Six things to see in India’s Old Delhi

Chaotic but charming, explore this neighbourhood to roam the bazaars or see the second largest mosque on the Indian subcontinent

Old Delhi (Shahjahanabad) is one of the oldest urban settlements in the region and was built in 1648 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a walled part of New Delhi enclosing about 1,500 acres. Known as the seventh city of Delhi, 14 gates connected the city to the surrounding area and some of these gates and parts of the wall still stand. It remained the capital of the Mughals until the end of the Mughal dynasty, later being renamed by the British as Old Delhi.

With shops spilling over onto the road, food stacked high on top of each other, spotting the odd cow next to street vendors and having your ears blasted by congested traffic beeps and noisy crowds, Old Delhi is a buzzing and manic place that is a perfect way to spend an afternoon to soak up the local cuisine, sounds and culture.

Getting there

Old Delhi is located near the Red Fort. It is about a 15-20 minute walk to reach the spice market from the fort.

Buses 404DOWN, 429CLDOWN, 429LSTLUP and others pass near the spice market.

Entry cost: Free

Allow for 2-3 hours to explore the market if walking. A rickshaw ride takes around 1 hour 30 mins, but can vary due to traffic.

Roam the bazaars

Delhi is famed for its numerous bazaars and marketplaces and Old Delhi enables you to explore countless sellers offering repairs, clothes, sweets and street food vendors.

There’s also even the chance for men to get their hair cut by barbers operating their business on the side of the street.

Dariba Kalan is referred to as Asia’s biggest jewellery market, while Kinari Bazaar sells fabric embellishments and lace.

Meanwhile Masterji Ki Haveli sells vegetarian food and is one of the oldest standing havelis in the area.

Explore Chandni Chowk

One of the oldest markets in Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk is renowned for its food and fabrics. Situated opposite the Red Fort, it also provides a view of the Fatehpuri Mosque. Its winding alleyways house bazaars selling everything from fabrics to ancient silver.

Walk down the famous narrow street Paranthe Wali Gali that houses a series of shops offering parathas (fried Indian bread).

Head to Khari Baoli Rd, where you can smell all the heady aromatic spices. This market is Asia’s largest wholesale spice market and sells everything from rice and teat to spices, herbs and nuts.

Most of the Chandni Chowk market is closed on Sunday.

Marvel at the Red Fort

Old Delhi is a walled city shaped roughly like a quarter circle with the Red Fort as a focal point.

The fort is spread over 255 acres, connecting Old and New Delhi.

Built in 1648, it has royal residences, sections for public audiences used by Mughal emperors and fountains.

Note that the Red Fort is closed to visitors on Mondays.

Visit Jama Masjid

One of the largest mosques in India and the second largest mosque on the Indian subcontinent, this religious place was built by the emperor Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656.

Jama Masjid is the city’s principal mosque where Muslims traditionally gather for Friday communal prayer.

An impressive example of Mughal architecture, the mosque and courtyard stand on an outcropping more than 30 steps higher than the street, giving it a commanding view of the surrounding region.

The mosque is oriented toward the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which lies to the west and its open courtyard can accommodate 25,000 people.

Two 130-foot (40-metre) minarets mark the northeast and southeast corners of the building and the eastern gateway itself was originally reserved for royal use.

Above the prayer hall’s entrances are calligraphic inscriptions in Persian.

Knees and shoulders must be covered at all places of worship and men are not allowed to wear shorts. Women need to cover their hair. Shoes are also taken off before entering.

Entry is free and it is located off Netaji Subhash Marg, west of Red Fort. The closest metro station is Chawri Bazaar. Tourists not allowed during prayer hours.

See the monkeys

There are thought to be over 30,000 wild monkeys in Delhi and there’s certainly a large troop in Old Delhi. See them running across the tops of buildings, hanging from wires and eating given (or stolen) food.

Take a rickshaw ride

No visit to Old Delhi is complete without a bumpy, noisy and often chaotic rickshaw ride.

Commonly, the driver will take you to the most popular parts – Chandni Chowk, Jama Masjid and the Red Fort. Prices are negotiable, but a three-hour trip will cost around £50 – £60 for two people.

Rickshaws are often tightly-packed carrying two-four passengers, while some can carry 6-12 schoolchildren.

A rickshaw is a great way to explore the amazing and narrow lanes and bazaars and you’ll be treated to an intense melody of horns, beeps, shouts and bangs.

Checking out C & J.

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