Going to New Delhi? Then these are the best places to shop!

Despite the fact that the plots are often predictable, the acting is usually overdone and you can generally spot the fake sets and props from a mile away, I have always loved Bollywood movies. My friends think they’re ridiculous but I just love how everything is over dramatised and everything is a matter of life and death! Plus the fact that everyone bursts into song and dance at the drop of a hat just makes me smile!

So when I stumbled across some massively discounted international flights I decided that I was going to spoil myself with a vacation to New Delhi. I had to save a little more for the trip but it wasn’t difficult thanks to Discountrue coupons that you can use in almost every store, such as Kohl’s or Target and many more, and I was ready to go! The one warning I have for when visiting India is beware the sensory overload! The noise of the traffic, speakers blaring from every direction, and people talking a mile a minute at the top of their voices.

Then all the colors that turn into a kaleidoscopic blur if you try to look at too much all at once. And then there were the smells – women leaving trails of perfume, men wearing liberal amounts of cologne and hanging over it all the pungent aromas of every spice known to man! And if you love to shop but can’t control the urge to spend every cent you have then New Delhi is probably the worst place you could visit!

There are markets everywhere, and that means plenty of opportunities to spend your money – but if you can control yourself then here’s the best New Delhi markets to visit:

Khari Baoli

A Chai-wala in Chandni Chowk, New Delhi

One of the best places to go shopping is in the Chandni Chowk district which is divided into separate bazaars that each specialize in a specific type of product from wedding goods and fabrics, to silver jewelry and electronics. But the best bazaar, called Khari Baoli, is situated beside Fatehpuri Masjid (an ancient mosque) at the western end of Chandni Chowk and is the largest spice market in Asia.

This spice market began in the 17th century and a few of the stalls still sport their original names, while many of the stalls are run by the 7th and 8th generations descended from the first  spice merchants to set up shop here. But despite the rich history of this part of town, the real attraction here is the narrow lanes and tiny alleyways filled to overflowing with both local and exotic spices that fill the air with a heavenly blend of aromas.

The kitchen is the heartbeat of every home and in India that heartbeat is driven by the delightful spices that turn even the most boring of vegetables into a delicious meal you can’t get enough of. And it is the  scurrying porters lugging huge sacks of spices about, shopkeepers touting the quality of their products and customers haggling for the best prices they can get that makes Khari Baoli the heartbeat of New Delhi and a place worth visiting!

Kitab Bazaar at Daryaganj

Book market at Daryaganj
Book market at Daryaganj, Photo by Koshy Koshy

Being the voracious reader that I am, I can never have enough books to suit me so I often spend money I shouldn’t on books I don’t really have place for. Even though I recently got rid of dozens of books, I still have hundreds more and that is not including the thousands of ebooks I own! While ebooks don’t take up space (and they’re cheaper!), I prefer a proper book – the smell, the texture, the weight in my hands and pages that I can turn.

So the weekly book market that takes place along the narrow footpaths and cramped streets of Daryaganj on Sundays is my idea of heaven!  Here you will find over a kilometre (nearly 2km!) of dust covered books laid out on the pavement, sometimes in neat piles and other times in a  messy jumble that you have to dig through to find anything. And there is literally no limit to what titles you might come across.

You’ll see popular fiction in every genre you can imagine, coffee table books, first editions, some old titles, textbooks, graphic novels, comic books, and popular (or unknown) nonfiction. Each book can cost you anything from INR 400 to just INR 10, so bring cash (beware pickpockets) and a bag to carry all the treasures you find! And if you end up with a ridiculous amount of books then ship them home to avoid additional luggage fees!

Dilli Haat

Dilli Haat, which means Delhi Village Market, is a permanent open air market modelled after a traditional weekly market where you’ll find little thatched roof cottages spread over a 6 acre plot of land. There is more than one Dilli Haat, but I visited the one opposite the INA Market in south Delhi. And if you’re looking for traditional India then this is absolutely the best place to find it.

The market is essentially an arts and crafts bazaar where you will find rural artisans and craftspeople selling everything from panel beaten silver jewelry to handwoven linen, and ornate brassware to hand carved wooden decor items. Then there is the wonderful food plaza where you will find edible delights from every corner of India – whether it is seafood from Odiham, a Tibetan soup from Momomia or pista matka kulfi from Rajasthan.

There is also an area where you can enjoy cultural music or traditional performances from different regions, especially if you happen to visit while there is a festival on the go! Just be aware that there is an entrance fee and that there are new stalls every 15 days (some are permanent though), so if you see something you like then I would suggest trying out your bargaining  skills (the stall owners love a good haggle!).

There are dozens if not hundreds of other markets to visit, including some that offer mostly factory reject designer  clothing, nothing but bangles, and even a few that are for people who have much bigger budgets than others. But if there is one thing I discovered is that India is the land of the bargain and you can negotiate better prices just about anywhere. Unless you visit a State Emporium where the prices are set by the government.

Unfortunately India is nothing like what I saw in all those Bollywood movies, but once I accepted  that I was probably not going to find myself in the middle of a flash dance that I instinctively knew all the steps to, I absolutely fell in love with everything it has to offer. The people, the food, the culture, the landmarks, the history and of course – the shopping!! And if you ever visit then I’m sure you will too!

This article was sent by a friend who recently visited Delhi.

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