Once the grandest avenue in all of Delhi and a staging ground for processions that led from the Red Fort to the Jama Masjid, today Chandni Chowk is one of the city's most vibrant and hectic bazaars—but it's not for the fainthearted. The best way to arrive is by metro (to either Chandni Chowk or Chawri Bazaar) to avoid the old city's crawling traffic. Let yourself get swept up in the maze of streets that run in every direction and branch off under archways and gates. Some of the streets are home to specialty merchants, such as the wedding accessory shops on Kinari bazaar or the gold and jewelry sellers on Dariba Kalan. Keep an eye out for some of the hidden Jain temples and rooftop mosques that are little pockets of tranquility among the commotion.—Vanessa Able
Mutton Street, opposite Null Bazaar
Chor Bazaar has everything from rare LPs to antique timepieces, from Burmese military medals to vintage Bollywood posters. Even long-standing loyalists are surprised by the oddities that surface here. Urban legend has it that robbers disposed of their loot at Chor Bazaar ("Thieves Market"), and to this day shopkeepers brag about how Queen Victoria's violin landed here after being pinched from her imperial galley.
Open daily Saturdays through Thursdays.
Crawford Marketnow officially known as Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Marketis a gigantic bazaar dealing in just about every kind of fresh food and domestic animal imaginable. Shopkeepers perch vertiginously atop piles of fruit and vegetables; they'll nimbly navigate these towering displays to fetch and weigh your chosen items. Keep an eye out, too, for the wholesale buyers and the cryptic handshakes that confirm their deals. Above the main entrance, you'll see a bas-relief frieze designed by Rudyard Kipling's father. Animal lovers should steer clear of the pitiful pet stalls. The market operates Monday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Lokmanya Tilak Marg and Dr. Dadabhai Naoroji Rd.).
If you're looking for interesting gifts and souvenirs, rummage through the shelves of The Bombay Store for artifacts, clothes, ornaments, and trinkets, all made locally and sold at set prices. Farther south, but still in the Fort area, is Fab India, a popular store that sells a wide range of textiles, home furnishings, and modern Indian casualwear in vibrant prints and colors. It's a favorite with students, journalists, and NGO workers. For slightly more expensive gifts head to Contemporary Arts & Crafts, a shop set in an old bungalow on exclusive Nepean Sea Road, selling knickknacks and home essentials, from brocade cushions to bedspreads, candle stands, and lamp shades. Most items are designed for Western sensibilities but with strong local flourishes.
3 Delstar, below Kemps Corner Flyover
Tel: 91 22 2386 2432
Ever since its 2007 opening, Mumbai fashionistas haven't stopped chattering about the flamboyant clothes and accessories at this high-end store. Some of the hottest designers, like Rohit Bal, Shahab Durazi, and the Peacocks display clothes here, often fresh off the runway. The Western-style lines tend to have subtle local influences, like intricate detailing and embroidery. The ethnic lines veer away from the traditional, with sharp, low cuts. The back of the store is dedicated to bridal trousseaus, including a dizzying array of heavy, ornate saris.
Open daily 10:30 am to 8 pm.
Shop No. 4Ǜ
Corner of 14th Road and Linking Road
Tel: 91 22 2605 0724
Bollywood has long set the tone for local fashion, and Manish Malhotra is the most sought after designer in the film business. His clothes have appeared in cult movies like Rangeela, and some of India's leading actresses, like Kareena Kapoor and Rani Mukherji, are unabashed fans. Glitter and glam are the rule at his boutique, loaded with items like pastel-hued chiffon saris with backless blouses, heavily embroidered tunics for high-profile grooms, and opulent bridal saris, the kind you see at extravagant on-screen weddings.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11 am to 8 pm.
502 Jai Mahal
Tel: 91 22 6576 7365
Old-world modes of commerce prevail at this store, with endless cups of tea placed before prospective clients as they wade through a sea of fabric and textures. Spread over two floors, Sagar Couture stocks an immense collection of saris, salwar kameezes, and blouses. Regional garments are available too, from the gold-lined cotton sarongs of Kerala, to the silk Kanjeevaram saris from Tamil Nadu. The store also stocks Western-style clothes by prominent Indian designers at relatively cheap prices, and if nothing captures your fancy, in-house tailors will stitch just about anything you need on the spot.
Open daily 10:00 am to 9 pm.