The Best Markets in Old Delhi
A busy spices and dried fruits shop in Old Delhi | © Bahnfrend / WikiCommons
The crowded and chaotic markets of Old Delhi are flooded with an array of pocket-friendly items that include electronics, exotic spices and precious stones. Follow Culture Trip’s guide to discover the best ones in the area.
Chawri Bazar, initially a hardware hub, is Old Delhi
‘s first wholesale market and predominantly deals with paper products. Be prepared to browse through rows and rows of shops selling a wide variety of wallpapers, gift wrappers and wedding invites. However, visitors can also find several stores that keep kitchen utensils made of brass and copper. During the early days, the ground floor of every building in Chawri Bazar was filled with shops while the floors above were occupied by tawaifs,
or sophisticated courtesans, who catered to the nobility of India.
Dariba Kalan, which translates to ‘incomparable pearl’, was built in the 17th century by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. During its heyday, it served the royals and rich patrons who came to the market to splurge on gold, silver and precious stones. When Persian invader Nadir Shah occupied Delhi in 1739, he ordered a mass execution of civilians here and plundered all the shops of Dariba Kalan. Today, this historic street is a renowned silver jewellery market, where people can buy beautiful ornaments for as little as 25 percent of what can be found in other parts of the city.
Bhagirath Palace is now counted among the largest wholesale markets for electrical good and electronics in the country. Stumble across some rare finds at the market, including beautiful vintage chandeliers and intricately carved lamps, to give your home a livelier look. Years ago, the building belonged to Begum Samru, a prominent courtesan during the end of the Mughal
era, but the grandeur of the mansion all but waned when local trader Seth Bagirath took possession of it.
Katra Neel was once home to indigo manufacturers and traders and over time grew to become one of the biggest wholesale markets for clothes in Delhi. Katra Neel, which has fabrics of all kinds and colours, is usually frequented by wedding shoppers. Although the place is famous for its menswear fabric collection, you can find a variety of salwars, lehengas and sarees
here. While walking around, don’t forget to appreciate the antiquated architecture from the Mughal era.
Khari Baoli was built in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, one of the wives of emperor Shah Jahan, and was meant to be a step well used for bathing animals. A market gradually popped up around Khari Baoli and the adjacent Fatehpuri Masjid and in due course, it became the biggest wholesale spice market in Asia. Large amounts of exotic spices, dried fruits, tea and grains from different parts of India, as well as neighbouring countries like Afghanistan, are traded here daily.
Nai Sarak is a long stretch of road lined with small shops selling low-priced books. Whether it’s the latest international bestseller or second-hand textbook for college, Nai Sarak will not disappoint. The shops here also sell stationery, office supplies and DIY materials. Unfortunately, many businesses at Delhi’s oldest bookselling hub struggle to survive these days with more and more customers moving to online bookstores
Kucha Choudhary Market
Kucha Choudhary Market is more famously known as the Photo Market, and rightly so. At this chaotic shopping centre, you can find everything from the newest Nikon DSLR to a vintage Minolta 35mm. Besides original cameras, lenses, studio lights, tripods and other photography paraphernalia can be bought here as well. The market has very competitive rates but the downside is that the goods don’t come with a warranty. Kucha Choudhary also has a host of trusty camera repair shops.