Crowd Surfing in the Busy Chandni Chowk Market |Delhi, India

Stepping out from my accommodation, Zostel Hostel, on a 16 degree °C Delhi morning had me looking forward to witnessing some bustling street activity. Little did I know, bustling was an understatement for what I'm about to experience. I should have braced myself for what was to come because my destination, the Chandni Chowk Market is only one of the oldest and busiest market in a city known for being one of the world's most crowded.

Cheekie Albay
Canals (now closed) once divvied up the market to reflect moonlight.

Chandni Chowk, located near the Old Delhi Railway Station and the Red Fort, whose massive walls stand at its eastern end, was built in the 17th century by Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor of India and the builder of the Taj Mahal.

Cathy Maminta
Taking inspiration from Heritage Street Amritsar, Chandni Chowk was redeveloped as a heritage trail to promote tourism.

Originally designed as a half-moon-shaped plaza with a man-made channel sourcing water from the Yamuna River by Shah Jahan's daughter Jahanara, Chandni Chowk already houses over 1,500 shops where traders have set up bazaars selling silver — thus earning the market a moniker of "Silver Street."

Charisse Vilchez
All the ingredients, herbs and spice you can think of are here

Aside from the hundreds, if not thousands, of shops and restaurants, Chandni Chowk Market is surrounded by a slew of historic buildings. The most popular, the 1650-built Jama Masjid, is said to be one of India's largest mosques.

A Tangled Web of Humanity

Even though the heart of the market is at least 2 kilometers away from Zostel, a few hundred meters had me already counting small pockets of marketplaces. The crowd thickens as I walk further. I soldiered on, and after half an hour, I began to feel the pulse of Chandni Chowk as the yells of traders bargaining with shoppers grew louder.

Kat Uyehara Hamoy
Wonder why Indian cuisine oozes with flavors and pops with color?

Walking through the labyrinth of this 17th-century Chandni Chowk market can overwhelm you at first. However, once the shock of the crowd and the noise wears off, you'll find yourself enjoying the variety of items for sale here. You can find everything from silver and antique trinkets, jewelry, hanging lights, festive textiles, to electronic gadgets, custom tailored suits, and up to 1,000 different kinds of sarees just to list a few.

April Enerio
Lady sellers adorned with colorful saris

That is, if you can easily get from point A to point B, which in Chandni Chowk looks like crossing an ocean — except it's a sea of human bodies gyrating in every direction, along with the occasional wandering cows, tuk-tuks, delivery trucks, and private automobiles whose drivers are crazy enough to pass through the market's busy thoroughfare.

Levy Amosin and Cathy Maminta
Khari Baoli is an entire street devoted to spices, dried fruits, nuts, herbs, grains, lentils, pickles, and murabbas.

My favorite part is the Khari Baoili Market, which has a vibrant fusion of colors from spices, nuts, tea leaves, dried plums, and mulberries, as well as emitting an aroma of everything combined. I resisted myself from buying some spices as I still have to spend several days in Pushkar after my Delhi side trip.


Jen Nierva
How much are these? "Very cheap only"

As I made my way back to the hostel, I remember the Spanish backpacker I met in Jaisalmer with my friend Aileen during my first trip to India in 2014. He was telling another European traveler and us about Mumbai. "You can't find a place to stand,” he said. "Everywhere you go is crowded," 

Milet Miranda
I regret not having a haircut in one of this sidewalk "barbershop" in India

On that same trip, we went to Mumbai, and I found the city to be exactly what I expected it to be: teeming with people. While I truly think his description borders on exaggeration, I finally get the gist of the image he was describing as I slowly make my way through the market's sea of humanity. That morning at Chandni Chowk Market, I literally had to find enough space to wiggle my legs and gain some distance. This is India in its purest and most authentic form, I told myself.