India excels at so many things - carpets, textiles, jewellery, inlaid marble, lacquer-ware, miniature painting, pashminas ...
Chandni Chowk was once the finest market in India. It forms a maze of busy lanes and noisy alleyways surrounding the main street of the walled city of Old Delhi. It is one of the best places to buy just about everything, and to do so while experiencing the authentic chaos and colour of India.
Avoid the heat of the day and visit in the evening, when the electrical shops flash brightly with strings of garish lights, and the streets become a swirl of bangles, sandals and spices. Visit silversmiths, textile emporia crammed with jewel-coloured fabrics, and tiny shops selling handmade marbled paper.
Google map: bit.ly/jO3iJk
Not in Lonely Planet (why?).
Cheap, very safe (staffed reception and safe boxes), clean with hot water 24/7 hotel in downtown Delhi.
Check out the eaterie opposite the hotel for a veg Thali for less than a pound.
Only hassle is taxi drivers may be reluctant to come to the Main Bazaar, Pahar Gange (very narrow and crowded streets). Make sure you tell them that it's in PG and print off the map for directions - the last three times I have been to PG the taxi driver managed to get lost...).
Excellent place to spend time in Delhi. The place offers designer stores for Indian handicrafts, restaurants, cafes in the outer and middle lane, some of Delhi's oldest bookshops and Lodhi Gardens are right next door!
Experience the hustle and bustle of Delhi street life, with seemingly non-stop markets, livestock roaming free and every type of chancer and laughably inept con man trying to engage you..top notch, and puts the sedate connaught place to bed.
Near New Delhi train station
Just outside this market in the south Delhi area of the same name are a number of second-hand bookshops. You can pick up real bargains here, and they have the books organised according to collections. They even have a buy-back policy if you are aorund for longer, so you get 75% of what you paid when you return for more! All sorts of standard ficiton but you can find some lesser known authors and genres too.
Tip: If you are travelling from abroad and are being tempted by all the cheap books available which you cannot pack into your 20kg weight limit, just buy all that you want. Stack them into packs of about 5 kgs (about 20 or so paperbacks). Go a stationary shop, get some bubble wrap, some clear wide tape and some brown paper. Make packages- Ist bubble, then brown paper. Leave a large window on one side when wrapping the brown paper. Address it to your home, write Books, Printed matter only in large letters, go to a Post office and send it by seamail. It will cost about 170 Rs (hardly 3 euros) for a 5 kilo packet. In about 6-8 weeks you will get your packet at home.
Vasant Vihar Market
Most amazing bookshop. Looks small and crowded but has an amazing collection of titles on every subject. Ask if you can't find something and the staff know where everyhting is!
Tel: 011 2332 2260
If you want real cotton or khadi clothes, both Indian and Western style, this is the place to go. Reasonable prices. Across the market is their Home Furnishings, just as good. In fact the whole market is becoming a Fab India outlet!!
If you only visit one museum this is the place to head for. An amazing collection of contemporary and historical crafts from all over India. The highlight is the Crafts Demonstration Area, where award-winning artists from all over India come to demonstrate and sell their pieces to visitors.
Bhairon Road, New Delhi 110001.
Open 1000-1730hrs; Closed: Monday
Tel: 011 337 1887
You’ll see hawkers and street stalls everywhere, flogging not just shawls, ornaments, trinkets and other tourist junk but reading material. In fact, both Penguin and Oxford University Press have indigenous operations here and you can often find brand new and reasonably good quality English paperbacks - not only India-related tomes but the latest Booker winners, and many classics of wider interest - at a fraction of what they’d cost you back home.
Though the annual Pragati Maidan Trade Fair is much larger, and you can find far better quality at the Cottage Industries Emporium on Janpath, this little corner of Delhi is open all year round and is still a great place to come for gift shopping at fair prices. What’s more, it’s a good chance to sample a wide range of regional cuisines from Kashmiri to Bengali at the safe, well-run yet cheap food stands.
South Extension area, near ring road interchange
Something of an expat hangout, this is the place to come for electronics, books, magazines and other foreigner’s paraphernalia while avoiding the cons and chaos of the city centre. There’s a couple of decent little eateries too.
Subramaniam Bharti Marg area
The only chance you'll ever get to see all of India in a day, every November the Pragati Maidan exhibition centre hosts this enormous trade fair. Sounds dull, but there's stands representing every state of India and it's a great chance to see a little slice of each. The 'SARAS' hall of rural handicrafts is a particular must, with wares from Kashmir to Orissa all in one place at very decent prices.
Check to see when it opens its doors to the public, and try to get a ticket from outside retailers rather than queuing. It gets busy and traffic is awful, but drivers should know the location Pragati Maidan.
Before returning home from Delhi, shop for souvenirs at the central Cottage Industries Emporium in Janpath (Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan). This is shopping as it should be: relaxed and stress-free. No haggling involved and no hard sell. You present your purchases as you go along, you're given a receipt and then you collect everything together at the end, on production of all your receipts when you pay for everything at once and in return your purchases are carefully wrapped, ready for you to pack in your suitcase. Brilliant!
New Delhi Janpath
Home to the Kutub Minar, this 11th century 239 ft tower still stands amidst the ruins of a crumbling fort. Mehrauli is an urban vllage with small streets and shops. An interesting place to explore.
Mehrauli - 14 kms south of Connaught Place
Originally called Connaught Place, this is the centre of New Delhi. You find everything here - big shops, restaurants, art galleries, hotels and craft emporiums. More importantly, if you go to the lanes behind the main circle, you will find very good eating places. Now, with the Metro Station in the centre, you can go to the far flung parts of Delhi as well.
Underground Station of Connaught Place / Rajiv Chowk
An opticians in Delhi's G.K. I M-Block market, an amazing range of top-level frames and the latest glasses and lenses. Prices for a designer frame will be around 35-40 euros, latest reduced thickness, anti-glare coating etc lenses will set you back another 20 or so, depending on number.
Rest of the market is great for shopping where Indians do (silver, gold jewellery, designer wear) and at the same time also cheaper stores with belts, shoes, Indian cosmetics, etc.
Greater Kailash I
Tel: 011 642 0017
Good bargaining skills are a must for any traveller to India, and Delhi has some great places to practice. Remember that some places have fixed prices, this will usually be posted somewhere in the store.
Sometimes a merchant may try to trick you and say "fixed price", simply turn around and walk out. If he's lying, he'll stop you and offer "special price". In most markets like Jaanphat, and Dilli Hatt you can get great deals. A good method is to offer half of what they want and then from there work your way up slowly if you need to.
It is a craft and food market (bazaar). Full of lovely clothes, interesting accessories and beautiful handmade crafts. Best of all, there are food stalls from almost each state of India. One could eat south Indian Dosa, east Indian Momos (dumplings) or North Indian chaat.
A microcosm of Indian crafts and tastes.
Dilli Haat, Sri Aurobindo Marg, Opp. INA Market, New Delhi, India 110023.
Phone : +91-11-4629365, 6119055
Retro urban village setting, with a variety of antique shops, designer boutiques, home furnishings, jewellery stores, painting galleries and restaurants. Take time off to walk among the old ruins of the nearby Deer Park, and through the Rose Garden. A perfect lazy winter afternoon programme.
Off Aurobindo Marg, near IIT, entrance from Aurobindo Place market. Ample car parking, conveniently located on the way to Qutb Minar from the city centre.
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