One of India’s oldest markets, Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk (Hindi for moonlight square) is a perpetually busy area filled with narrow, congested lanes, each specializing in a different product such as spices, jewelry, hardware, and stationery. It’s also a great spot to practice your haggling skills—and the photo opportunities are extraordinary.
Chandni Chowk can be overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors, though the excitement of wandering through its wholesale markets and narrow lanes lined with centuries-old buildings can be fun. Aside from its myriad bazaar vendors hawking everything from shawls to sweets and books to baubles, it’s also known for its street food. Daring visitors may want to stop at the Gali Paranthe Wali for some famous deep-fried flatbread (parantha), though the famous Bikaner Sweet Shop may be a safer bet for those with sensitive tummies.
The market area is often visited in conjunction with other nearby attractions including the Red Fort, Jama Masjid, and Jain Bird Hospital. Many Delhi tours and nearly all Old Delhi tours pass through Chandni Chowk, and often feature bicycle rickshaw rides through its narrow streets. Foodies can enjoy private and group walking tours that focus on the market’s wonderfully overwhelming flavors.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Chandni Chowk is a must for first-time visitors, shopaholics, foodies, and those looking for an unforgettable Old Delhi experience.
- Remember to bargain. Most shops here—and throughout India—expect it.
- The streets in this part of Delhi are uneven and dusty, so wear good footwear.
- Be prepared for crowds. While the area is safe, travelers with small children should hold their hands at all times to avoid separation.
- The area’s lanes are narrow, congested, and uneven, making Chandni Chowk virtually inaccessible for wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Chandni Chowk is located due south of the Old Delhi Railway Station, just west of the Red Fort and north of the Jama Masjid. From New Delhi, take the metro’s Yellow Line to the Chandni Chowk stop; the Violet Line’s Lal Quila (Red Fort) stop is about a 12-minute walk away. Most visitors arrive either by car or metro, or stop here as part of an Old Delhi walking or cycle rickshaw tour.
When to Get There
While Chandni Chowk is popular throughout the year, it’s best to visit in the cool winter months. If you do come in the peak heat of May or June, visit in the morning or after nightfall to avoid the abrasive sun. Most of the shops in Chandni Chowk are closed on Sunday.
Chandni Chowk’s Old Havelis
Chandni Chowk is full of old private mansions, known as havelis, many of which date back hundreds of years. Most havelis continue to operate as private homes, often with multiple generations of joint families living under one roof—and they aren't easy to find if you don’t know where to look. Many private tours take travelers to these havelis, and some even include a sit-down meal in one of the restored homes.