Hi everyone, this past winter I visited Chandni Chowk three times. Each time I learnt something new and saw something different. I have visited this tourist hub numerous times before, but have never gotten around to writing about it, and this seems a good time to do so.
Chandni Chowk used to be the centre of commerce and industry during the Mughal era. Once the British came to power, they built Lutyen’s or New Delhi, yet Chandni Chowk continued to attract thousands of shoppers. To this day, it is the go-to destination for locals who want particular items in bulk, or need something traditional and intricate.
In addition to being a shopper’s paradise, Chandni Chowk is a foodie’s delight. If you are planning to visit as a tourist, the entire experience can be quite overwhelming! Don’t worry though, I’m here to make your job easy for you. Read on to know the top 10 things you must do in Chandni Chowk, Delhi.
- TAKE A GUIDED HERITAGE WALK
Despite having visited Chandni Chowk with friends and family members numerous times, I only learnt of its fascinating history during my most recent visit, where I was part of a group led by historian Swapna Liddle, on a guided heritage walk. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. Though Ms. Liddle officially conducts walks through INTACH, there are many other groups that offer their own curated walks. It is a pleasure to explore the streets while getting some insight and perspective on its glorious past.
Historian Swapna Liddle; the group on the guided walk
- TANTALISE YOUR TASTE BUDS WITH THE BEST STREET FOOD
This one is a no-brainer! There is really no point visiting Chandni Chowk without sampling the various street-food delicacies on offer. The following joints should be on your list, whether you visit just once or multiple times:
- Shiv Misthan Bhandar for Aloo Puri (Address: 375, Kucha Ghasi Ram)
- Natraj Dahi Bhalla Corner for Chaat
- Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan OR Pt. Babu Ram Devi Dayal for Parathas (Address: Parathe Wali Gali)
- Karim’s for all kinds of non-vegetarian delicacies
- Cool Point Shahi Tukda for an old-school Mughal dessert of the same name
- Old Famous Jalebi Wala for Jalebis (Address: 1795, Dariba Corner)
Chandni Chowk is a foodie’s paradise!
- SHOP FOR DESIGNER OUTFITS AT THROWAWAY PRICES
Chandni Chowk is undoubtedly a one-stop-shop for people who are about to get married. Numerous stores offer heavily embellished traditional wedding outfits, and some even copy designer ones, at a fraction of the original price! Even if you don’t buy an outfit at any of the stores, it’s worth visiting to see what’s trending and scout options before committing to one outfit.
In addition, you can also buy other wedding-related paraphernalia at Kinari Bazaar. Everything you need is available in a single market- from invitation cards to gift boxes and mithai.
Buy wedding-related paraphernalia at Kinari Bazaar
- INVEST IN STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL JEWELLERY
Dariba Kalan was the original jeweller’s market and continues to be the preferred destination for buying gold and silver jewellery, by the citizens of Delhi. In fact, people usually have their own select family jewellers based in Chandni Chowk, whom they call them home for personalised visits.
If you don’t have the budget to spend exorbitant amounts of money on real jewellery, you can select from a variety of costume jewellery as well. These are available in traditional Indian or contemporary modern styles.
I just love everything Chandni Chowk has to offer!
- COLLECT DRY FRUITS AND EXOTIC SPICES TO STOCK AT HOME
Khari Baoli is the place to buy wholesale dry fruits, nuts and exotic spices. Most businesses that rely on these items, source them from this market. In fact, even restaurants frequent this place to pick the best additions to their cocktail and food menus!
It is also a great place to buy dry fruits and nuts for bulk gifting during weddings, or as corporate gifts.
Khari Baoli is a haven for dry fruits and nuts
- ENJOY LUXURY TEA AND COFFEE
Mehar Chand and Sons has sold dry fruit and spices in Khari Baoli for years. When Anil Kumar began running the wholesale shop, he converted a part of the store into an exclusive luxury tea and coffee studio. You can buy premium tea leaves or bags, sourced from across India. If you’re feeling spendy, you can invest in the ‘Maharaja Tea’, which will set you back a few thousand rupees!
