Things to do in Old Delhi

June 19, 2019


old delhi rickshaw ride people in the market india



If you’ve never step foot in Old Delhi, you haven’t quite seen Delhi. Old Delhi, unlike the huge metropolitan city that Delhi has become, remains somewhat stuck in time. It is by far, my favourite place in the world. As a photographer, it is my paradise.

The way to see this city, is by foot as you jostle among people and avoid getting hit by the rickshaws that ply the roads. Alternatively, by motor rickshaw which is undoubtedly fun and in my opinion the best way to see this city.

Old Delhi will hit you in your senses. In every corner that you turn, you’d get a the smell of food being cooked, people talking, kids going and coming from school, dogs running around, goats tied around the corner, rickshaws carrying goods and people, touts calling out the wares of their goods, electrical wires as thick as ropes hanging low above your head and tons of people walking, shopping and going about their day. This, is an old city within a new city and it needs to be experienced. I’ve had moments where I’d just stand at corners and watch the activity in the area. Unlike New Delhi which is vast, spread out and cold to feel. Old Delhi is warm, crowded and the streets make you feel closed in as if you were a part of the life within it.

Old Delhi is divided by the markets within it. There are markets for glassware, crockery, lights, spices, hardware, auto parts and so much more. To see it all will take you a couple of days. There are tons of you tube videos that break down the different markets and where to go.

The best way to get to Old Delhi is via the Metro system. The Metro is completely safe. There are pickpockets in the Metro system but if you’re careful and safe, you’ll never get affected by it. I personally advice people to keep a sling bag or backpack with you kept in the front and do not carry your wallets in your back pocket while on the metro. Be smart, travel wise and you’ll not get into unwanted situations.

New Delhi Metro Station with People in India
New Delhi Metro Station
If you are women travelling either together or as a single person in Delhi. Every metro train has a compartment only for women. Usually located at the front of the station. The metro station will clearly mark out the women only area in the station itself.


The Delhi Metro network looks like below:


Delhi Metro Network with train routes and station names in India
Delhi Metro Network
It may seem intimidating but it is the best way to travel Delhi. The personnel stationed at the metro stations speak English and are approachable for help. Indians in general are also very helpful. Just ask for help and people will always be ready to help you out.

Things you need to see and do while you’re in Old Delhi:

Red Fort - Lal Quila
Sis Ganj Gurdwara
Shop at Chandni Chowk
Eat a paratha at Paratha Wali Gali at Chandni Chowk
Jama Masjid
Eat at Karim’s
Grab at a kebab at Qureshi Kebabs
Ghalib Ka Haveli
Chawri Bazaar


THE RED FORT - LAL QUILA

Old Delhi Red Fort Lal Quila building in Delhi India
Inside the Red Fort in Old Delhi
Unlike the forts and palaces of Rajasthan, the Red Fort is vast, open and beautiful. It needs to be seen. As you pass through the gates, you’ll come across large gardens, open pavilions and buildings with beautiful carvings on their walls. You’ll also get a glimpse of the throne used by the Maharajah. Opt for the audio tour and museum visits. The time spent here would be around 2 hours with the audio tour and up to 3 to 4 hours with the museum option. Get here early, it opens at 9.30am, to avoid large lines at the counters. Skip the light and sound show here if you don’t have time. In all honestly, it isn’t as good as the Rajasthan fort light and sound shows. Apart from winters, you’ll need bug spray to ward off mosquitoes if you are doing the light and sound show at the red fort.


SIS GANJ SAHIB GURDWARA

sis ganj sahib gurdwara in old delhi india with sikhs people praying
Sis Ganj Sahib Gurdwara
Along the main street across the red fort, just outside Chandni Chowk metro station exit, you’ll come across a Sikh Gurdwara called Sis Ganj Sahib. The Gurdwara was first built in 1783 to commemorate the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. The Gurdwara marks the site where the Guru was beheaded by Emperor Aurangzeb in 1675 for refusing to convert to Islam. 

The Gurdwara welcomes anybody to come in and have a look. Leave your shoes in the ground floor area with the shoe deposit counter. They’ll hand you a token to collect your shoes later. 

You’ll also find a basket filled with head scarfs. The Sikhs cover their head while they pay respect to their guru - The Granth Sahib. You’ll need to cover your head as you enter the Gurdwara.

You’re welcome to the see the Gurdwara, sit for a moment and listen to the prayers or devotional songs being sung - they have TVs set up to translate verses in English. You can also get a simple vegetarian meal of chapati, dhal and vegetables at the free langar (food hall).


CHANDNI CHOWK

Shopping in Chandni Chowk and walking through the small by-lanes around the area is a must do while you're in Old Delhi. As you walk along the main roads, there are smaller markets that cut off into lanes, each mini market will sell specific items like jewellery, bangles and so on. You'll get places that sell earrings, clothes, Indian wear, bangles and bindis all around the area. They'll also be priced far cheaper than any markets you head to in Delhi city. In fact, I've gotten cheaper stuff here compared to other cities in India. 

