Chandni Chowk Old Delhi, History of Chandni Chowk, About Chandni Chowk, Shopping places at Chandni Chowk, Food at Chandni Chowk, Tourist Attractions at Chandni Chowk, How to Reach Chandni Chowk.
About Chandni Chowk
One of the oldest markets in Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk is Old Delhi’s main thoroughfare which is a chaotic shopping street lined by hawkers and porters with narrow lanes offering full medieval bazaar experience. It is an important historical site renowned for the availability of every kind of goods as well as food. It was constructed in the 17th-century b the Mughal ruler of India Shah Jahan. It is situated opposite the Red Fort and provides a view of the Fatehpuri Mosque.
Crisscrossed by narrow streets with shops jostling for space, Chandi Chowk gives a feel of old Delhi shopping. Since the 17th-century era, this places is rightly called a “shoppers paradise” in Delhi. During the reign of Shah Jahan, there was a tree-lined canal running through its centre, reflecting the moon. Hence, the name “Chandni Chowk” came to being which means “moonlight place”. Shopping at Chandni Chowk is fun as the market is distributed in several streets and these narrow streets are inundated with vibrant varieties ofclothes, perfumes, electronic items, jewellery, candles, idols of deities and lifestyle goods.
The market deals in everything that shoppers might think to buy for oneself and as well as for home. As this is a wholesale market, one can get huge discounts on most of the items. These shopping streets is a heaven for retailers too. Apart from shopping, this place is equally famous for its eateries, street food, and Indian snacks. It has been aptly said for this barrage of noise, colour and smell, “Are janaab Dilli aae aur chandni chowk nahi dekha to kya dekha?”
History of Chandni Chowk
The history of Chandni Chowk dates back to the foundation of Shahjahanabad by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Shahjahanabad was set to be the capital among the cities he ruled. Chandni Chowk was initially laid as a square in the centre of which was a pool that shimmered in the moonlight (the reason why it was named as Chandni Chowk). The shops were arranged in a half moon pattern around this square. Many people believe that it was built so that Shah Jahan’s favourite daughter, Jahan Ara Begum, could buy whatever she needed. It was a gathering place for traders and merchants who flocked here from all over the country.
In the early days, Chandni Chowk was famous for the silver merchants. This has led many people to believe that it was named as Chandni Chowk because of the trade of silver as silver in Hindi is called ‘chandi’. The original pattern of reflecting pool and shops arranged in half moon has been replaced by numerous shops selling all kinds of knick knack. It was once the grandest Indian market. The dingy lanes brimming with noise and chaos still retains its historical character.
Shopping at Chandni Chowk
It is the perfect place to shop in. This densely populated market has been around for more than three centuries and was once visited by merchants from Turkey, China and even Holland. You may buy curios and souvenirs from here. Dariba Kalan is known for its pearl, gold and silver jewellery and attar (natural perfumes). Gulab Singh Johri Mal, established in 1819, are well-known manufacturers and exporters of attar. A visit to Khari Baoli is a must for the spice-lover — don’t forget spices are what connected India to the West. Kinari Bazaar is the best place to look for zari and zardozi trimmings and tinsel. The cloth bazaar of Katra Neel offers all kinds of fabrics such as silks, satin, crepe, cotton and muslin. Bhagirath Palace is Asia’s largest market for electrical goods and also offers medical equipment and allopathic medicines. Moti Bazaar is famous for shawls and pearls and Tilak Bazaar for chemicals.
Shopping in Chandi Chowk is a mind boggling experience. It offers a staggering range of goodies ranging from books, clothes, electronics, shoes, leather and consumer goods. Walking along this jostling street can get quite intimidating, so be prepared to get stunned. Each area of Chandni Chowk has different markets, which are known for various things.
Nai Sadak is mainly known for books and stationery items. It is perfect for the students and bibliomaniacs who will find everything they need here, ranging from books for competitive exams to second-hand college textbooks, fiction novels and even Hindi fiction and non-fiction.
Dariba Kalan is known for jewellery, especially silver and gold items. The highlight here is the availability of hand-crafted jewellery. The best part about shopping at this market is the cost of the items is usually around 25% less than the other markets. You will also find kundan and meenakari jewellery here, along with shops selling perfumes and oils.
Chawri Bazar is your go-to place if you are looking to get wedding cards printed in bulk. It specialises in the sale of paper products. You will find all kinds of wedding cards here – simple and subtle to fancy and extravagant.