Try some exotic teas at Mehar Chand and Sons
- PAY RESPECTS AT MULTI-RELIGIOUS SITES
Though it began as the capital of a Muslim empire, Chandni Chowk is the best example of the peaceful coexistence of all religions. You can visit the stunningly beautiful Jama Masjid, the seat of Islam in Delhi, pay respects and enjoy karah parshad at the historic Sikh Temple Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib, stop at the famous Gauri Shankar temple to get a flavor of Hindu worship, or admire the heritage of the ancient Jain temple Shri Digambar Jain Meru Mandir. Each one will leave you spellbound with its legacy and beauty.
Multiple religious sites coexist here and each one is beautiful. FromL-R: Jama Masjid, Gurdwara Sis Ganj Sahib
- EXPLORE INDIA’S RICH HERITAGE THROUGH ANCIENT HAVELIS
As it was the seat of commercial as well as governmental power, Chandni Chowk was home to the richest merchants and noblemen in past centuries. Most of these people lived in lavish havelis (large, multi-level houses or bungalows), which were passed down among family members for generations. Unfortunately, many of these are currently sub-judice, or have been let and sub-let out till they became a mere shadow of their original forms.
A walk through the lanes of Chandni Chowk, however, offers a glimpse at the rich heritage of Delhi, through these gorgeous homes of yesteryear. Walk up to the roof of Gadodia Palace to enjoy spectacular views and a peek into local activities such as games involving pigeon flights and kite-flying. You could enjoy a more luxurious setting at Haveli Dharampura, which has been converted into a boutique hotel. Have a meal at its restaurant, while enjoying the live dance performance, and feel transported back in time.
Exploring the havelis of Chandni Chowk
- ENJOY GORGEOUS VIEWS OF DELHI FROM ONE OF ITS HIGHEST TOWERS
Women are not allowed in the main mosque at Jama Masjid. However, they are allowed to enter the grounds and the towers surrounding it. The climb of a few hundred steps up to the tower is worth the effort, so you can enjoy unfettered views of the beautiful city of Delhi. It’s a steep climb though, so be warned!
View from the tower at Jama Masjid
- MARVEL AT THE SPOT WHERE DELHI’S HIGHER EDUCATION SYSTEM BEGAN
I had to include this one because it has personal significance for me. My alma mater, St. Stephen’s College, is also one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions for higher education in India. It first opened its doors in the lanes of Chandni Chowk in mid-19th century, and moved to its present location in North Campus in the early 20th century. A diminutive plaque is all that marks the location of this important place, but it’s worth visiting to take note of a key moment in the history of Delhi.
The plaque that marks the location of St. Stephen’s College’s old site
Now that you have read my picks of what to see in Chandni Chowk, here are a few tips that will help you make the most of your visit there:
- Be well-clad in modest clothing, especially if you plan to visit religious sites.
- Wear comfortable walking shoes. Avoid rickshaws if you can, as nothing beats the joy of exploring Chandni Chowk on foot.
- Carry a bottle of water to stay hydrated.
- Stay away from the chemical laden streets where beads and other materials are sold. I once fainted here!
- Carry hand sanitiser.
- Guard your bag from potential thefts.
- Carry cash instead of cards.
- Go on an empty stomach in order to enjoy all the local delicacies.
- There are no clean public toilets in the area, except in Haveli Dharampura. Be prepared in advance!
- Wear sunblock or a hat to protect yourself.
- Take the metro to avoid car parking issues.
- If you have the time, do visit the Red Fort, located nearby, and the lovely Drishyakala Museum there.
How to Get to Chandni Chowk:
The nearest metro station is Chandni Chowk on the Yellow Line. You can take e-rickshaws or regular rickshaws till you reach your desired starting point.
I really hope you enjoyed reading my post on Chandni Chowk- the heart of Delhi. If I have missed anything, I would love to hear about it from you in the comments section below. Please do share this post ahead with someone that may find it useful, and bookmark it for when you visit Chandni Chowk next.
I’ll be back with another post on fun things to do in Delhi, soon!
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