Spices, silks, scarves and saris? Let the games begin, writes Belinda Jackson.
Delhi is full of emporiums selling jewellery and scarves. Taxi and rickshaw drivers receive a commission, so they're keen to run you in. The exception is the government-run Central Cottage Industries Emporium in Janpath. Use it for a haggle-free benchmark of prices. For more prosaic shopping, there's always Marks & Spencer (Westgate Mall, Shivaji Place, Raja Garden). Some of the main shopping districts not listed below are Connaught Place, Greater Kailash (also known as GK) and Select Citywalk in Saket.
Textiles. Indian silks and cottons are legendary - snap up a cheap silk wraparound skirt in Pahar Ganj for a few dollars or lash out on a designer silk sari for thousands. Cotton ranges from cute embroidered shirts with dyes that could run in the Olympics to hand-woven beauties employing traditional techniques, such as Fabindia's fashion, accessories and homewares. A stalwart in the textiles industry, it employs 40,000 people to preserve Indian handicrafts (Khan Market; also Delhi airport and B28 Upper Ground Floor, Inner Circle, Connaught Place).
Main Bazaar, the main drag of the backpacker haven of Pahar Ganj, is a delicious mix of Indian crafts and tat. Best buys are chic leather sandals from $5, cotton clothing and funky T-shirts. There are whole shops devoted to bangles, bracelets and earrings. The quality's nothing amazing but it's low hassle and the prices are some of the best in Delhi.
Chandni Chowk is the mother of all bazaars. It's gritty and apparently plagued by pickpockets but great fun toured on a pedal rickshaw. It's divided into sub-markets, including Kinari wedding bazaar for gold-thread fabrics, Khari Baoli spice market and Chawri stationery market. Often dismissed as pure kitsch, Delhi Haat is an outdoor market for handicrafts from across India. Forget peaceful vibes, the bustling Tibetan Market on the Janpath road hitches its prices high; go in hard for chunky silver jewellery and Tibetan paraphernalia. Karol Bagh is said to be Delhi's biggest market, a middle-class one-stop for clothes, spices, sunnies, electronic goods and more.
The Santushti shopping complex is a little garden where you can cruise the cream of Indian fashion designers, such as up-and-comer Atsu Sekhose at cutting-edge boutique Ensemble, or Ogaan for a mix of Indian and Western designs at affordable prices. Newcomer Naqsh by Nazir Wani designs vibrant chain-stitch embroidered cushions, rugs and throws. Hit Tulsi for traditional Indian fashion including gorgeously printed saris, and Noor Jehan for Bollywood-bright hand-block-printed patchwork homewares. Lotus Eaters sells Jaipur earrings, cufflinks and 20- and 18-carat gold (all Race Course Road).
The fabulous Good Earth is a homewares haven of contemporary Indian design - its lush silk quilts, from $250, and hand-painted ceramics are locally designed and made and it's a kitsch-free zone. Nowhere near cheap by Indian standards, it's a bargain for us when you consider you're buying well-made, haute-designer homewares (Khan Market, Santushti, Select Citywalk). Hauz Khas village is a haven of high-end boutiques and galleries.
Fash & trash
For high fashion, nip into Alecca Carrano's showroom (112 Sunder Nagar) or find her at Ensemble (see above). Cruise French-Indian fashion superstar Lecoanet Hemant's 2010 spring-summer collection (lecoanethemant.com), while Penchant specialises in ayurvedic clothes (D18 Indira Enclave, Neb Sarai).
Khan Market, in particular Anokhi, which Delhi expats haunt for Indian cotton clothing including kurtas (long shirts) and salwars (trousers). All prices fixed and fabulous.
The fine print
Auto rickshaws ("autos", like a tuk-tuk) are the fastest way through Delhi's horrific traffic: agree on the price first. Far more comfortable are airconditioned taxis. Ask the driver to turn on the meter or negotiate a half- or full-day rate. The Delhi metro is cheap and clean but the exits can be confusing. Most markets and shops are closed on Sundays.