's and sample the variety of ladoos, a traditional round sweet. Note: Chandni Chowk is closed on Sunday.
Local Flavors in Chandni Chowk
Chandni Chowk, considered one of the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi (Shajahanabad), is a labyrinth of small streets, alleys, and neighborhoods. It is also a host to some of the city's best local food. Start at Natraj Dahi Bhalle and sample the Dahi Bhalle: deep-fried dal dumplings served with yogurt. Next, try a samosa with chutney at Bikanerwala. Continue to Shiv Mishthan Bhandar for jilebi, a deep-fried, pretzel-shaped treat soaked in sugar syrup. Conclude at one of my favorite spots, Chaina Ram Sindhi Halwai, for Karachi Halwa. This legendary shop has been around for two centuries—yes, two centuries—and has an impressive menu of traditional sweets. Note: Chandni Chowk is closed on Sunday, though some restaurants remain open.