Kinari Bazar is a haven for your wedding shopping. It is a narrow lane known for selling the best zardozi items such as laces and frills. Apart from this, you will also find Parsi borders, motifs, ribbon laces and all the embellishments for your wedding lehenga.
This is Asia’s largest wholesale market for electrical and electronic items. Right from simple light fixtures to fancy decorative lamps, you will find everything you need to decorate your home. That too at dirt cheap prices!
This market is known for selling shoes at affordable prices. There are all kinds of shoes available here, ranging from formal shoes to dress shoes. You will also find a lot of opticians here, though don’t depend on their eye testing skills. You can find a huge variety of frames and sunglasses at a throwaway price.
There are plenty of other markets in Chandi Chowk selling different knick knacks-
Khari Baoli is a street dedicated to spices, nuts, herbs and dried fruits. Located at the western end of Chandni Chowk, there is no spice that you won’t find here.
Fatehpuri Market is a wholesale trade market for khoya and paneer. You will also find plenty of eateries here.
Kucha Choudhary Market is also known as the photo market. You can get all types of cameras and its accessory at every corner of this market.
Katra Neel is the wholesale market for all kinds of clothes. The first franchise of Raymond from Old Delhi is also located here. There are plenty of shops selling sarees, lehenga, salwar suits and men’s wear.
Moti Bazar is known for shawls in a myriad of design, colour, style and type of wool. It is called as the Moti Bazar as it specialises in the sale and purchase of pearls.
Food at Chandni Chowk
1. Paranthe Wali Gali
Probably the first thing that comes in mind when you think about Chandni Chowk or Old Delhi, the Paranthe Wali Gali never fails to please your taste buds! This gali has many shops serving a huge variety of Paranthas with a Sabzi, Aloo, and various types of Achaars. There is also the Kulhad vaali Lassi to complement them perfectly!
Highlights: Parantha shops that are centuries old
Must haves: Paneer Parantha, Papad Parantha
Cost for two: Rs. 250
Cuisine: North Indian
Address: Gali Paranthe Wali, Chandni Chowk
2. Old Famous Jalebi Wala
The name says it all. This is one of the oldest, most famous Jalebi Walas in entire Chandni Chowk and even Old Delhi! After gorging on the crazy spicy food that Old Delhi is famous for, it is only natural for you to crave for desserts. Head here as there is absolutely no way you could go wrong with those Jalebis with Rabri!
Highlights: Vegetarian Only, Desserts and Bakes, Takeaway Only
Must haves: Crunchy Jalebi with Rabri, Aloo Samosa and Lassi
Cost for two: Rs. 100
Cuisine: North Indian
Address: Dariba Kalan, Chandni Chowk, New Delhi
3. Jang Bahadur Kachori Wala
An evergreen dish, something Puraani Dilli is best known for, the Kachoris with aloo ki sabzi.
One of the most famous places for Kachoris, here at Jung Bahadur’s, you’ll be served with freshly prepared crunchy Kachoris with the spiciest Aloo ki Sabzi ever! Do head here if you’re feeling brave enough!!
Highlights: Freshly prepared food in front of you
Must haves: Kachoris with Aloo Ki Sabzi
Cost for two: Rs. 100
Cuisine: North Indian, Street Food
Address: Katra Jamun, Nai Sadak, Chandni Chowk
Contact: +91 8010871948
I don’t think we need an introduction for this one. Who doesn’t know about Karim’s?
The most famous place for everything Mughlai, the number of followers this place has is unbelievable! If you have a taste for Mughlai food, you can blindly trust Karim’s. Do head here during your Chandni Chowk visit and thank me later.
Highlights: Famous For Old Delhi Style Kebabs
Must haves: Nahari, Chicken Mughlai, Chicken Jahangiri
Cost for two: Rs. 800
Cuisine: Mughlai, North Indian
Address: Gali Kababian, Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
5. Aslam Chicken
If you are more into chicken than mutton, this is the best place to experiment with the next time you go to Chandni Chowk. Though famous for their chicken dishes, other things like fish tikka, etc are also great picks. The huge 3-floor restaurant is almost always crowded to the core and you probably would have to wait for a few minutes to get a place to sit, but we assure you, it’s definitely going to be worth it!
Highlights: Famous for Kebabs and curries
Must haves: Fish, Chicken Seekh, Chicken Grill
Cost for two: Rs. 500
Address: Jama Masjid, Old Delhi
Contact: +91 9312281022
Now it’s time to wake the explorer in you up and visit the most famous tourist attractions in Chandni Chowk!
