Alive and busy with activity, markets are often a city's lifeline. Essential destinations where locals go to spend their earnings, markets often double up as spaces to mingle, eat, people watch or just while away time window shopping. Animated windows into the local culture, these places are an opportunity to immerse and explore the ethos of a city.
The many markets of Delhi are vibrant places, packed with interesting characters and eccentric products. Not only are they a necessity for the locals, but the theatrical drama that plays out in such markets each day is something not to be missed by those visiting this magnificent city.
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6 Must-Visit Bustling Markets in Delhi
Khari Baoli Market
Photo by Jon Connell/Flickr
An amalgamated cacophony of sounds and smells fill the air at Delhi's most iconic market. Walking around the Spice Market in Old Delhi is like taking a step back in time. You'll find shops here that have been operational since the 17th century. Everyone present seems to have a purpose, rushing from one side to another. Shop owners eye each passing person as a customer, while workers move around carrying heavy bags of products on their backs and rickshaws.
Among the organized chaos that grips the market are shops selling herbs, spices, regional and international foods, and even perfumes. Even though the market is a photographer's delight, and a recommended stop while touring Old Delhi, for the locals, Khari Baoli is always strictly a place of business. As Asia's largest wholesale spice market, Khari Baoli is both enchanting and somewhat claustrophobic. The ancient aura that lingers on in the sea of heads gives it a lick of authenticity. While its location near the Red Fort adds to its legendary status.
Photo by Ekabhishek/Wikipedia
A government-run market, visitors to Dilli Haat need to pay a nominal fee to enter this space. Inside, you'll find small stalls that artisans from different parts of the country can hire to sell their products. Dilli Haat is a shopper's delight, especially when looking to buy region-specific arts and crafts from across India. You're likely to find colorful bed covers here along with silver jewelry, traditional paintings, ethnic clothing and a variety of bags and stationery.
Locals though come to Dilli Haat for the food. Very much like the shops, there are stalls in Dilli Haat that serve a range of delectable dishes originating from various states around India. So, whether it is momos you want or dosa or butter-laden parathas, you'll be sure to find something here to entertain your palate.
Photo by Niyam Bhushan/Flickr
Among the most popular malls in Delhi is Select Citywalk in Saket. One of the first malls to open, Select Citywalk, has close to 200 brands ranging from Zara and Muji to Massimo Dutti and Sephora. The mall's food court is especially favored by those looking to grab a quick and somewhat cheap bite. However, for those in the mood for a more relaxed sit-down meal, options such as Pa Pa Ya, Burma Burma, and Mamagoto come highly recommended.
Another reason for Select Citywalk's continued success is the various festivals they hold during the year. From pop up stalls to the popular Asian Hawker's Market, there's always a new event happening over the weekends at the mall, especially during the cool winter months.
Sarojni Nagar, similar to Lajpat Nagar, is the typical 'colony market' that has grown to a considerable size over decades. Consisting of primarily family-owned shops, one can find pretty much everything under the sun at Sarojini Nagar, provided you know where to look for it. Most locals come here, especially to buy clothes at discounted prices. As is the case with most Indian shops, bargaining is highly encouraged. To grab a deal, show a disinterest in the product you want and walk away. In all likelihood, the shop owner will follow you offering a better discount.
Food lovers though should head on over to the nearby Sarojini Nagar Mini Market. A mecca for street-food, this little commercial unit has some of the best finger-licking dishes you can find in the city. From Amritsari kulchas to the iconic pakoras of Khandani Padoke Wala, this is the one place to visit for satiating all your foodie cravings.
There's a visible disparity to Khan Market that is hard to avoid. It's situated in one of the poshest areas of Delhi, and yet, the market is shabby in appearance. The exteriors of the U-shaped commercial setup have inconsistent billboards in every space possible, and still, Khan Market is among one of the most expensive retail sites in the world. It's hard to pinpoint what makes the market so famous, except that it caters to all sorts of interests and wants.
Packed with an eccentric collection of shops, Khan Market is the go-to place to have that perfect cup of a coffee over a chat at Perch Wine and Coffee Bar or Café Turtle. For a full meal, try Parsi cuisine at SodaBottleOpenerWala or have a drool-worthy shake at The Big Chill Café. Book lovers can flip through pages at Bahrisons or Full Circle, while fashionistas will love boutiques like Ogaan, a must for those looking to indulge in ethnic wear.
Manju ka Tilla
Majnu Ka Tilla is a Tibetan settlement that came into existence in the early 1960s. Comprising of mainly second-generation Tibetan residents, the colony in North Delhi is popular with college students and travelers looking for a cheap place to stay, eat and shop.
Little Tibet, as it is locally known, has a variety of shops set up in its tiny lanes. There are money changers and travel agents as well as street-side restaurants that sell the most delicious of Tibetan specialties such as momos and thukpa. For the fashion-conscious, Majnu ka Tilla is a treasure-trove of cheap buys. You can pick up handicraft items, Chinese and Tibetan traditional clothes, and jewelry from the region here without putting a dent in your pocket. Moreover, there are books, metalworks, and other knick-knacks on sale that make for a nice souvenir to take home.
India's capital, New Delhi, boasts of several markets that cater to specific needs. There's the thrill of the morning madness that engulfs Sabzi Mandi, the wholesale vegetable market. INA market, on the other hand, is where expats often go to pick up canned and imported foods from their home country. Every society and every resident of Delhi has their favorite place to shop, each one as pulsating and entertaining as the next.