If you're shopping in Delhi, start your shopping trip at Old Delhi first before hitting the other markets in the New Delhi. If you're interested in getting to know where to shop and how to access the area, I'd suggest you get onto you tube and check out the multitude of videos posted by Indian you tubers on Old Delhi markets. You'll get a real idea of what the places look like too.

Photo Market Old Delhi with people in IndiaIf you're into photography, Chandni Chowk area has a photography market. Photo market is located along the main Chandni Chowk street. It is a small lane that is signified by a sign board above the lane. There are other photo shops outside the lane on the second street and in the general area around the market. 

Madan Jee and Delhi photo store are the bigger stores in the area.

Madan Jee has been known to be the oldest in the area. They are trustworthy and stock quite a variety of items. It is where I go to get my photography shopping done.




PARATHA WALI GALI


paratha wali gali signpost in Chandni Chowk area Old Delhi market with people in India
Parathe Wali Gali in Chandni Chowk
Paratha Wali Gali is a tiny lane that will take you to a lane that once housed many paratha eating places. Over the years, the shops have thinned out to just a few surviving ones. If you're picturing a plate with punjabi style parathas and white butter, you'll be sadly disappointed. These parathas are totally different from the ones you'd normally associate with. These are almost puri like fried stuffed parathas accompanied with a few sauces and chutneys. While they aren't authentic Punjabi style parathas and maybe not the healthiest as they are deep fried, they do have a unique taste that i reckon you'd not find anywhere else. So, if you're in the area, you'll need to get yourself here and try these out. 


people eating in paratha wali gali eating places restaurant in Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi India
Paratha Wali Gali Restaurants 

JAMA MASJID

Jama Masjid is located closest to the Jama Masjid metro station which is a walking distance to the mosque. Alternatively, heading here from the Chawri Bazaar metro station is possible. You could either walk the distance or take a rickshaw. If you are heading here post the red fort, I’d advice to get into an auto rickshaw and head over here. It’s a short drive from the red fort area. It would usually cost you around 80 to 100 rupees to get here from the red fort.

Jama Masjid in Old Delhi was built by Emperor Shah Jahan between the period 1644 and 1656. Other monuments build by Emperor Shah Jahan are the Red Fort and the Taj Mahal.


KARIM'S


karim's karim karims mughlai food cuisine restaurant with people in Old Delhi across Jama Masjid in India
Karim's Restaurant in Old Delhi
Karim's has been around for a long time, since 1913 and their food hasn't quite changed over the years. It's history talks about the founder being the son of a cook who worked as a cook for the Mughal Emperor. It is located in a lane called Bazar Matia Mahal across Jama Masjid. If you are lost, just ask anyone and people will guide you. It is located in a small nondescript lane and you will miss it if you don’t ask people for help.

Karim's is known for its kebabs and rolls. It is definitely worth a visit when you're in Old Delhi. You'll find that they get pretty crowded during the Ramzan period. Expect to share tables and eat together with large crowds on Fridays. Other days also see a large crowd during lunch and dinner times.

Things to order when you are eating here are; Chicken Jehanghir, Sheermaal roti with chicken korma and the kebabs are items you should try while visiting this restaurant. If you're into offal, they make a pretty mean brain curry.



QURESHI KABAB

Person grilling meat at Qureshi kabab kebab Corner in Old Delhi India with people during ramadan ramzan ramazan
Qureshi Kabab Corner
Qureshi Kabab has some pretty amazing kebabs. You'll also find a huge crowd in front of their shop all the time. They are a family run business with recipes that have been handed down generations. They are also known for preparing and cooking their kebabs from scratch, even down to grinding their own spices for their kebabs. You can't leave Jama Masjid area of Old Delhi without popping in to get a few kebabs into your belly.


GHALIB KI HAVELI

Famous Poet poetry Ghalib ki haveli in Old Delhi India
Ghalib Ki Haveli in Old Delhi
This smallish Haveli used to be the home of Ghalib, a 13th century poet. If you’re a history buff, this place will delight you. They still have his old diary/book on display. But do note, it is a small little nook, essentially 2 small rooms that will take you roughly 15 minutes to read through and see everything. I reckon if you’re not into poetry or history, this won’t be interesting to you. If you like to get off the beaten track and see what else Old Delhi has to offer you, this little place will be a delight.

It is located at Gali Qasim Jan, Ballimaran, near Jama Masjid and within walking distance to Chawri Bazar metro station. I would advice to follow google maps if you're looking for the place or walking. Otherwise, take a rickshaw if you're heading here.


CHAWRI BAZAR

An area known for antique, metal item and hardware shopping. Think Home Depot but in an open air, shop-house, by the street vibe. I’ve included it here because it’s the metro station you might exit from if you are heading to Jama Masjid. This area is also known for wedding cards suppliers. There are antique shops located around the area. You can either take a rickshaw from the metro station to Jama Masjid or walk it out. 


People in richshaws and vehicles on the road in Old Delhi Chawri Bazar in India
Vehicles and Rickshaw at Chawri Bazar
A trip to Delhi isn't quite complete unless you've roamed around the streets of Old Delhi. Unlike any other place in India, the sheer scale of Old Delhi makes it a place worth seeing. It is here that you will find an older and simpler India where the lanes sell almost anything and everything.


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