Delhi's Top Shops
A shopping expedition in Delhi often doubles as an exercise in yogic patience. Riding in the back of a cream-colored Ambassador taxi, you’re likely to be distracted from retail therapy by a meditation on urban planning.
India’s stately capital lacks the Bollywood brashness of Mumbai, but it is just as congested with rickshaws, motorcycles, and handcarts. Child acrobats and snack vendors weave through the snarled lanes. Pepsi delivery trucks are sandwiched next to transit buses splashed with bubblegum-pink murals of the elephant god Ganesh.
Stuck in traffic, you can gaze out the window and examine the soul of a sprawling city with two major, culturally diametric districts. Dominated by the Red Fort and Jama Masjid mosque, Moghul-era Old Delhi is a vibrant maze of bazaars and crowded alleys; while New Delhi, imperial center of the British Raj, is a more orderly district of tree-shaded avenues, boutiques and restaurants, diplomatic enclaves, and walled bungalows of the rich and famous.
This tumultuous cityscape also reflects the fashionable dichotomy of its residents, who shop with equal enthusiasm for classic saris and bangles as well as the latest Western-inflected styles from emerging local labels.
On a hunt for artisanal crafts? Best to dig through the stacks of brass pots, wooden puppets, leather slippers, painted pottery, spices, and cooking utensils in stalls that occupy sprawling bazaars such as Dilli Haat and the more venerable Chandni Chowk (Moonlight Square), which has been in existence since the 17th century, when Delhi was known as Shahjahanabad.
If bumping elbows with backpackers isn’t your cup of chai, then set out in search of haute Delhi in upscale malls such as Lodhi Colony, where the city’s top designers display limited-edition clothing lines and home accessories in air-conditioned splendor. There you’ll find New York–based stylist Gurmeet Pia Fleming, who caters to Delhi’s most discerning women at her boutique, Bian; her creations include exquisitely tailored suits, cocktail dresses, even Swarovski crystal–studded saris.
Keeping up with a global beat, young Delhi is breaking with the somber conventions of earlier generations as radical concept store/galleries crop up to rival those in Tokyo, Manhattan, and Paris. Catch a glimpse of Delhi’s colorful future—paisley running shoes and metallic “space gladiator“ leather skirts—at Manish Arora Fish Fry in Lodhi Colony. You'll never say sari again.
To find Delhi’s best wares, hire a car and driver for the entire day. (And unless you’re an experienced haggler, ask your hotel concierge to arrange it.) The average cost is about $50 for a minivan; depending on the type of vehicle and the number in your party, it’s worth every rupee. You can crisscross the city without concern for a ticking meter in commuter gridlock, and you won’t be restricted to malls with parking spaces or have to tote multiple shopping bags on a sweltering afternoon.
No matter how you travel from shop to shop, market to market, one thing is certain: treasures abound in Delhi.
Best for Delhi Décor: Fab India
Up a narrow flight of stairs in Khan Market, this mid-priced home fashion emporium specializes in hand-blocked prints on pillows, throws, and table linens, as well as a bright selection of “kurta” tops and balloon-leg pants for adults and children.
Best for Gems: Shrihari Diagems
For a primer on antique Indian ornaments, arrange an appointment with jeweler Vinay Gupta, whose family has been dealing Raj-worthy gems since the 18th century. His black leather treasure boxes contain ethnic nose rings, dowry gold, diamond turban brooches, cabochon ruby chandelier earrings, gold-and-turquoise bracelets, and lucky nine-gem navratan gold pendants.
Best for Bracelets
Best for Bracelets: Bangle Bazaar
Love the jangling bangles you see on the wrists of every sari-clad lady in the capital? Delhi-based fashion designer Manish Arora always looks for inspiration at the specialist market stalls that display neat boxes of rainbow-bright plastic, metal, and glass bracelets near the Hanuman Temple on Baba Kharak Singh Road in Connaught Place.
Best for the Minimalist: Pratap
In an industrial-chic gallery, Pratap is the signature line of designer Rajesh Pratap Singh, who favors elegantly restrained silhouettes and updated traditional embroidery techniques for his attractive collection of Western-style silk, linen, and khadi (handwoven cotton) tops and dresses.
Manish Arora Fish Fry
Best for the Maximalist: Manish Arora Fish Fry
Wildly inventive designer Manish Arora samples global imagery for his embroidered and patchwork clothing in his Fish Fry collection. Snap up a pair of paisley running shoes or psychedelic sunglasses to accessorize this season’s metallic “space gladiator” leather jackets and skirts.
Abraham & Thakore
Best for the Urbanist: Abraham & Thakore
This design team creates handsome modern home accessories (chocolate silk cushions, ivory velvet with felt appliqué bedspreads) that would suit a Manhattan loft as easily as a chic bungalow in Delhi’s exclusive diplomatic quarter. Their new shop carries a sharply edited collection of dresses, tunics, embroidered chiffon scarves, and taffeta quilted slippers.
Best for Saris: Kamala
Set up by the Crafts Council of India, Kamala has an extensive sari collection that highlights representative textile weaving and dyeing traditions such as rare double ikats from Patan and embroidered rumals from Chamba.
Best for Formal Wear: Bian
New York–based stylist Gurmeet Pia Fleming caters to women of a certain stature; her store is the perfect place to find a handsomely tailored suit or cocktail dress for a VIP visit to one of the embassies or a ladies’ afternoon tea. Bian also stocks a selection of lace and Swarovski crystal–studded saris for weddings and traditional occasions.
Best Crafts Market: Dilli Haat
Delhi has several open-air craft markets, crowded with stalls and street food vendors. One of the best is the six-acre Dilli Haat bazaar, featuring folksy products from every state of India, represented in 62 stalls where a rotating roster of artisans display camel leather slippers, brassware, and fragrant sandalwood carvings.