As one of Delhi’s oldest markets, Chandni Chowk is a chaotic shopping street with narrow lanes offering the full Indian bazaar experience. The main road and surrounding market areas are the perfect place to find the best street food, spices, and bargains in the city.
Chandni Chowk is filled with markets such as Chawri Bazaar and Kinari Bazaar selling everything from jewelry to textiles and paper products. You can also find restaurants like Paranthe Wali Gali and Ghantewala Halwai serving delicious street food such as parathas and samosas.
- Chandni Chowk, meaning Moonlight Square, was initially a square with a pool in the center that shimmered in the moonlight.
- Jama Masjid and the Red Fort are some of the nearby attractions around Chandni Chowk.
- Paranthe Wali Gali is famous for its vegetarian parathas (Indian bread) with lemon, chili, nuts, carrot, potato, and many more types of fillings.
- Photography is not allowed at many of the shops in the market as the owners are worried that other people will copy their designs.
Chandni Chowk: the Legendary Bazaar of Old Delhi
Situated in Old Delhi between the Red Fort and Fatehpuri Masjid, Chandni Chowk is one of the oldest and busiest markets in the city. This legendary bazaar was built by Emperor Shah Jahan and was once the central gathering place of traders and merchants from all over India.
A Half-Moon Shaped Square
Chandni Chowk was constructed in the mid-17th century by Emperor Shah Jahan and was designed by his daughter Jahan Ara as part of Shahjahanabad, the extravagant capital city of the Mughal empire. When it was built, Chandni Chowk was the gathering place for traders and merchants from all over India.
Chandni Chowk means ‘moonlight square’. The area was given this name because it was initially laid out as a town square with a pool in the center that shimmered in the moonlight.
The shops were arranged in a half-moon pattern around the square. The market was believed to be arranged this way so that Jahan Ara could easily buy whatever she needed.
Chandni Chowk retained its elite status into the early 18th century and was known as the place where important people gathered to shop for expensive jewelry, gemstones, and perfume.
Streets and Stalls
Chandni Chowk is the starting point of several streets that extend from it and are called kuchas or wings. Each kucha in Chandni Chowk contains several neighborhoods with many Havelis or traditional Indian mansions.
The tangled lanes of Chandni Chowk also house many shops and stalls offering a staggering range of products from books and clothes to electronics and consumer goods.
While there are many different amazing shops in the market, travelers can find perfumes and jewelry at Dariba Kalan, fabric and saris at Katra Neel, and Asia's largest spice market at Khari Baoli.
Decorations for Indian weddings can also be found at Kinari Bazaar, books and stationery at Nai Sarak, and hardware and paper products at Chawri Bazaar.
Historic Monuments around Chandni Chowk
Around Chandni Chowk, there are also other popular attractions. Some of them include Jama Masjid, the Red Fort, the Central Baptist Church, and Fatehpuri Masjid.
Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India and was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. This iconic mosque took 13 years to construct and can accommodate more than 25,000 devotees.
The mosque is made from red sandstone and white marble and houses several relics of high religious significance including an ancient transcript of the Quran printed on deerskin and relics from the Prophet Mohammad including his footprints, sandals, and hair.
The Red Fort
The Red Fort is a magnificent fort and palace that was built from red sandstone and covers over 250 acres of land. The fort is immense and is also embellished with floral inlays and artwork from India, Persia, and Europe.
The Red Fort is a great example of Islamic and Mughal architecture with its tall turrets capped with pointed domes. The construction of the Red Fort took almost 9 years to finish and the structure served as the royal residence of the Mughal emperors from 1648 to 1857.
Other Nearby Attractions
Aside from Jama Masjid, there are also many other religious buildings in the vicinity of Chandni Chowk.
The Central Baptist Church, which is one of the oldest churches in Delhi, is located on Chandni Chowk road. The church was established in 1814 and has been well maintained with its original motifs and carvings.
The Fatehpuri Masjid is a 17th-century mosque located at the western end of Chandni Chowk. The mosque was built in 1650 by Fatehpuri Begum, one of Emperor Shah Jahan's wives who was from Fatehpur Sikri.
5 Main Bazaars of Chandni Chowk
The narrow and busy streets of Chandni Chowk are home to many stalls and shops that sell all kinds of knick-knacks, jewelry, and textiles. You can find almost anything you could want at the 5 different markets and bazaars along this street.
1. Dariba Kalan
Dariba Kalan is renowned for its jewelry and specializes in the sale of silver and gold items. Hand-crafted jewelry such as Kundan, Meenakari, and filigree jewelry in both traditional and contemporary designs are some of the most popular items here.
The best part about shopping at this market is that the cost of the items is usually around 25% less than at other markets.
