Shop till you drop
A bargainer’s diary
by Debashree Chatterjee
Doesn’t matter if you are a self-confessed shopaholic, or a need-based shopper, or a shopahater (haven’t come across any in my life), . Doesn’t matter what you are looking for, or where you are staying in the megacity, you are sure to come across one market (most likely many) every 20 minutes. And also, doesn’t matter if you want cheap/bargain shopping, luxury/mall shopping or simply window shopping, Delhi is the paradise you have been promised.
Let’s get started with where to stop for a shop. But, before I name names, let me give you an idea about what you can look for, as a gift for a dear one or as a souvenir for yourself.
A few of my favorite things
Food items: Spices, Tea, Indian pickle (with mango/chilli/lemon/mixed)
Home décor: Puppets, brass, wood or sandalwood curios, leather goods
Garments: Pure silk scarves, Pashmina shawls, colourful mixed-thread stoles
Jewellery: Kundan, Meenakari, ornaments with precious stones, casual/cheap imitation ones
Spiritual: Oil lamps, incense sticks, garlands, hand-woven prayer rugs
Personal-care: Herbal beauty products
Now that we know what to buy, let’s get out on the road with a big bag, a bottle of water and loads of sunscreen. Here goes the list of my favorite Delhi markets.
My all-time favourite and the go-to place for most of us living in Delhi, this open-air market is a hub for handicrafts. It is a platform for artisans from across the country to showcase and sell their work. From traditional Indian garments, to home décor, to pottery, to brass idols, to leather lampshades… you name it and they have it. Along with the colourful ambience and hassle-free atmosphere, the foodstalls offering lip-smacking delicacies from nearly all the states/regions of India give brownie points to this market.
Put on your bargaining boots for this one. Located in the heart of the city, this market has something for everyone, for any occasion, at any budget. The colourful scarves, the jingling wind-chimes, the bright sequin handbags, the aromatic sandalwood Ganesha statues are sure to bring out the child in you… and you would want to get them all. However, the Tibetan shops packed with artefacts (statues, masks and jewellery) from ceiling to floor, deserve a special mention.
Known to be Delhi’s classiest, this upscale market is “the spot” for the city’s A-listers, but a disappointment for a bargain-shopper like me. However, with its many shops offering international brands, charming boutiques, well-stocked bookshops, cool cafes and trendy restaurants, this market keeps calling me back. It also has few shops with a promising stock of fancy fruits, usually not available anywhere else in the city.
The epitome of chaos, this market is hundreds of years old, and surely looks that way. However, tackling the thousands of people around you, ducking the low-flying pigeons and listening to the orchestra of non-stop honking, you will make your way through a marvelous maze of sights and smell. The entire shopping district is divided into special sections dedicated to specific items. For example, Dariba Kalan is for silver jewellery, Katra Neel for fabrics and ofcourse Khari Baoili Road, Asia’s largest wholesale spice market. An added bonus in this market is the many roadside sweet and snack shops. Don’t forget to refuel yourself with some jalebi and samosa as you get ready for a second round of bargaining.
Lajpat Nagar Central Market
A heaven for reasonable shopping, this market is usually buzzing with women looking for their ethnicwear. One of the oldest markets in the city, this place is full of hawkers calling out to shoppers. Don’t be alarmed. While displaying their clothes, bags or traditional footwear, they also shout out competitive price so that one can out-do a fellow shopkeeper. It’s all a trick of the trade, but a lot of fun to watch.
GK-1 M Block Market
If you want to eat and shop, or shop and eat, this is your place. This market is a cornerstone of style, affordability and variety. With international brands and local vendors, it has small (mostly) but stylish shops offering apparel, shoes, jewellery and even kids’ wear. Moreover, if you want a shopping break, you can visit one of the soulful spas or hop in one of the quirky cafés.
Though mainly known to tourists for its affordable hotels and lodges, Paharganj has much more to offer in terms of goods. It’s a place for rough-and-tough shopping (read bargaining) and photo ops. Crowded, noisy and dirty, it doesn’t fail to attract tourists and locals alike. The main bazaar is lined with shops selling books, handicrafts, textiles, junk jewellery and ofcourse traditional clothes. Keep your eyes wide open for shops selling ittar (traditional perfume) and mehendiwallahs, surrounded by customers waiting for their turn to get the palm art done.
Hauz Khas Village
With its unique fashion options and quirky shops, HKV has always been a trend-setter. One of my personal favourites in Delhi, this place seems to add a spring in your step. With graffiti at every corner, a lake across the wall and a deer park at the gate, this “village” is less shopping and more a feeling. From dresses straight from the ramp, to Monroe-like swimsuits, to rare movie posters, to colourful glass bongs and antique shops selling “postcard from Stalin”, HKV has it all. And, to add to the charm are quaint cafes overlooking the lake with great coffee and tasty nibbles.
Another place for die-hard bargain shopping, this market is swarmed with youngsters and elderly alike. Along with permanent shops, you will find hawkers lining up the lanes with their product for sale lying in a heap on the ground. The never-ending stream of buzzing and bargaining shoppers here, kind of, pushes you to strive for more (read cheaper/better bargaining). And you somehow go with the flow, and end up becoming a bull in the race. A very happy bull.
In the mood for shopping now? Take Debashree along!
Shopping tour: Trading & Bargaining
An exciting shopping tour with Debashree.
Individual shopping tour from 1 person onwards.
Shopping tour: Cool shopping
Another great shopping tour with Debashree that doesn’t include sweating. Especially recommended for the hottest months may and june.