Funky, fun, sometimes overwhelming, but always fascinating, Delhi is a city with a split personality. Old Delhi was once India?s Islamic capital and the old town?s labyrinth of mediaeval alleys are clogged with slow-moving cycle rickshaws and colorful street bazaars.
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New Delhi, on the other hand, is like a green oasis in the heart of this lively dusty city. There are beautiful colonial villas and large tree lined avenues and parks, but there are also lots of glam shopping malls, and hip restaurants, and glitzy bars.
Seek out the Souks
Delhi is absolutely buzzing with bazaars, but you shouldn?t be afraid to get in there and rub shoulders and haggle if you want a bargain.
One of the city?s best souks is Janpath. Just a couple of minutes walk from Connaught place, it?s a kind of flea market-cum-bazaar where you?ll find everything from books, to souvenirs and clothes, but you have to bargain hard to get a good price.
The city?s real boho bazaar is in the main road stretching from the railroad station in the Paharganj district: this is where all the hippies hang out. This is where you?ll find stalls piled with those funky Rajasthani mirrorwork textiles ranging from bedspreads to cute bags; you should also hunt for vintage eyewear (check out the stylish frames on display at Krishna Opticians, Rajnish Sharma, 1568) and bright patterned, delicately embroidered smock top and loose trouser salwar kameez outfits. When you?re all shopped out, head for stall 5043 to find a mehendiwala (henna artist) who can paint delicate henna tattoos on your hands or feet, for less than a dollar.
If you?re seeking saris, shawls and other traditional Indian clothing head for Karol Bagh ? this is one of the city?s main fabric souks where women flock to buy their red and gold wedding saris. In the web of surrounding streets you?ll also find stores selling silver jewelry, gemstones, gold items and much more.
Finally, make sure you visit Khari Baoli, Old Delhi?s main spice market, where you can buy every kind of spice? from cardamom to masala mixes ? sold by weight.
Janpath is a road connecting Lodhi Road and Connaught Place. The market is open Monday to Saturday 10am - 9pm and Sundays 11am- 8pm.
The nearest metro to Paharganj main bazaar is Ramakrisha Ashram Marg. The market is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 10am-9pm.
Karol Bagh is on the Delhi metro?s blue line. The market and stores are open 10am- 8pm, but generally closed on Mondays.
Khari Baoli market is on Khari Baoli street near Fatehpuri Mosque. The market is open daily 11am-10pm.
Spend an afternoon in Hauz Khas
Another one not to miss is Hauz Khas. It?s a beautifully conserved mediaeval village built around a 13th century reservoir and around the Madrasa, which was one Delhi?s leading institutions of Islamic learning in the 11th century (?Hauz?, by the way, means ?lake? and ?Khas? means ?Royal?). There?s a large park where you can spot deer, peacock, rabbits and swans, and in the centre you?ll find some stunning domed Muslim tombs dating from the 14th to the 16th century.
Step outside the park and you?ll find yourself exploring narrow winding alleys where you?ll discover all sorts of eclectic and interesting Indie boutiques, including Nappa Dori, which sells gorgeous handmade leather accessories, White, which carries a range of Indian labels (including Gaurav Gupta?s gorgeous, delicate party dresses and saris), and designer Kavita Bhartia? store, Ogaan, vending a funky range of Indian-fusion clothing and accessories.
Hauz Khas, near Aurobindo marg. Hauz Kaus is open Monday to Saturday 10.30am to 7pm and closed on Sundays.
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Discover Delhi?s handmade crafts
Handmade goods to seek out in Delhi include silk Indian saris, Zardozi gold thread embroidery and Meenakari richly decorated enamel ware ranging from jewelry to fruit bowls and even wall hangings.
A good place to buy is Dilli Haat. There?s a small entrance fee, but its worth paying because you?ll find handcrafted goods from all over the country here, as well as street stands serving lots of scrumptious food from different regions of India.
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Another must-not-miss address is The Handicrafts and Natural Products Emporium. Founded in the 1930?s, this is one of Delhi?s largest handicraft and herbal product bazaars ? you?ll find everything from textiles to furniture here.
Dilli Hat, Maharaja Agarsen Marg (near the INA metro station). Open every day 10am-10pm.
The Handicrafts and Natural Products Emporium, 115, main Bazar, Pahar Ganj, Open 10am- 8pm, but generally closed on Sundays.
Feast on fabulous food
Since Delhi is India?s (unofficial) food capital you?ll find plenty of culinary delights here, so make sure you try the sapid Mughlai cuisine developed by the imperial kitchens of the Muslim Mughal Empire (think biryanis and butter chicken dishes) or Punjabi migrant food (tandooris, raitas and chaat).
Dishes you should try include Aloo chaat Delhi style, which is a deep-fried pastry shell stuffed with potatoes, lentils and all sorts of other ingredients, topped with chutney, yogurt, and masala spice mix.
In old Delhi you should head for Karim's. Tucked away along a tiny alley, the deco of this iconic Delhi restaurant, which has just celebrated a 100 years of existence, is very low key, but the Mughlai food here is out of this world ? make sure you order the deliciously spicy minced meat seekh kebab or the meltingly rich mutton korma.
Finally, if you?re heading for India gate, make sure to hop off at Haldiram?s, near Connaught place, for kulfi, the city?s sumptuous frozen milk-based dessert, flavored with rose, cardamom or saffron and served Delhi-style, with gulab falooda: rose-flavored sweet vermicelli.
Karim?s, Jama Masjid, Gali Kababian. Open daily from 10am until late.
Haldiram?s, L 6, Outer Circle, Connaught place. Open daily 10am-11pm