2. Chawri Bazar
Chawri Bazar is a specialized wholesale market of brass, copper, and paper products. This is the go-to place if you are looking to get wedding cards printed in bulk. Items such as jewelry boxes, vases, pots, and oil lamps are also available here.
The market can be reached by taking the street near Jama Masjid's western wall.
3. Kinari Bazar
Kinari Bazar is a great place to go shopping for an Indian wedding and is known for its vast collection of jewelry, embroidered fabrics, and lace. Additionally, you can also buy beaded items, decorated envelopes, adornments for idols, and festival decorations here.
The bazaar can be reached by taking the Dariba Kalan road and turning right at the fourth alley or take Paranthe wali Gali street just after the Ghantewala Sweet Shop.
4. Khari Baoli
Known for being Asia's largest wholesale spice market, there is no flavor that you won't find at Khari Baoli. Here, you can also find all kinds of nuts, herbs, rice, and tea.
The market is located near the Red Fort on the Khari Baoli road next to Fatehpuri Masjid which is at the western end of Chandni Chowk.
5. Fatehpuri Market
Fatehpuri Market is a wholesale market that sells Indian dairy products such as khoya and paneer. This congested market is also home to many street food stalls selling famous dishes such as chole bhature (spicy chickpeas in bread), kulfi walas (frozen dairy dessert), and aloo puri (spicy potato gravy).
Aside from selling food items, Fatehpuri Market is also known for selling religious items and materials required for wedding rituals.
3 Famous Restaurants and Street Food Stalls in Chandni Chowk
One of the best things about Chandni Chowk is all the restaurants and street food stalls that serve delicious Indian dishes. The most famous ones are Paranthe Wali Gali known for their vegetarian parathas, Ghantewala Halwai famous for their traditional Indian snacks, and Annapurna Bhandar is known for their Bengali sweets.
1. Paranthe Wali Gali
Paranthe Wali Gali is famous for its vegetarian parathas, or Indian flatbread. There are tons of fillings that you can choose to put inside your paratha including lemon, chili, cashews, almonds, carrots, paneer, and potatoes.
The parathas at this restaurant are also served with sweet yogurt, mint sauce, sweet tamarind sauce, potato curry, and sweet pumpkin mash.
2. Ghantewala Halwai
The Ghantewala Halwai is one of the oldest traditional sweet shops in India. It has catered to emperors, dignitaries, locals, and tourists and was around even during the time of the Mughal Empire.
The shop sells traditional Indian snacks such as samosas and spicy kachoris. Some of the popular sweets sold in the shop include ladoos (sweet syrupy balls), kalakand (sweetened solid milk), and halwa (dense cakes).
3. Annapurna Bhandar
If you like Bengali sweets then Annapurna Bhandar is the best place to go. This shop is located across the road from the Sikh temple, Gurudwara Sis Ganj. Here, visitors can enjoy a delectable range of Bengali sweets and samosas.
Heritage Tours of Chandni Chowk
The best way to see Chandni Chowk is on a heritage tour. During the tour, you will get to explore the busy markets selling spices, dried fruit, jewelry, and beautiful saris in the narrow bustling side streets.
Your tour will start from your hotel where our guide will pick you up by rickshaw and take you to Chandni Chowk. Upon arrival, you can stroll the streets and do some light shopping or try some tasty street food.
Afterward, you can also visit the market’s nearby attractions including Jama Masjid and the Red Fort. Travel through Old Delhi on a rickshaw ride to reach attractions and fully take in the craziness of this ancient bazaar. Your guide can show you around, give you advice about what street food to try from which shops, and share interesting stories about the history of the area.
5 Safety and Etiquette Tips
1. Keep an open mind when visiting and be prepared to experience some culture shock. The chaos of the markets is sometimes overwhelming for visitors. There will also be a lot of noise, smells, and sights to take in.
2. Wear comfortable shoes because exploring the market will require a lot of walking and make sure to dress conservatively.
3. Get permission from shop owners before you take a picture. Photography is not allowed at many of the shops as the owners are worried that people will copy their designs.
4. Beware of pickpockets operating in the area. You should take extra care to keep your belongings safe and secure.
5. When shopping, don’t be afraid to bargain with vendors to get the best price. Fake products are widely sold in the market so if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Explore Chandni Chowk with Asia Highlights
Want to experience the incredible sights and sounds of one of Delhi’s oldest markets? Visiting Chandni Chowk by yourself can be very confusing and overwhelming, especially for the first-timers. If you would like advice about planning your trip and finding incredible guides, then Asia Highlights can help. Let us arrange your itinerary for you so that you can enjoy your trip to the fullest without having to stress about the small details.