1. Jama Masjid
The largest Mosque in India, built in 1644 during the reign of none other than Shah Jahan, this place is extremely beautiful and famous. With a capacity of seating 25,000 devotees at a time, this is the greatest architectural masterpiece after The Taj Mahal and The Red Fort, all built during Shah Jahan’s time as an emperor.
2. Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib
Constructed in 1783 under Baghel Singh’s supervision, this is one of the nine historical gurudwaras built to commemorate the martyrdom site of the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur. The place where this Gurudwara is situated in Chandni Chowk was the place where Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam. This place has great significance for Sikhs and Hindus. Head here for a peaceful and spiritual experience.
Gorgeous silver jewellery
Close to Paranthe Wali Gali, is the 17th century market of Dariba Kalan. The name of the market means the ‘street of the incomparable pearl’. During Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s time, Dariba Kalan was lined with shops that sold all kinds of trinkets and precious stones. Today, it’s mostly known for beautiful silver jewellery priced much more affordably than you’d normally find in other Delhi markets.
While in Dariba Kalan, Gulab Singh Johri Mal is one unmissable place. No, it’s not an ornaments store but the oldest perfumery of Delhi. The 200-year-old perfumery is now run by the seventh generation decedents of the founder Gulab Singh, who is believed to have sold his craftsmanship to Mughal emperors and court nobility of yore.
Asia’s largest wholesale spice market
Khari Baoli is a street near the Red Fort. The market here was built in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, one of Shah Jahan’s many wives. Through the years, Khari Baoli has grown to become the largest spice market in Asia and is awash in warm aromas and kaleidoscopic colours. Along with a variety of local spices, nuts, dry fruits, herbs, grains and pulses, at Khari Baoli you can find items as exotic as dried mulberries shipped all the way from neighbouring Afghanistan.
India’s biggest camera market
Kucha Choudhary Market, simply known as the Photo Market by the locals is a treasure trove of photographic equipment. While the shops may look deceptive, cameras, lenses, tripods and other paraphernalia of every brand and in every price range imaginable is to be found here.
Natraj’s dahi bhalla
Dahi bhalla is a favourite North Indian snack which is a type of deep fried croquets made from green bean paste and spices. This is then served cold with curd and tamarind sauce. There’s a widespread acceptance among the city folks that one of the best dahi bhalla is to be found at Natraj’s in Chandni Chowk. It’s not just the taste but the typical experience of eating Indian street food while standing on the pavement, often after having had to wait in a queue, that adds to the fun experience.
It’s a common sight to find soon-to-be brides and grooms scouring the by-lanes of Chandni Chowk. Apart from gorgeous dresses, the market is also an ideal place to find all sorts of odds and ends required at an Indian wedding, from accessories to decoration and catering companies.
Fabrics at Katra Neel
Historically, this neighbourhood was a hub for indigo manufacturers and traders and now is a wholesale market for cloth. It is best known for its menswear retail stores. In fact, Raymond, India’s leading menswear fabric retailer, set up its first franchise of Old Delhi right here. The quaint remains of the bygone Mughal architecture also add to the charm of the place.
Inexpensive pre-owned books
Nai Sarak, which literally translates from Hindi to “new road” was constructed by the British after the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Pre-owned educational textbooks and fiction titles are found aplenty here. Facing stiff competition from e-commerce stores, the book sellers of Nai Sarak have been feeling the pressure of late, but this should give visitors more reason to visit this much-loved street of Chandni Chowk.
A spiritual experience
One of the most special qualities about Chandni Chowk is the religious and communal harmony that has been preserved here for years. The number of religious places of worship in this crowded area is a testimony to this fact. Whether it’s Hindu temples, Muslim mosques, Sikh gurudwars or Christian churches, all faiths peacefully co-exist in Chandni Chowk.
The ancient havelis
Havelis are historic mansions and Chandni Chowk is home to many of these ancient buildings. However, most of them are now hidden under the guise of modern shops. Take Begum Samru’s Palace for instance. Built in 1806 for one of the most famous nautch girls during the Mughal era, it now houses an electronic goods shopping complex. Then there’s Lala Rai Chunna Mal, the wealthiest man in 19th century Delhi, and his 130 room haveli. There are many such hidden gems in Chandni Chowk, several of them, unfortunately, in dilapidated states. But it’s still worthwhile to take a day and tour these havelis for a rare experience.